chapter  8
25 Pages

The alchemical attitude to the transformation of relationship

The core of the alchemical process of transformation is revealed in stories and images which provide insight into the transformative dynamics of seemingly irreconcilable states of opposites. Conflicting pairs of opposites, such as love and hate, despair and passion, or daring and cowardice, can be experienced within an individual or between two people as an unconscious dyad. Unless such opposites separate and combine in a fruitful way, releasing energy and creating consciousness, an ego, or a couple, can encounter conflicting states of mind and body that lead to stagnation and regression through which they lose energy and heart. For example, a male analysand has an intense and nearly automatic obedience to collective ideals or conventional standards of morality, yet an equally intense passion to act out forbidden energies. In effect, he leads a double life: the model citizen during the day, an obsession with prostitutes and child pornography at night. How can these opposites ever combine into a ‘third’ so that he is not constantly drawn by compulsion to one and then the other? How can his split internal structure heal so that such opposites no longer rule him? Even if the opposites in question are extremely split apart within the psychotic area, change always occurs through their union. But union is only the beginning of the alchemical process of transformation. For change in the internal structure to be stabilized requires the death of the union and the embrace of the subsequent nigredo. Through this coniunctio-nigredo sequence, the alchemical process works to create new and enduring form.