I Ching Creates Crisis for Psychotherapist During a Session
The I Ching put me into among the toughest crises of my career as being a psychologist. This ancient Chinese oracle can mirror the wisdom of the higher self. It had helped me to solve problems, make decisions, and had even literally saved my life (see article "Your Day the I Ching Saved My Well Being"). But my doctorates in psychology and social work from your University of Michigan operated from very different professional premises.
After many years of counting on this spiritual guide, I began integrating the technique into psychotherapy sessions. It's an invaluable tool that empowers clients (who can discover the method themselves) and it offered an unbiased perspective that often revealed the hidden issues from the unconscious. I used to be a Jungian psychotherapist and Jung, himself, had used the I Ching for decades. He even wrote the introduction for that Wilhelm and Baynes translation.
It all made logical sense and had worked perfectly for years, until one day, in a most difficult case I could see that the I Ching had arrived at the wrong answer; it was not slightly, but totally and horribly, wrong. The I Ching's spiritual judgment directly conflicted with my professional judgment as a psychologist. It threw me into a spiritual crisis of faith and a professional conflict at the same time.
The client involved was trapped by her denial of the harmful nature of her father's influence. He was, as being a father, somewhat less nurturing than Attila the Hun. She had created an adaptive illusion that helped her survive that phase. It eventually must be outgrown, even though it's similar to "Stockholm syndrome" wherein captives idolize their captors. All attempts at gently broaching the main topic of her father's damaging behaviors only activated her fierce defenses of him, which are best not confronted until the client is ready. Probably the I Ching provides an impersonal, objective look at the father that would be more palatable, I reasoned.
Your client was eager for that feedback therefore was I--until I saw the answer it absolutely was my job to see to her. She had chosen the question: "How must i view my father? " She threw the coins and yielded the hexagram of "The Family," which made sense, but had several moving lines praising the character and behavior of the head of the house!
Psychologically, this was dead wrong. Do You choose psychology over spirituality and cancel the reading which I had suggested to start with because I didn't just like the outcome? Can One responsibly present this reading as part of a psychotherapy session after i fear it could further confirm her already debilitating delusions about dad? Should I be employing this process in therapy whatsoever once i don't control the answers?
I decided to finish a few things i had begun and read--with great distress and upset-- line 3 which mentioned that "Too great a severity toward one's own flesh and blood results in remorse" but that in doubtful instances it was preferable to err along the side of discipline. Her situation was not even close to doubtful, and also this implied father might have been justified. Lines 6 and 5 were worse! I read aloud in agony:
"Being a king he approaches his family... a king is definitely the symbol of a fatherly man who may be richly endowed under consideration. The whole family can trust him, because love governs their intercourse, he does nothing to make himself feared; on the contrary. His character of itself exercises the correct influence... His work commands respect" and more (Wilhelm & Baynes).
The client burst into tears, just before I abandoned this gut-wrenching act of faith in the I Ching. "Oh my god! " she cried, "that's the concept of an actual father... my dad never did any one of those activities! " And her life-long delusion started to melt before my eyes. The I Ching had reminded her of family violence then proceeded to advocate her position so strongly that she could no longer maintain it herself.
In order to unlock resistance," a wise mentor had once told me; what a brilliant use of this "reverse psychology" by the I Ching, "Sometimes you need to take things further in the wrong direction. I will guarantee you it reversed my very own doubts while improving the client.
The next hexagram was "The Turning Point," which this session surely was... for people. I chose that, in reality, I really should not be such as the I Ching in psychotherapy sessions. Eventually, I stopped doing "psychotherapy" altogether, and only dealt with the I dreams and Ching exclusively. That "first ever mistake" the I Ching appeared to help make changed two lives in a single session.