I remain unconvinced that regression and remothering are in some scientific sense legitimate. I suspect it is more of a theater and that it depends on a very strong transference relationship.
Do you mean by transference that the client really believes the therapist is the mother, or simply that the client experiences infant and child therapy, beginning again as an adult? In my experience with both "talk therapy" and Jungian Art Therapy, I chose to be remothered, and was for many months, because of deficiencies in my own childhood upbringing.
Much attention is conventionally given to transference between patient and analyst in developmental Jungianism and psychoanalysis. Often, this transference is thought to be a "personalistic" phenomena, i.e., that one "transfers" to a person (specifically the patient transfers to the analyst an image of the healer or nurturer, perhaps the positive mother or "good breast"). There are logical reasons to believe transference is a personalistic phenomenon, but I suspect it is more accurately a narrative or storying phenomena. In other words, one does not transfer to a person but to a story . . . and always these stories are the foundation of selfhood. They are stories of self. It is not The Healer or The Mother that makes transference-based healing work (when it does), but the story of selfhood that incorporates the healer and the healed in a narrative of healing . . . or incorporates the mother and the mothered "infant" in a narrative of remothering.
Psychoanalysis tends to have a heavily analysis-centric perspective on psychological phenomena. It assumes that transference is an analytic phenomena, but I disagree. Transference is merely a natural way we construct identity. We "mystically participate" in the totemic environment of people, places, things, ideas, attitudes, etc. around us, and we participate (psychologically speaking, which is to say, unconsciously) so as to construct identity, to formulate a functional story of selfhood. Analytic transference is a very specific and often highly concentrated form of this conventional mystical participation in the name of identity construction. We enter into an analysis by accepting the story of the broken personality that needs to be repaired (or, perhaps, a person with an inadequate or damaging childhood that needs to be "re-experienced" adequately). Through participation in that story, we (ideally) hope to have our selves re-storied.
Of course, at times this means that we get stuck in the story of brokenness and repair and become creatures of the analytic environment . . . perhaps not really understanding how to leave that environment with useful "lessons" in tow for regular life. This is part of why the termination of analysis is often difficult to orchestrate (for both patient and analyst) . . . and that difficulty is accentuated in psychoanalytic "remothering" analyses. The letting go of the mother by the child and the child by the mother is not as clearly defined in traditional narratives as say, the motif of violent untethering from the mother (as in various heroic epics of monster slaying and "nature conquering").
This is one of the well-understood dangers of analytic transference (and is the reason classical Freudians choose to sit behind their patients who must lie down and monologue while the analyst says very little). Namely, that it will ensnare an individual (or a relationship) in a "repetition compulsion" that never progresses and eventually comes to function as a kind of prison or reinforcement of some variation of the initial disease of self the analysis was meant to repair.
Individuation is a work of continual revolution, not a process of settling into a "niche" that's comfortable and "meaningful". When the individuant outgrows the paradigm or story s/he was for a time so deeply engaged with, s/he must figure out how to leave that story or revise it or escape its potential repetition compulsion. Most patients and individuants find this secondary escape substantially more difficult and confounding than the initial transference-based movement of healing. In my experience, this pattern continues in cycles indefinitely, like the circling of an inward or outward spiral. It goes somewhere new (unlike a fixed circle), but there are many recurring parallels and retreads of old ground. As the Jungians like to say, it can be a kind of "circumambulation" that keeps providing new and enriching perspectives on the same "content".
As for "remothering", I primarily mean this as a metaphor, and therefore that one might chose to believe in the value of that metaphor. The belief in the metaphor is what heals, not the "remothering" itself. My feeling is that the success of psychoanalytic remothering is largely dependent on the patient's ability to accept/believe in the stories of childhood developmental inadequacy and then that the analyst is directly treating that inadequacy by essentially doing what the parents failed to do and thereby redeeming the "archetype" of the Good Mother/Father in the patient . . . which in turn activates the Good/Loved/Divine Child who flourishes in the loving environment of the Good Mother (or matrix).
I have mixed feelings about this story. It's not the path I was drawn to take . . . although I could have. I could have seen my parenting as inadequate, even traumatizing. And I was in certain ways traumatically wounded and did develop many of the conventional PTSD symptoms that childhood trauma sufferers develop. Yet, something in me always resisted the "blame the parents" vein of psychotherapy, even as I recognized that many of my symptoms and pathological attitudes were directly linked to the way I was parented.
I ultimately found more meaning and grounding in the embrace of the kind of re-storying I've described above. The Wound that problematized my being was not something I "suffered" and needed to repair (in this re-storying). Rather, it was a catalyst that complexly allowed me to start becoming what I was capable of becoming. I don't mean something like fate or destiny or any specific "thing". I mean genuineness. Without the Wound and my engagement with it, I would not have found a way to become genuine. The untreated Wound often leads to various complexes or states of "inauthenticity". But the Wound is also a wellspring of authenticity, THE wellspring.
For me, blaming my pathological symptoms and suffering on my parents or on my childhood had the side effect of devaluing the Wound as a creative engine and eternal source of being and selfhood. Coming to accept the Wound as creative source did not mean transforming the Wound into a de-problematized, romanticized, divine object. It meant that whatever was going to be genuine in me was also going to be, in other ways, diseased, problematic, afflicted. But the genuine life for me was the engagement in a continual struggle with these dual aspects of the Wound. The Wound is the source of the Self and also the domain of the Demon. And this conflict needs to be mediated very carefully, very vigilantly, and very ethically. It is in that mediation that I forge and am forged by a personality, a small-s self.
That is a very condensed and generalized snapshot of the story of my selfhood, the one that has so far worked best for me, allowed me to be most authentic and most self-aware. But it is my
self-story, and not necessarily prescribable to others. It is not "better" than a remothering narrative just because that remothering narrative was not adequate for me. As a tangent from remothering, I will say that I did find I needed something deeply essentially from my mother as an adult. But it wasn't mothering per se. It's hard to describe, but it was something like an experience of "the Call". My mother (who died in 2009) was a deeply spiritual person who functioned as a kind of ad hoc psychotherapist in her small tribe-like community for many of the students she taught (as a psychology professor). She was not clinically-trained, but was clinically self-educated.
I came to recognize after her death and after having the chance to see the many (adult) students who described her lovingly as a kind of healer and "earth mother" (something she had not really been in our family) that she was, in fact, a kind of "shaman" in her "tribe". The problem of her life was a "spiritual" problem, a problem of her relationship to God/Self and what that meant to her Calling and her sense of obligation to serve the treatment and healing her tribe, to serve the "soul".
Much of the suffering I faced growing up came as a result of her struggle with this Calling (which I believe also grew out of her Wound). I never agreed with many of the ways she interpreted and pursued that Calling, but she was genuine and devout in that pursuit. She also had a strongly developmentalist perspective and placed enormous blame on her own mother as wounder while almost entirely failing to see how she herself, as a mother, had wounded her own children. I think her gift to me was twofold. On one hand, I seemed to inherit from her what she (and other more religious people) might call a kind of "intimacy with God/Self", a powerful orientation toward the relationship with this Other. On the Other hand, her at times injurious behavior toward me allowed me to see how the "vicious circle" might be broken. Namely, by not continuing to blame the mother or yearn for "good enough" remothering. By learning how to re-story the Wound as a source of being, however problematic that being might also be as a result of that source. of course, it's more complicated than this, but that's the gist of it.
One could say that I had a poor model for the story of remothering and was able to see how that story can go wrong and remain dysfunctional in particular situations. It enabled me to recognize that the Wound is not merely something struck by a wounder upon an innocent victim and serves eternally as a hindrance. It is also initiatory. It is a tap driven into a tree from which the generative sap can pour forth. The challenge we face is in figuring out how to understand and treat this tap so that we pour forth as genuinely as possible and do not simply "bleed out" and dry up.
if a classical Jungian patient doesn't believe they are on some kind of "individuation quest", the analysis might not be that effective for her/him. Or at least it doesn't necessarily distinguish itself from any other form of counseling psychotherapy that address the correction of self-destructive behaviors and attitudes.
Interesting comment, Matt. Again in my experience, my goal was healing from self-destructive behaviors and attitudes, and I have been successful in this, although it took many years.
I would think that almost any psychotherapy is going to address self-destructive attitudes and behaviors. But when we take more of a macro perspective, we see that there are many different methods of psychotherapy and that they all tend to be more or less equally effective (and ineffective). Yet, many of the individual methods and theories are not compatible with one another. Taking this perspective, we might also ask how particular methods of psychotherapy seek to treat or correct self-destructiveness. Some emphasize behavioral modification through discipline and repetition. Others (like psychodynamic psychotherapies) incorporate narratives of transformation in which the patient must have a kind of faith in or strong transference to the narrative. That is, they heal through faith, like religion (which includes the joining of a modern monotribe in some capacity).
As these more psychodynamic approaches are my particular fascination, I am concerned with the "quality" of the faith they use to heal patients and the "quality", adaptiveness, and survivability of the monotribes they indoctrinate patients into. Sometimes the real functionality of the healing a psychodynamic patient undergoes in analysis is determined by the functionality of the monotribe and its faith or ideology. Does this faith allow the individual to live in a fully functional way in the modern world, or does it only provide functionality so long as the individual remains mostly in the monotribal world and adheres unquestioningly to the faith of the tribe? If the individual leaves the tribe or becomes disenfranchised with its totems and society, will the self-destructive behaviors/attitudes return? (This is often what happens.)
These are complicated and in many ways arcane questions. Many patients of these psychotherapies never touch upon these concerns and may feel well-served and well-loved by their tribes. Many others are dissatisfied but aren't really introspective or analytical enough to figure out why. They might go from one form of re-storying to another looking for a solution, looking for a sense of "Home". Jung does something like this in the Red Book narrative. And eventually he stopped working on the Red Book, abandoned it mid-sentence, moved on to the next meaningful story of self: alchemy. I don't think he had it in him to be a truly contented tribe member. His reformer spirit was too strong.
To return to your comment about successfully healing, although many would probably find my attitude overly cynical, I wonder if there is ever such a thing a truly successful healing. I mean psychological healing that is the equivalent of the removal of some kind of physiological malignancy or the elimination of a virus/parasite. My feeling is that psychological healing is contingent on various conditions and dependent on the good-enough rewriting of the narrative of self. We commonly call this "healing" and maintain a story of that healing, but in my experience (speaking for myself, that is, and not meaning to "diagnose" anyone else) such healing is a state of being or state of mind held in place by the acceptance of certain beliefs and attitudes. These beliefs and attitudes are the building blocks of a story of selfhood with a chapter titled "Healed".
My experience (again) is that our primal wounds (perhaps childhood traumas) never really "heal" in some kind of absolute way. The thorn cannot be removed; the best we can do is to grow healthy skin around the thorn. Psychological healing involves a re-storying that does not change the fundamental material (e.g., childhood trauma), but re-contextualizes it in a new narrative in which that trauma does not necessitate self-destructive behavior and thought. I have come to feel that in any real, deep Wound, there is so much valid selfhood that it cannot simply be excised or returned to a totally whole, pristine state. Our wounds continually define and redefine us. In frustration we can take the attitude that we are condemned, that these wounds are like curses that determine our fate. But we can also take the attitude that they are gravitational fields that define a fixed orbit in which we develop a meaningful (and related) sense of self.
We are not "freeform" beings that can endlessly self-determine. We exist within the gravitational fields of various "massive dynamic bodies": people, events, beliefs, wounds, labors, genes, etc. All these things provide formal constrictions like the formal constrictions of traditional poetry. But a poem written in a specific form isn't fated to be like every other poem in that form. There is still an infinity within constriction . . . just not a chaotic one.
What I have found (as Jung and Jungians also often note) is that Self is in the wound. There is not some kind of perfectly well "true self" latent or imprisoned within a cage of disease and suffering. The "trick" is to re-story that disease and suffering so that it is not a cage at all, but a universe in motion, expanding, complexifying, continuously becoming. Which is to say, gradually and often very mysteriously "self-organizing".
I am speaking of my own journey, but I suspect the general pattern is quite universal.