By Tess Castleman
I remember arriving in Zürich on a bitter cold early February morning in 1984. We were three. Husband, three-year-old son and me. We had left our jobs, our first house, our families and our beloved Denver, Colorado for an unknown land.
Unlike many of our fellow students at the institute, neither of us had been to Europe or anywhere outside of the US other than the short trips my family had taken to Vancouver in my Seattle childhood.
The first shocks were all within a few moments of arriving: drinking orange juice that was blood red, paying for the public lavatory and finding our way within the gray labyrinth of tracks and walkways that formed the Hauptbahnhof. We arrived in Küsnacht by taxi, and finally, to the Ochsen where we were reserved until we could find housing. We didn’t have any idea then that it would be five weeks before we left our tiny one-room world to live in a tiny, albeit charming, stokli in Männedorf.
Everything was sideways. And slow. All transactions seemed to crawl at a speed new to me—barely moving. Of course then there was no Internet, no cell phone, no GPS, nothing instant at all. We used our telephone rarely because all calls were charged like a long distance call, even if I was calling our landlord next door. We had no tele
vision or radio because there was a yearly charge for the use of the airwaves. We received letters– even between people right in our neighborhood or in Zürich. In those days it was common for an analyst to write a note saying an appointment had to be changed the following week.
Communication was odd—there was a macabre catch phrase that candidates had coined: “I got the note on the door”. What that meant was that one had gone to analysis only to find a note attached to his/her analysts’ consulting room door stating that the analyst had died. I don’t recall any analyst who retired; working right up to the end of life was the norm. There were many older, first generation analysts then so this happened a few times in my training to friends of mine.
The times were remarkable—just as I suppose each generation of candidates feels. Wine and cheese were served every Wednesday in the Kellersall with a special guest invited to speak to the students. This is how we formed a relationship with Franz Jung, Frau Hoerni, Marie-Louise von Franz and many others. We shamelessly plied our guests with wine and flattery to get them to talk. Frau Hoerni warned us not to be like “father who could not bother to listen to her dreams”
and von Franz was as kind a person I have ever met. There were only a handful of us there that day because she required we not announce ahead of time she was coming. We were all shy to get the conversation going. We knew we were in the presence of a giant. To me she seemed to be the analyst most revered; many of the gifted analysts who taught and examined were analysands of hers. She broke our silence by encouraging someone just to say something even if it was ridiculous, if only to break the tension. She spoke about her frustration that so many popular writers were really using Jung’s ideas to claim new psychological territory when in fact he had written about many of the movements that came out of the 60s and 70s years earlier. She cited the Peter Pan material that day as an example. She also disparaged analysts departing from Jung or criticizing him before they had fully understood him. She felt few took the time to engage with his more esoteric ideas.
Later Franz Jung invited a group to go to Bolligen. No one had been there before so we were privileged and moved to be so honored. Franz was a tall strong man with a great wit. He quickly began to tease a few of us and seem to have an extraverted, charming personality. The day we went to Bolligen he bought the wine for our lunch and many made formal, Swiss-like toasts. American students in particular were often engaged in a type of assimilation of Swiss culture. Swiss customs commonly adopted included using Frau and Herr to address the office staff at the institute, switching the knife and fork to eat in the Swiss fashion and singing “en guete mittand” before meals. The difficulty of language was too great a hill to scale for the majority of North Americans. We shamed ourselves continually for our lackadaisical educations.
Most of my friends and I all longed for some sense of belonging in the taciturn and chilly Zürich.
Bolligen was quite remarkable—that day Franz took us to the meditation room, which I now know, was a special event without precedence. It was an almost empty round room with a small carpet in the center for sitting. Around the perimeter, at about eye level was a gold hand-painted snake.
My friends got me through the hard times. And most of us did experience suffering; illness, financial devastation and often marital dissolution. Three candidates died while I was training, which seemed like a large percentage to me. It was gray and damp and cold and expensive. Depression was almost encouraged; gaiety was suspicious and “too American”. The analysts had little fights with one another which I realize now was a pattern that did not lead to a good end; this resulted in camps being formed that were cliquey and exclusive. I was in one that included traveling to an Alpen chalet for a long and rather luxurious weekend at an analyst’s holiday home. About 18 or so of us were invited. It was very formal, much like old British television that depicts going to someone’s manor for a hunting holiday.
Cocktails at 5:30. Formal dinner at 7:00. Charades at 8:30. Charades, by custom, were brutal.
Times then were difficult, inspiring, transformative and life-giving. I treasured all of my experiences from that time having no idea how they would permanently shape nearly every aspect of my personal, spiritual and professional life.