Alan Strachan, Ph. D. Santa Cruz Area Marriage and Family Therapist
Home Photo


The Roots of Process Work in the
Analytical Psychology of C. G. Jung

           By Alan James Strachan, Ph.D

(originally published in The Dreaming Body: A Case Study Of The Relationship Between Chronic Body Symptoms And Childhood Dreams According To Process-Oriented Psychology. Ph.D.Dissertation for the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology, 1992)


After receiving a master's degree in physics, Mindell went to the Jung Institute in Zurich to study Analytical Psychology.  He became a Diplomate and a training analyst, and, as a result, the influence of Jung's work runs very deeply through Process-Oriented Psychology.  Mindell writes that “I call process-oriented psychology a daughter of Jung's because even though she is now growing up and carrying her own name, she comes from his household.  His blood, spirit and history are hers as well” (1988b, p. 2)

In this section, I highlight the principle concepts of Jung's work that have a direct bearing on Process-Oriented Psychology:  the teleological perspective, the therapist-client relationship, the body in therapy, historical foundations (Taoism and alchemy), and common terminology.


The history of epistemology has been characterized by the contrasting attempts of determinism and teleology to explain natural phenomena.  Determinism is the philosophical doctrine that every event, act, and decision is the inevitable consequence of antecedents that are independent of the human will, while teleology is the use of ultimate purpose or design as a means of explaining natural phenomena.

The deterministic orientation explains an event by looking for the prior events which lead up to and cause it.  The assumption is that there is an unbroken chain of events, one leading to another, which explain the event in question. 

In the field of psychology, Freud's orientation was largely deterministic.  His approach was to psychoanalyze a symptom by uncovering the relevant personal events that preceded and presumably caused it.  In practical terms, this often meant tracing symptoms back to their origins in childhood. 

The value of this orientation is that it encourages the therapist to uncover any prior events that are relevant to the problem at hand.  The potential drawback of a strictly deterministic approach is that problems tend to be reduced to constituent elements and fit into convenient categories.  A given experience will tend to be seen as pathological, as a problem caused by specific events, and its potential value ignored.  The meaning of a symptom is derived from the events that gave rise to it.

The teleological orientation approaches a symptom by attempting to discover its underlying purpose or meaning.  Teleology assumes that a symptom is an indication of a process that is still unfolding.  The advantage of this approach is that it automatically places a constructive, growth-oriented value on any problem or symptom.  The potential drawback is that a strictly teleological orientation may overlook important antecedent events that have a bearing on the situation. 



The Teleological Perspective of Jung

Jung believed that there was evidence of teleology in the purposive behavior of neurotic symptoms and complexes, in synchronistic events, and in the individuation process generally (Jung, 1933, 1953b, 1969).   For example, he wrote that “. . . It is correct that  neurotic symptoms and complexes are also elaborate ‘arrangements’ which inexorably pursue their aims, with incredible obstinacy and cunning.  Neurosis is teleologically oriented” (Jung, 1953a, p. 39). 

Jung's teleological orientation meant that he viewed problems and symptoms as meaningful.  Even in his work with ‘incurable’ institutionalized patients, Jung assumed that there was a germ of meaning in their hallucinations and paranoid ideas.  By investigating and trying to understand the world of his patients, Jung discovered that a life history and a pattern of hopes and desires lay behind the psychosis (Jung, 1963, p.  127).  Discovering the meaning of the symptoms made communication possible and improvement more likely.

Jung did not try to replace causal explanations with teleological ones.  Rather he thought that both were necessary in order to have a complete understanding of a situation.  Thus, he wrote that “In psychology one ought to be as wary of believing absolutely in causality as of an absolute belief in teleology” (1953b, p. 289). 


The Teleological Perspective of Mindell

Mindell has been greatly influenced by Jung's teleological perspective.  In Coma, he wrote that “My background in process work is based upon the finalistic philosophy applied by Jung to psychological situations” (1989a, p. 27). 

Mindell considers all symptoms as positive in the sense that they carry information which, if processed and integrated, furthers individuation.  His writings repeatedly underscore the importance of the teleological orientation to Process-Oriented Psychology.  Dreambody and Working With the Dreaming Body are concerned with finding the meaning behind physical symptoms.  Coma describes methods for discovering the purpose and aiding the unfolding of comatose states.  The thesis of River's Way is that the accurate observation of the client combined with the ability to support that which is being observed will promote a useful development of the client's process.  City Shadows is an exploration of the process structure and underlying meaning of conditions such as psychosis, catatonia, depression, and mania.

Mindell's commitment to the teleological perspective is one of the main ways in which Process-Oriented Psychology is different from most other schools of psychology.  Even the most subtle or unusual signals, from the flutter of a comatose patient's eyelid to synchronistic events, can be regarded as meaningful.  This means that the Process-Oriented Therapist must be prepared to notice, support, and try to understand any  experience of the client.  The teleological approach challenges the therapist to maintain an attitude of open-mindedness and caring, to have faith that something useful will develop by taking such an approach, and to be willing to develop along with the client.

The Therapist-Client Relationship


Jung's Views of the Therapist-Client Relationship

In his essay entitled “Problems of Modern Psychotherapy” (1966a), Jung wrote that the process of psychotherapy has four main components:  confession, elucidation, education, and transformation.

The goal of confession is to bring to awareness material that the client has repressed.  Jung used the term ‘shadow’ to refer to the personal material that is unacceptable to the client's conscious identity, or persona.  Recognizing and admitting shadow material to the therapist often has a cathartic or cleansing effect.  The principle underlying confession is that awareness is healing, that is, that secrets that remain unconscious are more likely to cause problems than those that are consciously acknowledged. 

Moving deeper, the stage of elucidation involves the resolution of the transference, or the projection (or transfer) of unresolved unconscious material onto the therapist.  Jung believed that the transference was not only the projection of the client's original, unresolved issues with the parents (as maintained by Freud), but that in addition, the client's projections could contain the seeds of unrealized psychological growth which were constellated around the archetypes of the collective unconscious.  Thus in Jung's view the transference material could be either personal or archetypal, and the therapist had to be prepared to deal with either eventuality.

In the education stage, the therapist and client address the issue of how the client is to integrate his or her newfound awareness into social fabric of his or her life.  At this point, the client must learn how to apply the inner work in such a way as to be adapted to society. 

It is in the final stage, transformation, that Jung truly addressed the nature of the therapist-client relationship.  This is the stage in which the client must consider if it is enough to be a ‘normal’ and adapted social being.  Jung wrote that, for many, social adaptation is easy, but that it may not address all of the individual's needs.  Those who cannot adapt without sacrificing essential and important parts of themselves must learn to become “appropriately non-adapted” (1966a, p. 72). 

The therapist faces two challenges in the stage of transformation.  The first challenge is to support the client's unique path of growth, and the second is to be willing to change along with the client.

First, Jung believed that the therapist had to learn to recognize and support the individual needs of clients.  This meant the therapist had to make every attempt to follow the individual client's process, repeatedly discarding hypotheses in order to be faithful to what was actually occurring:


It is enough to drive one to despair that in practical psychology there are no universally valid recipes and rules.  There are only individual cases with the most heterogeneous needs and demands—so heterogeneous that we can virtually never know in advance what course a given case will take, for which reason it is better for the doctor to abandon all preconceived notions.  This does not mean that he should throw them overboard, but that in any given case he should use them merely as hypotheses for a possible explanation.  (Jung, 1966a, p. 71)


By not following a predetermined formula, Jung placed his faith in the client's individuation process to ultimately determine the direction of the therapy.  Thus, he wrote that “In dealing with psychological developments, the doctor should, as a matter of principle, let nature rule and himself do his utmost to avoid influencing the patient in the direction of his own philosophical, social, and political bent” (1966a, p. 26).

Here arises the second challenge for the therapist, for it is inevitable that in the course of therapy the therapist's own unresolved issues, the counter-transference, should emerge.  In addition to the professional relationship between therapist and client, Jung believed that the mutual influence that gives rise to the transference and counter-transference also made the encounter a very personal one.


For, twist and turn the matter as we may, the relation between doctor and patient remains a personal one within the impersonal framework  of professional treatment.  By no device can the treatment be anything but the product of mutual influence, in which the whole being of the doctor as well as that of the patient plays its part.  (Jung, 1966a, p. 71)

According to Whitmont, Jung was the first to break with traditional psychoanalysis by eliminating the therapist's couch, preferring instead to sit face-to-face with his clients.  This practice heightened the personal nature of the interaction. 

In order to cope with the counter-transference and therefore better serve the client, Jung believed that the therapist had to be continually willing to work on the therapist’s own issues.  To this end, Jung was the first to require that aspiring therapists receive personal psychotherapy as part of their training:  “The analyst is blind to the attitude of his patient to the exact extent that he does not see himself and his own unconscious problems.  For this reason, I maintain that a doctor must himself be analyzed before he practices analysis” (Jung, 1970a, p. 235).  In addition, while conducting a psychotherapy session the therapist had to be willing to constantly examine himself or herself, and  to do so while remaining aware of the client's process.


The analyst must go on learning endlessly, and never forget that each new case brings new problems to light and thus gives rise to unconscious assumptions that have never before been constellated.  We could say, without too much exaggeration, that a good half of every treatment that probes at all deeply consists in the doctor's examining himself, for only what he can put right in himself can he hope to put right in the patient.  (1966a, p. 116)

It is not enough to maintain an impervious facade and apply techniques from a safe psychological distance.  Instead the personality of the therapist, the range and depth of the therapist’s humanity, is a significant factor in the treatment of the client.  This takes psychotherapy out of the medical model, for it is no longer simply a case of the healthy doctor treating the sick patient.  At a more fundamental level it is an encounter between two human beings, both of whom become transformed. 


Mindell's Views of the Therapist-Client Relationship

Mindell tends to describe therapist-client interactions in terms of process structure rather than as transference and counter-transference phenomena.  He has included in the channel structure of Process-Oriented Psychology a composite channel termed “relationship.”  Relationship can refer to any one-to-one relationship, including the interactions between therapist and client.  In this section, I consider first the client's reactions to the therapist and then the therapist's reactions to the client.

The client's reactions to the therapist fall into three general categories:  either complete projection, wholly accurate observation, or a combination of the two. 

If the client is projecting, Process-Oriented Psychology, in accord with Jung, maintains that the material can be either personal or archetypal.  When the client is projecting, the therapist can point this out and the nature of the projection can be explored.  This is a standard exchange between therapist and client in Process-Oriented Psychology as well as in many other schools of psychotherapy.

But what of a situation in which the client's reaction is a partially or completely accurate description of the therapist?  In such a case, the therapist must decide whether or not to admit that the client has made an accurate observation.  In making this decision, the therapist will be influenced by his or her psychotherapeutic model.

In some schools of psychotherapy, the therapist would always reflect the client's remarks back to the client, and would never admit that there was some truth in what the client said.  This approach maintains a hierarchical split between therapist and client in which the client is regarded as always projecting and the therapist is a perfect mirror who never has anything personal to reveal.  This type of exchange does not acknowledge the relationship aspect of the client-therapist interactions. 

In Process-Oriented Psychology the therapist examines himself or herself to discover whether the client's remarks are accurate.  If so, then in some cases, it is appropriate to tell the client what is projection and what is not.  Mindell described a hypothetical case of a women who noticed that she is mentally criticizing herself.  Encouraged to listen to the internal critic,


Then she might say, “Oh, my stomach hurts.”  Now she's switched to the proprioceptive channel.  “What does that feel like?”  I might ask.  “Well, it feels bad,” she says, making a fist at the same time.  So we focus on the fist, which is a kinesthetic or movement expression of the same process.  Then I might have her amplify the fist by making a muscle in her bicep, tightening her neck, and tensing her face.  Suddenly she says, “Now I look like my father.”  “What does he look like?” I ask.  “He looks like you!”  At this point, I would probably say, “Can't we take this inward?  Does it really have to be projected outward.  Are you really criticizing me?' . . .   Then as a therapist I have to look inside myself and see whether a part of me isn't in fact critical of her.  There may be, in which case, I need to recognize and talk about that part.  We may go back and forth until the person realizes that I'm not like her father, but the fatherlike part is in her.  (Bodian, 1990, p. 69)

This is an example of therapist and client working in the relationship channel.  The therapist's willingness to engage in this way provides a reality check for the client, who would otherwise have to doubt either her own beliefs or the therapist's honesty.  Such a disclosure by the therapist promotes trust and can deepen the rapport between them. 

In this example, the therapist tracked the signals from internal auditory (hearing the critic) to proprioception (stomach) to kinesthetic (fist) to visual (seeing her father) to relationship.  By closely following signals and analyzing the underlying process structure, the process worker has a rationale for making interventions with the client.  In this case, the need for relationship work emerged in an organic fashion as the therapist followed the client's process.

As this example indicates, in Process-Oriented Psychology the therapist must consider all sources of information as potentially relevant, including the therapist’s own reactions to the client.  Mindell has differentiated two categories of reactions that the therapist may have toward the client:  counter-transference and being “dreamed up.”

Counter-transference, as defined in the preceding section, refers to those instances in which the therapist's unresolved personal material is projected onto the client.  The Process-Oriented therapist is expected to notice and work internally with his or her own counter-transference reactions while at the same time tracking the client's process.  As in the example described above, the signals and process structure will indicate whether it is appropriate to disclose counter-transference material. 

The second category of therapist reactions to the client consists of what Mindell calls “dreamed up reactions.”  For example, imagine a psychotherapy session in which a male client is describing how he was betrayed by a business associate.  He says that although the associate was a close friend, and betrayal was devastating, he has thought it through and decided that business is business and it is best to put the event behind him.  As he recounts the incident and his thought about it, he is very rational and his voice is measured.  At the same time his face is slightly flushed and he appears to be somewhat short of breath.  As the therapist listens to the account, the therapist begins to get angry, and it is all the therapist can do to keep from denouncing the business associate and suggesting ways of remedying the situation.  The therapist is being dreamed up to have this reaction.

Analyzing the process structure reveals that the client is sending a double signal.  On the surface (the primary process), he is calm, rational, and accepting, but underneath (the secondary process), he is furious.  The therapist is unconsciously noticing the facial flush and shortness of breath and is reacting to these signals by feeling the anger that the client is expressing indirectly.  At the moment, the client is unaware of his anger; it is like a dream that he is having unconsciously.  The therapist unknowingly begins to react like the client's secondary or dream-like part, that is, the therapist is ”dreamed up.”  The therapist has become a channel for the client's secondary process. 

It is very helpful if the therapist can differentiate between counter-transference and being dreamed up.  Mindell wrote that


As long as the therapist has a reaction which is short-lived and lasts only as long as he is in the vicinity of the client, we can speak of a purely dreamed-up reaction.  If, however, this reaction lasts longer than the time of the interview, we must also consider the possibility that the therapist is unconsciously projecting something of himself onto his client . . .   We speak of dreaming up when the therapist has no affects before, after, or as soon as the dreamer has integrated and understood his dream material.  (1985a, p. 43)

If the therapist suspects that he or she is getting dreamt up, the therapist can fairly safely assume that he or she has missed a double signal.  The task is to discover the signal and encourage the client to express the unconscious material more congruently.  As the client takes over the client’s secondary process, the therapist's urge to express this aspect of the dreaming process will diminish.

The fact that dreaming up and projection can happen simultaneously in both therapist and client can complicate the interaction enormously.  The therapist's ability to unravel such complex interactions will be greatly enhanced if the therapist can differentiate counter-transference from dreaming up, and is able to attend closely to the complex, subtle, and ongoing flow of signals.

The therapist's awareness and flexibility in relating to the client is determined by the therapist’s edges, that is, by the limits of the therapist’s identity.  Goodbread (1987, 1989) has categorized the kinds of edges that the therapist may encounter.  Two of these—personal and professional edges—have been alluded to previously.  The personal edges include the therapist's unresolved characterological issues and his or her least accessible channel.  Professional edges vary according to the therapist's psychotherapeutic model and affect attitudes toward therapist-client interactions, including counter-transference phenomena.  In addition, every therapist is influenced by cultural edges in which the habitual and typically unconscious acceptance of cultural norms limits awareness.

In summary, it is apparent that Mindell has been influenced considerably by Jung's views of the therapist-client relationship.  This may be an important reason why Mindell developed a relationship channel as part of the theoretical and practical structure of Process-Oriented Psychology.

Some of the areas of overlap include the emphasis upon identifying and supporting the needs of the client; discarding hypotheses if they do not accurately describe the client; recognition that the transference projections may be either personal or archetypal in nature; the need for the therapist to work on himself or herself both between and during sessions; and, when appropriate, going beyond the role of therapist to convey personal information or feelings.  Implicit in Mindell's approach, as with Jung's, is a trust in the client’s individuation process to provide guidance for both therapist and client.  Both Jung and Mindell refer to psychotherapy as a process of observing and following nature.

Although Mindell's basic philosophy of and approach to the therapist-client relationship is similar to Jung's, there are some important differences. 

One of these differences is the degree to which Mindell has integrated an information theory perspective by focusing on signals, information flow, and feedback.  On one level this gives Process-Oriented Psychology a behaviorist flavor.  Some behaviorally-oriented models of psychotherapy, such as Neuro-Linguistic Programming, do not regard relationship work between therapist and client as necessary or appropriate, but Mindell has not taken this approach.  Instead, he has used awareness of the signal flow as a rationale for and a means of focusing upon the nuances of relationship work between therapist and client. 

Mindell's other major contribution to therapist-client interactions is his theory of dreaming up.  This concept allows the Process-Oriented therapist to differentiate the therapist’s own counter-transference projections from reactions that are triggered by the client's double signals.  This in turn enables the therapist to focus on and help the client access the material being expressed through the secondary signal.

Thus a signal-based awareness of therapist-client interactions combined with a willingness to engage the client in a personal manner help the Process-Oriented therapist to know when it is appropriate to discuss counter-transference reactions with the client, and to know when personal reactions are in fact a “dreamed up” aspect of the client's process.

The Body in Therapy

Jung and the Body

References to the body appear throughout Jung's writings.

Jung conducted word association experiments in which he established a connection between psychological complexes and physiological changes.  In one of these studies, he used a galvanometer to measure electrical skin resistance.  (“On Psychophysical Relations of the Associative Experiment,” Jung, 1973) In another study, he used a galvanometer and a pneumograph designed to measure the frequency and amplitude of breathing.  (“Further Investigations of the Galvanic Phenomenon and Respiration in Normal and Insane Individuals,” Jung & Ricksher, 1973). 

Due to their autonomous nature, complexes manifest as both psychological and somatic symptoms.  The physiological effect of complexes is not limited to changes in breathing and electrical skin resistance; in addition, they can “disturb the conscious performance . . . produce disturbances of memory and blockages in the flow of associations . . . temporarily obsess consciousness, or influence speech and action in an unconscious way.” (Jung, 1969, p. 121). 

In an article on “The Psychology of Dementia Praecox” (Jung, 1960), Jung hypothesized the presence of a toxic factor in the pathogenesis of schizophrenia.  He suggested that such a toxin could play a role in the fixation of the complex, thereby contributing to the perseveration of symptoms. 

Jung often studied the body language of his patients.  His first psychological study included observations of unconscious body movements (Jung, 1970b).  While working at the Burgholzli Psychiatric Clinic in Zurich, he studied the perseverating gestures of regressed patients (See Jung, 1963).  One of his techniques was to closely watch silent, withdrawn patients, even those who had not spoken for years.  When they moved or changed expression, he would imitate them, note his inner experience, and put this experience into words.  In a number of cases, the patient would respond, a dialogue would be established, and the patient would improve (Van Der Post, 1977).

Jung recognized that for some patients, movement was the ideal mode of self-expression.  His writings contain a number of references to body movement as a form of active imagination (Jung, 1969, 1976). 

When appropriate Jung encouraged his patients to dance the mandala symbolisms which emerged in therapy:


Among my patients I have come across cases of women who did not draw mandalas but danced them instead.  In India there is a special name for this: mandala nrithya, the mandala dance.  The dance figures express the same meanings as the drawings.  My patients can say very little about the meaning of the symbols but are fascinated by them and find that they somehow express and have an effect on their subjective state.  (Jung, 1967, p. 23)

A similar reference is also contained in Dream Analysis (Jung, 1984), while Van Der Post described Jung's dance movement interactions with a patient in a different context (1977).

Jung frequently theorized about the nature of the mind-body relationship (Adler, 1975; Jung, 1966a; 1969,; 1967; 1959b).   His perspective is summarized in the following quotation from Modern Man In Search of a Soul:


The distinction between mind and body is an artificial dichotomy, a discrimination which is unquestionably based far more on the peculiarity of intellectual understanding than on the nature of things.  In fact, so intimate is the intermingling of bodily and psychic traits that not only can we draw far-reaching inferences as to the constitution of the psyche from the constitution of the body, but we can also infer from psychic peculiarities the corresponding bodily characteristics.  (1973, p. 74)

In addition to Jung's consideration of complexes, he formulated a number of other concepts that addressed the issue of mind and body.

Jung theorized that archetypes bridged the mind-body dichotomy at the psychoid level.  The psychoid is the deepest level of the unconscious and is completely inaccessible to consciousness.  It has properties in common with the organic world, and is therefore both psychological and physiological in nature.  Jung imagined a spectrum of consciousness ranging from an infra-red or physiological pole to an ultra-violet or spiritual/imagistic pole (Jung, 1969).  On a theoretical level, the archetypes span both poles, and can thus be understood to bridge the mind/body dichotomy.  On a practical level, the archetypes can manifest in  behavior and physical symptoms.

Jung's idea of synchronicity also addressed the mind/body connection.  In the broadest sense, synchronicity refers to a connection between subjective, psychological realities and events in the external, material world.


 . . . it is not only possible but fairly probable, even, that psyche and matter are two different aspects of one and the same thing.  The synchronicity phenomena point, it seems to me, in this direction, for they show that the nonpsychic can behave like the psychic, and vice versa, without there being any causal connection between them.  (1969, p. 215)

A number of Jung's followers have applied the concept of synchronicity to the relationship between psychological events and organic illness (Lockhart, 1977; Meier, 1986; Ziegler, 1962).

In the Tavistock Lectures, delivered in 1935, Jung described how the psychological concept of the shadow can manifest as body symptoms:


We do not like to look at the shadow-side of ourselves; therefore, there are many people in our civilized society who have lost their shadow altogether, they have got rid of it.  They are only two-dimensional; they have lost the third dimension, and with it they have usually lost the body.  The body is a most doubtful friend because it produces things we do not like; there are too many things about the body which cannot mentioned.  The body is very often the personification of this shadow of the ego.  (Jung, 1976, p. 23)

Finally, Jung pointed out that the ancient traditions of alchemy, Taoism, and the Tibetan Book of the Dead refer to a corpus subtile, a “subtle body” or “breath body” (Jung, 1953a, p. 408).  The subtle body is a transfigured and resurrected body, that is, a body that is comprised of both matter and spirit. 

To summarize, Jung was aware of and flexible enough to incorporate body-oriented approaches into the practice of psychotherapy.  He discovered complexes by means of galvanic skin response, attended to movements and facial expressions, and encouraged clients to dance when that mode of self-expression seemed most appropriate.  On a theoretical level, Jung's consideration of mind/body phenomena included concepts such as complexes, archetypes, the psychoid unconscious, the shadow, and synchronicity.

Jung did not make body-oriented approaches a formal, explicit aspect of analytical psychology.  If he systematized his approach, he did not write it down for others to follow.  However, his approach to psychotherapy and the scope of his theorizing created a climate which was sympathetic to the integration of body-oriented approaches with traditional forms of psychotherapy.  One indication of this is the subsequent development of Jungian dance-movement therapy; another is Mindell's Process-Oriented Psychology. 


Mindell and the Body

Mindell's studies at the Jung Institute in Zurich trained him to work with dreams and to be able to work on himself through active imagination.  Excited about working with dream material, Mindell began to wonder


whether what I now knew about dreams could be used also in working with the body and with relationships.  I became frustrated with just sitting and talking; I was fascinated with gestures, symptoms, odd or insistent physical sensations, and the different ways clients (for instance couples) had of relating to me and to each other.  (Mindell, 1988b, p. 2)

Mindell's motivation to discover how to work with body symptoms increased when he became ill.  His readings in psychology and Western medicine left him thinking that there were many methods of manipulating the body, but that he still did not know how to discover what his body was trying to say. 

He began to take careful notes on the body language of his clients, and soon noticed the tendency of many people to amplify their symptoms, actually making them more acute.  He worked with terminally ill patients, encouraging them to amplify their physical symptoms, and discovered that illness is a meaningful condition and that amplification is a way to discover that meaning.

While working with a dying patient, Mindell realized that the man had had a dream that conveyed the same information elicited by amplifying his physical symptoms.  Extrapolating from this, Mindell realized that dreams mirror body symptoms, and body symptoms mirror dreams, a discovery that he has subsequently corroborated with many other patients. 

From this insight, Mindell had the idea that there must be a ‘dreambody,’ an entity that was simultaneously both dream and body.  Inspired by Jung, the dreambody is a reformulation of concept of the subtle body mentioned in the preceding section. 

Mindell's study of body language has ranged from overt signals such as posture, movement, and facial expressions to minimal cues such as pupil dilation and changes in skin color.  Awareness of body language is a critical component in the Process-Oriented therapist's ability to detect many double signals, in which, for example, the verbal content conflicts with nonverbal behavior.  In analyzing the process structure of a psychotherapy session, it is very common to discover that the secondary process (i.e., the process that is further from consciousness and therefore contains the seeds of growth) is located in proprioception or kinesthesia.  This fact increases the importance of being able to recognize and work with somatic processes.

In short, the awareness and incorporation of somatic phenomena is an integral aspect of the theory and practice of Process-Oriented Psychology.  While Jung included body-oriented approaches in his methods of working with patients, and clearly created a climate that encouraged further exploration, Mindell has explored somatic phenomena in far greater depth.  Mindell's application of the channel system, his use of amplification, and his development of the concept of the dreambody has created a psythotherapeutic system that is precise and adaptable when dealing with the spectrum of body/mind experience.

Historical Foundations: Taoism


In his acknowledgments for the book, River's Way, Mindell wrote that he was indebted to Jung for introducing him to alchemy and Taoism, and that these two bodies of knowledge represent the historical foundations of Process-Oriented Psychology.  According to Mindell, “Alchemy is based upon cooking what is incomplete and Taoism encourages one to discover the patterns behind reality and to follow their unfolding with appreciation and awareness” (1988a, p. 27).  In this section, I briefly describe Jung's interest in alchemy and Taoism, and outline their respective importance to Process-Oriented Psychology.


Taoism: Jung

Jung was well into his career before he discovered parallels between the Chinese philosophy of Taoism and the theory and practice of analytical psychology.  His writings on Taoism are primarily focused on Lao Tsu and on two Chinese texts: the The Secret of the Golden Flower, and the I Ching, or Book of Changes. 

Jung believed that The Secret of the Golden Flower contained a description of the same process of individuation that he had observed in his clients.  Jung saw this as evidence to support his theory of the collective unconscious, which he defined as the common substratum of the psyche that transcends all differences in culture and consciousness. 

According to Jung's theory, if consciousness becomes estranged from the archetypes of the collective unconscious, then a breakdown of the personality is likely to occur.  What is then needed is a re-unification of the personal and collective elements of the psyche.  Jung believed that such a unification of opposites was the issue that is addressed by Taoism generally and by The Secret of the Golden Flower in particular.

In his commentary on The Secret of the Golden Flower, Jung described the essence of the Tao from a psychological perspective: 


If we take the Tao to be the method or conscious way by which to unite what is separated, we have probably come close to the psychological content of the concept . . . .  There can be no doubt, either, that the realization of the opposite hidden in the unconscious—the process of “reversal”—signifies reunion with the unconscious laws of our being, and the purpose of this reunion is the attainment of conscious life or, expressed in Chinese terms, the realization of the Tao.  (Jung, 1967, p. 21)

Thus, for Jung, the Tao is the process whereby opposites are reconciled within the psyche.  In Jung’s Analytical Psychology, this reconciliation is brought about by the transcendent function.  Over time, the transcendent function fosters the individuation process, which is the tendency of the psyche to move toward wholeness and balance. 

It is important to note that the unfolding of the Tao and the process of individuation take into account not only intrapsychic processes but also meaningful events in the world.  In Volume 7 of his Collected Works, Jung wrote:


From a consideration of the claims of the inner and outer worlds, or rather, from the conflicts between them, the possible and the necessary follows.  Unfortunately, our Western mind, lacking all culture in this respect, has never yet devised a concept, nor even a name, for the union of opposites through the middle path, that most fundamental item of inward experience, which could respectably be set against the Chinese concept of Tao.  (Jung, 1953b, p. 203, first emphasis added)

In the I Ching, Jung found an approach to understanding the world which was closely aligned with his theory of synchronicity.  He observed that Western science is almost exclusively concerned with establishing causal connections between events, whereas the I Ching is concerned with meaningful coincidence.  This type of coincidence is the essence of Jung's theory of synchronicity.

The Taoist conception of the relationship between the “inner and outer worlds” is easier to understand if we realize that “The achievement of Taoism is not merely that of the concept of unity of dualities or the identification of opposites.  For the Taoist there is also a unity in multiplicity, a wholeness in parts” (Chang Chung-yuan, 1970, p. 33).  This holographic conceptualization of the world means that Taoism maintains there is a meaningful pattern which underlies the multiplicity, a hidden unity which ties together diverse elements that may have no apparent causal relationship. 

Furthermore, for there to be a wholeness in parts means that the configuration of local events in a given moment contains information about the nature of the larger whole.  That is why the yarrow stalks may be used for divination when consulting the I Ching: the seemingly random alignment of the stalks are in fact ordered by nature and may, to the discerning inquirer, reveal aspects of the world. 

For Jung, as for the Taoist, the coming together of inner experience and outer circumstance is a meaningful, though not necessarily causally related, event.  Thus, following the Tao and the process of individuation each require the reconciliation of conflicting parts of the psyche as well as an awareness of and a harmonious blending with the rhythms of nature. 

The information revealed by consulting the I Ching or by synchronistic events is not accessible strictly through intellectual analysis; rather it must be gained through direct, intuitive experience.  When the distinction between subject and object vanishes, or when intrapsychic opposites are united, then one understands the Tao.


Taoism: Mindell

Mindell considers Taoism, particularly as presented in the I Ching and Lao Tsu's Tao Te Ching to be the most complete process theory of which he is aware.

In his workshops and books, Mindell often likens Process-Oriented Psychology to Taoism.  Both are concerned with the fundamental process underlying events; both advise paying attention to any clue (even and especially unlikely ones) which might reveal the presence and direction of the Tao; both advise harmonizing oneself with the Tao, however mysterious or irrational that path might appear; both suggest that a ‘beginner's mind’ is necessary to stay open to the ever-changing flow of events.

The Process-Oriented therapist attends to discrete signals or bits of information and then classifies them according to the channels in which they appear.  Mindell noted that channel structure is an arbitrary means of classifying the information flow, and that such a classification should not be mistaken for the underlying reality, or Tao:  “Using process language we can say that the Tao is the flow of events in and between channels.  Tao signifies a process which simultaneously manifests in a number of different channels” (Mindell, 1985a, p. 91).  Along with Jung, Mindell also likens the background process, or Tao, to archetypes:


The archetype is the connecting pattern organizing spontaneous events.  Thus dreams would be a channel of the archetype since one has minimal control over them.  Body problems which cannot be influenced in a causal manner would be another channel of the archetype.  Spontaneous acts of fate also belong to the description


of the archetype.  We see that the archetype is a total picture

of the spontaneous phenomena occurring in all possible channels.  (1985a, p. 101)

In the Tao Te Ching, Lao Tsu wrote that “The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao” (1972, Verse 1).  This statement, which cautions us not to mistake our ideas about reality for reality itself, is a key directive for the Process-Oriented Therapist.  Rather than view the client through the filter of preconceptions, the process worker must maintain a beginner's mind.  This is the only way the process worker can hope to track the ever-changing flow of signals, and thus gain an understanding of the flow of the Tao, or the archetypes shaping the over-all process. 

This does not mean that the Process-Oriented therapist neglects analysis in favor of direct experience.  At one point, it may be appropriate to simply experience the Tao, while at another point the Tao may call for critical analysis.  By maintaining awareness and a flexible approach, by balancing action and nonaction, the process worker strives to recognize and support the Tao as it manifests in the client's process. 


 . . . Understanding and being open to all things,

Are you able to do nothing?

Giving birth and nourishing,

Bearing yet not possessing,

Working yet not taking credit,

Leading yet not dominating,

This is the Primal Virtue.    (Lao Tsu, 1972, Verse 10)

Historical Foundations: Alchemy


The Historical Background of Alchemy

Alchemy has been practiced for several thousand years, and flourished between the 9th and 17th centuries.  Practitioners came from all segments of society, ranging from common laborers to kings, and including such notables as Roger Bacon, St.  Thomas Aquinas, and Isaac Newton.

The outward or exoteric practice of alchemy consisted of attempts to create the philosopher's stone.  This stone was believed to have the power of transmuting the base metals lead, tin, copper, iron and mercury into the precious metals gold and silver.  In addition, alchemists attempted to create a liquid, the elixir vitae, which could indefinitely prolong the human life.  The innumerable attempts to create the stone and elixir were the tentative beginnings of the science of chemistry. 

Along with the activities that centered around alembics and melting pots, there was also an esoteric form of alchemy.  Esoteric alchemy gave rise to mystical treatises in which the authors used the language of exoteric alchemy to describe philosophical and religious beliefs.  It is this aspect of alchemy that was of interest to Jung.


Jung's Approach to Alchemy

Jung believed there was a psychological and spiritual significance to the alchemical philosophy.  In his essay on “Individual Dream Symbolism in Relation to Alchemy,” Jung (1953) recorded a series of dreams produced by a patient who had no previous knowledge of alchemy.  For nearly every dream, Jung was able to produce an alchemical plate that closely duplicated the symbolism of the dream.  He concluded from this that the alchemists, as they conducted their experiments, were unknowingly projecting the contents of their unconscious onto the material world (Jung, 1953a). 

The dream images of Jung's patient were similar to the alchemical plates because they both portrayed a process of psychological transformation.  Jung referred to this process—the integration of conscious and unconscious, of the ‘noble’ and ‘base’ aspects of the psyche—as the transcendent function.  In psychological terms, the creation of ‘gold’ is the ongoing integration of the personality.  In other words, Jung believed that the symbolism employed by the esoteric alchemists parallelled the stages of the individuation process.

Jung incorporated a number of the terms employed by the alchemists into the standard terminology of Analytical Psychology.  Thus, he referred to the analytical work as an opus, the analytic relationship as a vas (vessel or container), and the goal of psychotherapy as the coniunctio, or the union of opposites.  The stages of individuation were also described with alchemical terms.

Jung was fascinated with the symbolism of esoteric alchemy for a number of reasons.  First, the fact that similar symbols could emerge from his clients substantiated his belief that there is a collective level to the psyche.  And second, the descriptive language of the alchemists proved to be a rich source of imagery for describing the kinds of transformation that occur both in psychotherapy and in the individuation process generally.


Mindell's Use of the Alchemical Paradigm

In River's Way, Mindell wrote at length about the stages, symbolism, and philosophy of alchemical transformation.  He drew extensive parallels between the opus or work of the alchemist and the “art” of practicing Process-Oriented Psychology.  And in teaching seminars, Mindell has often used the symbolism of alchemy when he has talked about the importance of allowing a client's process to “cook.”

Briefly summarized, Mindell wrote that the alchemist works on the prima materia (defined as the ‘imperfect body’ or the ‘constant soul’).  For the process worker the prima materia  refers to signals that indicate a secondary process.

Having noticed the prima materia, the alchemist then waits for the ignis nonnaturalis, natural spark in processes which makes them evolve.  The process worker waits for the signal to perseverate, for this indicates that it has sufficient ‘spark’ to be worth pursuing.

The alchemist then hermetically seals the prima materia into a philosopher's egg.  In process work, this means bringing an intense focus of attention—both mind and heart—upon the process at hand.  The focus of attention, like an egg, distinguishes the prima materia from all that surrounds it, thereby, creating an area within which the prima materia may safely grow. 

The alchemist then puts the egg into an oven so that it can cook at a constant temperature.  In process work the ‘heat’ is provided by the various techniques of amplification.

Mindell then went on to describe various aspects of the stages of transformation, from conflict between opposites to the eventual discovery of ‘gold.’

If Jung's assumption is correct that the alchemist pursued his or her quest unconsciously, then this underscores a basic difference between the opus of the alchemist and that of the Process-Oriented therapist.  The task of the process worker is to identify and nurture transformation in a deliberate and conscious manner, and to recognize and integrate any projections the therapist may have as this process unfolds. 

This, then, is the ‘art’ of the process worker: the ability to gently cook a process, using whatever ingredients and utensils happen to be available, taking care to neither burn nor undercook, not knowing precisely what is being prepared, but trusting that the outcome will ultimately be as good as gold.

Common Terminology

One of the clearest areas of overlap between Jung's Analytical Psychology and the Process-Oriented Psychology of Mindell is in terminology. 

Mindell uses many terms which are derived from Jung, including complex, archetype, collective unconscious, amplification, self, shadow, individuation, and synchronicity. 

Mindell retains basically the same meanings ascribed by Jung, although there are a few exceptions.  The most important exception concerns the use of the term amplification.

Jung referred to amplification as one of several approaches to understanding dreams.  The first step was to have the client freely associate to the various contents of the dream.  These associations established the personal context of the dream.  The next step, symbol amplification, drew upon mythological, historical, and cultural parallels in order to emphasize the universal imagery in the dream.  Amplification thus emphasized the archetypal basis of the dream, and made possible another level of understanding.

For Mindell, amplification is a method of working with signals in the various channels.  The Process-Oriented therapist begins by identifying the channel in which the client's dream or body experience is attempting to manifest itself.  The therapist then works with the client to amplify the strength of the signal in that channel.  This has the effect of increasing the availability of the information contained in the signal, in much the same way that a microscope allows a scientist to study the details of microorganisms.  The added detail creates the possibility of further intervention and development. 

For a comparison of Jung's and Mindell's definitions of the terms listed above, the reader is referred to the glossary in City Shadows.






Adler, G. (Ed.), & Jaffe, A.  (1975).  C. G. Jung letters, Vol. 2 (1951-1961).  Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.


Bodian, S.  (1990).  Field of dreams.  Yoga Journal, March-April, 66-72.


Chang C.  (1970).  Creativity and Taoism.  New York: Harper & Row Publishers.


Goodbread, J.  (1987).  The dreambody toolkit.  London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.


Goodbread, J.  (1989).  Dreaming up reality: The politics of countertransference in psychotherapy and everyday life.  Unpublished manuscript.


Jung, C. G.  (1933).  Modern man in search of a soul.  New York: Harcourt, Brace.


Jung, C. G.  (1953a).  Psychology and alchemy.  London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.


Jung, C. G.  (1953b).  Two essays on analytical psychology.  New York: Pantheon Books.


Jung, C. G.  (1959b).  The archetypes and the collective unconscious.  Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.



Jung, C. G.  (1960).  The psychogenesis of mental disease. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.


Jung, C. G.  (1963a).  Memories, dreams and reflections.  New York: Vintage Books.


Jung, C. G.  (1966a).  The practice of psychotherapy.  New York: Pantheon Books.


Jung, C. G.  (1967).  Alchemical studies.  Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.


Jung, C. G.  (1969).  The structure and dynamics of the psyche.  Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.


Jung, C. G.  (1970a).  Freud and psychoanalysis (2nd ed.).  Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.


Jung, C. G.  (1970b).  Psychiatric studies (2nd ed.).  Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.


Jung, C. G.  (1973).  Experimental researches.  Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.


Jung, C. G.  (1976).  The symbolic life: Miscellaneous writings.  Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.


Jung, C. G.  (1984).  Dream analysis.  Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.


Lao Tsu.  (1972).  Tao te ching.  (Gia-Fu Feng and J. English, Trans.).  New York: Vintage Books.


Lockhart, R. A.  (1977).  Cancer in myth and dream.  Spring, NY: Spring Publications


Meier, C. A.  (1966).  The dream in ancient Greece and its use in temple cures (incubation).  In G. E. von Grunebaum & R. Callois (Eds.), The Dream and Human Societies (pp. 303-319).  Kerdeley, CA: University of California Press.


Mindell, A.  (1982).  Dreambody: The body’s role in revealing the self.  Santa Monica, CA: Sigo Press.


Mindell, A.  (1985a).  River’s way: The process science of the dreambody.  London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.


Mindell, A.  (1985b).  Working with the dreaming body.  London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.


Mindell, A.  (1988a).  City shadows.  New York: Routledge, Chapman & Hall.


Mindell, A.  (1988b).  Jungian psychology has a daughter.  The Journal of Process Oriented Psychology, 1, 1-16.


Mindell, A.  (1989a).  Coma: Key to awakening.  Boston, MA: Shambhala Publications.


Van Der Post, L.  (1977).  Jung and the story of our time.  New York: Vintage Books.


Whitmont, E. C.  (1972).  Body experience and psychological awareness.  Quadrant, 12, 5-16.


Whitmont, E. C.  (1978).  The symbolic quest.  Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.


Ziegler, A.  (1962).  A cardiac infarction and a dream as synchronous events.  Journal of Analytical Psychology, 7, 141-148.