In a brief interview Leslie Zimmermann, a Jungian Analyst based in Johannesburg, South Africa answers questions about the personal character traits and strengths she brings to her analytical work with clients.
Q: Client’s often work with a person because the person has been trained according to a particular theoretical orientation. For example, they may wish to work with a Cognitive-Behavioural therapist or with a Jungian Analyst. But the therapist or analyst also has a nature, a personality, which would surely also play a role in the work with a client? Given this, in your view, what role does personal talent play in your analytical work with clients?
Leslie Zimmermann: As I see it, an analyst is not an empty container that has been filled up with a theoretical approach. Each person has a unique nature with some specific strengths. Each person has had these specific qualities for as long as they can remember and on reflection, they will notice that much of what they do in life is informed by these talents and qualities.
With respect to inherent talents, my training and academic studies did not turn me into the person that I am. I am still the same person that I always was. Rather, my studies and experience enabled me to develop my natural talents, which I always had, into strengths, so that I became strongly effective in the way I work with clients. My strengths are thus underpinned and informed by my training and studies as is my profession informed and underpinned by my inherent talents and strengths.
Q: What is it that clients come to you for?
LZ: Without exception, clients approach me because there is a problem that cannot be solved, an obstacle that cannot be surmounted, a barrier blocking the way or a step to be taken but the way is unclear. This problem affects their relationships, their work life, their capacity to function effectively, affects their degree of success or the capacity to change direction and function. Sometimes it affects one of these areas and sometimes it affects most of these areas. The other reason they come to me is so that they may realise their potential.
Q: What is it that you do?
LZ: Do I solve my client’s problems? Do I find solutions? Does my work bring about change? The answer is yes. But not in the way you might imagine. I do not focus on problems. I do not fix weaknesses. I never have. I search for and find your strengths, capacities and abilities – some of these still in potential – that lie beneath the problem. These abilities you have, these strengths are what will remove the problems. Another way of saying this is in the words attributed to Albert Einstein, “The significant problems we have cannot be solved at the same level of thinking with which we created them.” I locate that different level of thinking needed to solve the problems.
Q: How do you discover why things are as they are?
LZ: Firstly, a problem or an obstacle or a barrier is a complex surface composed of interconnected parts. In the way I work I uncover and discover the elegantly simple concepts that lie beneath these surfaces. These interconnected parts and concepts explain why things are as they are. Because my kind of mind always looks for connections, I can link even vague, obscure connections and phenomena that might seem disconnected to each other. When I see the underlying concepts and begin linking connections, I am able to see new perspectives and to generate ideas.
Q: You help people to get to the point where they can see new perspectives and begin to generate ideas. This sounds really inspiring and helpful. But, how would they know which ideas to follow and what they should do next?
LZ: The next step is to sort through the complexity and clutter and then to find the way forward by using the best route. I use a strategic approach, which prevents a vision from deteriorating into a mere pipe dream. I do this by finding the path that will make your vision a reality and eliminating obstacles before they even appear. How is this achieved? Where other people see complexity, clutter, disorder and problems I see and recognise patterns. When you are convinced that there is no way, no solution, I can see a way and so I can lead you to success.
Guided by the patterns I see, I play out different scenarios and ask relevant questions, which take us “around the corner” so that I can evaluate potential obstacles we wouldn’t otherwise see. Guided by this process and the different paths that appear and guided by where I see the different paths leading, we are able to start making selections. I help you to discard all paths that lead to confusion and to obstacles or that will lead nowhere until we arrive at a path that will lead to success. That path becomes and is my and our strategy.
Q: Earlier you noted that you do not fix weaknesses. You have suggested that on the contrary, in order to succeed, people’s talents need to be identified and then transformed into strengths – into something superb.
LZ: I have necessarily divided up a complex approach into separate actions in order to explain them here but in reality, these functions all work together, interfacing with each other. So concepts and patterns together with the connections that lie beneath the surface are identified, as is the strategy identified that will take you beyond your problem. During all of this, we look for and identify what works; we look for your strengths. We find ways to make the most of these, building on your talents and transforming them into something superb.
A particular ability I have is to recognize the clues and signs of strengths, even if they are still in a potential form. As they are located, we nurture them, refine them, polish them and extend them until they become superb and transform into lasting functions and qualities of excellence.
The reason I spend my time building on great talent rather than fixing weaknesses is because it is your talents and strengths that are going to bring you success and happiness, not your weaknesses and problems. It is your strengths that are going to take you beyond your obstacles and problems.
Q: The next question must naturally be, how do you make this happen? What follows on from this?
LZ: Only actions can make things happen. For this reason when a strategy has been decided upon the first step will be, “When can we start?” and “What is the next action step?” For me, thinking and acting belong together. Each one is contained within the other and each follows the other like night follows day. They are not opposites, they are partners.
Once we have identified strengths and a strategy, we begin the process of transforming innovative ideas into action. The greatest ideas are of no use if they are not moved towards concrete action. At each step of the way, your plans and ideas are energized, inspiring motion and momentum in you.
Q: Finally, while we have been discussing this process it’s become evident that you not only work like this for your clients but, you also work like this for yourself in your own life. But where do you get the energy to follow this process from inception to its end?
LZ: The best way I can answer this question is that I get tremendous enjoyment and fulfilment when something tangible is achieved. But that “tangible something” is not when you or I physically create something, such as a painting. It is when a behaviour or attitude and inner seeing or understanding motivates the painting of the picture so that not only the painting, but the inner idea becomes visible. That tangible something, that painting, is made up of both the inner and the outer.
To explain what I mean by this; as long as something is imperceptible, in potential, unconscious, an idea, a possibility, it is insubstantial and uncreated. It is sometimes just a pipe dream or even a vague wish. Sometimes it merely exists in the form of dissatisfaction. For example, the desire to speak assertively may exist in the form of a wish. But when that wish becomes connected to an attitude of self-regard then the manifest speech and observable behaviour of assertiveness, together with the inner attitude of self-regard are what makes it something tangible.
When an idea or vision becomes a real, observable behaviour, achievement or product in the world, this makes it real, concrete and tangible.
Having said that, it is in fact the entire process that I value. It is the work of uncovering the interconnected parts and concepts that lie beneath the surfaces, of noting and linking the connections, of seeing new perspectives and generating ideas. It is the work of sorting through the complexity and clutter, of recognizing patterns and of finding the way forward by using the best route that will lead to success. It is then looking for and identifying what works, your strengths, so that we can build on your talents, transforming them into something superb. It is the step of transforming thinking, plans and ideas into action – of making things happen – of inspiring motion and momentum. Achievement is then the natural outcome of the process.