Interview with
Constance Avery-Clark Ph.D. 
“The Eden Project: In Search of the Magical Other”

February 18, 2017

The Center for Jungian Studies of South Florida (CJSSF) offers a special event: “The Eden Project: In Search of the Magical Other,” with Dr. Constance Avery-Clark as the presenter. This workshops will take place on Saturday, February 18, 2017 from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at Santa Cruz Resurrection Church, Biscayne Park, Florida.

Constance Avery-Clark, Ph.D., is a Jungian-oriented Licensed Psychologist practicing in Boca Raton for the past 29 years. She recently obtained a second Ph.D., this one in Psychology-Jungian Studies, with James Hollis, Ph.D., serving as her dissertation Chair. Dr. Avery-Clark is also Co-Director of the Institute for Sexual & Relationship Therapy & Training, an AASECT-Certified Diplomate of Sex Therapy and CE Provider, and a Certified Diplomate in Sexology through the American Board of Sexology. She was formerly Research and Clinical Associate at Masters & Johnson Institute. She specializes in treating sexual, relationship, and meaning-of-life concerns, and has published and lectured nationally, including an appearance on the Today Show. She and her long-term colleague, Linda Weiner, LCSW, have their book, Sensate Focus in Sex Therapy: The Illustrated Manual, coming out on March 9

CJSSF: You had the privilege of studying under noted Jungian analyst James Hollis while obtaining your degree in Jungian Studies. We know that Dr. Hollis has written a large number of books. Why did you decide to present on his work, The Eden Project: In Search of the Magical Other?

AVERY-CLARK: Since my professional interest involves treating relationship issues, The Eden Project is a natural for me. Also, it is the single best book on relationships that I have ever read. What I mean by this is that not only does it provide a detailed analysis of the theoretical, psychological underpinnings of relationship dynamics but it also suggests specific things to do to work on relationships. Dr. Hollis begins by serving up an overflowing tray of delectable principles of relationships. These include rich discussions of the power of separation in initiating all relationships, our overwhelming yearning for returning to our original connection, conditions that are highly likely to trigger this yearning, the fact that we project onto others the power to mollify our yearning, and our own responsibility for withdrawing these projections and taking charge of our role in relationship difficulties. Throughout these discussions he then sprinkles over his delectable offerings the spices of practical techniques for resolving these difficulties: tracing the patterns of relationship problems over one’s lifetime; making sure one does not expect of another what one can do oneself; and vigilantly cultivating the meaningfulness in one’s own life.

One of the reasons I find Dr. Hollis’s work so meaningful is that he weaves together reflections on relationship from a wide variety of sources – literature, history, art, philosophy, psychology, religion, personal observation, and clinical casework, among others. This enriches the subject tremendously and makes discussions of relationship dynamics just all that more appealing to a wider audience. If you aren’t a history buff, you can wait for a visual illustration. Aren’t into Plato? Look for an example from popular culture. One minute he is using the image of Dante’s espying Beatrice in his Paradiso as an illustration of the power of projection in relationships, and the next he is citing a stanza from the Persian poet Rumi to suggest the same psychological principles. It doesn’t get much better than that.

 

 

CJSSF: So what does Dr. Hollis have to say about relationships?

AVERY-CLARK: Very simply, that one cannot have any greater relationship with another person than one has with oneself. Dr. Hollis emphasizes the role of personal responsibility in relationships. Essentially he says, “Grow up. Get a life. Do not expect the other person to manage your feelings or live your life.” I don’t think Dr. Hollis would disagree with this rather blunt synopsis since he focuses on what he suggests is the most neglected aspect of relationships – the interaction between each individual’s ego-consciousness (conscious sense of self) and his or her unconscious (dynamic psychological history). While he notes that the other person must possess certain characteristics that activate our projections onto him or her (the other person must have a “hook”), nonetheless the vast majority of what transpires between oneself and another person is rooted in one’s own unconscious projections. About that we need to become exquisitely aware or we will be interacting not so much with what that other person is as with our illusions about what that other person is. As Jackson Browne suggests, when you finally see through these love illusions there lies the danger for the relationship because this is when bitter disappointment has the greatest potential for setting in, and out of this emerges the power struggles that so often spell the demise of relationships.

 

 

CJSSF: That all sounds rather sobering! Where does love come into the picture?

AVERY-CLARK: Yes, none of this is meant to sound discouraging so much as realistic when it comes to the experience of love. Dr. Hollis distinguishes five different kinds of love, much as the Greek philosophers did: eros (the yearning for connection); philos (friendship); storgé (familial love and affection); caritas (love of humanity); and agapé (disinterested love). He does not focus on the middle three so much as on the first and the fifth. He suggests that, contrary to what it sounds, agapé, or what he terms disinterested love, is not uncompassionate love. In fact, it is very much the opposite. It is love that wishes nothing but the best for and growth of the other person. However, the “disinterest” aspect refers to this wish for betterment and growth of the other without the “surly shark” of one’s own agenda lurking beneath the surface. In other words, agapé is the most mature form of love where the loving person has nothing invested in controlling or directing the belovéd’s life. Agapé loving relationships are based on the sharing of each other’s journey, not on any type of yearning that the other person be a certain way in order to make one’s own journey easier or less wounding. Dr. Hollis implies that intimate relationships encounter difficulties and power struggles when agapé love, the basis of developmental, sustained relationship, becomes confused with erotic love, love based on the yearning for the other person to magically and mysteriously resolve one’s pain and suffering.

 

 

CJSSF: Are you going to be suggesting some ways of your own that will help our participants practice what Dr. Hollis preaches?

AVERY-CLARK: Dr. Hollis is fond of saying that all of Jungian psychology, while fascinating conceptually, is only of value if it has practical application. I think one of the most useful aspects of this presentation will be how each of us, both professionally but also personally, may, in fact, apply the concepts to which Dr. Hollis refers to our clients’ and our own lives. I am going to be using techniques from both relationship therapy and sex therapy to illustrate how we can do this. This will include verbal and nonverbal skills that I find most helpful in doing therapy with couples and also in my own life with loved ones. I will be walking through some roleplaying with participants to suggest language that they can use in their relationship not only to improve their communication but also to assume greater responsibility for their own contribution to the relationship dynamics. I will also be showing a video that demonstrates how to apply greater self-responsibility for intimate relationship in the bedroom. This is not a sex video so no one has to be concerned about being uncomfortable. Rather, it is a sensory-oriented demonstration of the attitude of self-responsibility that integrates both agapé, “disinterested” intimacy with erotic, connecting communication.

 

 

CJSSF: What about The Eden Project means the most to you? And how does that tie into what Dr. Hollis refers to as “The Magical Other”?

AVERY-CLARK: Dr. Hollis does not limit the scope of his discussion on relationships to intimate relationships. He expands it to include relationships at work, with activities and projects, and spiritual relationships. He suggests that any time you presume that someone or some thing or some idea is going to magically transform your life and resolve all your wounds and pain, you are setting yourself up for bitter disappointment. Whether it be your lover, your mother, your children, your boss, your creative project, your latest shopping spree…even your relationship with a spiritual inspiration… if you expect that anything other than your relationship between your own conscious and unconscious selves will guide you toward a miraculous healing and meaningful life, you are missing what is the most fascinating, resonating, and divine experience of all, your own psychological dynamism.

We keep repeating. You alone are source.
With you the world arises, and your dawn
Gleams on each crack and crevice of our failure.

~ Rainer Maria Rilke

CJSSF Interviewer: Teresa Oster, MS, LCSW and CJSSF board member