Archive for the ‘fear’ tag
Today’s photo is different from the usual fare offered here. The photo was taken with my camera while my wife and I were on stage with our students, singing. Sometimes it is important to simply “play.” I use music as part of my teaching of English as a second language. It is about motivation, authentic language and having fun. This is vital as I found out yesterday when one of these students asked me if the end of the world was near. The fears are high with all of the events of the past two weeks. The question was asked in terms of the often heard end of the world talk surrounding the Mayan calendar.
My response? Well, I have to admit that I don’t believe in any of these predictions. Life happens, shit happens, babies are born, people die, people play. I don’t hold with an exterior dark and evil other that will wipe out humanity on a particular calendar date. For me, such beliefs are projections of the collective unconscious. Holding these beliefs is more about being defeated than being vitally alive. So, to answer the question of my response, I told them that it was superstition and was not truth or fact. With question period finished I taught them a new song, an exercise in listening to discover the words using only their ears. We play together and learn together knowing that there are too many days where learning and life will be painful.
This is a scene that I love to see over and over again when I go for a walk in Hong Mei Gong Yuan in ChangZhou. With the sun out and being in a “sunny” mood, it is easy to buy into the illusion created in the park, an illusion of a time and place that has existed only in the heart of the people, a place dreamed about and wished for as the people went about living in a world that never matched the illusion. But still, the illusion is taken as a reality of a golden era from the past and celebrated as “heritage.”
Ever curious, I wondered how this illusion would look from the other side. I know that there must be balance which has to lie somewhere between the two versions of reality. I think of myself when all is right in my world and the sun is shining and all of my needs have been met. At that point in time, there are no blemishes, no ugliness in the world. People smile and embrace me and I smile and embrace back. Yet, when I am in a depression, the world is dark and colour is almost non-existent. I am alone and the world looks a forbidding place that is ready to destroy me, to swallow me up.
When somewhere in the middle, I see both beauty and ugliness. The world is a shifting mass of conflicting colours and ideas. It is impossible to find right or wrong, the perfect good or the perfect evil. Yet, evil is present. But somehow, even in the evil there is goodness. And in the good, shadows are present. I think here of the world today where the Arab world is viewed with many different lenses with some seeing it as a dark pit of evil while others see it as the hope for a new world. I also think of America which is also viewed with so many different lenses which cast it in the role of demon and of angel. The truth is, somewhere in between.
Though knowing this, I am guilty of wanting perfection, wanting to be an angel of truth, deathly afraid of being a demon in disguise. Perhaps the greatest fear is being a nobody trapped in between, invisible to my self and others.
I took this photo in Hong Mei Gong Yuan, or Red Plum Park in ChangZhou, two days ago. Of course, it didn’t actually look like this, so cold almost lifeless. As I was cropping and trying to have the lanterns stand out with a bit of toggling of various editing options this version of reality appeared. As I played with the editing features, I realised that what was appearing before my eyes was also reality through a different lens, but reality none-the-less. Readers here might remember that I have commented about this idea of what is seen, in my August 24, 2010 post which talked about the lens through which we see the world. This post is about dreaming, a different world or reality.
I have been dreaming a lot recently. The trip to IndoChina in January and early February seems to have awakened something within that continues to give voice as well as images to the unconscious. The outer world seems to be mimicking the inner world as small voices are protesting their enforced silence. Even in Canada, the effort going into “silencing” has taken on an autocratic tone as if to deny the very existence of another way of knowing, another point of view.
Leaders are heroes to someone – and that part is sometimes hard to understand, especially when some of these leaders distort, lie, and manufacture realities that even a bit of consciousness would immediately recognise as false. How does the world ever allow a Hitler, a Gadhafi, a bin Laden, a Bush or minor league leaders such as Harper to have leadership? Fear is the first reason. These men all prey on the fears of the unwashed, the fear of the others who are the carriers of both personal and collective shadow. Here, I want to add Jung’s words to my post in hopes that you will understand what I am thinking/feeling at this time:
“Apart from the moral difficulty there is another danger which is not inconsiderable and may lead to complications, particularly with individuals who are pathologically inclined. This is the fact that the contents of the personal unconscious (i.e. the shadow) are indistinguishably merged with the archetypal contents of the collective unconscious and drag the latter with them when the shadow is brought into consciousness. This may exert an uncanny influence on the conscious mind; for activated archetypes have a disagreeable effect even – or should I say, particularly – on the most cold-blooded rationalist.” (Jung, CW 12, par. 38)
As I look at what is occurring around the world, where many ordinary people have somehow fallen out of the webs woven to keep them silent to the point of of refusing to hear their own conscience, their own souls, I see my own culpability. I see that I have also been a leader acting out of shadow – the leader of a classroom, the leader of a sports team, the leader of a family, the leader of a school – I see that rather than leading, I was being lead and that I believed I was a hero. Yes, there is a question of degree, but when one goes into the mind of each of those we now label as infamous, each of these men see themselves as heroes. At what point does one “wake up” from the delusions and reclaim “self” from the shadow?
This is what this image today is asking me. When will I wake up and acknowledge the shadow that is being denied? Of course, I don’t consciously know what I am denying, but at least I now have an idea that something is being blocked, something is feeling banished to an inner Dachau. Yes, this photo evokes the same response as when I watched Schindler’s List. Will I deny and watch the small signs of life be silenced? I hope not. It’s time for me to listen to the inner voice of self. It’s time for all of us to listen to the inner voice within each of us that is self and wake up and leave the power of the collective shadow, the belief in a leader that will save us, that will be our hero.
This little butterfly made its appearance at a lunch stop in the Cu Chi district, about fifteen minutes from the Cu Chi tunnels about an hour out of Ho Chi Minh. Its appearance reminds me just how fragile life is, just how ephemeral and brief one’s presence is in the larger picture. I have returned to my home in Changzhou and have already noted that the IndoChina experience is now just a set of images and emotions within me as well as images saved on my computer. Not being “there” anymore, I am confronted with being “here,” perpetually here. That sense of being always here is one that is not tied to a physical place, it is tied to being aware of “self.”
A few hours after taking this photo, I was watching a video shot in the late 60′s about the Vietnam/American war along with a larger group of Americans. About five minutes into the video, two of the American men had to turn away and even leave the room to sit outside. The scenes and the point-of-view of the video were too much to take for their sense of self. I am certain that these were vets who had returned to deal with the ghosts as part of their healing process. The other men in the room stayed and watched. These two men couldn’t. The ego was still too fragile.
American bombs are still detonating in rice fields and in the jungle areas, still killing Vietnamese citizens. Agent Orange is still finding victims both in America and in IndoChina. The flick of a switch and many people are exterminated, the decisions made in a distant board room and more are killed, collateral damage in the quest for control, for power, for money. It appears to be so easy to be blown away. The physical self is lucky to survive into old age.
But the fragility is not just about the human body. Perhaps our sense of self, our consciousness is even more fragile. How else can we explain the rush into hedonism, the looking into the bottoms of bottles hoping for a fog to make us forget or to stop feeling, the escape into pharmacological wonders – legal or illegal – that create alter realities? Many rush into religions, or into focused physical activity, or into fantasy worlds found in books and on the screen. Few are able to sit still with self. Any rare glimpse of self shows how tattered and fragile the self really is and that brings forward a fear of mortality.
Yet, when one dares to be still with self, a curious strength grows. One begins to recognise that self is larger than the body and the ego. And it is this knowledge that finds the true strength of the human soul.
I stopped at Hoi Van Pass en route to Hue from Da Nang this morning. There is no question in my mind that the clouds and darkness of the morning well suited the scene that met my eyes and heart. This image shows one of the defensive emplacements used by the forces of “good” versus the forces of “evil,” at least as it was experienced by those who manned this and similar bunkers during the Vietnam War, or as it is called in Vietnam, the American War. Seeing the terrain, I could almost feel the terror and the fear that must have been experienced by those waiting for the enemy, an enemy that didn’t want to play by the same rules of war.
“With no human consciousness to reflect themselves in, good and evil simply happen, or rather, there is no good and evil, but only a sequence of neutral events . . . ” (Jung, cited in Jung on Evil, p. 7)
Both sides seeing the other as enemy, as forces of evil. Both sides following orders trusting in their leadership. Both sides fighting with their god(s) on their side. There is no room for consciousness in a war.
Taken on an individual level, this image becomes more about how an single person feels surrounded by enemies, surrounded by the vast unknown that is, for the most part, out to get you. Each of us gains just enough consciousness to know that death lies around some corner in our future. We grasp at anything or anyone who promises us life. We huddle in collectives rather than venture into the dark unknown regions. We make ourselves victims of our own fear. And so, we remain unconscious of our own acts of unconscious, acts where we hurt others and hurt ourselves.
I went looking for a photo in my archives, one that would suggest presence under the ego-self, and I found this one of fish swimming in one of the pools of one of the many parks in Changzhou. The idea I have in mind is one of “acknowledging” that there is energy beneath the conscious surface of our lives. I think that most of us “fear” that which is hidden in the murky darkness that lies beneath our conscious awareness of self. That fear prevents most of us from “connecting” with that inner shadow world. Many of us look to something to divert our attention from the shadow-land; television, exercise, sex, eating, travelling, work, drugs, alcohol – the list is endless. The objective is to hone in on the “real” world and hope that the shadows and the figures in the shadow-land disappear as if just a bad dream, a nightmare. Yet, a few dare to turn around and look back into the shadows and acknowledge the energy that lurks there.
“. . . the great god Fear, a god who holds sway over many a soul. Who cannot identify this god will end by being governed by it unconsciously. . . . To personify the god is to acknowledge that it is not only powerful but that one can come into some sort of conscious relationship to it. The god Fear, unacknowledged becomes a tyrannical murderer. To personify the god brings the possibility of assimilating the contents into consciousness and thereby removing their demonic power. When a person is in the grips of the demonic, and the crowd reinforces that energy, the ordinary individual has little purchase on consciousness.” (Hollis, Mythologems, p. 96)
Over the past two days a new story has come out of Arizona, or rather an old story that has taken on a new look. The god, Fear, erupted into presence as a number of people were killed and more injured in a politically charged arena. No one is listening as the rhetoric of polarity politics rages. The same god, Fear, is seen in the churches, in the government chambers, in the actions of nations “standing on guard” with weapons ready. The same god, Fear, has convinced people to give up freedom on thought and expression in schools in order to ensure that only the “right” words are spoken to our children, words that deny other ideas, other beliefs.
I have to admit that I am sorely tempted to join the activated and heated yelling in hopes that someone will listen and change their minds about the “right to bear arms” as those arms are used to kill, to punish, to threaten. But, I know that one can only hear when one is ready. To rail uselessly only provokes a demonic response. Read again the reports that came out of the medicare debates in the U.S.A. and you will see what I am talking about.
I see Fear working his magic here in China. This isn’t about one country, but about humans not acknowledging the shadow within and thus falling into the role of projecting the demon onto others. Mob mentality feeds on this. Watching the world, I am not the happiest of campers.
I was walking along the sidewalk holding the hand of my four year old great-niece’s hand when I saw this seed pod that had landed in a puddle. We studied the seed and its wings for quite a while after I had taken its photo. Finally, with her curiosity satisfied, we continued walking in order to find our way “home.” I love seeing the universe along side small children who are fully absorbed in all of the small wonders that adults miss.
The floating feeling is one that I enjoy, feeling myself suspended between earth and sky. There is only a small problem for me, the fact that floating in water isn’t easy. Whenever I try floating, my feet drift downwards as though to pull me into the depths. To stay afloat I must gently move hands and feet. Regardless of the difficulty with floating, I enjoy the water, especially the sea. Rather than float on my back, I prefer looking down into the depths while wearing my snorkel and mask. I enjoy being in between two worlds.
Strange when I think about it, I have a fear of heights and a fear of depths. Both fears are about falling. When I feel “safe” such as in a plane, the heights have no fear factor. Being in the depths of a cavern heading even further down offers me no fear factor as well. The fear only surfaces when I sense a lack of control, being left at the mercy of others or fickle nature.
And in listening to Jung, I remember hearing “Where the fear, there is your task.” I need to listen more to CG Jung: ”Anyone who is afraid has reason to be.” What is it about the fear of falling from heights, falling into the depths that abides within me? Am I fearful simply because of personal environmental history or is there some psychological factors at work here?
“As a psychotherapist I do not by any means try to deliver my patients from fear. Rather, I lead them to the reason for their fear, and then it becomes clear that this is justified.”
There is a reason for my fear and I sense that it is more than simple childhood traumatic incidents, that it is more about the larger domaine of the unconscious where I find myself staring down into unfathomable depths. Rather, I would prefer to float between the heights and the depths, suspended. This isn’t an invented fear within me, this is primal.
“I can say this because I am a religious man and because I know with scientific certainty that my patient hasn’t invented his fear but that it is preordained. By whom or what? By the unknown. The religious man calls this absconditum “God,” the scientific intellect calls it the unconscious.”
The depths, the darkness, the unconscious – this is my fear. I dare not deny the fear, nor avoid facing this fear. I need to approach the fear, the unconscious though I quake in fear of that unknown. For it is only in approaching this darkness, this depth that I can find a bit more light to carry forward through my days and nights. And as I do this work, I find it a bit easier in trying to climb gentle hills and swim in deeper waters.
PS – Just a small note to say that most of these words of Jung’s cited here come from a letter Jung wrote to Fritz Buri in 1945.
Just one small comment about the photo, it was edited using Adobe Photoshop Elements. The photo was created first with no idea on how it would be used or even if it would be used. Then, in my second attempt at a post for the Rubedo phase, I came to realise that a photo of a bird, or a scene, or an artifact could not evoke what I wanted for this post. The original photo taken during a moment of doubt and internal conflict was the closest I could come. It was only after risking the choice of the photo that I then tweaked onto the idea of “reddening” the photo, that I saw that it belonged. Will the photo offend? Likely. There is a chance that I will lose a number of readers here. However, that risk must be taken. It isn’t about appeasing the collective, it is about honouring the self in the hope that in being transparent, more is gained than lost.
So we must press onward to the final stage, the rubedo, which has often been called the ‘Marriage of Luna and Sol’, the fusion of the human and divine, the union of the personality (Luna) with the essential Self (Sol). Now the retort can be opened to reveal the philosopher’s stone, the pure gold of Wisdom, the diamond body, the Gnostic Anthropos, the Heavenly Man, Salvator, filius macrocosmi; by whatever name it has been called, there now stands forth the divine original man, long buried and forgotten in the very centre of our being.[Jung, CW 12, p. 256)
Hidden in these words is the key, “the fusion of the human and divine.” How do I understand this? Well, in honesty I have two different understandings. One suggests that the spirit and soul become one, where spirit is consciousness and soul is unconsciousness giving one a state of wholeness – holiness. Here are a few more words, this time from Daryl Sharp:
Next, the rubedo involves dealing with the opposites – differentiating good from bad, want from need, personal values from those dictated by the collective. Constellated opposites activate in turn the archetype of crucifixion, which is ubiquitous in the Western unconscious, whether we adhere to Christian beliefs or not. In short, we are torn between this and that, in conflict wit ourselves. (Sharp, Jung Uncorked: Book Two, 2008, pp 50-51)
Wow! To me this reads like a trial by fire in which the heat gets turned up forcing one to fully strip away all dross and allow the self to emerge purged of fear and doubt. What remains isn’t necessarily a pretty sight in the eyes of others, of the collective. But, it is honest. It is only this way that one can rise from our own ashes, integrated, whole . . . holy.
This is the final shot taken following the brief thunderstorm. I did manage to catch a few of the last raindrops as they created small circles in the roadside puddle. Of course, this image is “doctored” using software. I wanted to be able to convey a sense of the “inner” world that exists in each of us.
I take a look at my life which can best be portrayed as a colour photograph with bright colours featuring people, things and nature, all in clear sharp lines. I know that this is reality. This is what the world sees and knows as me. But, like everyone else, there are moments, sometimes too many, where it feels as though the colour has been stripped away, the contrast disappears and the mood is verging on hopelessness.
These moments when the stuff that has been repressed for so long, one gets to feel disorientated and lost in a land that hints at hidden dangers, hidden ghosts. And too often, one lives in the outer world while still lost in the wastelands and swamplands of the inner world.
This is the danger each of us faces. No special place in the outer world can protect us from the inner world when it comes spewing out. Our only hope is to dare the inner journey so that one can heal the soul. It is about self-healing. It is about learning to love oneself even though so much of us screams that one is not worthy of love. Yet, when we forgive ourselves, we transform and resurrect our selves. Then, we find ourselves living again, wanting to live. We are more tolerant of others knowing that they too are suffering.
It’s amazing what I find in these photos.
I realise that I have used this photo before, but it fits today’s post so I am reusing it with apologies.
Continuing on with the topic of relationship, especially that deep relationship between two people that somehow defies common sense – romantic love. The story is as old as human kind. Boy meets girl, sparks fly and the world changes forever. For the two, it is as if both have died and gone to a place of eternal bliss. This is definitely something that has fueled movies, myths and our imaginations. This is something that has shaped our psyche in anticipation as a western world society, an anticipation that is seeping into other cultures and societies as our western world myths travel through the media. As I was doing something so mundane as shelling peas this morning, I was listening to the radio which played song after song that spoke to this, that celebrated and wept over romantic love. One song in particular caught my attention, a song sung by Trace Adkins called, “This Ain’t No Thinkin’ Thing.” I am putting the lyrics for the song here, lyrics I found here.
I been thinkin’ ’bout our love situation
All this attraction in the present tense
I’ve reached the only logical conclusion
Love ain’t supposed to make sense
This ain’t no thinkin’ thing
Right brain, left brain
It goes a little deeper than that
It’s a chemical, physical, emotional devotion
Passion that we can’t hold back
There’s nothin’ that we need to analyze
There ain’t no rhyme or reason why
Cause this ain’t, this ain’t no thinkin’ thing
Forget mathematical equations
Self help psychology
Gray matter don’t matter much darlin’
When it’s gettin’ down to you and me
Listening closely, it is easy how to see where such a relationship gets into trouble when one drops the rose-coloured glasses and begins to see the real person on the other side. Dropping the rose-coloured glasses is, of course, the withdrawing of projections. Listening closer, one realises that becoming more conscious is the death knell of romantic love. Does it also mean the end of relationship? Most times, yes. Sometimes however, what emerges is something even deeper; sometimes what emerges is an entrenchment into cohabitating seperateness where even “like” is lost in the fog of bitterness; sometimes both retreat into co-dependent unconscious clinging to what once was in fear of being alone with a “self” that is too much a stranger. What do you think?