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Amid the hustle and bustle of Evanston’s central district lies a quiet sanctuary for engaging the contemplative side of life, both personal and cultural. The C.G Jung Center, established in Evanston by June Singer in the 1970s, describes itself as “a place for self-help and community.”
Its simple interior, with library and conference rooms, seems to invite a calm exploration of mind and spirit. Analysts Laura McGrew and Cate Rondenet describe the center as providing people with assistance in healing and uncovering a conscious sense of purpose in their lives. They characterize it in terms of a journey more than as a quick fix in an increasingly impatient world.
The Center’s framework is the celebrated work of Carl Jung. He believed that psychological distress is a result of an imbalance within the individual that often is experienced as an alienation from the deeper personality, or what he called the “Self.” The goal is to restore the individual’s connection to that more fundamental identity.
In her acclaimed book “Boundaries of the Soul,” Ms. Singer explained that the process “involves two movements, inward to discover the one who is, and outward to learn about one’s place in the function of the world.”
Ms. McGrew and Ms. Rondenet differentiate their approach from the Freudian one, which is somewhat more concerned with a person’s early formation. Jungian psychology tends to focus more on the unconscious as a guiding principle to help people discover neglected facets of themselves as they go forward.
“Some people have described the different focus as a comparison between back wheel and front wheel drive,” Ms. McGrew says. “We tend to focus less on what happened in childhood than how we’re being pulled into life.”
Though there is a considerable vocabulary associated with the field – ego, complex, shadow, unconscious, projection, archetype, mandala, individuation – individuals interested in a deeper understanding of themselves need not be acquainted with any of it. The analysts are decidedly down-to-earth in their use of such concepts, and Jung’s ethos was always based on an exchange of information between equals, where either or both might be influenced in the exchange. Like two chemicals interacting, each is transformed.
Ms. Rondenet says it is not unusual for clients to come in seeking one goal and emerge with a changed one, based on a greater understanding of their own attitudes and desires. She gave the example of a teacher of young children who was disturbed by her reaction to her frequent lack of control over the classroom. She feared her own anger would get out of hand. She came in thinking she might get advice on how to get her students to behave better, but she came to see that she needed to be more open in her own life to the kind of spontaneous energy the kids exuded.
While dreams are often cited as the most common bridge to the unconscious, Ms. McGrew says another way the unconscious manifests itself is through a strong emotional reaction, often caused by something that would not ordinarily elicit one. She explains that this may be a clue that there is more than meets the eye on the surface of a situation.
Then it becomes a matter of what is going on in one’s blind spot or “shadow” side that one probably is not aware of – something with a positive aspect that may become troublesome if it is repeatedly avoided or disregarded. Jung’s practitioners ask how individuals can incorporate that part of their nature in order to grow on a path to “wholeness.”
The Jung Center offers a wide range of services, from individual clinical sessions on a sliding fee scale to seminars, classes and a popular movie night about once a month. Movies that have been screened range from “The Hunter” to “Frozen” to “Biutiful” to “Pan’s Labyrinth.” “Babette’s Feast” will be shown in December. Afterward there is a brief lecture on the relationship of the story to depth psychology, invariably followed by a lively discussion.
Classes at the Center examine dreams, myths, symbols, art, and meditation. Clients can pursue personal meaning through any number of channels, including art, music, science, philosophy and the broad, innate hunger for spiritual connection. While the Center counsels 40 to 50 people of all ages per week, it also has an Institute for Creative Aging which focuses on the unique features of the second half of life.
An unobtrusive refuge at 817 Dempster St., the Jung Center is there for those seeking insight into a personal issue or a better sense of how they fit into the larger scheme of things. One of its principal mottos is “Be More Human.” One has to admit it is an intriguing idea.