Being Ripe For the Call of Relationship

Romantic love, magnetic attraction, activated complexes, and unfinished business.

Romantic love, magnetic attraction, activated complexes, and unfinished business.

So you fell in love and before you knew it, all hell broke loose. “What the hell just happened?  Who is this stranger and what do I do now?”

The stranger who captured the heart is no stranger at all. The parts of self that have been cast out, pulled out by the resonance of something buried deep beneath the surface of the stranger, know intimately, the soul of the Magical Other.

Depth psychology tells us that what is cast out are projections of denied self, that we see the denied gold within ourselves in this Magical Other. Our histories, our complexes serve to form and shape these projections which have found a home, a hook upon which they can be caught by the unconscious shadow of the Magical Other.

Yet there is more to it than this. It is more than projection, it is as much, if not more, attraction as though the self is pulled to the other. I think of it in terms of energy. After all, what and who we are is as much about energy as anything else. Science, Physics tells us that everything, including people, is composed of subatomic particles called quarks which somehow arrange themselves. Interesting to note that for every quark there is an antiquark, its opposite which “differs from the quark only in that some of its properties have equal magnitude but opposite sign.

Magnetic field or lines of flux of a moving charged particle

A magnetic field is created between the opposite fields of energy as shown in this model I borrowed from the Basics of Magnetism. The movement of the energy in a magnetic field includes both attraction and repulsion in a constant flowing away and returning to form what we have long called the symbol of eternity.

This idea of opposites being necessary movement around each other is also found in ancient Chinese science and philosophy with the image of yin-yang representing that necessary co-existence if there is to be matter.

In Chinese philosophy, the feminine or negative principle (characterized by dark, wetness, cold, passivity, disintegration, etc.) of the two opposing cosmic forces into which creative energy divides and whose fusion in physical matter brings the phenomenal world into being. 

In Chinese philosophy, the masculine or positive principle (characterized by light, warmth, dryness, activity, etc.) of the two opposing cosmic forces into which creative energy divides and whose fusion in physical matter brings the phenomenal world into being.

Of course all of this information has simply the task of pointing to awareness that I want to use in hopes of understanding something about what the hell happened when I found myself falling in love. And as soon as I realised what I had discovered, I saw the connection with falling in hate. It seems we can’t have one without the other. Where there is no affect on the unconscious psyche, or very little affect, we have separation with space which allows others to have an identity without our projections foisted upon them.

Does this make any sense? Not all that much. What does make sense is that feeling of being pulled into relationship and then finding myself pushing back in order to reclaim my sense of being an individual only to find myself being pulled once again back into relationship. It is some sort of magic that has entranced both my wife and myself over the decades. Somehow we have held together during the moments and sometimes seasons of repulsion to slip back into that embrace that has the self “fall” into the other.

Others don’t have it so lucky and so find themselves repeating the first cycles over and over again as they spin lost in the dance of attraction and repulsion. I, and likely you, have seen so many others give up on the romance and the person only to enter into new relationships with another Magical Other that is like a clone of the one abandoned. We comment about how they always choose the same kind of “loser” or “lover” (depending on our prejudices) and seem stuck, unable to evolve. It’s as if the “call” to self-discovery is attempted until it gets too fearful, to difficult having us flee into a drab existence where we can hide from the pain and confusion that “woke” at the intersection of attraction and repulsion. When the pain has been numbed enough, we again are ripe for the “call.”

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A World in Desperate Need of Us

Mangrove swamp and water lily.

Mangrove swamp and water lily. One little flower growing out of darkness and muck gives hope.

It’s a quiet and reflective time this first week in Mexico. Listening and reading to the news from around the world doesn’t leave a positive feeling or much hope for humanity. However, there are small things that are happening in scattered bits and pieces of the world not making the news, hidden things – hidden in plain sight – that contradict whatever agenda that exists to build a darker culture of fear and despair. Media is not free to speak nor see anything other than what the controlling interests work so hard to incubate the dark culture of power and privilege. Ego gets wrapped up in the hunt for news bytes, ego that is competitive and worried about surviving in the mad dash for public exposure.

Who wants to hear that in a tiny spot in Mexico thirty strangers met in the jungle and were guided through a few activities that were focused on peace, forgiveness, and human connectedness with each other and the planet we call our home? Who wants to hear that unknown strangers visited lonely people in communities around the planet simply to find some sort of peace and meaning for themselves in offering precious moments to terminal patients or abandoned elders in nursing homes? Who wants to hear that a passing stranger gives another stranger in obvious need a cup of coffee or a bit of change along with a smile that changes the relationship of strangers from “I-it” to “I-Thou”?

There isn’t much any of us can do other than to risk being real people, risk opening ourselves up to hear and see the others around us without taking offence or making judgements. It isn’t up to our church leaders, our government leaders, our business leaders or the media. Only we can bring a thin ray of light and hope to this world of ours in desperate need of us.

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Light That Nourishes the World

Behind the eyes lies the darkness of the unconscious.

Behind the eyes lies the darkness of the unconscious.

What an interesting image that I found. There is no question that what appears is an alter universe. I am not sure if that universe is buried within the psyche or if there are other universes that we can access in other ways. The image is of a new dawn, a new day. But, I don’t know if this new dawn, this new day, this new universe is one that will be life affirming or yet another desperate challenge to make it through the day to return again to the night. Though there is blue sky, the heaviness of clouds and a moon, as well as the stark islands in the sea, hint that all is not perfect.

An American Marine in Afghanistan at dawn.

An American Marine in Afghanistan at dawn.

Perhaps it is the season that has me brooding with dull heaviness. Whatever it is, I can feel the pulse of the world of my time and place as it talks to me of pain, suffering and darkness. As a human race, we have somehow found ourselves standing guard at the approach of dawn, armed and ready to kill. We have built barricades around our souls hoping to keep everything that is different out.

We are afraid of the day for what it will expose about our world, about ourselves, about the others who we keep from our doors. We are afraid that these others will want us to return what we have taken from them. We are afraid that we will have to become accountable for our wealth and privilege in a world that suffers hunger and poverty. It’s not a pretty picture at all.

I am only one and so I do the best I can as I turn to the light, breathe deeply and wish peace, harmony and wellness on the world and its people. I turn away for hopelessness and say my unique prayer to the light that shines within my psyche and out in the world where it serves to nourish life.

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Adding Another Light Into the Darkness

Bringing light into darkness.

Bringing light into darkness.

I am back in Mexico in a village called Puerto Morelos which has been our winter home for the past three years. It feels good to be back in sunny and warm country. The decision to return to the same village and the same domicile is all about familiarity rather than exotic adventure. Familiarity also means less tension and stress leaving energy to be spent in a return to our long two-hour beach walks followed by a half-hour swim in the Caribbean Sea. We know the ins and outs of the path as well as the best swimming spots.

Winter is a time of darkness and for so many, a time of depression because of the lack of sunshine and warmth. Winter sunshine on the Canadian prairies is beautiful, but one is typically bundled in several layers of protective coverings.  In spite of the winter sunshine which paints surreal scenes of white wonderlands etched with hoarfrost on trees and tall grasses, the cold has one withdraw into oneself rather than expand outward into the world. Breathing is measured and constrained adding to the tension. One risks in the outdoors in winter or one hides in a cocoon within artificial environments doing the best to mimic a place of warmth, light and safety. In spite of best efforts, so many find the dark shades of winter creeping into their very being to sap away energy. It is the time of sadness, of loss, of constriction.

I know of too many who suffer seasonal affective disorder (S.A.D.). In truth, I have to say that I am not immune to the debilitating effects of winter in the northern hemisphere. Now that our children have grown up and moved away to make homes of their own, it has become an even “sadder” season for me when depression lurks at the edges waiting for my energy reserves to dip so that it can assault libido. Thankfully, I have learned from almost too many battles with depression and the loss of sunlight in both the psyche and the physical dimension, how to build walls of protection and routes of escape. This time in Mexico where the layers of protection, of the physical and of the psyche, are peeled away so that the sun’s rays can heal and nourish,

For me, journeying to the sun is a means of adding light into darkness.

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Thanatos and Eros – La Grande et Petite Mort

Crossing over.

Crossing over.

A beautiful, yet eerie image that I found somewhere two months ago finally has a home. I want to continue looking at Eros and Thanatos with hopes that what emerges will make some sort of sense.

As I mentioned last post, the simple act of sex, making love, ends in a small death, or as the French say, “la petite mort.” I say this as a man as I can’t really “know” what is experienced by a woman post-orgasm. But then again, I can never really speak for a woman, that is something a woman must do for herself. Come to think of it, I can’t even speak for other men as we are all unique with unique experiences and responses. It’s enough to say that while I am in the thrall of Eros, I slip into the domain of Thanatos if only for a moment.

As I suffered a midlife crisis, Eros – that libido that signals soul energy – went missing. I slipped into depression, took a descent into darkness away from energising light. I was suicidal at times when the heaviness of the darkness became so oppressive that the best option seemed to be death where the heaviness and darkness and pain and self-hatred would finally vanish. I longed for death but a thread of light held me back from that decision that could never be undone. Depression and Thanatos belong together and make sense when one recognizes that Eros is absent.

But what about that recklessness that challenges Thanatos when Eros is riding high in the psyche. I recall one particular incident in my life that bears mentioning here. I had been married two weeks when I went cycling with my wife. We decided to descent into a valley down a steep, winding path. I became reckless and raced ahead, showing off feeling totally invincible. A sharp turn in the path saw me sailing into the air with my hands glued to the handlebars of the bike. I landed on my head, immediately shrank almost an inch as my back compressed. How I didn’t break my neck or back or even die from concussion I will never understand. Death was present because of my foolishness.

The same can be said for extreme sports which always carry a risk of death should things go awry. One engages in such activities for the adrenalin rush that proves one is alive. If one looks at the phenomena from a different perspective, we have a person suffering soul loss who cuts themselves so that they can get a sense of feeling. The pain cancels out the numbness for a moment, a statement to Thanatos that one hasn’t given in to the darkness.

In the end, we all arrive in the bosom of Thanatos. How and when we get there is a matter of luck for the most part as we understand it, though we do contribute to the positive and negative faces of luck – smoking, drugs, what we eat and drink, exercise, excesses, meditation, and the list goes on and on. Some rush to extinction, some do whatever they can to deny that final moment.

For myself, I know what the final destination is but I want to get there following a trail though my personal wilderness, wildness, that allows me to grow in self and other awareness. I want to build some sort of meaning with the days that remain. I want to die while making love with the final movement being “un grand mort.”

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Thanatos – Loss of Eros

Thánatos is a son of Nyx (Night) and Erebos (Darkness) and twin of Hypnos (Sleep).

Thánatos is a son of Nyx (Night) and Erebos (Darkness) and twin of Hypnos (Sleep).

“To Thanatos, Fumigation from Manna.
Hear me, O Death, whose empire unconfin’d
extends to mortal tribes of ev’ry kind.
On thee, the portion of our time depends,
whose absence lengthens life, whose presence ends.

Thy sleep perpetual bursts the vivid folds
by which the soul, attracting body holds :
common to all, of ev’ry sex and age,
for nought escapes thy all-destructive rage.

Not youth itself thy clemency can gain,
vigorous and strong, by thee untimely slain.
In thee the end of nature’s works is known,
in thee all judgment is absolved alone.
No suppliant arts thy dreadful rage control,
no vows revoke the purpose of thy soul.
O blessed power, regard my ardent prayer,

and human life to age abundant spare.

Today’s topic is an outgrowth of the last post on relationships. One thing I didn’t talk about when it came to relationships, was the role of Eros which is often defined as the pull to life. I know that in my own life, the pull to relationship is enlivening. I feel most alive when libido is flowing, swelling my being. But as all who have learned in relationships, that rush to union with other typically ends in a small death. You can’t have life without its twin, death.

Risking death to feel alive.

Risking death to feel alive.

Without relationship, one finds libido, a rush of energy that makes one feel alive, in activity. This is especially noted for activity that pushes limits, risk activities. The adrenalin rush when doing extreme sports, playing chicken with cars, and any other activity that challenges one’s physical, psychological, legal, and community limits, gives one the same high, followed by the same descent as one experiences in significant relationships. Both result in a pause between life and death, a suspension of feeling and thinking that is also found in the simple act of breathing between one’s out breath and the next in breath. It’s almost a state of non-beingness, an thanatos state.

I have to return later to circle around this idea again from a different perspective.

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A Man and a Woman in Relationship

The sun and moon are drawn together like a man and a woman to unite in a holy marriage.

The sun and moon are drawn together like a man and a woman to unite in a holy marriage.

Today’s post is another return of sorts to alchemy. I thought the post was to simply look at the dynamic of “a man and a woman,” but it kind of escaped my original intentions. With that said, I want to return to what triggered the post. I have been “listening” to posts on Facebook and to country songs which collectively paint both men and women in surreal terms. I heard the common complaint of “a real man / a real woman would” spoken by people who found themselves unconnected or perhaps disconnected from an idea/ideal that is firmly planted in their minds about what the “other” needs to be. In each case, the speaker is a victim telling the world that if only they could see and accept them, true love would be given.

The Red King and the White Queen of alchemy.

The Red King and the White Queen of alchemy.

Regardless of sexual orientation, each of us is hard-wired to search for that Magical Other that will fill in our holes and complete us so that we could live “happily ever after.” Of course, we don’t engage in relation with this “knowledge.” For us, it is all mysterious stuff wrapped in myths and stories and dreams. We hear these stories and sense that something is missing, something that can only be filled by someone else. So, we go in search of this someone else, a magical being of sorts. And suddenly, that person appears and we are lost in that person who glows with a magic that has us see the person as the most beautiful girl in the world, or the perfect man who is strong yet gentle, a powerful man that will fill all the holes.

The other is recognised and recognises in return, and so the union begins swathed in layers of magic and rose-coloured glasses. And then one of the pair, or both, are wakened to the reality of a flawed human in the other. There is a sense of betrayal followed by anger. “You don’t know what you’re missing by rejecting me; You are not worthy of me; You lied to me about who you are.” And the drama escalates as each retreats, unable to see that what had been triggered at first contact has remained in spite of the spell of magic which has been broken. Reality is rejected. Only magic is wanted. There is too much work on both self and other to discover what it is in that “Other.”

The holy marriage of opposites that make a whole.

The holy marriage of opposites that make a whole.

Yet, some do the work and the union grows. The two circle each other, enter into the psyche and the body of each other over and over again, mixing their essences. When at last they “know” that what they need from the other can only be given by the self, then the two become truly married, a holy marriage of two forever separate beings who resonate like a symphony in each other. And they dance in an eternal push-pull circling.

I am a lucky man. I am in a relationship that has somehow survived time. We are opposite beings pushing and pulling against-towards each other wanting and needing independence and relatedness at the same time. Yet, in spite of the shifting ground beneath us, there is something that perhaps can only be described as magic that has emerged that allows us to survive in relationship.

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Synchronicity, the Stars, and Typology

Johfra Bosschart - Cancer

Johfra Bosschart – Cancer

I have long known that Jung was strongly influenced by Astrology. His most often quoted reference to astrology is:

“We are born at a given moment, in a given place and, like vintage years of wine, we have the qualities of the year and of the season of which we are born. Astrology does not lay claim to anything more.”

In spite of C.G. Jung’s thoughts on astrology (many quotes available here), I have always been rather sceptical of astrology. My scepticism has cloaked itself in what I can only say is reactive emotion.

Johfra Bosschart - Virgo

Johfra Bosschart – Virgo

In spite of my studies, I simply wouldn’t allow it to be considered as worthy of my belief. After all, people who I have known personally in life who have believed in astrology and who tried to “read” charts were far from knowledgeable about both astrology and the unconscious. Besides, the horoscopes most produced were so generalised that they could “fit” almost everyone on the planet. In spite of its ancient history, I saw it as a New Age fantasy that was enacted so as to fleece unwary people, trusting people by charlatans. I know, that isn’t a fair or reasonable response to the ancient art. So lately, I’ve attempted to sift through the mass of information and misinformation to perhaps come to a different conclusion.

It was only when I looked at astrological signs in terms of personality and personality types that I finally found something that had me pause and consider that astrology had some validity. I looked at both my personality type as described in Jung’s study on typology, and what I could find at several sites that seemed to be less hocus-pocus than others about my star sign, Cancer. I looked for what fit and what didn’t fit. And then I did the same for my wife’s personality type and her star sign, Virgo.

My first stop was at Astrology Cafe to see what they had to say about men with the sign of Cancer:

Wistful, shy, and mysterious, Cancer is ruled by the Moon. A Cancer man is reserved when he first meets someone new and it will take many more meetings before you can get close to him. At the first sign of overly aggressive friendliness, the crab will sidle out of sight and bury himself in the tide. Tread softly, and wait for him to open up of his own accord. Doing things by force never works with a Cancer.

Now, this does sound a lot like me on the surface, but it wasn’t enough to convince me of any worth. However, when I consider the images that arise from the description, and my own way of being, there is an eerie connection and resonance that emerges.  Added into the information was an interesting side note – I am supposedly compatible with women with Virgo as their sun signs. I draw on a final note from Astrology Cafe about careers:

“an excellent candidate for positions in education, counseling, medical services, or journalism.”

How well did this match up now that I am retired and look back? Well, I began in journalism, shifted to education, then added in the role of counselling while working as a volunteer emergency response team member for our local ambulance service for ten years. With retirement, I have returned to writing seriously while maintaining a foothold in the counselling field with occasional clients. Okay, so there is a significant level of resonance here. But what about my wife, and our relationship? Ah, that is for another day, or perhaps something that will more likely remain behind the scenes at Through a Jungian Lens. Suffice to say, there is a significant level of resonance in both of these areas as well.

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Winter Solstice and the Collective Unconscious

Johfra Bosschart - Gemini

Johfra Bosschart – Gemini

Johfra Bosschart was a Dutch artist (1919-1998) who saw the world slightly different from your average person. I found his work when searching for two particular images, astrological representations for Cancer and Virgo, the signs of both my wife and myself (you can see the art for the twelve signs here). But I found more than I had hoped for. The sign for Gemini particularly struck me as being one that evoked ideas of the Mysterium Coniunctionis, a book written by Carl Jung. The central theme is that of the holy marriage. Of course Jung was talking about the marriage (awakening) of both the masculine and feminine within each human.

I continued looking at the strange images and wondered about the man whose soul was caught in those images (see a larger collection of his works here).

Johfra Bosschart - Witches Sabbath

Johfra Bosschart – Witches Sabbath

There were a few that startled me, images from what I could only guess were from his tortured soul during his own midlife crisis when the veil between the conscious world and the unconscious world is so thin as to allow both heaven and hell to seep through only to overwhelm. Images of darkness, in a period of darkness, give birth to either despair or hope. Hope grows out of despair.

Johfra Bosschart - Adam and Eve

William Blake – The Temptation and Fall of Eve

Johfra Bosschart – Adam and Eve

In these dark days, today being the darkest as it is the winter solstice, we struggle as humans. We have been cast out of the Garden of Light into darkness where suffering and death reign. Thrust out of the light, we created so many trails through the wilderness of darkness, those swamplands of soul, which we followed either into madness or back into the light.

The rituals we crafted to show us the way to light, the rituals that brought us hope out of despair were vital, and remain vital. This is the true meaning of Christmas. It doesn’t matter if the story comes from Inuit roots, Germanic roots, pagan roots, or whether they spring out of religions – they all have the same task – the promise of light. So on this darkest of days, I offer you the promise of light that lays ahead in the days to come.

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The Dark Feminine and the Rebirth of Soul

She is there, in the night, to promise a return to light, to life. To gift us with soul.

She is there, in the night, to promise a return to light, to life. To gift us with soul.

A beautiful image crafted with care. The moon is drawing closer to the full moon, a time of magic and for many, a time when madness is a thin sliver of time and space away from the real world of things. It is a certain kind of madness that looks at this world and wraps it in love, decorates it with peace and hope. During this night time of the collective soul, through the darkest part of year we light candles, illuminate as much of the darkness with coloured strands of light creating images that bring smiles. We defy the darkness and know that there is more than darkness. I defy this darkness in my own way. For example, I stand naked in the darkness, in the cold, to proclaim that I will emerge from the cold and deadly time to once again smile and love.

I found this image a week ago and felt a need to keep it in hopes of finding a place for it. A recent conversation on Twitter spoke of the dark feminine (thanks Laura), and a different image quoting Jung about the Virgin Mary as the black earth, the dark principle from which life would re-emerge. (Vision Seminars) which I found on Facebook along with these words by Robert Sardello, let me know that it was time for this image to find its way here so that the words would flow.

“What is the soul’s response? It is the quality of stillness. The soul becomes completely quiet, for it has entered into the realm of death…there to begin the task of learning how to be awake and fully conscious. It is a test. The aim of this test is to find whether the force of love, no longer arising from attachment to things in the day-world, can be born out of the soul itself. In other words, can love arise where there is nothing to love?”

Looking back into the days before the moon re-appears in this dark and dead time of the year. It is a time of death. We all witness this darkness where everything we value is lost to us. As a collective we respond with hate, with evil deeds. As individuals we find ourselves in nightmares and sinking into swamplands of depression. In depth psychology, there is an image, an archetypal presence that emerges. In India she is called Kali. She is the dark feminine. She is not evil though she is there where evil is committed in her name. She holds the universe within her waiting for time to ripen so she can allow the soul passage back into the light. And that birthing demands that we let go of our compulsive needs, to risk standing naked before her and before the sun that stirs us back into life.

We are not to flee from her, this dark feminine. She is there to remind us that we are her that she flows within our inner spaces keeping us grounded lest we fly too high into the rays of the sun and be consumed by it. Consummation by the sun is possession by mana and becoming unconscious, ferocious, fundamentalist demons, the dark masculine. And the only escape from its burning, whithering, searing occupation is death, a return to darkness from which we can again be stirred once again by the dark feminine to find the space in between called love, an honest and authentic sense of presence in front of the holy union of masculine and feminine.

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