Archive for the ‘Daryl Sharp’ tag
This morning I found myself in a contemplative mood, a good place really, not divorced from the reality of being present in my life. As I am entering these words, I am waiting for the toast to be ready for our breakfast. And yes, I am taking care of them even as I sit here seeing the small toaster oven across the kitchen while writing. With only fort-eight hours left of our stay in Belize, and all tasks taken care of in order to be ready for the shift back to Mexico, my mind is relaxed and there is no sense of being rushed or wondering what I should be doing at the moment, other than making sure the toast doesn’t burn. [time out to eat]
Before I began my morning meditation outside in our garden, I saw the moon in the west which sent me back to get my camera and get a photo for here. After returning the camera into the villa, I took my seat and slipped into my meditation knowing that at some point the sun would rise and anoint my body with its rays. If this sounds like a spiritual ritual, it is because the ritual is about honouring my soul, about connecting with the universe and becoming at one with it. While I meditated, my wife decided to grab the camera to take a photo of the sun rising above the layer of clouds that hugged the eastern horizon. Moon setting and sun rising while I meditated. No wonder I am in a contemplative mood this morning.
Not long after my meditation was left behind, I was sitting having coffee and wondering what I would do with my time. Sitting there, the urge to write here and touch once more on Jungian psychology became strong. But, I didn’t have a clue what I would write about. However, that didn’t seem to bother me at all as I have learned that the words would come. With breakfast done, I turned to Daryl Sharp’s book, Getting To Know You, and opened it at random and found these words which were spoken / written in response to a question about Jungian psychology being soul-making:
“. . . the only way I can understand the progression of my life is in terms of soul. Soul happens when you ponder alone in the still of the night. Soul happens when you grapple with the meaning of your life. Soul is what you are, as opposed to what you seem to be. That’s not theology, it’s experiential reality. [p. 56]
With these words, I think that I have said enough here for now. More will follow in another post on another day.
I chose this picture today for another post on shadow for a few reasons, one of those reasons being the idea of the ego at the centre, ego being light. As one looks out at the world, the further one gets from the immediate centre surrounding the conscious self, the less clearly, the less conscious one is with regards to what is out there. Looking out from the conscious centre, one sees others, but doesn’t see that behind these others lay shadows that reach into the depths where there is nothing but darkness. One could turn that conscious gaze inwards and get to meet ephemeral images of what are best described as archetypes, presences in the collective unconscious, primordial images that arise from the energy that associated with humans and humanty. If this image tells it like it is, then even these archetypes lose their distinctness in the darkness of what is, perhaps the cosmic unconscious, the unconscious that so many religions and philosophies have called God, the chaos from which all that is both animate and inanimate have arisen.
While conscious, awake with eyes open to the light, it is next to impossible to see one’s shadow. It is only as we cast furtive glances out of the sides of the eyes that we sense that we see something there. We have only what we know exists. We know we exist – our ego tells us us this much. We craft and control disguises that we present to the world as we relate to others, disguises called persona. And, we know, but can’t quite seem to prove that there is a shadow lurking, stalking us seemingly waiting for us to let go of control before it overtakes us. Who is stalking whom?
“Let’s look at the overall picture. Ego, persona, shadow. In Jung’s model of the psyche, these are three major complexes among a whole lot of others. Each has a say in what we are, the way we function, the way we move through the world. The big question is, what do they have to do with psychological relationship? [Sharp, Getting To Know You, p. 43]
I think it is rather obvious to almost all of us how our ego [consciousness] has a huge role to play in how we relate to others. We choose who we relate to as well as how we will relate to them. In our various life roles [father, husband, colleague, boss, employee, etc.] we moderate the way we relate, we limit and control just how much of us we will allow others to see of our true, authentic selves. Not so obvious is the role of shadow. Somehow, beyond my control, and your control, without our even being aware of what is going on, the shadow puts in an appearance in our relationships. We do things and say things that we have no intention of doing or saying. Sometimes we don’t even realise that we have done and said these things after the fact, we deny them vigorously wondering why these people in our lives would tell us these lies.
“Why did you do that?” the wife asks her husband.
“Do what?” he responds confused about what she is talking about.
“You know very well what I am talking about. Why did you do it? You knew it would upset me.”
Even more confused and beginning to be a bit angry at being accused of some unknown crime, he answers, “I don’t have a damn clue what you’re talking about. Stop talking in riddles. What the hell am I being accused of doing now?”
The shadow had put in an appearance and both the husband and wife are left to sort through the litter left in its wake. They are confused and begin to doubt the quality and the strength of their relationship, and at the same time begin to self-doubt. Both Jung and Sharp have nailed it. We are very complexed beings and that complexity shows up in relationship with others who finally give us a chance to see an image of the shadow through the eyes of a person with whom we engage in relationship.
This is a detail from the Christian Church found in the downtown area of Changzhou. I was drawn by the image in the stained-glass window which was framed within a diamond. Ideas of quaternity, of new life, of mandala came to mind thanks to many years of ruminating over the works of Carl Jung and post-Jungian authors and writers such as Daryl Sharp, James Hollis, James Hall and John Dourley to name but just a few. In the end, it isn’t about what I have read, but what has resonated within me.
For example, this image with the dove at the centre. I think of the dove as heralding new life, such as the dove in the story of Noah and his ark. The dove lets one know that one can return to consciousness, to a new lease on life as much as a child tells us as a collective that our human race can begin again, with hope.
Images evoke response in all humans that can see images. What is seen isn’t necessarily what was drawn or created by the person or persons behind the image. Rather, what is seen is a reflection or a projection of the contents within the viewer. The individual psyche containing both conscious and unconscious contents, acts as a lens when viewing images. This is a natural phenomenon, not some contrived psycho-babble induced phenomenon.
“The psyche is manifold, synonymous with nature, and contains all possibilities. In me is the saint and the murderer, the ascetic and the lecher, the monastic and the bestial. When a figure shows up in the popular culture, it is but the personification and dramatization of the energies of the psyche. As we recall, the energy of the psyche is invisible; so it is only rendered available to consciousness when it is made manifest in image.” (Hollis, Mythologems, p. 36)
How do these images manifest themselves? Through our creations of image. They appear in dreams, in art, in words, in music. And these images show us “self” in various guises such as this dove, a guise of hope and promise, the guise of a child, the guise of an archetype within the psyche made visible.
As I walked through a park, enjoying the sounds of birds, I came across the this couple who appeared to oblivious of the last bit of summer and nature that surrounded them. They also seemed to be engrossed in their own private worlds while sitting side-by-side. It was interesting for me to note that my mobile phone is the same as his phone, interesting but meaningless.
Mobile phones are evident everywhere. I see people using them on bicycles, scooters, motorcycles, in cars and on the street. While riding on public transit, it is normal to hear a half-dozen conversations being carried on – people on their phones talking to someone not on the bus, and talking at full volume. While the conversations are taking place the majority of the other passengers are staring at their phones, some texting. Somehow, I rarely use my phone though the opportunities are there.
The photo makes me think of proximity and distance.
“When you are psychologically separate, not identified with your partner, you don’t need the other to agree with you and you don’t need to be right. You don’t expect the other to change in order to suit your needs, and you don’t ask it of yourself either. And if over time you can’t the other but still can’t leave, well, that is the stuff of analysis: conflict and complexes.
The bond between two people is a precious and mysterious thing, not entirely explained by the theory of complexes ad the phenomenon of projection. But this much at least is true: there is an optimum distance in every relationship that evolves through trial and error and good will – it you know who you are and can stop pressing for more than you get.” (Sharp, Jungian Psychology Unplugged, p 75)
As I see this couple together, yet obviously at a distance as well, I get the sense that they “work” as a couple. Maybe it is more about the culture in China in which the expectation of what is needed from one’s partner is different. The need for the other to be a soulmate, to hold one’s heart is not near as powerful as it is back in Canada and most other places in the western world.
What is expected? To be there, to do one’s part, to be loyal, and more importantly, to respect the fullness of self and other. Perhaps I don’t really know what is going on behind the scenes. But then again, the whole point is about how I resonate with the photos I take – it’s not really about this couple, but about my consciousness trying to emerge out of a personal and collective shadow.
I’ve chosen a different photo today, one that is decidedly more messy, more full of life. When I first came to China in August of 2006, I took a stroll down this street. The left side was much like the right side, jam-packed with small shops and apartments that hugged a narrow street, a stark contrast to the city area in which I live which has wide streets with boulevards filled with grass, roses and sculpted bushes. My first taste of street food was on this street in a little tarp-covered stall that sold noodle and dumpling soup to construction workers for the most part. It still remains, at least in this small section, a messy place bursting with life.
Understanding all of this “life” that I encounter in China is problematic for me, and probably everyone else as well. How can I really be expected to understand a foreign culture, let alone my own culture when I struggle with understanding myself. It is a rare person who can say with honesty that he or she truly understands him or her “self.”
“Understanding oneself is difficult enough; understanding others is their responsibility, if they are inclined to do so and have a mind for it. What one can know of another is just the tip of an iceberg; the far greater part of anyone’s personal identity is beyond the ken of an outsider. For that matter, those who have worked on themselves enough to be comfortable with who they are – as opposed to those arrogant souls who are simply narcissistic – do not need, nor do the ask, to be understood by others. I am what I am; take it or leave it..
The appropriate attitude for a long-term relationship is not understanding, but acceptance. Each accepts the other, to the extent one can, and makes no issue of the rest. This is not easy. It means accepting not only the loved one’s persona, but also his or her shadow and other complexes. It certainly requires empathy, but it also involves a mutual acknowledgement that one is responsible only for oneself.” (Sharp, Jungian Psychology Unplugged, pp 74-75)
What I am learning to apply to my relationship with those I hold closest to me in my life, I am learning to use here in China as I build relationships with a country, a swirling mass of conflicting cultures, and the few individuals who see me and are willing to allow me into their orbit of relationships whether as friend, colleague, teacher or simply “laowai.”
I took this photo a while ago while strolling down the street. At first, I simply saw the humour in the photo, humour from a Canadian male point of view. Young men in Canada would not be caught dead carrying their girlfriend’s purse, let alone a pink purse, down a public street where other young men would see them. Yet, here, the scene is not that rare. Proving “love” to the “other” has so many quirky twists and turns regardless of the culture one finds oneself in. When there is a focus on “self” in the situation of “love,” it is usually about insecurity and the need for proof that one is valued by the “other – “Prove you love me,” kind of thinking takes over. When there is a focus on “other” then the “self” feels abandoned and almost valueless. There is no space where two become one. Does it matter which one is suppressed and which one suppresses? The result is the same for both, albeit from different viewpoints – the individual, unique self is no longer is valued.
The last day I wrote about distance and intimacy. I want to return to that topic in order to add to the idea of what “distance” really means in terms of intimacy and relationships.
“A relationship based on intimacy with distance does not require separate living quarters. Intimacy with distance means psychological separation, which comes about through the process of differentiation – knowing where you end and the other begins. Intimacy with distance can be as close and warm as you want, and it’s psychologically clean. Togetherness is simply fusion, the submersion of two individualities into one. That’s symbiosis, identification, participation mystique. It can feel good for a while but in the long term it doesn’t work.” (Sharp, Jungian Psychology Unplugged, p. 73)
In China, I see this “psychological distance” every day on the street, especially in crowds. It is as though each person, though surrounded by a sea of others, is alone, is separated as if on a deserted island. People walk by each other only aware on a peripheral level that there are others present, but oblivious of the them other than as objects to navigate around while walking.
How does one move to being self-contained rather than as half of a couple? This is the real problem for our heads, at least for mine. How can one be “separate” without having one’s partner feel abandoned? Living in the same place together and having a privateness is often taken as a rejection by the other. Somehow, it takes two moving through individuation and arriving at the idea of intimacy with space for relationship to survive. When it is a journey only one chooses to take, the relationship is threatened and all hell breaks loose.
“Togetherness is to intimacy with distance as being in love is to loving. When you’re in love, you absolutely need the other. This is symptomatic of bonding, which is natural at the beginning of any relationship, at any age. But need, finally, is not compatible with loving; it only shows the degree to which one lacks personal resources. Better take your need to a therapist than dump it on the one you love. Need in an intimate relationship easily becomes the rationale for power, leading to the fear of loss on one hand, and resentment on the other.” (Sharp, Jungian Psychology Unplugged, p. 74)
In the photo, this expression of love is about power. At what point will this young couple move from “falling in love” to a fear of loss and of resentment?
Another look at the architectural style that is being preserved in quite a few locations in the city shows classical lines and contrast. The colour, or should I say the lack of colour as in comparison to Latin America speaks loudly about keeping it simple yet classy. But of course, it isn’t an either/or for me. I enjoy both, colour, and black & white; both China and the colourful heat of Latin America.
I love the intensity of colour and heat in Latin America as well as the language. I could easily see myself in my private villa enjoying the best of the winter season in warmth. But then again, the vitality and contrasts in China invites me to remain here as well. But of course, I don’t have to choose one or the other. I can choose both without thoughts of exclusivity. By spending most of the time in neither, I can better appreciate these places from a distance. I know that to actually choose one over the other would have me become poorer. It is the same with relationships.
Like almost all other modern men and women, I have bought into the idea of “Soulmates.” Thomas Moore’s book as well as a number of others by various authors, as well as classical literature over the centuries have painted high expectation on us poor humans in terms of relationships. Anyone who dares partner up with us is bound, in the end, to disappoint and give rise to anger. A mere human being cannot hold all the the word “soulmate” encompasses. Yet, we willingly put out their, our “lost other,” the half of ourselves that will make us whole, even holy.
“The mistake is expecting to find our “lost other” in the outside world. In fact, it is our contrasexual self inner other, animus or anima, who should be the object of our search. Outer relationships, already hampered by personal complexes and a multitude of day-to-day concerns, cannot bear the extra weight of archetypal expectations. Although individuation is not possible without relationship, it is not compatible with togetherness.
Individuation, finding your own unique pat, requires a focus on the inner axis, ego to unconscious – getting to know yourself. The ideal of togetherness lets you off that hook. Togetherness doesn’t acknowledge the natural boundaries between people, and it gives short shrift to their differences. All you are left with is unconscious identity. When you are on the path of individuation, focused on your own psychological development, you relate to others from a position of personal integrity. This is the basis for intimacy with distance. It is not as sentimental as togetherness, but is’s not as sticky either.” (Sharp, Jungian Psychology Unplugged, p. 73)
There’s a lot to chew on here. Hmmm? Time to sit quiet and think.
I have to admit that I find old Chinese architecture very interesting. This is a detail from a traditional roofline found on most older buildings still found in China. As I wander the city of Changzhou, I see frequent examples of this style still remaining. Most are in some state of disrepair though functional. Some, such as this one, have been carefully restored using original materials. I chose this photo because of the simplicity of colour – just black and white against a “whitish” sky.
Then after choosing the photo and cropping it so that it seemed to be right for inclusion here, I saw more, the layering of the tiles as though I was seeing the layering of shadow. I also saw in greater detail, the white flower which appeared to be growing out of a tree. And then I saw the tree and was struck by the image that emerged, a symbol of man, potent man. Out of the darkness, the light grows upwards.
I find my mind caught is a number of contradictions here, just as I find my mind caught in the contradictions of relationship. The key to a good relationship is communication. However, from what I said yesterday, the key to a good relationship is keeping one’s stuff to one’s self. Sharp sums it up nicely:
“Those who think that talking about a relationship will help it get better put the cart before the horse. Work on yourself and a good relationship will follow. You can either accept who you are and find a relationship that fits, or twist yourself out of shape and get what you deserve.
The endless blather that takes place between two complexed people solves nothing. It is a waste of time and energy and as often as not actually makes the situation worse.” (Sharp, Jungian Psychology Unplugged, p. 72)
Communication is served by silence, and consciousness is arrived at through darkness, through the unconscious. How can I sense any truth to these paradoxes? The image helps me. I see the swollen member bursting forth with life and I think how that swollen member gives life only in the darkness of the mysterious, dark and moist inner world. And in giving up the essence of self, there is a unity that allows the self to disappear into a wholeness in which there are no separations between darkness and light, between masculine and feminine, between self and other.
Looking into a hole left at one of the work sites along the sidewalk near my apartment while it was raining, I saw this photo opportunity. It’s amazing how one’s eyes get drawn into dark holes hoping to see treasure, or perhaps see proof of hell.
It’s interesting how one can see something and then load the thing with all manner of meaning. It’s important to realise that it the “self” who holds the meaning and not the object. Again, it is all about projection. Images allow us to project safely for the most part. However, this isn’t the case when we project on others.
When a relationship hits a rocky patch, it pretty much looks like everything is going downhill, down into a dark hole. One’s field of vision is reduced to a narrow band of possibility, and the possibility is in darkness, a damp darkness that reminds one of a swampland at night where sinkholes are just waiting to suck one down. In an instinctive reaction we lash out hoping to back off the demons and find a bit of breathing space. The enemy is out there, and the enemy is wearing the body of one’s partner in relationship.
“You work on a relationship by shutting your mouth when you are ready to explode; by not inflicting your affect on the other person; by quietly leaving the battlefield and tearing your hair out; by asking yourself – not your partner – what complex in you was activated, and to what end. The proper question is not, “Why is she doing this to me?” or “Who does he think he is?” but rather, “Why am I reacting this way? – Who do I think he or she is?” And more: “What does this say about my psychology? What can I do about it?” Instead of accusing the other person about driving you crazy, you say to yourself, “I feel I’m being driven crazy – where, or who, in me is that coming from?”
That is how you establish a container, a personal temenos.” (Sharp, Jungian Psychology Unplugged, p. 71)
Sharp’s words make sense, but they aren’t so easy to put into practice. It seems that “knowing” and “doing” are two different things completely. I know in my case, it has taken so many stumbles with a lot of personal conferences of one in which I have asked myself these questions after the fact. Maybe this is part of the learning to build a level of consciousness about relationship, in relationship.
This photo was taken at the site of the collection of buildings that was moved from downtown Changzhou into the suburb village of XueJia which was featured in yesterday’s photo. The buildings were all white and trimmed in black with black tile roofing. To see a bit of “red” was startling and I was almost compelled to focus on the small but brilliant splash of colour in an otherwise black and white world. For a moment it reminded me of following the bit of red in the film, Schindler’s List, tracking fragile life.
So much for first impressions, now on revisiting my photos I see something different. The colours of white and black are also the colours of consciousness and the unconscious; and, they are the colours of masculine and feminine. Add in the “red” and I think of the heart at the centre of relationship between man and woman.
“Intimate relationships are fraught with difficulty. There are any number of landmines to be negotiated before two people feel comfortable with each other; more when they become sexually involved, and more again if and when they live together. On top of projection and identification, there are ech other’s personal complexes and typological differences. In truth, the very things that brought them together in the first place are just as likely to drive them apart.” (Sharp, Jungian Psychology Unplugged, p. 70)
Curious how the original impression of fragility is found again.