Archive for the ‘individuation’ tag
Another sunrise photo taken in Corozal, Belize, however this time the photo was taken by my wife while I was meditating in the garden just a few metres away. I decided to bring this photo here for a few reasons. First, there are shadows in this image that contrast to the light of the rising sun. Second, my meditating au naturel only a few feet away was in a way, an act that was prompted by shadow. Why do I say prompted by shadow? Well, meditating in full view of passers-by is something I would never have consciously done in the past. Always it was something to be done in an isolated situation, usually behind closed doors and closed drapes – even when it was done fully clothed. To meditate in full view of passers-by wearing nothing but the rays of the sun would have never even been considered let alone attempted. Of course, meditation in the tropics is vastly different from meditation back in my home community. There, the context of community has me retreat from public awareness. Few know that I meditate, none have seen me meditate, and perhaps even fewer would accept the notion of meditation skyclad. That I have become aware of this has shifted the behaviour from shadow to consciousness. That is, I have integrated that denied aspect of myself and now live it as fully and honestly as I can. I could have chosen not to integrate this aspect of self, a shadow face of myself, pushed it back. But I have learned that to do so would only end up in some eruption of negative behaviour, that would shock not only others, but myself as well.
In preparation for today’s post on the shadow, I came across these words written by Megge Hill Fitz-Randolph at Suite 101
“There is, indeed, an actual shadow-like energy that exists hidden from conscious mind yet contributing to the overall shape of the personality. This is what in psychological terms is meant by the shadow. It has become so popular in the lexicon it is worth understanding in more depth.
What Is Hidden
According to Carl Jung, the shadow is that part of the personality one chooses not to see. Usually of a vulgar, shameful, or corrupt nature, the shadow is comprised of whatever one cannot uphold in one’s idea of oneself. Not being integrated or even acknowledged by conscious mind, the shadow sits and waits in the unconscious.” [Fitz-Randolph "What is the Shadow in Jungian Psychology," July 2008]
When the shadow is not honoured, recognized, the self suffers. I know for myself, that suffering has often taken the form of depression and a brooding, quiet, resentful anger. At times I would find myself acting out inappropriately only to then become shamed by what I might have said or done or of doing. My dreams tortured me by showing me what I was capable of in terms of behaviour and attitudes that seemed antithetical to my very being. In waking life, I am a prude, but in dreams I end up doing things that would make pimps and whores blanche. These dreams tortured and left me doubting my sanity. I felt fully unworthy of my life partner, unworthy even to be father to my children. Rather than continue to deny these eruptions of shadow, I took them to my analyst, shared them with my partner and hoped for the best in terms of my children.
Today, the pressure of the shadow has lessened because of this work. Stalking the shadow, my shadow, has allowed me to return to life as a more conscious person. There is a long way to go but at least I am on the right road, the path of individuation.
I took this photo a few days ago, late in the afternoon, a chance photo. I know that I wrote before about the Black Vulture, but I find that I have more to say. As I searched back into the symbolism of the vulture, I found Nekhbet, a primal goddess from ancient Egypt.
“References in the Pyramid Texts (from the Fifth Dynasty) confirm that Nekhbet was also considered to be a creator goddess with the epithet “Father of Fathers, Mother of Mothers, who has existed from the beginning, and is Creator of this World”. [Ancient Egypt Online, Nekhbet]
It is amazing how things appear if front of one’s eyes. I have recently been writing about creation myths and had not found this reference, one that has a symbol of male and female, masculine and feminine, united in a unity like some holy marriage of body and spirit. But of course, I had to keep looking for more.
I want to put the rest of this post in context. I am in Mayan country. Not too distant from where I am writing this post are the Mayan ruins of Cerros, pre-classical Mayan ruin.
“The Black Vulture appears in a variety of Maya hieroglyphics in Mayan codices. It is normally connected with either death or as a bird of prey. The vulture’s glyph is often shown attacking humans.” [Wikipedia, Black Vulture]
Vultures feed on death, on carrion, on shit. They somehow transform that which is putrid and gross into something of value. Here I am thinking in alchemic terms, the turning of base material into precious material. As I put the idea of alchemy together with the union of opposites (masculine and feminine) there is no doubt in my mind that the vulture is a worthy symbol of individuation. Now, for a bit more on the vulture:
“Vultures have been called masters of two disciplines: soaring and sanitation (Dunne et al. 1988:136). In towns, villages, and rural communities where there is no modern plumbing or garbage disposal, they provide the only sanitation services. “They eat anything, but especially they like the shit,” observed a worker in a slaughterhouse in Guatemala, who also noted that the vultures showed up only on Thursdays and Saturdays, the two days of slaughter (Maslow 1986:200). The black vulture particularly tends to live close to humans and their waste. Vultures lack feathers around their heads and legs, where they have contact with carrion and feces, so the ultraviolet rays of the sun come down directly on their flesh, discouraging bacteria and parasites. Vultures spread their wings after feeding and the sun disinfects them. Their digestive system is so remarkable that the ejecta may kill germs. Moreover, vultures make the environment healthy (see Reichel-Dolmatoff 1985, II:132; Salinas Pedraza and Bernard 1978:132). They turn the vile into something white that glistens in the sun. In a Chorti Maya narrative, the black vulture is a mason with lime on his apron (Fought 1972:180-181). He boasts that he can make lime and that the white houses in the town look beautiful and he alone has plastered them. Vultures make dark things bright. They are associated not only with death b” ut with transformation of the dead.” [Benson, The Vulture: The Sky and the Earth]
Each morning I rise early hoping to catch the dawn. Several of the mornings have been cloud-filled delaying the appearance of the sun. When and if the sun appears, there is an up-welling of joy within me. And when the sun hides, I am patient for I know that another morning will be coming and with that new morning, another opportunity to participate in a spiritual ritual that in more about being alive, being aware and conscious of myself in the universe.I become part of the drama enacted with the rising of the sun as though I was some ancient priest of the sun, a magician, a wizard, a shaman. At moments like this I find myself reconnecting to ancestors that trace their roots through bloodlines of the Iroquois, Mohawk and Ojibway; ancestors that wandered the holy forests of Europe, Celtic and Gaelic bards and druids; ancestors that wandered through Persia and Egypt. I consciously bid the sun welcome into the world anew.
“The Magician energy is the archetype of awareness and of insight, primarily, but also of anything that is not immediately apparent or commonsensical. It is the archetype that governs what is called psychology “the observing Ego.” [Moore & Gillette, King Warrior Magician Lover, p. 106]
I understand this participation is as much conscious as it is unconscious. I don’t pretend that I really am a shaman or wizard or magician. I don’t believe that I am any of these as well for to believe that I was would only put my conscious self in peril.
It is fatal for the ego to fuse with any one of the archetypes, and those who encourage such fusions must be counted as the enemies of humanity.” [Tacey, Remaking Men, p. 19]
I sense the presence of archetypal forces at the edges of perception and acknowledge them with respect and wariness. To deny them would also be dangerous for ego for denial leads only to eruptions of shadow that would make me a victim of my own unconsciousness.
So, with a day begin honouring the spirits I sense but can never see, I can then move on to participate more fully in my daily life, aware of even the small things that make their way into my life.
“As no popular culture has built itself upon the idea of romance more than twentieth-century [and 21st] America has, so no one has founded itself on more shifting ground. A necessary corollary, then, is that no culture has more set itself up for disappointment than the one which seeks its affirmation in projection, illusion and delusion.” [Hollis, The Eden Project, p. 45]
As I have said a number of times before, Romantic love for a man is projected love, a love based on one’s response to one’s personal mother and to the activated anima archetype that represents the feminine, the archetypal lover and mother and whore. Beneath this gossamer web of projection lies a real woman who either accepts and joins in the fantasy of Romantic love, or rejects it and walks on in her life in search of her Magical Other. When all aligns as it will and should, two souls are joined as one, similar to the images of sun and moon together or the yin-yang which has the two in a perpetual dance always reaching and retreating at the same time.
This image has blurred edges that face each other, barely discernible faces in dialogue with each other while the self lives oblivious to the presences of shadow and anima, the unknown masculine and feminine archetypes that pull and push. With time, the pushing and pulling forces a man to begin to question himself and his Magical Other who is also suffering the tidal forces of her shadow and her animus. First one, then the other feels betrayed as their Magical Other becomes less magical and more human.
”the public face that hides a thousand cuts. For how many couples grow roughly in the same direction at roughly the same pace? Seldom do both perceive life at the same level of consciousness or possess equal capacity to process difficult matters. More often, one partner has outgrown the unconscious premises of the relationship while the other clings to the original implicit bargain. The former feels frustrated, depressed; the other feels anxious and controlling. My experience has been that most often it is the woman who seeks change and growth.” [Hollis, pp 44-45]
And whether it is the man or the woman, the sense of being alone again, like this young palm tree above, is brings the pain of loss; a loss of the Magical Other and often a corresponding loss of the marital partner. When the marriage holds together in spite of the loss, the face of the marriage rarely betrays that loss. Rarely does the public face of a marriage match the psychic reality beneath that surface when projections fall away revealing the scarred, scared and complexed individuals that have been joined in the marriage.
As I lay beneath the rays of the sun on the beach in Puerto Morelos allowing my body to darken without tan lines, I listen to music on my mp3 player. While listening to the music with the waves rolling onto the shore, the time passes quickly making it easier to be still and at peace, my mind was caught by one song I had listened to many times, Bruce Springsteen singing Secret Garden. I knew immediately as I listened that the song had touched something much deeper than normal. I knew that the song would become today’s post. I wasn’t yet sure, nor am I now as I am writing, exactly what I would say. Before going further, I want to put the song here. The lyrics will be added at the end of the post for those who want to have them in text form.
I know that I typically write about the feminine on Wednesdays, but this deserves being brought here a day early. With the words that talk about being allowed “in her house” should one come during the night immediately brought to mind the she that is a man’s anima. This mystical woman of the Secret Garden is the Magical Other to whom we sewomb farch for in our wives, consorts, our significant others. Of course, no human female can hold all of this and stay sane. At some point we have to realise that this Magical Other is found within our own psyche, not projected out onto other humans. Think of the Garden of Eden, the womb of humankind where the essence of all that is masculine and all that is feminine unites in a holy marriage; a garden where Ego gets in the way, and effectively destroys the garden. This is the guiding principle of individuation in Jungian Psychology, and in Buddhism. We must learn to set the narrow limitations of ego aside and allow the fullness of our psyche to escape from the shadows.
Secret Garden – Bruce Springsteen
She’ll let you in her house
If you come knockin late at night
Shell let you in her mouth
If the words you say are right
If you pay the price
Shell let you deep inside
But there’s a secret garden she hides
Shell let you in her car
To go drivin round
Shell let you into the parts of herself
Thatll bring you down
Shell let you in her heart
If you got a hammer and a vise
But into her secret garden, don’t think twice
Youve gone a million miles
How fard you get
To that place where you can’t remember
And you can’t forget
Shell lead you down a path
Therell be tenderness in the air
Shell let you come just far enough
So you know she’s really there
Shell look at you and smile
And her eyes will say
Shes got a secret garden
Where everything you want
Where everything you need
Will always stay
A million miles away
And I will begin today’s post with some words from David Tacey:
“The problem with surface-level intellectual discourse is that it fails to see the extent to which the archetypes of ‘slow-moving planets’ influence our lived experience. Much sociology of masculinity and gender theory strikes me as hopelessly inadequate; it calls for change and demands instantaneous release from stereotypes without even beginning to reckon with the powerful archetypes that regulate our lives, all the more powerful for not being seen by the intellectuals. … <snip> … It is astonishing how often we are told that masculinity is merely a construct of society, one that can be exploded simply if we stop believing it.” [Tacey, Remaking Men, pp 9-10]
Of course, it is hard to understand what one can’t see, that is, archetypes. Sociology and most psychologies don’t have any room for more than is on the surface, that is the experiences from conception to adulthood, in their attempts to understand the masculine. For a while [and still for too many] there was the belief that if we treated baby boys as gender neutral, then the issue of negative masculinity would simply disappear.
Perhaps even better, have male infants never exposed to toys that are male-oriented, such as toy guns, cars, etc. Add to that the play experiences which instil gentle cooperation in place of competition. We have been trying this as a society for several decades with little, if any, improvement in the issue of masculinity, or the erosion of patriarchy. Rather, we have created more business for counsellors, psychologists, psychiatrists and psychotherapists. Now, more than ever, men find themselves disoriented in the world and at a loss to understand who they are as men.
The need to go into depth is vital if we are to construct a societal approach to helping young males become psychologically healthy men. For, it is only through becoming psychologically healthy that we will ever be able to move away from the unconscious participation in patriarchy. The archetypes, that is, the energies that lie buried in the collective psyche of humans that contain the codes for understanding how we relate to both the masculine and the feminine.
Awareness of the archetypes and their place in the psyche allows a person to begin to know themselves, a beginning that is expanded upon when one realises that the movements of the archetypes within the psyche are found in their projections onto others. How does one react to authority figures? How does one react to passive men, passive women? What type of person is one: introvert, extrovert. How and does one have one’s energies (anger, joy, fear, etc.) activated? These are vital questions that will guide one to awareness of the archetypes that are at work. Armed with this knowledge, it them becomes possible to change one’s personal relationship dynamics. And through the change of the personal by enough people, the collective dynamic shits.
“Jungians view the psyche not as a monarchy, as the ego would have it, ore even as a central intelligence agency, bur rather as an entity that is polyfaceted, polymorphous, polysemous, polytheistic. So there are many voices, many intimations, many directives, some heard, some not, but all persuasive. Which voice is mine? ego asks. All of them, Self insists. . . .
So we bring ourselves to relationship. With scant knowledge of ourselves, we seek our identity in the mirror of the Other, as we once did in Mom and Dad. With all the wounds of this perilous condition we seek a safe harbor in that Other who, alas, is seeking the same in us.” [Hollis, The Eden Project, p. 32]
As I am a man, I am no different from other humans who seek to be in a relationship with a significant Other. Like most men, I found that significant Other, a woman. It isn’t necessary for this significant Other to be a woman, nor is significant other limited to one other person. If I go back to what Hollis is saying, this significant Other holds the mirror in which we “seek our identity.” That said, this yearning for “Other” in whom we find the needed mirror in which to find ourselves is rooted in eros – the desire for connection. And like other men, I filled this significant Other with my projections, all unconsciously, and saw in this woman my soulmate, my Magical Other.
I fell in love with this woman whom I had never seen before. It was love at first sight. What did I see in this stranger who had captured my heart and soul only moments after we had met? What did she see in me to have the same life-altering tumble into love? That was a question never asked then nor for so many years to follow. Both of us fell in love, became entranced, almost bewitched with the power of Eros. We both knew in an instant that this Other was the One who would answer our unknown and unasked questions. She became my Magical Other.
“The other great false idea that drives humankind is the fantasy of the Magical Other, the notion that there is someone out there who is right for us, will make our lives work, a soul-mate who will repair the ravages of our personal history, one who will be there for us, who will read our minds, know what we want and meet those deepest needs; a good parent who will protect us from suffering and, if we are lucky, spare us the perilous journey of individuation.” [Hollis, The Eden Project, p. 327]
Of course, when it happens to you, you don’t take time to think it over. Remember, it is an unconscious response rooted deep in our personal histories, our complexes, our woundings, and our unconscious needs. So, now that I have finally recognized what happened more than forty years ago, what next?
“Everything about yourself that you aren’t conscious of is shadow, which means that before unconscious contents have been differentiated, separated out, the shadow is in effect the whole of the unconscious. The less you know about yourself, the more unconscious you are, and therefore the more of you is shadow.” [Sharp, Getting To Know You, p. 34]
Daryl Sharp is a Canadian Jungian analyst whom I have come to respect over the years. We both lived in the same prairie town in western Canada though at different times, a good enough excuse for us to initiate a dialogue together about fifteen years ago. Sharp is a prolific writer on Jungian themes, an analyst that fits into the “classic” stream. Pick up any of his books and you will find so many things resonating, things you didn’t consciously realise that you were aware of in the first place. I find myself returning over and over again to his books always discovering new precious gems for my effort. Each little bit adds just another morsel of self-awareness and in the process making me realise just how little I truly know about myself.
And that is the key, getting to know oneself. If we are honest, when no one is looking or listening, each of us asks the agonizing question, “Who am I?” And it seems the more we discover the more we realise how very little we know. I am reminded of one of my first introductions to psychology more than forty years ago when the instructor presented a visual image of the unconscious. The model was based on Sigmund Freud’s understanding. Jung, as a colleague of Freud was strongly influenced by this idea of ego and shadow. Regardless of who was right, both Jung and Freud show clearly how large the unconscious [shadow] is in relation to the known self [ego]. No wonder we begin to agonize over this basic question at that moment in life when, if anything because of the years lived, we should be comfortably sure of who we are.
I do know adults who are sure of who they are, people who don’t suffer the torment of “Who the hell am I?” They are rare and I do wonder if they are just simply unaware of the depths of themselves because of their attitude and place in life. I am not such a fortunate man. I am always questioning, always alert for the shadow of my self, wondering.
“Not acknowledging your shadow makes you prudish and self-righteous. You are above it all, godlike. Your motives are pure, your conscience is perfectly clear. It’s everybody else who’s at fault.” [ibid, p. 35]
Yes, I have met these insufferable people at times. I can even hear the echo of some of my neighbours and relatives. And, to be honest, I do see that at times, this is one of my own self-portraits – “Guilty as charged!” And so I continue to ferret around the darkened corners of consciousness, in hopes of bringing to the edge of consciousness one or two more bits that I can acknowledge in my quest to “know myself.”
In just a few hours after this is posted, I will be on a plane heading south to a warmer place. I have booked a studio suite in Puerto Morelos just a few steps from the Caribbean Sea. Actually, the studio is located about two kilometres north of the town, a more secluded location, a quieter location. I’ve packed my snorkel gear, beach wear, a few books, camera and laptop. I have packed light even though I will be gone for three months.
I wonder what changes will occur in me over these months away from my home in Canada. The photo above taken on Friday, hints that the forces of transformational change, alchemical change, will be at work. How will my relationship with my wife be transformed. This is a shared journey, not only to a winter get-away, but to a continually changing future of relationship.
I have been writing on the relationship between the masculine and the feminine within the psyche of a man, about the journey of individuation for many years. That is the nature of working, thinking, and living in a Jungian context. But there is more than attention to the “self” that is needed. It is rare to find someone who is so isolated from others that it becomes unnecessary to focus on relationships with real people, relationships that touch the outer masculine and feminine that are found in those “others.” At what point does attention to self become narcissism rather than individuation?
And so, with these thoughts swirling through my head, I say, “Talk to you next from Mexico.”
One of the very good things that came my way during midlife crisis was an opportunity to talk with David Tacey, author of Remaking Men: Jung, Spirituality and Social Change. I was able to participate with a number of other Jungian oriented therapists in a discussion about David’s new book at that time. It has been a little more than fifteen years since that event, and I have met at talked with so many Jungians and I have read so many of their books as well as other books; yet not much has changed. The world is still going to ‘hell in a hand-basket.’ And, I ask myself, “What have you done as your part for this needed change?” Truthfully, not much if anything. I was too focused on my own change. However, it is time that all changed.
There is a reason for my spending time with the topic of the masculine here on Through a Jungian Lens, the first of which is simply that I am a man and as such feel first hand the struggles that men and women are experiencing with masculine energy in our modern, patriarchal world. We’ve made a mess of it and we need to do something about it for our children and grandchildren regardless of their gender. Patriarchy has wounded so many men as well as women and is, in my opinion, the prime psychological cause of our planet’s environmental stress.
Patriarchy is about the dominance of a wounded and immature masculine, boy psychology as termed by Moore and Gillette in their book, King, Warrior, Magician, Lover. In order to rescue our planet and to give our children and the gift of mature parents and leaders. we need to confront the issue of the masculine in our modern world context.
“The Iron John tradition is virtually All-Phallus, while the contrary antimasculine discourse is No-Phallus. Why can’t we have the phallus without appalling idealisations or guilt-ridden demonisations? We must unpack and disassemble patriarchy, while at the same tie developing new meanings and metaphors for masculinity which must never be constructed as the ‘enemy’ of men or women.” (Tacey, Remaking Men, pp 6-7)
Yes, the need to do something different in order to get different results is critical. But what is it that must change? We can’t just burn it all down and rebuild from square one. We will only end up at the same place again because we failed to become conscious of the underlying roots of the problem. The old ways don’t disappear, they reappear in new faces, in new assemblies and communities. We have learned this lesson through history and through our stories told in our myths. We must know ourselves, our weaknesses as well as our strengths and refashion the journey forward, a new version of the Hero’s Journey.
“The postmodern or post-matriarchal hero does not have to throw in the quest and go back to the mother, but every would-be contemporary hero must take a genuine commitment to the feminine soul, as the ultimate cure for male narcissism and infantilism.” (p. 7)
Join me as I go in search of solutions in the minefields of the masculine in the modern world. Challenge me, lead me. This is not a singular need, this is a collective need.