On The Nature Of The Self – Part Two

Golf balls as representative of the collective consciousness, as a group of individuals.

Golf balls as representative of the collective consciousness, as a group of individuals.

Yes, golf balls as representations of people. Each golf ball equates with a person, more specifically, what each person believes he or she is. I used golf balls (after a group golf practice) with four of my grandsons for the express purpose of getting images for use in this post. At the same time, the activity filled in a few idle minutes and provided them with something to think about.

I had each of these grandsons take a golf ball and draw a face on it, a face that they could say was them. Once this was done, I had them position themselves (their golf ball avatars) in relation to the collective of others. The results were interesting.

The conscious self (ego) in relation to others.

The conscious self (ego) in relation to others.

It was especially interesting for me as a grandfather to see how each of them viewed themselves.

Here I am.

Here I am.

One placed himself far from the collective (blue top), another placed himself in a smaller group outside of the collective (white top and sunglasses), a third placed himself slightly away from the collective almost buried in the grass so that he wouldn’t be so visible (rainbow tee shirt), and the fourth placed himself with the collective.

Self-perceptions

Self-perceptions

I did give them an opportunity to explain and perhaps even change their location. However, they stood firm with where they stood in relation to others.

So, what was the point? Well, it simply is about how we perceive who we are. As conscious beings, most of those perceptions are in terms of how we compare ourselves to others. One thing that was quite certain as far as my grandsons were concerned, they were each individuals, each unique – it was all based on feelings and the evidence of their senses.

Of course, there is more to us than what our feelings and senses can tell us whether we are in relations with other people or sitting alone in a quiet space. Yet, for most, though we hunger for more answers, we don’t want to hear what those answers might tell us.

 

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On The Nature Of The Self – Part One

I have a few presentations to make while we are in Mexico this coming winter, presentations about Jungian psychology. Naturally, I have been wondering just what I could do given three opportunities to present. I finally have decided on the three topics.

  1. On the nature of the self
  2. On the nature of relationship
  3. The journey we call individuation

Obviously there are many other topics that could be brought to the attention of those interested in learning a bit more about Jungian psychology. However with the decision finally made, it is now for me to prepare, slowly, for these presentations. Part of that preparation will be done here as I sort through more than too much material and threads of thought to build the presentations. Perhaps for you, my steadfast readers, this might be an experience of “you’ve already said that a million times.” Yet, I hope that as I re-approach the idea of self you will find something worth hearing again. With that said, it’s time to begin gathering my thoughts and the thoughts of others who have much to say.

~

The best way to begin is to deal with the word itself - self. And, it would be most appropriate to start with the definition that most likely is held by most people, a definition found in the Oxford English Dictionary: “One’s particular nature or personality; the qualities that make one individual or unique“. It seems simple enough. We each see ourselves as separate from other people. We see others outside of own heads, or so we think, and in turn get a sense of who we are because of that contrast, that separation. This notion of separation seems straight-forward enough, however it doesn’t seem to answer all of our questions about who we are as individuals. And the problem only gets worse as we get older.

Jo-Hari Window depicting the "self".

Jo-Hari Window depicting the “self”.

As we get older, we discover the fact that we really don’t know ourselves all that well. It is with interaction with others that allows us to become aware, bit by bit, of aspects of our personality for which we had been blind as this diagram illustrates. people in our “orbit” get to “know” things about us of which we are unconscious. If all works well, these others clue us in to those unknown habits and traits. Yet in spite of our efforts and the efforts of those around us, there is so much of who we are that remains a mystery. In Jungian psychology, this is called the unconscious self.

At this point, I want to turn to how Jung describes the self: 

[The self] expresses the unity of the personality as a whole. But in so far as the total personality, on account of its unconscious component, can be only in part conscious, the concept of self is, in part, only potentially empirical . . .” [Jung CW 6, par 789]

In other words, we can only know just a part of the whole of who we are. Jung goes on to say:

“the self as psychic totality also has a conscious as well as an unconscious aspect. Empirically, the self appears in dreams, myths, and fairytales . . . the self appears as a play of light and shadow although conceived as a totality and unity in which the opposites are united . . . ” [ibid]

Unconscious and conscious aspects, dark and light aspects, and this elusive self shows up in our dreams and our stories. No matter how hard I look at this idea, this word, this essence of who I am, I can’t find anything solid to wrap my thoughts around. This is going to be a bigger task than I thought it was going to be.

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On Being One Day Older

The birthday is done and life continues on as if it never occurred. That is a significant reality that is worthy of a bit more thought. Time, in spite of our best efforts, seems to have no markers, no sense of following a straight line for measuring days, months and years. Now matter how we think and attempt to control time, we are always stuck in the present moment with the past a the future just holding the value of some misty idea in our heads. I can now say I am 65, but that means nothing in terms of my waking up from a sleep world into a world where I continue to experience the simple fact that I am.

I have four of my grandsons staying at my home for a change of experience from their normal experiences of daily life. I get to play, to referee, to sit in the stands encouraging, to tell stories and to be there quietly when both they and I need quietness. There is a constant ebb and flow that is amazingly similar to breathing. It doesn’t matter what I have written, what photos I have taken, or that I consider myself as a Jungian psychotherapist, a Buddhist, and a naturist. All that matters is that I am here, breathing and being, present in these moments that shift with my breath.

Sitting on my back patio with my wife in the early morning while others are still sleeping, letting my body soak in the morning sun; shifts into a state of being clothed and talking with the first of the grandchildren to wake up. As the sun creeps higher into the sky there is a constant shifting of activity and presence, like some sort of dance. My thoughts take me to times decades past before returning to the present where I engage with one of my grandsons who is trying to build a bird house out of old wood. Then my thoughts turn to the future as I check out weather forecasts for the following two days in spite of the fact that weather forecasts are not all that reliable. Then, it is back to the present and being present. We’ll make a final decision on future activities at the last minute based on the then current conditions.

I guess that I am older as I can tolerate this ambiguity of present, past and future much better than in the past. I don’t need to attempt to control the universe. Que sera, sera.

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Letting Others Get Behind Protective Barriers

Defining nakedness.

Defining nakedness.

This morning, I found this posted to my Facebook timeline by my good wife. It actually brings a deeper sense of being understood to have these words and this poster show up. Though the poster talks about a couple relationship, the idea of letting others into the depths of who you are extends way beyond the safe and private union of a couple. The role of parent and child, or even grandchild often allows the barriers between self and other to drop enough for the authentic self to appear.

Unconditional love, the kind that we hear about especially in association of Jesus, is the hardest thing for us as humans to give. As parents, we typically want to control the parent-child relationship and so we engage in manipulative behaviours that basically tell the other that we will still love them if - nothing unconditional about that version of love.

Daring to be real rather than hide.

Daring to be real rather than hide.

However, sometimes it happens the way it should. But it takes a willingness to allow our children to see what we don’t even want to see about ourselves. I am not talking simply about ditching the clothing and allowing the truth of our aged bodies to be present. There are bigger and more harmful barriers. Behind these barriers we hide in fear that no one would love us if they knew the truth about us. And of course, that shuts the door shut until something breaks within us that puts serious cracks in our defensive walls. When those cracks appear in spite of all our efforts, we often get surprised that instead of pushing our children away, the cracks make us more human, less god-like. It is at this moment that we catch the whiff of unconditional love. Do we dare follow up and risk even more honesty with ourselves and others? Or, do we retreat out of doubt and fear and work even harder to make our barriers even higher, stronger and thicker?

Will you dare becoming naked in spirit?

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Super Moon

July 2014 Super Moon as seen in Elrose, SK.

July 2014 Super Moon as seen in Elrose, SK.

We stayed up later than our usual hour for bedtime in order to get an opportunity to see the Super Moon. I had hoped that it would appear over our skies here in Elrose earlier in the evening as it provides me with the best light for photographing the moon. Regardless, our wait was worth it when the moon finally appeared.

Now, why is it that the moon grabs our attention so much? Science should have, long ago, dispelled the mystery that continues to surround this hunk of rock that circle our planet, the Earth. Yet, in spite of our scientific efforts and the data accumulated over the years, we humans still fall under the spell of something we simply can’t understand.

There is something about this moon that reaches into our psyche ignoring our thin skin of consciousness into an inner darkness, or shadow universe where it is strangely “at home.” Yet, that “at home” sensation is discomforting. We both resist for the sake of our sanity, and get pulled in, like an ocean’s tide, to the nether world of night. And in fear, we close our eyes, beg for sleep and the sanity of morning sunshine and light.

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Letting Things Bubble Beneath The Surface

Approaching a super moon.

Approaching a super moon.

I just realised that it has been almost a month since my last post here. I find myself somewhat amazed as it seems that time has been anything but so busy that I couldn’t have found time to write. I didn’t make a deliberate decision to take a break from writing as I have been writing, just not here in this space. Neither have I abandoned this place. I guess it would be enough to say that time slipped by without much fanfare.

If anything, I would say that I have begun to learn the art of being gentle with myself. Perhaps it is simply the fact that I am getting older and feel less driven. More likely, it has to do with the compulsion to write here deciding it was time for a break so that I could relax without any expectations for anything else.

Yet, I feel the need to write bubbling beneath the surface, a compulsion that has been . occupied with my prequel to my book, The Broken Road. I will let the bubbling beneath the surface continue to do its work without forcing it. With any luck, it will give birth to something worth writing and reading here at Through a Jungian Lens.

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Shoulds and Shouldn’ts

Looking at the world without preconceived notions and a list of shoulds and shouldn'ts.

Looking at the world without preconceived notions and a list of shoulds and shouldn’ts.

I must be a bit cranky today. If so, I blame it on the weather which is showing a miserable face today. With glowering gray skies that threaten and sometimes deliver on rain which is not needed by my garden and lawns any longer, as well as a cold breeze that makes cool temperatures feel even colder, I am spending the day, grumpily, reading the words of others who are complaining. I hear their voices pleading for justice or for some reality that they feel should exist, a demand for their rights accompanied by lofty idealism. Their voices sometimes wear me out. They are so focused on shoulds and shouldn’ts that they fail to honour what is in front of their faces.

Yes, people should be kind; babies should be healthy and live almost forever; husbands and wives should be faithful and in love forever after; and the list goes on and on and on. Who wouldn’t want the world to be perfect as they see it? The problem is we don’t all see the same world the same way. So we take positions, build philosophies, religions, social systems and legal systems in order to try to line up everyone in straight rows following the straight path. In fact, it is hard to find even one other person who will agree fully with whatever ultimate order each of us might conceive. And naturally, we become somewhat angry and resentful towards the world and the people in it, frustrated that even our own people don’t seem to get it.

And so, we go to war on so many different levels trying to convert the world and the people in it. We use passive-aggressive strategies to have our way in our families and among our friends. We try bribery to win over the hearts and minds of our children. We use guilt and shame when bribery fails. We work hard at this work and find out that where success has happened, it is worthless, for even we have abandoned the original truths in favour of new truths.

Shoulds and shouldn’ts are about control, not about being authentically oneself. Shoulds and shouldn’ts are about ego, about fleeing from the shadows that haunt us, especially those shadows we find within ourselves, shadows we project onto others whom we then beat up with words, with sanctions and sometimes with bullets and bombs.

I am not all that much different as I have a list of shoulds and shouldn’ts that I impose of myself. And, if given power, I might even try to impose them on others in a mistaken belief that I know best. The world of shoulds and shouldn’ts raises up a heat within me. If I am lucky I see the signs and make an effort to take my seat on a cushion and meditate. If I am luckier, the meditation soothes that heat and the world of shoulds and shouldn’ts retreats back into a dark corner where it will lurk waiting for another moment of weakness.

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Finding Rituals For Writing From The Heart

A pronghorn antelope that I found just three kilometres out of town.

A pronghorn antelope that I found just three kilometres out of town.

A strange mood has descended upon me. It is as though I have slipped into a middle space between objective, conscious reality and the land of the unconscious. I have been here before and it usually serves as a harbinger of intensive psychological work or of a spell of darkness. This time, I have a sense that I am being gently guided to finishing a work that has occupied me for the last five months.

The work is a re-telling of my life, at least the first twenty years of my life with my family of origin. The re-telling has been attempted several times in the past with varying levels of success. The first time I managed to fill twenty-five pages. The second time it grew larger. The third time it changed into a series of flashback scenes that somehow needed to fit into what I had consciously put down onto paper. This time, the work is growing and taking shape as a single unit with an obvious life-trail, my life, flowing through it. What has happened to make this work?

Before I answer that question, I need to set a framework, a container of context. In the re-telling of one’s story, as the story begins to emerge out of the past, current daily life becomes impacted. And, current daily life serves to trigger flashbacks that lead back to the story being told. Complexes get activated and as I try to make sense of the fallout from those moments of activation, I learn more about my past story. It is as though the darkness hiding these scenes is being stripped away, one layer at a time to reveal a naked and vulnerable soul of a young Robert once known as Bobby, Robert (at school) and Robert (French pronunciation). However, this peeling away of layers didn’t happen consciously. Rather, it took a subtle change in how I wrote. I was writing to heal, to expose the scars to the sunlight, to expose them to the light of consciousness so that the air and light could work its magic. It was a strategy that I learned as a teenager when it looked like the darkness was going to win.

As a teenager, I took my pain into an open meadow surrounded by trees, stripped off my clothing and cried while hugging myself. The meadow bathed in sunshine was my safe sanctuary where I would read poetry and then write while my clothing at on the ground near my feet. When this memory surfaced, I found myself, now as a person well on his way to old age, doing the same thing. With writing sans vêtements I found the words arriving, words and scenes that flooded my heart and brain. They had been waiting for me to approach them totally vulnerable, and with that vulnerability, a trust developed.

I have tried retreating from this awkward practice of writing while my clothes sit in a pile, but when I try writing like a normal person with my clothing on, a chilling silence develops. It took me a few times, actually a lot of time, before I finally clued in that “it is what it is” and to trust it. So, I write while nude, as natural as I can be as a human. After all, I am a part of nature, just as much as the Pronghorn in the photo.

 

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Misty Moon

The moon as it appeared yesterday evening at 9:30 in the south.

The moon as it appeared yesterday evening at 9:30 in the south.

The image I chose for today’s post is “okay,” just another one of what perhaps is an endless series of moon shots that I have sitting in my extensive photo archives. I took this one with the new camera using the 50mm setting on the lens. I am more impressed that I got this much detail with such a small lens and can hardly wait to have a telephoto lens which will give me even better results with distant objects.

The distance forced me to crop away most of the sky in order to fill enough space with the moon leaving the moon lose the typically sharper edges I have normally obtained, and that is good as I am not looking for crystal clear, but for some mystery and the suggestion that there is so much unknown, so much that is unknowable.

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Teaching An Old Dog New Tricks

The edible wild with a bit of caution

The edible wild with a bit of caution

I took this photo with my new camera not too many hours after buying the camera, a Sony A6000. The camera is an early birthday present from my wife as I turn sixty-five this summer – officially an old fogey with all the privileges that go with being old such as free provincial park passes and reduced rates for golf and transportation by public transit.

The camera is the lightest DSLR that I have been able to find weighing in less than 500 grams with lens attached, an important consideration as we plan our long walk across northern Spain in the fall of 2015. The camera is wifi enabled and can send photos directly to my tablet, a Nexus 7, wirelessly. Less cords means less weight. The camera is also the most complicated DSLR with a 24 megapixel resolution. It is a steep upgrade from my older Sony A550. That said, in spite of being old, I think I can still learn a thing or two in the time remaining.

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