Archive for December, 2011
This is my 1,035 post since I began Through a Jungian Lens in November 2008. The blog has had two homes since that time, the first at WordPress (http://retiredeagle.wordpress.com/) with this being the second home because living and working in China with its infamous Fire Wall makes posting to WordPress a nightmare activity unless one has a VPN. Since beginning this blog I have had just over 80,000 visits to the site and 2, 760 comments. I have to say that I am pleased with this as the blog site isn’t exactly promoting a theme that is of interest to many people. Thankfully the Jungian on-line community has decided that this site is worth continuing and supporting.
Since I moved the site in February of 2011, the statistics are only about the visits since that time, 26,800 visits.
The top posts for 2011 are:
- James Hillman – A Mythic Journey (280)
- Working on Relationships (224)
- The Hidden Universe Within (195)
- Eros and Kronos (179)
- The Lights Are On, But Nobody’s Home (178)
- Permeability – James Hillman and Margot McLean (119)
- After Life or Inner Life (115)
- The Truth About Projections (103)
- In Search of the Authentic Self (90
- Reclaiming Anima and Animus (87)
- Trying to Silence the Psyche (87)
This image taken last January while I was touring through Vietnam is a good analogy of entering into the depths of the unconscious, into the realm of the soul and darkness in search of treasures. As I make the journey through my personal past in hopes of understanding my present way of being, there is a fair amount of pain that rises up. This is actually something that is good as that pain is about release, the easing of long held in and denied emotions, fears and memories.
And in typical fashion, I received a few words that seemed to meet the needs of the moment; and again, these words are from Daily Om:
“Both emotional and physical pain are messages that we need to stop and pay attention.”
So what is it that demands one’s attention, that demands my attention? As I try to answer this question, I look at the context from which the pain and this message appears to arise. The context I noted was the work of this blog, in particular the issue of masculine transformation as discussed in Eugene Monick’s book.
A child’s dependence upon mother influences how an infant boy learns to identify himself and with what value.
“personal value begins as an inner, psychological reality for the child. This is the initial gestalt of self – or non-self, when negative mirroring predominates – upon which all subsequent experiences are built. Thus, through the interpersonal connections with the mother, the first knowledge of individual existence and suggestions of gender identity coincide.” (pp 26-27)
Of course, from the standpoint of adult consciousness, all this is buried deep underground. One needs to approach the dark opening as it presents itself with the right intention before entering if one is to re-discover any fragile threads that provide a sense of roots. Once in the darkness one is blind and can only feel/sense/intuit the flows of affect and energy. Stirring the contents in the depths of the unconscious one retreats back into the outer world to wait.
When the unconscious has been intentionally disturbed, there is typically a flow of images and affect that emerge through dreams and emotions. It becomes the task of the ego self to note that which presents itself and allow the ripples to begin fitting into the known stories of self allowing identity to become better understood.
Gender identity – how do we understand our real gender identity? We can easily (most of the time) figure out whether we are heterosexual or homosexual in orientation, but we struggle with understanding all the crossed signals, all of triggers that mess up our sexual identity. As men, we often go overboard when trying to prove our masculinity, or we use our gender to assert a sense of power, or we use our partners’ to fill in needs of which we aren’t even aware, needs that come out of our initial experience of self in relation to mother.
And so, the journey of self-discovery as a man must continue.
I have been reading a bit from Eugene Monick’s book, Castration and Male Rage: The Phallic Wound, as part of my process in dealing with stuff that is emerging from the unconscious. Monick talks about the six stages of masculine transformation: the prenatal stage, the pre-oedipal stage, the oedipal stage, the adolescent stage, the stage of accomplishment, and the final stage – individuation. As I read through these stages and saw where and potentially how masculine transformation can get derailed, I saw signals that resonated – warning bells telling me that there is something vital that had interfered with my own personal masculine transformation. But before I get into saying more about that, I want to bring a vital quote to your attention – to my attention:
“. . . that . . . a crisis will occur in the man who failed to negotiate a prior stage of transformation is a surety. A man can cover his own sense of self-doubt, his fear of inconsequentiality, his lurking sense of masculine incompleteness for only so long. Disguises, compensations, substitutions may hide his lack of inner phallic strength, but there can be no long-term avoidance of psychological impotence.” (Monick, Castration and Male Rage, p. 33)
I know I read this passage a few years ago because the passage is mostly highlighted. Ouch is all I can say as these words expose what I refused to acknowledge. And so I am forced to look more carefully at the six stages to see just where I drifted off course. Of course in reading the descriptions, I see that some things are universal to males simply because they are males and not females.
In the prenatal stage where males physiologically change from female embryos, there is a primal fear that is embedded in the psyche, that of castration, “it represents the ever-present threat to masculinity of a reversal of the addition of maleness, a return, a regression, to primal femininity.” (p. 24)
In the second stage, the pre-oedipal stage, a “boy’s discovery that he a boy parallels his discovery that his mother is not a boy. A girl child also discovers, at some point, that she is different from her mother, but the difference is one of personhood, not of gender.” (p. 25) A boy’s discovery of being different and that the difference is anatomical awakens both a fascination of his difference and a fear or anxiety. During this period there are a flood of mixed signals. A male child shifts from neutral gender identity to a bi-sexual identity before shifting to a masculine identity. Monick goes on to say that this stage is vital in terms of identity, especially gender identity, “The beginnings of consciousness at the son’s early age involve an awareness of gender differences.
As I look to my own story, I wonder about the role of father in the process. For much of the this second stage, my own father was busy with training and going to fight in the Korean war. I get a strong sense that there is something here that needs to be uncovered, to be reintegrated. Something to think about.
It has been a few days since my last post, days that have been crowded with the life and times of a university prof. Last night before heading out for a staff Christmas dinner at the newest and most expensive international restaurant in this modern version of a Chinese city, I took this photo of Maureen and I. It is destined for our Facebook pages as our cyberspace Christmas wishes for family, neighbours and friends.
Christmas in China is somehow something that “jars” the psyche. With sixty Christmases spent in Canada or in the States, there is a communal understanding of this day, something that is bigger than the Christian religion that wants to claim ownership. There have been cross-cultural transformations resulting in a Christmas that is more about the collective and less about a Christian story. People have seized control out of the hands of clergy and churches in order to have the day become a numinous event, one that is more in tune with the collective soul, anima mundi.
It is a celebration of wholeness, a celebration of people wounded by life yet refusing to concede defeat and rather grasping onto hope, knowing that like each day a sun will bring light to banish darkness, this day brings all a sense of hope that their spiritual darkness will be lifted. We gather together to sing, laugh, argue, smile, eat, drink and live with an energy that belies the lethargy that comes with the darkness of winter.
With all of my deepest feelings of a love that has too many shapes and forms to be contained in one meaning, I wish each of you a day of spiritual blessings in which you can revel in being alive, daring to smile and mean it regardless of the perils of your personal journeys.
This is just one of a huge variety of sea urchins that I found and photographed while in the Philippines in early November. Why was I drawn to take these photographs can’t be answered other than to say that I saw them and was intrigued. Some were rather plain looking and others, like this one, were rather colourful and vibrant. Of course, in choosing this photo for this blog post, I assumed that something would emerge as I began to write. And, as always is the case, something began to arise from my own depths.
I can almost see this sea urchin as a self-portrait, a portrait of my persona doing it’s best to protect the inner core of who I am, disguise the fact of that inner core. And then on another level I see this sea urchin as my unconscious self that has barricaded itself from the prying of my ego. I will take you further into this analogy so that you can see what I mean.
Like many others, I stumbled upon philosophy and psychology and spirituality in order to fill a hole in myself. A childhood that has yet to be fully re-discovered had enough trauma to have the inner psyche begin to build defense walls, burying the trauma so that life could go one with some semblance of sanity. When the ego stumbles upon the repressed contents, or should I say stumbles upon the barricades which could well be thorny, the ego is dissuaded from going deeper and retreats back to what it perceives to be safer territory. In this process, holes – black holes – are all that the ego has left of events in the past.
Under the cover of darkness, the guards are let down and bits and pieces of the repressed contents begin to ooze out leaving an affect, a depression and sense of loss. The work of therapy is to dare to consciously do the work of re-discovery and bringing light to the darkness so that one can feel whole, that one can cease blaming oneself for being wounded. This is not a work of forgiveness, but a work of understanding who one is so that one is free to move forward without constantly looking at life through a rear-view mirror and with holes in one’s lens. This is not a work of laying blame upon those who wounded either. In uncovering the wounds, and understanding how the wounding resulted in our unconscious responses to situation in our current lives, we begin to gain control of our responses rather than to continue to be a victim of the unknown, the darkness and the fear.
Walking through an older area of Saigon, near the Cho Binh Tay, a market place, I came across a couple of Buddhist temples that were Chinese rather than Vietnamese. On the outer wall of the temple I saw this T’ai Chi symbol, otherwise known as yin yang, surrounded by leaves. It made me think of how the union of masculine and feminine in the real world is an act of creation, a union from which new life springs forth.
I am amazed at how experiencing different cultures in different parts of the world has been so powerful in affecting change within my psyche. It is as though the small discoveries which are more often more about numinous image than about analytical thought, seep into the unconscious soup and find resonance and become part of the soup out of which I continue to grow as a person.
In a way, it is like this image which takes on a mandala like power. I grow larger consciously while the centre holds. The more conscious I become is akin to adding yet another corresponding symbol on the mandala that represents that consciousness, numinous symbols that also point back to the centre and back to the unconscious core that remains to be discover. As I go through this process, the centre doesn’t shrink, doesn’t empty. Rather, that centre becomes a portal to something beyond containment.
Experiencing countries such as India, Vietnam, China, Laos, Cambodia in the far east has taken me to the exotic and turned that exotic into something that is natural, something that becomes integrated into the new me, a transformed me. And, as I find out about the process of self-change, that change is not about adding something new, but more about discovering what has always been there.
I found another image of a crab that I took in the Philippines that I want to bring here. As I place the image here and begin writing the post, I still don’t know where the words will take me. Often it is like that, like the crab moving sideways through his life, I tend to move sideways into the unconscious process that marks a lot of my writing here at Through a Jungian Lens. Perhaps this is as much about my nature being born under the sign of Cancer than it is about anything else.
Now, with this association, I begin to see where this post is going to take me, in a direction of attempting a self-description in Jungian terms, but not necessarily Myers-Briggs in orientation. By this, I mean to reduce the sixteen potentials of the MBTI to the original eight descriptors found in Jung’s work on Typology.
My readers might remember that I have tested out, time and time again, as INFP. The problem with this description for me is that it doesn’t account for my extroversion, something I am conscious about, especially when it comes to expression of feelings. Looking at the data of my “testing” I noted that I am predominantly intuitive which translates as my first or dominant function being introverted intuitive – opposite this dominant function is the extroverted sensation, the fourth or weakest function. The second function is extroverted feeling, with the third function being introverted thinking.
The Myers-Briggs model has me described as only introverted for all of the functions. I took a reminder from John Beebe to have me refocus on what Jung had to say and how those who immediately followed Jung’s work, people such as Marie -Louise von Franz, to find a way to place extraversion into my way of being in the world.
As a teacher, I am seen as an extrovert. I monitor the mood of my class, picking up “cues” that allows me to meet the students needs so that the lessons have a better chance of succeeding. I learned a long time ago that a good teacher doesn’t teach a curriculum to students, but rather teaches students a curriculum – there is a difference, a huge difference. Teaching students has the students at the centre. When a lesson starts to fail, it is necessary to find a way of re-connecting with the students in order to find a different path for them to connect with the content (curriculum) objectives.
At Cognitive Processes I found this as a description for extroverted feeling:
“The process of extraverted Feeling often involves a desire to connect with (or disconnect from) others and is often evidenced by expressions of warmth (or displeasure) and self-disclosure. The “social graces,” such as being polite, being nice, being friendly, being considerate, and being appropriate, often revolve around the process of extraverted Feeling. Keeping in touch, laughing at jokes when others laugh, and trying to get people to act kindly to each other also involve extraverted Feeling. Using this process, we respond according to expressed or even unexpressed wants and needs of others. We may ask people what they want or need or self-disclose to prompt them to talk more about themselves. This often sparks conversation and lets us know more about them so we can better adjust our behavior to them. Often with this process, we feel pulled to be responsible and take care of others’ feelings, sometimes to the point of not separating our feelings from theirs. We may recognize and adhere to shared values, feelings, and social norms to get along.”
There is a lot of me in this description – meeting the needs of others. Most would describe me “ as being polite, being nice, being friendly, being considerate, and being appropriate” in my role as a teacher and as a member of the community when I am in the public sphere. And yes, I “respond according to expressed or even unexpressed wants and needs of others. If anything, I do this typically putting others ahead of my self. Interesting how this is another way of behaving “crab-like” as I side-step around my own needs in order to meet the needs of others in my life.
I met this little guy while walking in the waters just of Cebu Island in the Philippines. I didn’t realise it then, but apparently this snake is very, very poisonous. Of course, poisonous or not, I don’t usually mess with snakes and give them their space. That said, it doesn’t mean that I run from them either. Rather, I do hang around hoping for a decent photo opportunity. In this instance, it took a few extra minutes of waiting for him to appear from hiding so that I could get a good number of images, hoping that one would eventually make its way here.
As I wandered through a number of published items about sea snakes, I came across a particular card in the Jungian Tarot series, that of the Empress. This is what PasteBoard Masquerade had to say about the card:
“The Empress represents the archetype of The Mother (shown above, third from left). The lake behind her alludes to her previous stage of virginity, while the cup she holds symbolizes the female generative organ. The sea-snake behind her represents the potentially destructive aspects of the Mother archetype. This shadow side is balanced by the dove of Venus at her feet. Other Major Arcana cards show additional aspects of the Mother, such as Justice, the Mother as Discipline, and Death, the Mother as Gateway.:
Interestingly, the Mother has found its way into this blog site quite a lot in recent posts. Remember, I chose this photo before knowing what I was going to say about it, or before I did any information search to guide me with the writing with prompts and hints. Next, I notice the cup in her hands – in this context, cup is also symbolic of the sign, Cancer:
“ The suits are then assigned a corresponding Cardinal sign, matching Wands with Aries, Cups with Cancer, Swords with Libra, and Pentacles with Capricorn.”
In this image, there is one cup and that is symbolic of Pluto in Cancer – honestly, I have no idea what this means, even after doing a lot of reading on the topic over the past few hours since I began writing this blog post (Yes, sometimes I spend hours on a post.). I do get a sense of unrest, of tension. But, that said, I will wait for a reader to let me know more about this.
But back to the post, the appearance of Cancer, the great Mother in one card and the snake in water in the photo, and all of this pointing to archetype and the unconscious suggests that I have struck a gold mine. Now, all I have to do is to find a way to uncover the treasures in this gold mine.
As I read through James Hollis’ book, What Matters Most, the constant reference to Eros suggested that I take a bit of a time-out in order to get this Greek God figured out, that is arrive at a psychological understanding as it relates to my own self. I borrowed this image from the Wikipedia article which can be found here for those who like doing their own reading and interpreting. As I read through the article, this passage struck me as vital:
“At the beginning there was only Chaos, Night (Nyx), Darkness (Erebus), and the Abyss (Tartarus). Earth, the Air and Heaven had no existence. Firstly, blackwinged Night laid a germless egg in the bosom of the infinite deeps of Darkness, and from this, after the revolution of long ages, sprang the graceful Love (Eros) with his glittering golden wings, swift as the whirlwinds of the tempest. He mated in the deep Abyss with dark Chaos, winged like himself, and thus hatched forth our race, which was the first to see the light.”
This Eros is different in some fundamental way from the Cupid version. This Eros is the one that I recognize as hovering at the edges of darkness. As Eros enters the darkness, Anima or soul, begins to be awakened. I guess it might even be said that the mating of darkness and love gives birth to the soul. And of course the soul, Anima, contains both the golden light of Eros and the darkness of Chaos. Psychologically speaking the journey is to balance, to find the thread, an individual thread between the archetypal power of both Eros and Chaos. To shift into the realm of Eros or Chaos is a shift into psychic pathology, into being numbed by either of these two archetypal gods – numbed with darkness, emptiness; or numbed by being to much into other so that the self is abandoned.
There, I think I have that understood, at least in my own mind for the present. Now, I can return to reading, thinking and writing.
“Generally speaking, women have a better, more balanced relationship to Eros than men, for they are psychologically more likely to find the ministries of the god in varied venues. Men, having so often the god with success in their endeavors, are devastated by retirement, impotence of any kind, defeat or displacement. Sadly, they are more likely to drift into sadness, depression, substance abuse, suicide, compulsive sexuality, or seek some quick surrogate lover or diverting cause. Accordingly, they handle the death of a marriage or spouse, retirement, or occupational displacement poorly because they have lost contact with their inner soul life.” (Hollis, What Matters Most, p 52)
Hollis’s words have reached deep within me as usual and set me to wondering about how much I have yet to learn. I am blessed with my marriage and know that I would be devastated with the death of the marriage or my spouse. Somehow, I sense that I would survive the devastation because I have regained contact with my inner self, my soul and I have come to terms with aspects of my shadow self as well. I am not so sure if I would have survived it a number of years ago when my soul and life was fully placed in outer life and the people in my outer life.
The will to life is the mark of one’s relationship to Eros. There was a time or two or more in my life when Eros was absent, when the will to engage in life was numbed. I went through the motions as if I was in mourning – and I was in mourning though I didn’t know it – mourning for my own soul. I kept myself busy so as to avoid as much as possible being alone with my self, being alone with the darkness that seemed to crowd out feeling.
As it happens, between writing the first sentence of the last paragraph and the following sentences, I took a time out from writing to eat my evening meal and then do a bit of reading – Fire and Irises, a book by Margaret Nicol. Just a bit of background before I go on – Margaret is from the same area of Canada as I am from, the Ottawa area. Like myself, she has had a career that spanned both education and psychotherapy. We are also close to the same age. I will leave the rest of her story for you discover. The purpose of saying this much is simply to preface the next quote from her book and to say that I could have said the same thing regarding myself:
“From the outside I suppose I looked as though I was fairly ‘together.’ I was a psychologist and held a full-time job, which I did adequately. But that was the cover story. I despaired that I would never be normal and wake up feeling happy like other people.” (Nicol, Fire and Irises, p. 34)
Eros was absent, well almost absent. What I know now is that Eros wasn’t really absent as this god continued to be present though I was unaware of its presence. Teaching and counselling others, coaching, continuing with studies to try and fill the emptiness were signs of Eros’ presence, waiting patiently for me to wake up out of the blackness. Eros showed in the flashes of compassion, the time I spent listening to the fears and anxieties of others. I found the lost ones in my classrooms and let them know that I saw them, that I accepted them just as they were. I just couldn’t do the same for myself.
My dreams started to talk more openly to me about Eros, about a divine spark of life that was still buried within the depths, behind the layers of darkness. Not quite hearing clearly, I wandered through cyberspace connecting with ghosts of people, with the faint whispers of Eros that made its way into my poetry. As I wrote in my dream journal and my poetry, I began to paint the scenes. And then, I saw/heard/felt something beneath the darkness, saw a child that had been abandoned.
Reclaiming that child was a long journey, one that is still in progress if I am to be fully honest. Reclaiming that child meant awakening the darkness within which the child hid. The blackness had protected the child, waiting for the adult to have the tools and courage to peel back the layers of the darkness in order to reclaim the child. In the process I had to be both father and mother to this child hidden in darkness so that the child would believe that it was safe to come out of hiding, that it was safe to again feel. And in the process, Eros began to pulse in the adult. Contact with the inner soul had been made and a journey of transformation was begun.