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Individual Therapy & Individuation: Are You Born Yet?

August 6th, 2012 · 2 Comments · Individuation

The quote below shows what astute individual therapy knows: individuation often places an individual on a path that often involves more than one “dying” and one “birth”:

individual therapy Jazz great Charlie Parker describes a technical change in his musical technique.  But then he says something remarkable:

“… I could play what I heard inside me.  That’s when I was born.

The Secret of Initiation

In major life transitions, humans experience the reality of dying to an older self, and being “re-born” into a new identity.  Here, Parker dies to who he formerly was, and is effectively re-born as an artist, as a person who can express his inner reality in powerful ways out in the world.  It is as if he went through a one-way door in his life.  He is not who he used to be.  It’s as if he was re-born.

Archetypal Re-Birth

Today, people throw around the phrase “being born again”.  It’s often used to describe the sloughing off of some old identity, and the assumption of a different conventional, stereotyped identity, often religious in nature.  However, throughout the ages, humanity has meant something much more profound by the expression.  In indigenous societies, when someone was undergoing initiation into adulthood, or as a shaman, the transformation was seen as literally dying to who the person previously was, and being born to a whole new and unique personal identity.

It is this kind of profound re-birth in Parker’s case.  Often, it’s transformation of this magnitude that we need in individual therapy, to re-orient ourselves to our lives.

“I Could Play What I Heard Inside Me”

Parker uses this expression to describe what happens as a result of this transformation.  He finds a way to access and express who he really is.  Similarly, this is what we all need.  I need to come to what is really me.

Re-Birth & Creative Receptivity

The type of re-birth Parker describes comes with the force of a revelation.  It’s not something that he “whups up” by force of will.  It’s something that happens to him.  He can only receive it, as an infant receives life through the process of being born.  This idea is alien to 21st century North Americans: our motto is, “where there’s a will, there’s a way.”

Good individual therapy knows that often what we need is something that we can’t will to be, because we can’t yet even imagine it.  So, individual therapy can sometimes have the character of re-birth.

PHOTO:  Attribution    Some rights reserved by Yellow.Cat

2 Comments so far ↓

  • jamenta

    There is a definite sense (for me) even in middle age- there are dramatic shifts in life – just as in childhood. Such as the marked shift from toddler – to speaking infant. Then from young child to high school adolescent. Each stage brings a marked “frame” of psychological experience and shifted perspective in life.

    I now found this no less true as I approach 50. I feel a sense that the go-getter – must get things done attitude in my life – no longer fits a shift in my psychological frame – that once again has been imposed imperiously upon my living experience.

    Although there are always exceptions to the rule. Yet there is a definite sense of a grand pattern for life itself – and that all stages are integral to experiencing the broad range of life experiences.

  • Brian C

    Thank you very much for your comments, John. I certainly agree that there are definite phases in life, or “Seasons in a Man’s Life”, as Daniel Levinson put it in his famous book. As we go through transitions at key points in the life journey, we very often do experience the sense of “dying to a former life and being born to a new life”. That is the reason that indigenous tribes, and many other societies mark these transitions with definite rites of passage, which are liturgies that make clear the movement from the life before to the distinct and different life after.

    I agree with you that there is a grand pattern for life — but, simultaneously, I would also want to asser that the pattern is, I think, very individual for each of us, with the sense that as we go through the major life transitions, there is a rightness to them, that something is unfolding as it should.

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