Footprints on the Psyche and Soul of the Other

Morning evidence that she was here the night before.

As we move through life, we leave traces of our passage though we rarely see that evidence with our own eyes. For the most part, we are blind to the effect we have on others, and even blinder to the effect we have on the planet. It seems no matter how self-aware and other-aware we get, there is too much below the surface of consciousness, too many filters and complexes, to interfere in our ability to see the trail of cause and affect that we leave behind us as we journey through time and place.

I was having our usual morning coffee beside my wife, a silent ritual we share as we watch the world wake up outside the large windows in our living room. By chance, I noticed this footprint, my wife’s footprint, highlighted on the floor. Of course that meant time to take a photo. I knew that the photo was destined to make it here to serve as inspiration for today’s post.

The weather outside was darker than normal because of overcast conditions and a light rainfall. Yet, inside where we were warm, it didn’t feel as gloomy as it looked. Why? Without question, the answer lay in the affect the close presence of the other had on our mood. We continue to sit in silence well aware of the other’s presence. Whether we know it or not, we have both altered the destinies of the other as well as the self because of the footprints we have left and continue to leave on each other’s psyche and soul.

Is this because of choice or because it was written in the stars, a different level of choice?

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Psychological Fear of Being in the Light

Black-capped chickadee.

Today’s photo was taken a week ago when the sky was overcast which allowed only a low level of light to reach these northern prairies in Canada. One of the things I noticed when going over my photos, including this one, was the fact of muted colours. The rich colours I am used to seeing was not there. If anything, the world looked anaemic. Of course, this gave me the only excuse I needed to write up this blog, a follow-up to the last post, chasing away the light.

Yesterday, I spent my time doing my taxes for 2016. And yes, I did my taxes while clothing free. Doing taxes is a depressing activity regardless if one ends up paying more taxes or getting a refund, at least as far as I am concerned. It felt like I was digging in the shadows, searching for buried – well, I can’t really call it buried treasure – for buried numbers. Like most who do their own taxes, I had papers strewn all over the office in scattered piles that I hoped would provide the needed numbers. In the end, the taxes got done and I was worn out in spite of the fact that I managed to squeak out a small refund from the government. A depressive fog had settled in while I hid in my office from the tiny bit of light that was outside, filtered light.

With the lack of sunshine, there is a significant change in our energy levels, in our libido. For some, it is more serious than for others. This is especially noticeable in northern climes where the number of daylight hours is at its lowest point. In Canada, we talk about the phenomena as “cabin fever.” In medical terms it is called “Seasonal Affective Disorder – S.A.D.” But of course, not everyone is affected the same. For some, the winter is a time when energy blossoms. These are the people who need to hide from the sun during the summer. But for the rest, and majority of the human population, light equals energy – energy equals libido.

So, why do most of us continue to hide from the sun? We use sunscreen lotions and sprays [yes, I know, there is the fear of skin cancer] for protection. The more worried we are about cancer, the higher the Sun Protection Factor [SPF] we use. We even resort to buying clothing based on the SPF of the fabric. We don’t critically evaluate our real needs for protection, needs that change based on our adaptations to being in the sunshine. We base our decisions on fear that has been induced by the manufacturers of sunscreen products. We ignore the basic truth that these manufacturers are in it for profit, not for our basic human welfare. We base our decisions on the illusions fed to us by the clothing industry that echoes the petrochemical industry with their sunscreen products. We make our choices to hide from the sun out of fear, a fear we ignore and call being in tune with the latest fashions.

It’s as simple as that. We are afraid of stepping out of the shadows – psychologically afraid.

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Chasing Away The Light

Looking away from the light to see reality as shadows.

I walk a lot in the various towns and cities we visit in North America. In both Canada and the U.S.A., my wife and I have noticed that the vast majority of the houses we pass as we wander these communities, have their draperies closed during the daytime, especially on bright and sunshine filled days. I realise that there are a a number of good reasons for this in the opinions of the people living in those houses. The majority want privacy. Some want to protect their furniture from becoming faded because of the intense sun’s rays. Some simply want to escape the distractions of a passing world. And then there are others who simply prefer living in the shadows.

In my home, draperies are opened when we wake up in the morning so that we entice whatever light that exists to fill our home. The draperies stay open until after sunset and the darkness returns to the land. Then, we turn on lights within our home until it is time for us to go to bed, and to sleep.

So how does this play out in the larger world, this hiding from the light? When I look at my home community, province, and country, I see that logic and common sense  seem to be almost figments of imagination. We all have our polarised ideas and ideals to which we cling to with fierce determination in spite of what might be considered opposing facts. Of course, we can’t see or hear anything clearly when our filters are engaged, not even the things we do or say are evident to us.

In the world-at-large appears to be spinning out of control, we seem to be digging shelters that are purposely hidden in the shadows within which we can sort of protect ourselves from the forces of darkness and the forces of light. We need to hide. There is conflict and that only means pain. We want to build walls to keep out the world. And that need is reflected in our communities and countries. Trump wants to build walls to keep out what he perceives is darkness. In the U.K., the same sentiment is being enacted as a wall of nationalism is being erected to keep out their perceived darkness. The drapes are being closed in the hopes that the problem goes away if we somehow just stay out of the light.

Plato’s cave as described in his book, “The Republic.”

We don’t want to know the larger story, we feel much more comfortable looking at the shadows which we then project as reality. I think here of the shadows in Plato’s story of the cave.  In his writing, Plato discusses:

“And if some one were to drag him violently up the rough and steep ascent from the chamber, and refuse to let him go till he had drawn him out into the light of the sun, would he not, think you, be vexed and indignant at such treatment, and on reaching the light, would he not find his eyes so dazzled by the glare as to be incapable of making out so much as one of the objects that are now called true?”

As Plato notes, humans have an aversion to light. We get angry when what is exposed by light contradicts what we hold as our truths. Of course, this is not just about humans in the past, this remains as psychological insight for today. As a culture we are fleeing from awareness – of self and other. We are fearful of being exposed and vulnerable, so we hide in the shadow imagining and hoping to be saved by the light that is filtered. The hard reality is that we need to be dragged into the light to expose to make ourselves vulnerable. Carl Jung had this to say, words that are more important now than perhaps ever in our human history:

One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light but by making the darkness conscious.”


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Cracks in the Ice Freeing the Unconscious to Surface

Open water along the river

The past few days I found myself in northern Alberta near the town of High Prairie.  My daughter lives with her husband in a log cabin near this river. The first day we were visiting, the river was frozen over with a white cap of snow. Twenty-four hours later, the river began to appear in spots, free of the ice and snow beneath which it had been hidden for most of the winter.

I knew as soon as I had taken this photo, that I was going to use it for this post when I returned home. Like the river, this blog site is coming out of hibernation. Or, perhaps I should say, out of an incubation for beneath the surface of silence, there has been a significant amount of burbling and swirling that were stirring up the need to write here.

Where will this be going? I don’t know yet. I will have a few days to think about it before I settle on a theme for then next five or six weeks, after which I will be hiking in Europe with my wife on the European Peace Walk.

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I am the Universe

The first novel in a series that allows imagination to plumb the depths of self, an act of soul playing and celebrating being alive.

“Every good idea and all creative work are the offspring of the imagination, and have their source in what one is pleased to call infantile fantasy. Not the artist alone, but every creative individual whatsoever owes all that is greatest in his life to fantasy. The dynamic principle of fantasy is play, a characteristic also of the child, and as such it appears inconsistent with the principle of serious work. But without this playing with fantasy no creative work has ever yet come to birth. The debt we owe to the play of imagination is incalculable.” [Jung, 1921]

I am a writer. I’ve known that I was a writer since I was a teenager. Likely the roots are even older than my first creative efforts in the form of poetry and sketches contrived with words. But to examine that past under a microscope to determine the exact moment in time I became a writer is irrelevant to the fact that I am a writer.

For many years I wrote what I believed was non-fiction, a written record of truths. Some of these were published as editorials in newspapers, some were published as social histories, and others focused on education – computer-mediated-communication and second-language learning. It wasn’t until the recent past when I turned to writing my autobiography in a three-volume series, writing that I believed was also non-fiction, when I realised that nothing I had written at any time in the past, wasn’t a product of something beyond my simple ego, my conscious intention.

I had learned quite a while ago that the use of active imagination as a counsellor and therapist, allowed me and my clients to access deeper truths, stuff hidden in the shadows of the client’s personal past. Were these deeper truths that allowed both myself and my client to work together to bring some needed healing, actually truths? Or was it all just fantasy? Could I trust memories? In time, it became obvious to me through working with clients, and on my own issues, that the truth was indeed present and even larger than what had been found.

I saw my story seeping into the stories of others, with the reverse also happening. I saw my story reflected in the stories and writings of others when I remarked within myself, “yes!” Even science fiction stories spoke to me, telling me truths that had been hidden behind a veil. The boundaries, the walls between my story and the stories of everyone else had begun to crumble despite my desperate attempts to barricade my “self” from the “others” who would absorb whatever or whoever I was, resulting in my disappearance. My head [ego] still believed that it all was “I-it.” There was myself separated from the universe.

But now, I can’t quite hold that “truth” anymore. The “it” has disappeared. I have become the “it” as well as the “I.” I am the universe.

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Coming to Terms with the Unconscious

Yucatan Woodpecker – Mayan Riviera

It has been a long time, three months in fact, since my last post here. The only reason I can give for this extended leave is simply that I was actively resisting being pulled into speaking, thinking, and observing whatever it was that was stirring within. I told myself that I was simply “being in the moment” with life. My life was blessed with sunshine and all was well – well, at least for the most part. These words are not fabrication of the reality that I have been living; rather, they are only about what was happening at the level of consciousness. Naturally, being myself, I just had to find out what was going on, I had to dig beneath the surface just like this Yucatan Woodpecker that visited our garden to poke beneath the surface of a palm tree behind our little casa near the Caribbean Sea.

Oh, it wasn’t as if I wasn’t engaged in inner worlds, as I was busy working on a novel, a creative act that is all about imagination. My story was being peopled by both Celtic and Nordic gods and goddesses who were interacting with ordinary mortals – okay, maybe not so ordinary. When I finally sat down to write this blog post, I was re-engaging with the novel in my relocated office and library in my Canadian home. The winterlude escape was over and I knew that before I could return to the story, I had to attend to the burbling below the surface as though attending to an itch that defied being reached.

When I write, it seems that the story manifests itself through my fingers touching the keypad of my laptop computer. I am a curious bystander, not really the author. I know better than to claim credit for the work – or the responsibility for what is said. The story and the words emerge from a shadowy place, the unconscious. Somehow I get the idea that it is a combination of both personal and collective unconscious that stirring the contents beneath my awareness. Naturally, I feel somewhat slighted in the process as I feel that if left to my own wits, I could tell a good story on my own.

Jung once asked what one was to do with this problem, that of the unconscious. His response written almost a hundred years ago, seems to have been directed to me dealing with the creative fantasy novel that I am currently writing:

“The meaning and value of these fantasies are revealed only through their integration into the personality as a whole – that is to say, at the moment when one is confronted not only with what they mean but also with their moral demands.”

I found this quote in a collection that cobbles together a number of writings by Jung on Active Imagination, in the section that has Jung offer preparatory notes for an excerpt for CW 8 dealing with the Transcendent Function. Of course – the story though fantasy and fiction, is providing me with information from the depths that I need to wrestle with in order to integrate, in some meaningful and moral manner, into my personality. I am being taught while I write for I am ripe for what needs to be heard. As the expression goes when a student is ready, the teacher will appear. Little did I know that the teacher can be the unconscious itself.

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Who is Responsible?

I’ve been having a discussion regarding the idea being responsibility for other people’s thoughts and feelings. Our society pays lip service to the notion that we all must own our own thoughts and feelings. Yet, when it comes to things that grate against what we hold is true for ourselves such as the freedom to wear or not wear what we want really don’t believe in freedom at all. We want to control, we need to control others. And when they don’t obey, they become our enemies. We abhor different. “Remove the hijab, the niqab, the burka. Don’t be naked. Don’t dress like white trash. You are making me angry. It’s all your fault!

For some reason, call it insecurity and self-doubt, we believe others when they tell us we are responsible for their anger, their sadness, their happiness, their very life. With the exception of being responsible as parents to care for our children until they can care for themselves, this is not even remotely true.

If I, as an adult male, smile at a child (I am a grandfather and father and not a paedophile), the child invariably smiles back. I didn’t do anything but smile. Yet somehow, if the child cries (what wound has the child suffered?) I somehow am responsible for that response. Why did the child cry when a hundred others smiled in return? If I am to believe that I am responsible for the tears and the smiles with the same action, logic gets thrown out the window.

How you respond to any stimulus is your responsibility. Of course, since most of those responses are unconscious responses based on complexes that grew out of your adaptation to life, it becomes easy to understand why you would blame others for your feeling responses. Society is nothing but a collective of this individual unconscious response, magnified. And it shows up in our laws, in our phobias, in our responses to others who appear different, behave different, think different, pray differently, and even eat different foods cooked in strange ways. These others become our scapegoats the ones we blame for our own fear and confusion. The last person we would expect to be responsible for our bad behaviours towards others would be ourselves.

She deserved to get raped. Did you see what she was wearing?” We blame the victim. If a child suffers abuse, we still have a hard time with the child turning his or her parent in to the authorities. In the end, the child gets blamed for ripping the family apart. If a man gets raped, he is to blame for not having the balls to stand up for himself. He is punished for being weak.

And finally for this post, this last image spells it out clearly. “Somebody is at fault and it sure as hell isn’t us.” [Yes, this was said with a bit of sarcasm]

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Symbols of Balance For the Psyche

April full moon on the Canadian Prairie

April full moon on the Canadian Prairie

I tried using both of my DSLR cameras to arrive at a decision as to which is the best for this type of shot. The Sony ?550 was better than the Sony ?6000. I wasn’t surprised as the lenses were quite different. The heavier camera lived up to my expectation. The lighter camera has its uses, great photos taken while backpacking and otherwise travelling. So why another image of the full moon? The best answer is simply that when I saw the moon in the sky, I was pulled to go back into the house and get my cameras. And, I am learning to honour that internal voice much better than I have in the past.

For me, it has become more about balancing the inner and outer world. The full moon is an almost exact representation of the Yin-Yang symbol that has become common in modern times. The shadows are definitely present as is the dominant “white” half – a balance of shadow and light, or consciousness and the shadow [the unconscious]. Looked at another way, it is a balance, for me between the masculine and the feminine. The moon being feminine – the shadows of the moon, with the man in the moon, the sun’s reflection highlighting the white areas, captures this idea for me. And in doing so, remind me that I too need balance between shadow and light, between the masculine and feminine aspects of my psyche.

What do you see when you look at a full moon?

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Putting the Pieces Back Together Again

Putting the pieces back together again with gold.

Putting the pieces back together again with gold.

Kintsugi is a Japanese term that talks about repair –  and treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise. As the image shows, we can think of Kintsugi in terms of how a human becomes broken and finds him or herself in need of “repair” or healing.

My book, The Healing of a Broken Man, addresses this very idea. In my case, the breakage began at a very early age and continued for many years until I escaped my birth home to build a home of my own. For the years that followed, with eyes peeled forward and never seeing what lay behind me, no one in my life as an adult had any notion that I had broken apart as a child and youth like some Humpty Dumpty. Even I “forgot” about the past. However, with the onset of midlife, the past came roaring back and I again found myself cracked and falling apart.

With the work of therapy, analysis, meditation, physical exercise, being loved unconditionally; I had found a psychological paste or glue with which to weld the pieces back into place. Like the image, that glue was finished off with a coating of gold, in my case, naturism. I have turned to a life of balance, perhaps for the first time in my life. I encourage you to get a copy of my book and see that the nursery rhyme has it all wrong – Humpty Dumpty can be put back together again.

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Breaking the Silence and Making a Difference

Healing a Broken Man Along a Broken Road

Healing a Broken Man Along a Broken Road

The book is finally published and available for people to read. It is the third and final book in the Healing the Soul, Skyclad series. And as with all the other books in the series, the profits from the book will be given to the Sheldon Kennedy Child Advocacy Centre in Calgary which works to assist youth who have been sexually abused, as well as to work to make our adult world more vigilant in protection of our youth.

Human nature being what it is, sexual abuse will not disappear. Yet, by breaking the silence, we can allow those who are abused to find a way to receive healing in various ways. Those who are abused as youth, regardless of whether that abuse was sexual, physical, or emotional [think of abandonment as an example], the child is traumatized.

Somehow, our society only recognizes the soldiers who suffer trauma. PTSD has become recognized as being a condition that cripples the psyche. Yet intense trauma is also experienced by Emergency Response teams, nurses, policemen, and firemen. But what about the women who are raped and battered? What about the children who miraculously survive abuse without committing suicide? Too often we respond with “forget about the past and get on with life” for these children who have become broken adults. We need resources to help children, and the children who have survived into adulthood if we are to ever reduce the incidences of abuse in the future.

Buy the book and support a vital cause. The print version of the book is found at: – the eBook version is available through Amazon at:*Version*=1&*entries*=0

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