Archive for April, 2012
The following is a guest post by Jungian analyst, Heidi Kolb, one of my friends in the Jungian community. I met Heidi on Twitter a few years ago when I went in search of others who had a passion for Jungian psychology. Since that time, a friendship developed because of that shared passion. With this, I invite you to read this guest post from a friend.
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What makes a Jungian a Jungian? This is a question worth pondering. “By their fruit you will recognize them”, this thought, this image might be helpful in approximating an answer to this question.
If C.G. Jung’s work is to be worth its salt, it has to be put into practice in our daily lives. Jung noted that the living meaning “only lives when we experience it in and through ourselves”. Jungian thought must be experienced, at times suffered, at others enjoyed as a lived daily practice. Never mind having read all his books, although a worthwhile endeavor, never mind being in Jungian analysis, although, deo concedente, it can be a life altering experience. You are the vessel that matters. Only you and your fully lived, that is, consciously felt and understood life can bring forth this fruit .
There may be many different ways to imagine what is meant by this “fruit”. We may want to start with the notion of the image itself that is so much at the core of the Jungian path. Jung taught us that psyche makes herself known to us through image and affect. Maybe psyche’s first fruitful manifestation is our awareness of the images in our subjective experience. Let us follow the invitation to look deeper into medias res. Questions arise, what is a psychic image? Are psychic images our visual impressions, memories, thoughts, words, dream images, fantasies? Can a sound be a psychic image? How blurry is the line between image and physical sensation? As we imagine together and wonder, or even better, meditate on these questions, we are beginning to approach through our subjective experience, our subjective ego, something Other.
Yet we are not only observing, thinking and imagining beings, we are also instinctual creatures. Image and affect. For better or worse, our instincts, emotions and affects are part of who we are. We cherish some and have to do battle with others. But we need to relate and to find a conscious stance with all.
Our innate personality may favor either imaginative, mental understanding or emotional, feeling values. Yet both perceptive modes are needed. A movement towards balance is the key. For psyche to grow and to become anchored in our awareness, a natural, favored attitude needs to be curbed for a less developed psychic muscle to develop. So much of what seems natural to us needs to be overcome and conquered. The alchemists knew that, nature has it within her to overcome herself. And Jung knew that any imbalance can slant towards rigidified one-sidedness. In the unbalanced individual the opposites become more polarized. A sign of our times, we live in a world of extreme polarization, seemingly close to a breaking point.
These maddening, polarized and polarizing times need, more than ever, people who are willing to move towards holding the opposites together within the scale of their own individual lives. Follow, understand and feel the path led by image and affect, that is the seed of the fruit.
I was delighted when I was asked to share some thoughts on this blog. I know, I am in good Jungian company. “Through a Jungian Lens” always stays true to image, is always grounded in personal felt experience, the only orient of reality we can call our own. Image and affect. And from there, in the writer’s own pace, Robert connects his experience to snippets of Jungian thought. We, the readers, are allowed a glimpse into Robert’s process of separating and assimilating and ultimately transforming experience. He shows us how to walk the Jungian talk. That is what I call a genuine Jungian.
C.G.Jung had a profound understanding of the Moment and, if I may borrow from Ekkhart Tolle, the Power of Now. In this Jung differed from Freud. Jung believed that looking back and explaining a symptom or situation causally provides only half of the story. What remains amiss is the living meaning of the current moment. The newness of life which is created with every breath we take. Jungian thought encourages us to look forward. What is the trajectory of the current psychic moment? What bridge into her own future is psyche creating in this living moment? That is the right question to ask.
The paths these questions open up are as numerous as there are individual lives. Yet many of these individual experiences are also archetypal and collectively shared.
As we courageously peer into alien aspects of ourselves, as we refuse the pull to ease our burden by projecting the unfamiliar onto others, as we shine the light of our consciouness to illumine the darkness, something else, in due time, is beginning to shine back at us. A light that cannot be seen with the physical eye, yet it can be felt and imagined with our psychic eyes. As Paul Levy writes, it is not the visible light we see, but the invisible light by which we see. This light, the lumen naturae of the alchemists, allows us a brief experience of a non-dual world with no opposites, the realm of psychic wholeness, the Self in Jungian terms. A unity where it is hard to distinguish where light ends and darkness begins. Anyone who has ever integrated a piece of shadow knows how humbling yet illuminating it can be.
The path towards seeing and living with the lumen naturae begins with engaging our experiences with image and affect. Blogs like Through a Jungian Lens encourage us to get going and to keep on walking.
As promised, I am writing to talk more about the workshop I attended following an introductory evening presentation given by Guy Corneau to the Calgary Jungian Society. The workshop was limited to a smaller group because it was an active participation workshop that engaged each of the attendees at some very deep levels, moving all of us in unexpected ways.
Guy talked to us about how healing works. The idea that doctors, medicine and other strategies heal the body was dispelled and replaced with the truth that “healing comes from within.” What we think, feel, believe, and need are what allows the body to do its work. All the health care modalities are needed in order to create the conditions for the body to heal itself.
We get sick because of the toxins that arise through feelings, need, negative beliefs and feelings as these create dis-ease and dis-equilibrium within. Guy looked at the following as sources of dis-ease:
- imprints from the past, existential fears
- wounds of living and the protective measures we enact, dissociating from self and attending to others
- self-imposed wounds including a lack of space for self
- society, church, politics, community, culture, economics
- emerging situations such as floods, earthquakes, tornadoes, etc.
The idea was then brought forward that we can change our mood, to shift from negative (dis-ease) to positive (self-healing). Guy then had all engage in a Golden Meditation, an exercise in searching in the past for some particular positive (peace, joy, etc.) and allow that feeling to be centre of the meditation, to follow it and hold it. When the meditation was done, we were expected to continue holding that feeling and talk honestly about it with a partner – powerful!
Then there was a shift towards a second activity which looked at relationship in terms of reconciliation/pacification. In terms of others, especially those we hold very close to us, even intimately, Guy said, “you really don’t know the person objectively” one only knows one’s response to the person, one’s projections of self (both positive and negative) upon the person. This second meditation, that of learning to deflate emotion that hurts and gets in the way of healing. I will outline below the flow of this meditation:
- entering into guided meditation
- travel with the mind to the heart/soul within
- invite someone with whom there is a conflict to a circle in front of your soul
- build a bridge between your soul and this other
- bring the conflict to presence – what hurt you? – using “I” statements express feelings
- feel what the conflict has done to you
- explain to this other what you really felt from your “heart”
- choose your next step to this person, choose your attitude, your words, your behaviour
- repeat this as many times as needed until you are “clear” about what will actually happen when you take it from meditation to outer life in order to deflate the conflict and its emotional control that leaves you a victim of that emotion.
There was more, but this will have to wait for another post in a few days. Tomorrow, there is a guest editorial waiting for you. Be well and heal yourself.
I was fortunate this weekend to be able to meet and take part in a week-end presentation and workshop with Jungian analyst, Guy Corneau, a Canadian analyst from Montréal, Québec. Guy had been diagnosed with terminal, stage four cancer in his lungs and three organs in 2007. Obviously, since he was here in Calgary, something happened to him that makes for a story well worth telling. In short, he decided that he wanted to live and decided that to do so he would have to use all of his resources – people, medicine, and any other modality that might have his body change its mind, such as tai chi, meditation, writing poetry and playing guitar. Of all these modalities, in his opinion, it was a practice of engaging in a dialogue with the cells of his body that became the key. By 2009 there was no trace of cancer left in his body. If anything, his body was in the best physical shape of the last thirty years of his life.
Below I will highlight a few key points that struck me:
- the body understands feelings more than it does what physically happens to the body
- the self needs to be rooted back into life
- the ego must give up the familiarity of darkness or the body will die prematurely
- use active imagination to create a positive vision for self
- dare to risk when there is nothing to lose but darkness and fear
- we have a subscription for unhappiness that we need to cancel
These are powerful statements. As I listened hypnotized by the words and ideas, I saw so much of myself being exposed, and in listening to his story, heard my own story. When we left China, my wife explained to those we left behind that I was going to Canada to deal with brain cancer. The truth was that I do indeed have cancer that Guy described as being narcosis of the psyche, a cancer in my head that is willing my body to darkness and death.
As he told his story of healing, I heard a story of my first death sentence as a child, and what happened to me that resulted in that death sentence being lifted. I contracted acute nephritis at the age of four and there was little hope that I would make it to adulthood. As I now come to understand it, the first four years of my life lived with a dark mother who was abandoned by my father sowed the seeds of the disease (dis-ease), and the return of my father which lead to a deeper emotional abandonment by my mother triggered the outbreak of the disease.
I was in and out of hospitals with sickening regularity yet something changed in my life and my feeling state when I was fourteen that resulted in the doctors being puzzled by the disappearance of the disease from my body. That year, was the first year in my life that we stayed in the same house for a whole year with the belief that I would be there for a long time. I began to have friends, I had a horse which I would ride in the open countryside, I spent time studying the stars lying on my back, and I got a guitar and played my heart out. I had embraced living for the first time and my body thanked me.
Knowing now, that I have it in me to heal because I have done so in the past, I feel a huge relief. A road map had been presented to me, a road map for healing in the adult world. Thank you, Guy.