The Case of Henry

The last four months of my life have been devoted to the exploration of the first half of life (ages approx. 15 – 35), to understand this neglected stage of life from a Jungian perspective. Most Jungians perceive the first half of life as a stage of ego development, neglecting to explore an inherent crisis (like in midlife) and the potential for individuation in those years. My thesis, The Quarterlife Crisis and the Path of Individuation in the First Half of Life, suggests that the relationship between ego and Self absolutely must be emphasized today for individuals in quarterlife, for our individual sanity and that of the world.

I have not yet decided if I will be including, as part of my argument in the paper, aspects from the report by Jung’s contemporary, Jolande Jacobi, of an individual analysis with a 25 year-old patient–what I call The case of Henry, but which is officially titled “Symbols in an Individual Analysis” in Man and His Symbols (1964).

In this case, Jacobi’s classical interpretation of the stages of life mean that she cannot perceive of the 25 year-old in front of her as an individual who is seeking individuation. Throughout the case, she does not give credence to his need to engage with psyche on an ongoing basis, but only with the use of such work for the sake of his developing the ego strength necessary for his stage in life. (The two do not seem to me to be mutually exclusive.)

Jacobi reported what Henry said, regarding his desire for analysis.

He did not think that a neurosis. . .had brought him to me, but rather an inner urge to work on his psyche. . .”It appears to me,” he wrote in a letter asking for an interview, “that this phase of my life is particularly important and meaningful. I must decide either to remain unconscious in a well-protected security, or else to venture on a yet unknown way of which I have great hopes.” (p. 326)

Jacobi’s bias around the ability of individuals prior to age 35 to engage in individuation meant that she disregarded Henry’s clear proclamation and encouraged him instead towards simply committing to his fiance and settling down into marriage. This was the goal of the work as she saw it. The choice confronting him, she wrote, “was whether to remain a lonely, vacillating, and unrealistic youth or to become a self-sufficient and responsible adult” (p. 326). She does not question how a man of his age is to engage in the deeper aspects of his self when neither society nor family encourages or allows it.

Is it possible that Henry was not a neurotic youth but an individual simply seeking individuation earlier in life? Is it possible that the transition of psyche towards a relationship between ego and Self can take place at any time and is not inherent to midlife? The case of Henry evokes such questions for me, questions that I do not think clinicians are wrestling with enough these days given the growing number of individuals in the first half of life seeking analysis of Jungian psychotherapy.

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