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A problem with asking questions

Edited by Admin User, Saturday, 17 October 2009, 08:37 PM
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Mediators frequently use questions in their work. But this is not a neutral activity. It has an effect on the interaction. Here is something to think about regarding the process of asking questions:

In her biography of Carl Gustav Jung, Deirdre Bair is describing a conversation between Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud about a dream Jung had during their trip to the United States. In this dream, Jung found himself in a house with several levels, each furnished in an older time period. At the deepest part, in the true bottom of the house, the cave’s floor was encased with thick dust that covered bones and several partially decayed human skulls. Jung certainly wanted to analyze this dream with Freud, who he considered at that time to be his mentor, colleague and friend:

Jung noted that Freud was interested in only one aspect of it anyway: “He was always circling around those skulls. He thought I was supposed to harbor a wish there.” Freud asked repeatedly: “Who do you wish were dead? Doesn’t anyone come to mind?” His questions formed a pattern. Whose skulls were they? What did Jung want from them? What did he want to happen to them? Again and again, and above all, Freud hammered the point: whose death was it worth Jung’s while to wish for?

Jung was befuddled: “He expected me to find a wish there, so I named my wife and my sister-in-law because I thought that was in accordance with his theory. It wasn’t true, but I followed his intention anyway because I wanted so much to learn from him. I thought he understood things better than I, so I kept thinking, What does he really want? What does he want me to say?”

Offering up his wife and sister-in-law must have been at least partially satisfying, for as soon Jung said their names, Freud seemed “suddenly liberated.” It disappointed Jung: “[Freud’s] negative judgments could continuously hurt you without your noticing it. He had to regard everything, for example, my relationship to my family, from the negative side. For him the world couldn’t continue to exist unless it were [negative].” [Bair, D. (2003). Jung: A Biography (pp. 177-178). New York: Back Bay Books.]

Hugo Prein

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