By Claire Harlin
In the 1950s, Katie Sanford struggled to find her place in the world amid the conventional expectations of being a wife and mother. Fueled in part by psychological wounds left from the loss of her mother at age 7, she felt as though she was near death and, as a last resort, sought the expertise of renowned Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung.
Now 95 and one of the earliest residents of Del Mar, Sanford is one of the last living people to have met and shared time with Jung, who has amassed a large following over the years for his theories and founding of analytical psychology. Sanford said she was invited by Jung to Switzerland because he thought her case might help him in his own studies, particularly those regarding his creation of the concept of archetypes — symbols or patterns that can shed light on personality.
“The level of material I was working with, the level I was operating on, was an archetypal level,” said Sanford, who recalls her bravery in traveling alone from Del Mar to Switzerland, via both airplane and the Queen Mary ocean liner. “He was curious and interested because it would relate to his work.”
Lynette Walker, Sanford’s daughter, was 14 when her mother left for several months to seek out Jung, who has recently emerged in popular culture as the subject of the 2011 movie “A Dangerous Method.”
“He wanted to make sense of her search for the meaning of life, which was so different than what women of her time were experiencing,” Walker said during a recent interview at Sanford’s Del Mar home. “In a way, he recognized that she was channeling something on a different level than the way most people were operating and it was powerful.”
Sanford said she and Jung shared the same psychological beliefs that “aside from our daily conditioning, the inevitable issues we pick up from our parents and education, one can make available the information that exists in their dreams and fantasies.”
“To make sense of that information and incorporate it into your life, that’s what let’s you know who you can be as a whole person,” Sanford said. “You can take away everything that’s expected of you and be your authentic self.”
Both Sanford and her husband, the late Dr. Sandy Sanford, became trained Jungian analysts decades ago, and they were founding members of the San Diego Friends of Jung. The Sanfords began holding weekly discussion meetings at their home more than 35 years ago, and Sanford still keeps the meetings going today, having brought together dozens of like minds over the years. The San Diego Friends of Jung has also begun holding lectures at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, located at 334 14th St. in Del Mar.
A notable teaching of Jung is that art can be used to alleviate consuming feelings and repair, restore and heal patients. More specifically, he wrote in his manuscripts that art expressions and images found in dreams can be helpful in recovering from emotional distress.
Sanford also saw art as more than just recreational. Over the course of about 30 years, beginning in the 1950s, Sanford created more than 60 large-scale paintings, which she tucked away in a shed until Walker, her daughter, had them published 10 years ago. The resulting book, which has full-color photos of the paintings and corresponding written commentaries on each, came to be called “The Serpent and the Cross.”
Along with the paintings, numerous lectures given by Sanford over the years have been made into an archive that can be accessed in The Archive for Research in Archetypal Symbolism (www.aras.org), located in San Francisco.
“They felt her work is representative of the modern myth of where we are in the evolutionary process in relation to opening the feminine archetype,” Walker said. “This is not the same thing as feminism; it’s a natural paradigm shift, a feminine Renaissance.”
For more information about the San Diego Friends of Jung group, and their lectures in Del Mar, visit www.jungsandiego.com. There will be a new lecture series beginning this summer. For more information on Sanford and her book, visit www.serpentandcross.com.