Exploring Gender Identity as a Means to Individuation
Gender variation in some form has been around as long as human history and is included in myths, rituals, and traditions for many cultures (de la Huerta, 1999). Many of my clients identify as transgender or gender nonbinary. Their experience of their inner worlds does not align clearly with Jung’s description of an inner figure as contra-sexual other – anima for men and animus for women (Jung, 1959/1979). The main difficulty of Jung’s theory, as a number of feminist Jungian authors have pointed out (for example, Douglas, 2000; Rowland, 2002) is that Jung tended to conflate or essentialize gender identity into bodily sex, meaning that a biological female is naturally “feminine”, and a biological male is naturally “masculine.” At the same time, Jung’s theory opens the door to the idea that masculine and feminine – or possibly other variations – exist within the same person. Additional analytic authors have written about more flexible gender exploration (Berry, 2008; Celenza, 2014; Cowan, 2013; Douglas, 2000; Mudd, 1998; Rowland, 2002; Samuels, 1993; Wehr, 1987) and several about clinical work with transgender clients (Marsman, 2017; Saketopoulou, 2020; Sachet, 2020). Others are developing updated nonbinary concepts of the inner “otherness” in the psyche, such as the animum (Perrin, 2021).
In this presentation, I will be exploring these emerging views of expanding the idea of “otherness” in the psyche as a function or process to bridge consciousness and unconsciousness (and the collective unconscious), making room for a variety of experiences illuminating that “emotion is the chief source of consciousness” (Jung, 1958/1969, para. 179). I will include clinical examples with clients, with current themes such as: playing with gender to heal the wounds of sexism, working with the body as myth and image, and loosening things up with Dionysian energy.
Sara Sage, MS, LMHC is a therapist in private practice in South Bend, Indiana (US) and a candidate in the Analyst Training Program at the C.G. Jung Institute in Chicago. Sara’s practice focuses on depth work for mind, body and spirit and specializes in LGBTQ+ clients. A former teacher and professor, Sara has a lifelong interest in Jungian work that centers around psychological type and gender and otherness in ways that expand the concepts for working with transgender, nonbinary, and all queer people. A member of the International Association of Jungian Studies, Sara presented a paper entitled “What Does It Mean to be a Woman?” at the joint IAAP/IAJS conference ‘Indeterminate States: Trans-cultural, trans-racial, trans-gender’ in Frankfurt in 2018.