Archive for the ‘father’ tag
This is a spring that emerges from underground on my eldest daughter’s land in Alberta. Sometimes it is hard to understand that what appears on the surface is but a fraction of the full reality of one’s life and the life of our planet. Flowing beneath the surface of the land are streams and rivers as well as lakes. Sometimes the water finds its way to the surface as in this photo, to then carve its way through the external world. Also found on the land are sinkholes which appear as normal bits of ground, an illusion as to inadvertently step on one of these spots is to risk disappearing very rapidly into a vicious soup of mud, being swallowed into the belly of the earth with no chance of escape.
Underground water is of course symbolic for me, symbolizing the unconscious making its entrance into my life. Most times I am not aware of the outbreak of unconscious as I unconsciously project this outbreak onto others. I get angry with government and organisations, or I get frustrated with a person with whom there was no previous frustration even though that person hasn’t changed behaviours or attitudes. Sometimes I become aware because I am learning to look at how I am in relation to the world. When I sense (after the fact) that I have been caught in some field of energy that brought out frustration, anger or fantasy, I begin to dig deeper and try to own the feelings as being more about my own stuff.
Dreams are another way that the unconscious bubbles to the surface of my awareness. And as in working at taking back projections, the work of digging through the dreams becomes important to the process of becoming more conscious. Like everyone else, I only become more conscious when I turn the light onto what was hidden beneath the surface in darkness. And like other people, I want to ignore the existence of that darkness, the shadow side of who I am. As I wrote these words, a song came to my mind – “Mama Told Me Not To Come,” by Three Dog Night, especially these words: “Don’t turn on the lights, ’cause I don’t want to see.“
I found that the title of the song “fit” as the Great Mother is about earth, water and the depths. The Mother doesn’t demand anything from us in terms of becoming conscious, she demands only that we return to her womb. It is the Father, who calls us to the light of the sun, to consciousness. The ideal is to marry the two rather than to be swallowed in the unconscious or to be burnt like some Icarus flying too close to the sun, a holy marriage. Of course, that means I have a lot of work to do in turning on the lights as I find the various light switches hidden in the darkness of the inner, unconscious world.
A different river scene for today as I continue on with river photos. This photo was taken in February, 2011 while I was in IndoChina for a month. I was entranced by the light on the water as it created a “crystal” effect. In the photo, the family of mother and her four children appear so small though they are at the centre of the image. Theirs is a life on the river which feeds them. Where is the father? One can only imagine that the father has some sort of employment that allows the family something more than a subsistence living. In this image he is absent.
Men, as fathers, are often absent in the lives of their children, and that has a powerful affect on the children. A good father in today’s world will find that he gets to be fully present for a couple of hours each day once travel to and from work as well as the hours spent at work are removed from the hours that children are awake. This presents a problem for children. Boys don’t learn enough about how to be a man in the world with the absence of the father, especially if most of the waking hours are spent in the presence of women such as mother and teachers. In the case of fathers who do not take an active presence in the lives of the children, both male and female children suffer wounds of abandonment. Boys suffer more than girls as girls still have the model of mother to show them the pathway to womanhood.
But almost more important than the absence of father is the absence of modelling of relationship, intimate relationship between husband and wife. Both male and female children suffer the same lack modelling behaviour. What they learn is that “mother” is self-sufficient and can do the role of parenting alone, that a man is not needed, perhaps even superfluous. What they learn is that “father” is untrustworthy, undependable, selfish, uncaring. Of course, there is more to a relationship between a man and a woman that the children do not see, do not experience. Children, with their ego-centric thinking and experiencing of the world with the delusion that they, believe they are responsible for all things going wrong in the world around them because of something they did, thought or failed to do = magical thinking of a child. And so they build in small strategies to keep fear at bay, to control the world (adults) around them in order to somehow stay safe. These little strategies become life scripts which influence their life and relationship patterns once they become adults. The more effort needed to feel safe as a child, the greater the dysfunction will be in adulthood.
As a parent, one must guard against overwhelming a child with “too much” or “too little” as both will result in a child being “overwhelmed” and thus feeling unsafe as though drowning in affect. I know, it is easier said and than done.
I will begin with a comment about the guest photographer, my wife. At times she does get to pry the camera from my hands in order to prove to the family and our friends that I was indeed part of the event or activity or touring. Today’s post has three of her photos taken in recent days with the subject being Grandfather and Grandson. I have one son and he has one son and the three of us are very, very close to each other.
Since our arrival in Toronto, I have been able to spend a good amount of time with this little man, building a relationship that hopefully will grow and deepen. Of my two grandfathers, my paternal grandfather stands out as being “closest” to me. For whatever reason, the maternal grandfather didn’t seem as close. That said, given the time and history of both families, I accepted the reality of the way it was.
For my grandchildren, six grandsons, I hope they will remember a closer grandfather, one though often distant in geography is still a man who values them as individuals. All six grandsons don’t hesitate to hug and kiss their “Papa-Père” or to just hang out together on a floor building with Legos, playing road hockey, wandering through the tall grass, hiking in the hills, chatting around a campfire in the back yard, or just rough-housing. Guy time is important between a grandfather and grandsons.
The relationship between father and son, as well as grandfather and grandson, is a powerful masculine relationship regardless of how little or how much time and energies are invested in the relationship. My son continues to communicate, almost daily, with me whether I am in a different province in Canada or in a different country thanks to social media and the Internet. There is no fear of approaching matters of depth or in trust. My son reads the words I place here and I am fully aware of that as I compose my posts here. But knowing that doesn’t have me hold back in my posting. If anything, the fact that my children read this forces me to be honest.
And that is what is most important for me, to live and write with authenticity. I don’t think there is such a thing as a perfect father as we are all wounded, all caught up in our individual battles with personal shadows. My three children know that I am fallible, that I have my personal issues which naturally have affected their lives. Yet somehow, being honest has not created distance, but has somehow allowed me to be more myself with them. And, in my opinion, that relationship is richer because of the honest, the messiness and the willingness to be present with each other.
While in the Mekong Delta region of Vietnam, I happened to go walking down a narrow trail passed a number of small country homes and tiny fields. The scene was distant from any city and a few kilometres from a small town. As I wandered down the trail I met a few people such as these two women who were busy with the collection of banana leaves which were to be used as food wrap as well as serving platters for meals that were predominantly based on rice which was being grown not too far from this site. The young woman seemed pleased to see me here in the Mekong jungle and even more pleased that I wanted to take her photo. In my imagination, I could almost see her reaching out with her eyes as though to wish me to her, to be a magical other – of course, only in my imagination. The real smile she gave has nothing to do with the magical other. I wonder at how Asians view the idea of a “Magical Other.”
The fantasy of the magical other finds its roots in archetype, the archetype of the parent, a Primal Other. Here are a few words from James Hollis to illustrate this idea:
“Our first experience of ourselves is in relationship to these Primal Others, usually mother or father. Consciousness itself arises out of that splitting of the primal participation mystique which characterizes the infant’s sensibility. The paradigms for self, for Other, and the transactions between, are formed from these earliest experiences. They are hard-wired into our neurological and emotional networks.” (Hollis, The Eden Project, p. 37)
Somehow, this seems to be something very important in trying to understand the idea of Magical Other, a soulmate, or love at first sight. Perhaps it is at this moment one is wired to being attracted to one gender or another. One searches for the safe container in which to find the courage to be self. Many, if not most “marriages” are born of the attraction to the Magical Other.
The stranger with whom one falls in love has power and a numinosity that is in reality too much for a human person to contain. As time passes and the bumps and bruises of relationship teach us the mortal nature of this human, we feel loss and sadness. The grieving over the loss of the Magical Other takes one through anger and the other stages of grief until we come to accept the real person with whom we have coupled, that is if one persists long enough to go through the stages. Many cannot get passed the anger and turn away from this stranger who has betrayed us, lied to us. Too late we come to realise that it is we who have lied to ourselves.
For those that survive the grieving, there is a comfort and a discomfort with what remains. We are comforted that the other, not so magical anymore, has taken on our need for sanctuary and willingly works at meeting the needs for love, security, acceptance. Each becomes lover, friend, child and parent to the other. Listen to the words and you will perhaps hear from those long married, the words Ma, Pa, Mother, Father, Mom, Dad – I hear myself addressed with different tones and different words, including Papa. Again, James Hollis has words for us:
“Such phenomena suggest that the original attraction to the partner was in great part guided by the parental imago. That unconscious image is projected onto potential partners until someone comes along who can catch it and hold it.” (ibid)
I wonder if this parental imago is not simply the replacement of one’s biological parent, but potentially the missing parent whether that absent mother or father was physically absent or emotionally absent? I must remember that is more than the personal parent, but the archetypal parent that is being sought in the Magical Other.
I went to my photo archives for this photo. It wasn’t until after going through the archives for photos taken four years ago on this day, and selecting this photo that I made a connection with something that was hidden beneath the surface. Today is my eldest child’s birthday, a girl who is now mother to two boys. The first child changes one’s life in ways that one can never fully comprehend, a change that I don’t know can be ever understood at a visceral level by those who never have a child. Yet, for all the change that happens, one still remains “self.” It’s as though one simply walks through another inner doorway into another region of self, a place that has always been there.
Last night we went out to dinner at a new restaurant with our apartment neighbours where we met another couple, an American and his Chinese wife. During the evening conversation, I learned where they had bought a new apartment, a place not that far from our apartment. The photo I posted two days ago was taken not too far from their location. To get to their apartment, one has to cross two bridges over two canals. The photo above shows a bridge over the first canal that I cross when headed in that direction. Today that bridge is gone. Changes. Four years after the photo was taken, there is nothing that is the same at this location other than the fact that a canal is still present. Yet even the canal has changed. It has been dredged and a new wall has been built. The banks of the canal are now parkways, green spaces that edge high rise after high rise apartment buildings. The quality of life, from a materialistic point of view, has definitely improved for many Chinese people. But, at what cost?
I won’t answer that last question, it isn’t for me to answer as I would only be making statements based on almost no real objective information. That said, I can look at the images and see what “I” as a westerner have lost. Though I often focus on “self,” I know that I am part of a collective and that what is lost to the collective directly and indirectly impacts upon my “self.” The shift from the dirt and mud into a world of sculpted park has come at a cost. The loss of messiness is really a loss of gods, competing and complementing forces of the human soul.
“The banishment of the gods leads ultimately to a dreary, mechanistic universe. When the word spread throughout the ancient world that the great nature god Pan was dead, there was no rejoicing. He was replaced by the stern monotheistic gods of the Judeo-Christian-Islamic world, who were in turn replaced by the modern reigning deities of Positivism, Materialism, Hedonism, and most of all, the great god Progress. And so the world gets emptier and emptier, and the clients pile up in therapists’ offices, huddle fearfully in houses of ancestral worship, or numb out through television, drugs or even an obsessive preoccupation with health. The gods have hardly gone; they have simply gone underground, and they constantly resurface in the form of our various pathologies.” (Hollis, Mythologems, p. 89)
Here, in China, I can see this a lot more clearly. Religions and their gods really have no place here. China is racing towards modernism as fast as their newest trains which race from city to city at more than 300 kilometres per hour. There is no pretense – the gods of modernism are embraced with a will as all rush to get their small piece of “happiness.” And sitting here in China, I can more easily see those sitting back at home in Canada and the U.S.A. doing their part to get their small portions while wanting more as they didn’t get the promised happiness. The more that is owned, the more one is left empty. I don’t have answers. I only know that my soul is tired of being deceived and wants to find a home in this world. The home isn’t a place anymore, it is a way of being. And for me, that is the greatest change that has come out of midlife, a time where my children take their turns at being parents.
Christmas supper at my home in China was spent with a collection of expats. Gathered at the table were Americans, Australians, Canadians and a Japanese woman – each with a unique story, a unique gift of presence. The gift we give each other is the gathering together, becoming family for a few hours. At the table were three people that I had not met before and likely won’t see again except for chance meetings in the centre of the city. I say this because of the fact that we live quite a ways apart, at least and hour and a half by bus separates us. They needed a place to go to in order to feel a sense of “going home for Christmas,” and our door was open. Four of the guests at the table were colleagues from the university. And, sitting at the head of the table was my wife with her blond hair. The photo is just one of millions of such photos that were taken across the globe as people sat down with guests for a Christmas meal. And, one didn’t have to be a Christian to take part and feel at one with the others gathered at the tables all across this planet.
I often wonder what the reasons are that draw foreigners to China, especially those that come to teach. Very rarely are they teachers. The young ones come for adventure and a job. The older ones, perhaps a job because of the poor economy at home. The oldest, perhaps are looking for a way to make retirement an adventure without draining the retirement fund. One thing all have in common, a willingness to leave their “homes” and their “community,” and to live an individual life. But, is this living of an individual life about the “hero’s task?”
” . . . the personal hero task, the task of becoming whomever the gods intended, not what the ego desires, benefits the culture ultimately through providing it with more differentiated values, more unique contributions to the collective.” (Hollis, Mythologems, p. 68)
Of course, I can’t be the arbiter and judge for each of those who came to my home, nor do I want to be the judge. All I can do is look to my self and ask my self the question of whether or not I am authentically engaged in my “personal hero task.” If I am truly “individuating,” that is, living my hero task as defined by C.G. Jung, Joseph Campbell, and by James Hollis; then, I am giving gifts to those around me through the values that I am growing into and living. These are my unintentional Christmas gifts to others.
Merry Christmas, Joyeux Noël, Féliz Navidad, Frohe Weihnachten, Shèngdàn Jié Kuàilè to all who read here and who find some value in the archetypes of Father, Mother and Child.
“Each of us has a so-called masculine task, and each of us has a so-called feminine task. If our minds call up too literal a picture of these tasks, we may be ensnared either in imitation or adolescent rebellion. If we see them as the twin embodiments of life’s forms and dynamisms, we gain an enormous sense of the archetypal task before us. Our summons is both to be and to do; it is to nurture and to define; it is to be at home and to journey. If historically these energies and these tasks were delimited to specific genders, then everyone suffered an oppression of some vital part of themselves. Still, even for those who live in a deconstructionist age and can discern the mark of local time and place on such categories as gender, the ancient tasks remain to be lived in their timeless ways. (Hollis, Mythologems, pp 56-57)
Perhaps you can already see why I chose this photo for this post now that you have read the quote from Hollis. There is differentiation between the masculine and the feminine, but both come from the same root, the same source. Like these two leaves on a tree, separate but with neither able to exist without the source tree rooted in an even larger field, the archetypes exist separately within us individually and within us as a species. If anything, the archetypes are what have inspired us to be more than just another animal species that simply exist to procreate and keep the species from extinction.
The question of “WHY?” has always haunted me. From the early years of my life I have been on a journey of finding meaning an purpose for my own existence. Of course that has often had me ask the same question about the human race as a collective. ”Why? Why do we even exist?” Are we here, as biological entities in a drama of life and death that has the singular task of ensuring that future generations will come to be present? Is right and wrong only a question of what will allow survival of the individual and the species? I have never found an answer in the outer world regardless of how many courses, certificates, degrees or diplomas I have amassed. No answers came from books or from asking anyone who would sit still long enough to hear the questions.
Yet, when I finally dared to listen to an almost inaudible voice that came from something, someplace that was just outside of reality as I knew it, I began to sense there were answers. Or perhaps, better questions to be asked. Turning to inner spaces, to inner urges, I began to accept that all wasn’t to be found in the outer world. And so began a journey that I still find myself following. My dreams, and the resonances that ring within me through the voices of others let me know that there is more than just being and doing as a human animal. I am pulled into being and doing that demands more from me. For me, it is about becoming “whole” through acknowledging the vast unknown world of psyche and soul.
The journey has me battle the Great Mother and the Great Father, not so that I defeat these, but so that I can come to terms that their authority is my authority, that I am both of them. That knowledge doesn’t mean that I have more power over others, but that I am not a victim of my own darkness. At some point I will learn to love unconditionally – love myself and others. At some point the gymnastics of trying to bend myself out of shape or trying to bend others to fit my needs will be abandoned allowing me to be at ease with myself and with others. This is my archetypal task.
A different photo of the moon for today’s post, this time in colour. If anyone is interested, the site is actually a different location. Yesterday’s post’s photo was taken in Hong Mei Park. Today’s photo was taken in front of the Tianning Buddhist Temple in Changzhou. Why another photo of the moon? Well, I don’t know if I have a good reason other than I am drawn to the moon as though being drawn into love, into desire. I want to be the man in the moon at times, enclosed and consumed by the moon. I want to return to a place that I don’t remember, but somehow know none-the-less. That is the pull of the mother, the desire to return to the womb, to possess and be possessed in turn. Of course, all of this is projection and I know it, at least on one level, the personal level. The archetypal level? Well, that is another story.
As I learn more, I begin to see how my relationships with others are all shaded by the archetypes of Mother and Father. Falling in love with a person is normal, but who is that person we see when we fall into love? No human can contain all of the image, all of the projections that flow from me to be caught (or not) on the hooks that await. The same can be said for hate. The intensity of both hate and love are too expansive for the container of a personal other. Yet, in spite of the reality of the other, their flaws or their perfections, we load the scales so that balance is gone. Rationality disappears and we are left with the affect of either love or hate within. And the other? Confused, bemused, angered, frustrated, awed . . . Thus the power of archetypes blind us to the prosaic world of ordinary humans.
“As we live our lives through projections, we are not unlike a person stumbling through a haunted house, brushing the cobwebs away, never being able to see or discern clearly. Even when we are aware of some etiological influence, the staying power of such energy is immense.” (Hollis, Mythologems, p. 50)
How do I know that I am engaging in projection? Well, it is only after the fact that I can have some sort of idea. When my head is back on earth and I have recovered from the intensity of some interaction with an other person, or persons, I examine myself rather than the other person. In the heated moment, what I said and did more than likely came from something within myself. What does it say? I don’t mean to say that others don’t push buttons, deliberately, but it is the buttons I am talking about, not the person doing the pushing. When a button is pushed and a reaction follows, that reaction is almost always a projection. And the roots of the projections is invariably rooted in an archetype.
This is Michael, the class monitor of one of my sophomore classes in College of Commerce at C.I.T. With exams happening next week, I decided to allow the class to have their Christmas party this week. There is no question about authority in this classroom or any other classroom in a Chinese university. Authority lies with the teacher. At the peer level in every class, the class monitor holds authority, and with it responsibility for his or her class peers. Michael has the authority but doesn’t wield it with vigour. Of all of my students, Michael has a good sense of self. It’s as though he doesn’t need to demonstrate his authority over others. However, this is not the case with most of the other students, even those who are monitors in other classrooms. Again, I have come to the issue of authority, an issue that dwells within the activation of the Father archetype. My students are the typical angst-driven youth found throughout the world.
“The angst-driven search for external authority through fundamentalism is a flight from personal growth and development, an abdication of the summons to individual life.” (Hollis, Mythologems, p. 48)
Here lies the source of the zealotry that is channeled by groups throughout many, if not most societies. You need a human sacrifice for the sake of religion, someone to strap bombs to their body and become a human torch? Look to these youth. You need front-line fodder to take the brunt of any battle? Again, look to these youth. But it isn’t just the youth who embrace the answers found in fundamentalism, there are many in midlife who yearn for someone to take control, to take the burden of responsibility away from them, to give them answers to questions they are afraid to ask.
But in Michael’s case, it is a matter of revolt, a small revolt to be sure, but a revolt none-the-less. He is carving his own authority based on his individual nature, not an authority bestowed by a higher authority.
“. . . revolts against authority are the only way in which a new authority may be found. It begins with a child learning to keep something secret, to protect some part of the psyche which needs security and solitude in order to live. It takes form in the many experiments of the child, in the revolt of adolescence, in the need to move out of the house. And when these separations are not achieved, the vitality of the personality is sapped,, the life which is meant to flourish withers. No matter what security is offered by staying on the home range, within the protection of a perceived authority, the gift of the developed person to the world is denied through this failure of individuation.” (Hollis, p. 47)
These words make one think, and think hard. Where have I caved in to external authority? I don’t mean an authority based on employer/employee, necessarily. I mean the authority which takes responsibility away and lays it in the hands of an “other” – perhaps one’s wife or husband, perhaps one’s spiritual advisor in whatever church one subscribes, perhaps the authority of a political viewpoint and its leadership. Do I dare answer my own question? To acknowledge the truth would force me to then do something or . . . . .
Today’s photo could be considered “flawed” because of the over exposure at the top. But, it serves a purpose for me because of the excessive light from the sun. Light. Consciousness. Having taught developmental psychology for a number of years, I can’t help but think of that journey of development from the pre-natal waters in darkness, to the bloom of full adulthood when one is standing tall in the light, tall and proud. It is a long journey that is all uphill. But, like this photo, once one has crested the bridge of life, it is necessary to descend, to move back toward the darkness, towards death where human consciousness is no longer.
I want this post to focus on the high point of the bridge. If one looks into the water, into the reflections of consciousness in the body of the collective and personal unconscious, one sees what is not evident above the water, above the bridge. One sees that the self that walks this bridge, must go over the sun, go over the father in order to become a full adult. It’s about becoming the authority over one’s self rather than allowing one’s self to be the subject of the authority of others, especially one’s personal father, or the collective father represented in one’s community, one’s country, one’s religion.
“Also associated with the father imago is the issue of authority. By whose authority do we live our lives, make our decisions, practice our professions, conduct our journeys? Authority as concept is neutral; in praxis it is always valenced. Any authority, no matter how benign an well-intentioned, can exclude its opposite and over time become oppressive. No child can ever wholly evolve into his or her own truth without finding an authentic inner authority. For this reason, the individuation process obliges some form of overthrow of the external authority, whether modeled by the personal parent, the broader culture, or the resident tribal deity.” (Hollis, Mythologems, p. 47)
As one grows up, one discovers self as a separate being. One also discovers that one is helpless at first and must depend upon the Mother and the Father. The original power of these two figures are grounded as archetypes into our very soul. The Mother as nurturer and as the source of life. The Father as authority and the energy of life. The task of growing up leads us to overthrow their authority. Rather than to have one’s father’s voice echo in one’s head and heart guiding all of one’s decisions, one must become the authority. One shifts from being the child to the adult, from being the “subject” to the ruler. One shifts from being a member of a church to being at one with deity, to finding that there is no separation between self and deity.
It’s a long journey, not an easy one. It is a journey that leaves one alone in so many ways. Individuation. And when one has completed the journey, one returns to being at one with others seeing that there is no real separation between self and other as all are part of the whole.