Harvesting L. Barrett’s Jungian Coaching terminology

Reflections on ‘A Jungian approach to Coaching, The Theory and Practice of Turning Leaders into People’. Routledge 2019.

Back in September 2023, in Islington London I revised Barrett’s synopsis submitted to Routledge towards a new proposal for his book on Symbolic Thinking in Jungian Coaching. To my surprise I found his e-mail address at the bottom of his essay and by instinct I wrote him a short message claiming that I was in London and that a short acquaintance would be highly appreciated. Not that we knew each other previously, nor could I have had any reason to believe that he would be available or accept such an out of the blue offer. However, as Jung teaches us the “Persona and Anima are in a compensatory relationship” (M. Fike, 2017, Africa & Anima, pg. 35). So, avoiding Persona’s conformity and leaning on my Anima’s spontaneity, impulsiveness, and intuition I was delighted to receive a warm response offering a meeting at King’s Cross the day after. It was the French European style restaurant Belanger where we met for lunch, the place was quite empty and our two brains and souls “danced in the moment” a fluent verbal Tango dialogue which Laurence summarized later saying that:” there are so very few of us in this field, surely we should collaborate”. What fascinates me in reading Barrett’s book is his way of dealing with Jungian terminology once applied to Jungian coaching. Expressions such as ‘feeling toned’ (21), ‘playful imagination’(26), ‘spiral or labyrinthine path’(39) turn the texts into an enchanting reading quest. While reading the book it felt like the greatest mirroring practice in the Winniccotian terms or a fantastic attunement according to D. Stern.  Barrett speaks my same professional language yet with an upgraded proficiency. He perceives the “Jungian Human Being” as a mysterious creature and through a child’s curiosity he learns how that align functions. If you ever raised an animal whether it was a cat, dog, fish or a horse you must have been acquainted with the learning experience of tracing its behavior and adjusting accordingly. For example, Barrett writes: ”as a counterweight to the shadow, the ego begins to encourage the construction of the persona, a ‘functional complex’ developed with a specific purpose of mediating between the ego and the social world” (14). We get here a “story” about a pseudo biological organ which processes an antagonistic opposing organ to stabilize the psychic system of a person. Or later when he prepares to explain to the reader the phenomena of the Anima & Animus he starts with:” the tension within this system creates the effect of enantiodromia “ (15).

He starts the book with a young man’s memory about a university seminar in Southern France in a prehistoric cave art. “Instead of simplistic, two-dimensional images I had expected, I saw deeply moving and evocative living frescoes…. i was left with a feeling of mystery and confusion…the events of the outer world and the images of the inner world seem to align in a meaningful coincidence, I was given a book, ‘The Myth of the Goddess’”.

The Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc Cave

Right at the beginning of the book he establishes his nonobjective approach towards a coaching interpretation for Jung’s theory. He conveys that Jungian coaching is about involving enthusiasm, creativity and curiosity in the search of psychic’ comprehension and this approach he believes must be applied to Jungian coaching we well.  There is no apology for adapting Jung’s wisdom and applying it to coaching, just the reverse: Barrett uses lots of quotations from Jung’s collective works to the point where the reader hardly differs who said what, Jung or Barrett.

By using Jung’s term:” constructive method”, for example, he sheds light on the critical difference between psychotherapy and coaching: “if we focus on the cause of the symptom rather than its underlying intent, we run the risk of either destroying a helpful catalyst for development or reigniting a traumatic experience. With the ‘constructive’ method we are helping the psyche prepare itself for the journey ahead” (17).

His book is an acrobat masterpiece of a magician maneuvering between various positions: a supervisor, an educator, a Jungian analyst and a corporate consultor. Barrett says: “This can only happen where the coach is able to face their own fears of the unconscious, with all its energy and ambiguity, and is able to tolerate as state of’ not knowing’ while the symbol develops at its own pace” (29).


He contributes to the importance of comprehending the symbolic thought in Jungian context. He uses expressions such as “Symbols act as a bridge” (27) or “they require a frequent practice of observation (27)“. In speaking of Symbols, he interfaces with my expressive arts therapy method claiming that: “the visual type coachee should concentrate on the expectation that an inner image will be produced…Audio verbal types usually hear inner words…and others may express the unconscious by means of bodily movement” (29). Generally, along the book I obtained reinforcements and reassurance for the Jungian coaching method I have developed: “The coach with a Jungian perspective demands that we ourselves have crossed the threshold of midlife and separate from our own identification and have developed the capacity to tolerate the ambiguity of individuation” (42). He mentions Jung’s term:” lifeline” (a technique we actually practice at the very beginning of module four The Hero Quest, when we revive our personal lifeline) “creating a thread of meaning that suggests both continuity with past and the next steps into the future” (53). He claims, merging his own words with Jung’s that: “If we overtly identify with the persona, we become defined by our perceived understanding of the expectations of others, creating a ‘false self’ and preventing any new possible paths for expression or development, without confrontation with the shadow, we become ‘a two-dimensional phantom… “(63).

Towards the third informal part of the book the reader is exposed to a critical yet courageous approach towards Jungian corporate coaching style: ”Even the idea of leadership may itself serve as a social defense, as it encourages those within organizations to project idealistic qualities like vision and charisma onto heroic leadership figures…they may serve to inflate a leader with a narcissistic self-belief that Jung termed the “mana personality, an inflation that may reflect an existing psychopathology within the leader, or simply may be an overwhelming response to the needs of the followers.”(62).

Reflections are Barrett’s small condense islands where the reader can rest and absorb the essence of a challenging chapter. On those “finales” paragraphs Barrett shares his personal point of view:” there is a paradox in the heart of Jungian psychology, which Jung referred to as coniunctio….through the combination of opposing ideas, not as a compromise but as transformation into a new form through the symbols of the transcendent function, we are able to reimagine ourselves and move closer towards that illusive image of wholeness and integration, the Self”(111).

Barrett’s References by the end of each chapter create a peeping hole into his library. Valuable headlines such as Edelson 91993), Gemmill (1992), Morgan (2000), Crawford (2015), Kast (2006), Mckenzie (2006), Miller (2004), Foulkes (1991) and many others opened my Amazon hunger for further readings.

Thank you, dear Laurence!