Archive for the ‘ego’ tag
So far it is becoming clear that everyone has a charged energy response to mother and father. For sons, the complex that arises in response to his mother and/or those who mothered him, obviously will influence his relationship with other women in his future, an influence which for the most part is unconscious. Will he find the woman he needs in someone like his mother, or in someone who seems to be a polar opposite? The complexes and neuroses of the mother have been active in conscious and unconscious interaction with the son as well as between the mother and the father (or father substitute in the case of absent fathers). The son having been wounded, and not even aware of that wounding, with the energy that burst forth out of the mother’s activated complexes, is primed to respond to similar patterns of energy in later life. Nothing is going to be simple when it comes to relationships in the boy child’s future as an adult male.
“Consider the obvious, then, that we can hardly have a conscious efficacious relationship with the Other, when we have a deeply wounded relationship with ourselves. Consider, then, how difficult it is to have any relationship at all. All that I do not know about myself, all of my secret projects for healing myself of the wounds derived from my culture and family of origin, I am now imposing on you. All the complexes I have acquired in my life on this earth, you will have to suffer from me. How could I do that to you, while professing to love you? How can you do that to me, while professing to love me?” [Hollis, The Eden Project, p. 30]
Wow! Hard words from Hollis. But, and there is always a but, isn’t there? But, what about love? I fell in love. Everywhere I look people are truly falling in love. I can see it in their eyes, in the way they move in relationship to their new-found love, the person who becomes a Magical Other. Is love based on our wounds and our projects to heal those wounds? Are we demanding our Magical Others to stay magical and to continue to feed us, nourish us, out of the depths of our wounds?
I have to admit, that I am guilty of imposing my wounding on my love, my Magical Other. Over the years, it seems new wounds present themselves, old wounds actually, but long banished into the dark depths of unconsciousness. And each time I discover, feel and am overwhelmed by these wounds, it is to my Other that I turn to and somehow expect her to take in my pain and heal me as if she was my Magical Mother. And, at times, this flows in the opposite direction when it is I who meets the wounds of her life, her childhood, and become her Magical Father, the Other who will hold her in safety and security.
What is love then?
A child, such as the type of child that I was who either adopted or was thrust into the role of mediator or go-between within the family, internalizes the idea of being the good child of the family, one who carries the shadow, the families secrets as a personal burden. I found out early that I was different from everyone else. Others could be messy, but my being special carried the responsibility of cleaning up the mess. Rather than going to a parent, siblings came to me with their problems for that is what my parents did. Not knowing any better, I took on that burden rather than shouting out, “But I’m just a kid!” That’s the problem with magical thinking. Powerless to avoid the burden, one comes to believe that this is the way it is supposed to be, that this is the kind of person one really is.
Typically, a child that takes on this role will engage in relationships with others in school and in play that reinforces the patterns.
“Thus the problem of powerlessness subtly works its way through the life of an individual. One may even go so far as to choose – if that is the right word, for it is surely and unconscious choice – to have relationships only with weak or wounded persons so that the template of care-giving is served.” [Hollis, The Eden Project, p. 25]
When one becomes of an age, one finds that one is being attracted to some young women, but not others. As I reached that age in high school, I found that my female friends as well as my male friends were the obviously wounded souls, those who were rejected by their peers – consciously and unconsciously rejected. Of course, I didn’t understand what was going on within me and within them; all I knew was that with these friends, I was important. I held their trust, their pain, their secrets without divulging anything from my own past. All that existed was the fact that I was there for them as I was for my siblings and my mother.
As a male leaves childhood and youth, there is usually also a time for leaving the home and his mother. However, regardless of the distance travelled from home, and mother, a male can never leave his mother-complex. The complex buries itself deep into the psyche, into the unconscious where it lays dormant. And when does it show up? Typically, when one falls in love. One finally meets that one special person who allows all the self-beliefs, conscious and unconscious, to be held by her, held unconsciously. Jung calls this the dance of projection and hooks, a dance that goes in both directions at the same time. One doesn’t fall in love by accident. Somehow, the psyche senses the presence of a psyche with which it can mate, that is, have a hook which is prepared to catch certain kinds of projects. A man needing to be in control, finds a woman who needs to be fathered. A man needing to be nurtured, finds a woman who needs to mother. It isn’t as simple as all of that – but then again, it is really that simple if one could just set aside thinking and the illusion that one is really in control of the self.
“Many therapists will recognize this common pattern in a relationship, a ballet of approach and avoidance, where one partner needs reassuring closeness and the other is more comfortable with distance. One draws close, seeking assurance, while the other, feeling invaded, draws back, raising the anxiety level of both. In the latter’s need for protective space is the desire to do what the child could not do, that is, keep the intrusive Other at bay and preserve a fragile psychic integrity.” [pp 25-26]
It sounds kind of messy. And I know from living this dance, that it is very messy indeed. At some point, someone has to wake up and see what is going on in the relationship. And when that happens, the relationship as it was, is no more. I quickly must say that it isn’t the end of the relationship, necessarily, it is the end of the relationship as an unconscious ballet of approach and retreat.
“. . . the capacity to suffer wounding and learn to adapt to it is crucial to the development of self. . . We have wounds, and the clusters of energy that accompany them, because we have a life history. The deeper question is whether we have the wounds or they have us.” [Hollis, The Eden Project. p. 21]
The wounding – are we victims of our woundings; or, do we use these woundings to craft the unique individual we are?
So, getting back to my own story which is not so unique as all men have a story that includes a mother-complex, it is important to note that how a man is wounded has a huge impact on how one responds to life and to relationships to life, particularly to the women in our lives. Our mother-complexes exist because we have parental imagos, that is, we all have images of parent – mother and father – regardless of ever having had a particular relationship with one’s unique biological parents. Present or absent, a relationship exists within the psyche. Positive or negative experience, presence or absence, too muchness or not enoughness – all help to colour that image we unconsciously build of parent and of our future relationships to both men and women.
“Children are driven unconsciously in a direction that is intended to compensate for everything that was left unfulfilled in the lives of their parents.” [Jung, CW 17, par 328]
To understand the unconscious image we build of mother and father, we not only include our experiences, but as Jung tells us. we have all the unconscious inheritances of those images within those we engage in familial relationships. The unlived lives of parents influence their way of being with their children. All this and more all mixes together in an unconscious mess, a shadow image that becomes our foundation for what it is to be mother and father. As well, it serves to create the roadmap for relationship.
My story of being a child to a woman who was also wounded as were her parents allows me, at this point in my life to understand and accept better the wounds inflicted unconsciously. That said, I was a child.
“If I have found myself essentially powerless against the Other, and what child has not, then how am I to comport myself in order to manage this distress? If I have routinely been invaded by abuse, verbal, emotional, sexual, or have more commonly been at the mercy of the moods and emotional vagaries of the parent, so I am inclined to identify with the Other.” [Hollis, p. 23]
Identifying with the Other, in my case my mother. James Hollis, in his book, The Eden Project, exposes the raw truths and how response to wounding makes its way into relationships and life in general. With abuse, one either learns to be controlling or to be pleasing. I fell into the pleasing mode of managing my response to abuse.
“Since the child felt powerless in the face of the Other who was yet the source of well-being, so it learns to be pleasing, to be mollifying or overly responsible for the well being of others. What is called co-dependence is one such anxiety management strategy. If I am responsive to the needs of the Other, the, possibly, the Other might be there for me. “ [Hollis, p. 24]
As I read these words, I was shocked. How had Hollis got inside my head? These words exposed me, left me feeling naked and vulnerable. I thought, “Now everyone will know the truth about me, that I am a defect, not really a caring person at all, but someone who acts this way simply to keep the darkness of abuse barricaded. As the eldest child, I was the one who brothers and sisters would go to for help. I became the alter parent. I took care of my mother’s needs and found that what I did was never enough as more and more was needed. As an adult I became the trusted “go-to” teacher, the one to whom others would tell their sad tales knowing that I cared and would support them. I was the mediator between students, between staff and even for others in the community. I took it all on yet somehow knew that it was never enough. My childhood survival tactics translated into the tactics that I would use as an adult. And, as to be discovered in another post, into the tactics that I would bring to relationship to the woman who became my Magical Other.”
Grow up! Stop being a two-year old! Stop being such a baby! Be a man! What kind of man are you? Stop asking my permission! Grow some balls!
Before I even begin to write this blog post, I realise that it will take quite a bit of space and time to get it all said. After the last post, about the need to be authentic and transparent, I know that this is one area that I need to stop avoiding. Every man who has ever been in a relationship, if that man is honest with himself, knows that his partner is more than just a physical person. I am married, yet at times I become a child with my wife. Consciously I know she is my wife and that I am enjoying her physical and psychological presence as my wife, as my love-mate. Yet there are things going on beneath the surface that we both become dimly aware of – something uncomfortable lurking beneath the surface. And we may or may not give voice to what we sense. My wife has no problem telling me that I leave her feeling as if she is my mother rather than my wife at times. that I have, at least for a moment, become a child. At times I hear her call me Papa, moments where I am a dependable authority who will make the good decisions needed for the questions that are ready to be asked. Both of us shift out of our relationship as husband and wife, and become mother and father and for the most part, we are unaware that it has even happened. And truth be told, we both vehemently deny the appearance of the inner child into our relationship with each other. In other words, we are normal people in a relationship, not unlike every other relationship that exists in some fashion.
What has appeared for both of us, are complexes; a mother complex for me and a father complex for her. We all have complexes and they almost always show up in our relationships with people; intimate relationships, friend relationships, work relationships, community relationships. Whenever we find ourselves reacting with energy to another person, a complex has been activated. There are all manner of complexes that lurk beneath the conscious surface. But rather than try to list most of them here, I want to focus on just one, the mother complex. Why this complex and not a different complex? Well, it is this complex that is messing up quite bit of my psychic life – and actively since the death of my mother just over a year ago. With that said, it’s time to begin.
Before there comes into being, a mother complex, there is something beyond our personal experience of mother. Of course there is the instinct of mothering in each woman and of being mothered, by all infants. The role seems to exist outside of the limits of any one, single female. C.G. Jung called this bigger than life mother, the Archetypal Mother. It is the psychic source from which each woman takes her turn, should life allow, at being a mother whether it is intentional or not. Even women who never bare children slip into the role of mother, sometimes consciously, most times unconsciously, during her life. Every child exists because there is a mother. So much for the background of the mother archetype. If you want a fuller understanding, the pdf that is linked above will likely provide enough before heading into the depths of Jung’s work for a more complete understanding. It is enough for now to say that in spite of the reality of my biological mother, there is/was more going on within me which has made its way into my relationships.
Daryl Sharp, in his book, Getting To Know You, takes some time to explain how complexes such as the Mother Complex, limit our ability to relate to another person.
“To the extent that we’re still unconscious of ourselves, so we are limited in our ability to relate psychologically to another person.
Let me put it another way: whatever aspects of ourselves we’re not conscious of, we’re apt to see in someone else. The question is, are we then relating to that person at all, or to an unconscious side of ourselves?” [Sharp, p. 29]
There is so much more to say, but I have to be patient and approach this without trying to say it all at once. But before I leave today’s post, I want to end with some words from Jung, words which will serve as a direction sign post for where this will take me, as well as where I have already been.
“Complexes interfere with the intentions of the will and disturb the conscious performance; they produce disturbances of memory and blockages in the flow of associations; they appear and disappear according to their own laws; they can temporarily obsess consciousness, or influence speech and action in an unconscious way. In a word, complexes behave like independent beings.” [Jung, CW Volume 8, par. 253]
“One has no right to talk about the last stage until he has accomplished the second one. One has no right to talk about the oneness of the universe until he is aware of its separateness and duality.” [Johnson, He, p. 8]
The second stage, the “imperfection of middle life” stage is where most of us get stuck and stuck hard. I have met a number of people holding all manner of belief systems that claim they are well into the third stage of enlightenment, people for the most part much younger than I am. I don’t mean to be judgemental, but most of these people are grasping and squeezing the rituals and the status of “enlightenment” that is awarded by participation in a particular belief system such as Ascendant Masters, Scientologists, Mystics, and so on. The New Age movement is rife with all sorts of esoteric belief systems that promise a way out of the messiness and discomfort of the imperfection of middle life.
To be honest, I can’t lay this all on the New Age movement for fundamentalist religious participation promises the same thing, promises enlightenment if one suspends all critical thinking and accepts the theology of the particular religion as the “Word of God.” And if one begins to doubt, the community of faith will rally around and pray for one to regain certainty, total and complete trust in the faith. One learns to deny one’s inner doubts, one’s own questions and even the stirrings of one’s own body. One learns to deny self, to deny the authority of self, to deny the evidence of the senses. And in that embracing of denial, one becomes a fanatic claiming enlightenment through faith and with that enlightenment, power. Men who gravitate to fundamentalism become blind to themselves as they cast their shadow and the shadow of their chosen people onto others who have not embraced their faith.
Our human history is a sordid, violent and angry history made by men who step into the role of the enlightened without having dealt with their personal imperfections. We have fought wars with God on our side, feeling justified in committing any and all dark behaviours on the heathens, on those who by definition of not being enlightened, are the mindless peasants and minions of the devil, of Satan.
For a man, even in our modern and more liberal societies, becoming aware of the dual nature of being a man, the dual nature of the universe as he sees and senses; and then accepting that dual nature which in turn changes his behaviour, even his manner of being present in the world – life becomes more problematical in relation to these fundamentalist groups be they religions or New Age movements. As a man becomes aware of his inner feminine, his manner of relating to the world is altered. He becomes a bit softer and gentler. Now a soft and gentle man becomes a target for those who feel threatened. Men feel their own masculinity being threatened, often seeing that softness and gentleness as signs of homosexuality. Women who are in relationships with these soft and gentle men feel their space being invaded and even their security being threatened – who will then protect and provide for them if their man stops being manly?
Yet, as Johnson points out, there is no way to enlightenment that does not cross completely through the messiness and complexity of middle life. One must abandon the blind obedience to dogma, to any given philosophy in order to be able to wrestle the demons of his inner darkness to a draw, to find balance between the darkness and light, to find that space between breaths – the field of true enlightenment.
One of the hardest things that I am forced to confront about my ego self is a tendency to be stubborn and hold onto things and ideas as if they were carved in concrete. Growing older, my body is telling me just how absurd this is.
“. . . there is a widespread notion that the ancient Gods can provide models of identity and sexuality for boys and men, while the Goddesses provide such models for women and girls. The origins of the notion are obvious: the Gods are felt to be masculine archetypal essences that have a bearing on males, while the Goddesses represent feminine styles appropriate for women. However, this simple equation is mistaken, mainly because the Gods and Goddesses represent metaphorical possibilities within the human psyche, and cannot be neatly parcelled out to this or that gender. The masculinity of the Gods and the femininity of the Goddesses must not be equated with the maleness of men and the femaleness of women. To make such an equation is to engage in concrete or literal thinking . . .” [Tacey, Remaking Men, p. 22]
As I grow older, I am engaging more in the feminine aspects of who I am under my skin that is lined with wrinkles and creases that accumulate as I age. It isn’t so easy for me to maintain the certainty of my masculinity though there is no disputing my maleness. It wasn’t that long ago that I truly did look only to the ancient Gods in my attempts to understand my self. Thanks to all the Gods and Goddesses for waking me up and coming to understand that all of you are buried somewhere in the shadowy spaces within my psyche
“Every relationship has its particular dignity. There is no such thing as an unworthy love or one to be ashamed of, because each experience corresponds to a profound individual need. And if and when it ends there is nothing to regret, because at that particular time the loved one filled our emptiness, no matter what happened next.” [Carotenuto, Eros and Pathos, p. 33]
These are powerful words, words that heal where often we use words that attack the self or other due to feelings of present discord within a relationship. There is no such thing as unworthy love. What we have a hard time understanding that love doesn’t owe us anything other than the experience. We need to learn to accept the gift of love whether it is for a short time or for decades. And, when that gift of love has disappeared into some other place leaving us alone with ourselves in spite of the presence or non-presence of the one with whom we shared love, we need to say thank you for that time of love rather than engage in interpersonal warfare.
As I walked the beach earlier today, I looked at the people along the way. Most were couples; most of those couples were men and women. It was easy to spot those who were in love and those who were in hate. The rest in the middle ground were for the most part, more into themselves than their partners, but not oblivious of their presence. Most of these others were obviously couples well used to each other’s presence.
I have to admit that both my wife and I are still filling our empty spaces with each other. In spite of more than forty years together, the well hasn’t run dry and there is no taking each other for granted. Not unlike young lovers caught in the throes of Eros, of Cupid’s arrows, we need to see each other and be close enough for touch when the need for contact presents itself. In absence of each other’s presence, we are left holding onto something empty.
And when the need for the Other is no longer necessary, when the holes are filled by whatever love was needed and offered? What then?
I took this photo yesterday evening from the roof top of the condo building in which I am staying until Sunday. The woman in the photo is my wife. We had made the journey to the roof for the specific purpose of taking sunset photos. I have been taking sunset photos that have both her and the sun in a spiritual dialogue. Of course, just saying this is a projective statement on my part. Still, there were no words spoken about poses – this was what appeared before my eyes and then camera lens.
As I have mentioned, perhaps too many times, all relationships are influenced by projections. Since no one is ever completely conscious, unconscious aspects of both one’s self and the Other make their appearance and inject their energy into the relationship. I can only know so much about myself, more than my wife knows about me. Yet, she does know things about me that I am unconscious of – my blind self. The reverse is true when it comes to what she knows of her “self” and of me. This makes for some interesting interactions over the years. As I age and change, change due to becoming more conscious as well as older in physical terms, and as she changes due to becoming more conscious and getting older; we find ourselves frequently encountering a stranger. Past patterns shift and new patterns emerge.
As consciousness shifts, increases due to unconscious contents being brought into the light, one chooses new ways of being and interacting with the world at large and with significant others, even Magical Others. Well, perhaps using the word “chooses” is a bit of a stretch. In truth, a new unconscious face appears, new triggers are activated, new hooks engaged and one either falls in love again, or one is left empty wondering where love has gone. I have been lucky – we have been lucky. Somehow, the constantly shifting unconscious continues to keep us enthralled with each other in spite of more than forty years together. Well, perhaps “lucky” is a lose term to use as we all learn that “love hurts” as much as it gifts us with wonder.
I am halfway through my stay in Playa del Carmen and somehow I haven’t seem to be able to find time, motivation or energy to approach this blog site. I could blame the Internet connection which is ver-r-r-r-r-y slow and sometime non-existent in spite of the fact that the connection utility tells me I am connected with five bars of signal strength, the highest. I could blame Internet, but that wouldn’t be telling the truth. Something else is activated (or not activated that should be) within me, something that has had me in disconnect mode, or perhaps in retreat mode. Even my daily meditation has been affected with me missing meditation practice for the first three days here. I have been somehow been perched on a high-wire balancing between going forward, going backward, or simply falling off the wire. Hopefully the stalemate has passed and I can once again follow my path through the days of my life with less high-wire balancing tension.
I guess it is enough just to be aware that this is my condition at the present.
“Being conscious is not a question of IQ. It has very little to do with how smart we are, or the accumulation of knowledge- how much we know. It’s a completely subjective phenomenon. It depends on how much we know about ourselves.” [Sharp, Getting to Know You, p. 27]
“The first touch of consciousness in a youth appears as a wound or as suffering.” [Johnson, He, p. 7]
Wounding is not something new. It is impossible to move through childhood and youth without being wounded. Even those with safe, loving and nurturing environments are wounded. The wounding isn’t necessarily due to abuse – physical, emotional, mental, sexual, psychological. In spite of all the types of abuse that make the news, everyone suffers the wounding of loss – the loss of innocence that comes with consciousness, that shift from childhood to adult through adolescence.
The arrival of consciousness at the cost of innocence. Typically this loss comes with adolescence where the body physically changes from child to a reproductive being. Testes enlarge, pubic hair emerges, the voice deepens, the penis takes on a curious life of its own often embarrassing the adolescent male. The shift from childhood isn’t the wound though. The wound is heralded by this shift.
“Most western men are Fisher Kings. Every boy has naively blundered into something too big for him. He proceeds halfway through his masculine development and then drops it as being too hot. Often a certain bitterness arises, because, like the Fisher King, he can neither live with the new consciousness he has touched nor can he entirely drop it.” [pp 7-8]
Like all other young males, I was wounded. I lost my sense of magic, of fantasy and fairy tale and childhood innocence. One day I am a child, and then the wounding leaves me a broken man in spite of the fact that I was only ten years old. I had been wounded sexually, physically and emotionally before I was ten, but those woundings were visited upon me when I was a child, and they didn’t change the fact that I was still a child after the abuse. The wounding means that childhood has come to an end.
It isn’t important that I detail my wounding. What is important is that I am aware of that wounding and what I do about it. I know what I did for the years following the wounding, years which I denied my wounding, buried it beneath layer upon layer of banishment.
“It is painful to watch a young man realize that the world is not just joy and happiness, to watch the disintegration of his childlike beauty, faith and optimism. It is regrettable but necessary – if we are not cast out of the Garden of Eden, there can be no Heavenly Jerusalem.” [p. 8]
Necessary? Yes, necessary. It doesn’t really matter how one is wounded, but it is necessary for wounding to happen. Otherwise, we would never leave childhood and become adult men and women. Now, I can understand this without becoming consumed by bitterness. I do understand that the wounding did force me to take a road away from my home in the years that followed the wounding. And like Parsifal, I went in search of my Holy Grail.
With that said, I take leave for now and pledge to return with more words of wounding, and becoming a man as a result of the wounding.