Archive for the ‘Jungian Psychology Unplugged’ tag
As I walked through a park, enjoying the sounds of birds, I came across the this couple who appeared to oblivious of the last bit of summer and nature that surrounded them. They also seemed to be engrossed in their own private worlds while sitting side-by-side. It was interesting for me to note that my mobile phone is the same as his phone, interesting but meaningless.
Mobile phones are evident everywhere. I see people using them on bicycles, scooters, motorcycles, in cars and on the street. While riding on public transit, it is normal to hear a half-dozen conversations being carried on – people on their phones talking to someone not on the bus, and talking at full volume. While the conversations are taking place the majority of the other passengers are staring at their phones, some texting. Somehow, I rarely use my phone though the opportunities are there.
The photo makes me think of proximity and distance.
“When you are psychologically separate, not identified with your partner, you don’t need the other to agree with you and you don’t need to be right. You don’t expect the other to change in order to suit your needs, and you don’t ask it of yourself either. And if over time you can’t the other but still can’t leave, well, that is the stuff of analysis: conflict and complexes.
The bond between two people is a precious and mysterious thing, not entirely explained by the theory of complexes ad the phenomenon of projection. But this much at least is true: there is an optimum distance in every relationship that evolves through trial and error and good will – it you know who you are and can stop pressing for more than you get.” (Sharp, Jungian Psychology Unplugged, p 75)
As I see this couple together, yet obviously at a distance as well, I get the sense that they “work” as a couple. Maybe it is more about the culture in China in which the expectation of what is needed from one’s partner is different. The need for the other to be a soulmate, to hold one’s heart is not near as powerful as it is back in Canada and most other places in the western world.
What is expected? To be there, to do one’s part, to be loyal, and more importantly, to respect the fullness of self and other. Perhaps I don’t really know what is going on behind the scenes. But then again, the whole point is about how I resonate with the photos I take – it’s not really about this couple, but about my consciousness trying to emerge out of a personal and collective shadow.
I’ve chosen a different photo today, one that is decidedly more messy, more full of life. When I first came to China in August of 2006, I took a stroll down this street. The left side was much like the right side, jam-packed with small shops and apartments that hugged a narrow street, a stark contrast to the city area in which I live which has wide streets with boulevards filled with grass, roses and sculpted bushes. My first taste of street food was on this street in a little tarp-covered stall that sold noodle and dumpling soup to construction workers for the most part. It still remains, at least in this small section, a messy place bursting with life.
Understanding all of this “life” that I encounter in China is problematic for me, and probably everyone else as well. How can I really be expected to understand a foreign culture, let alone my own culture when I struggle with understanding myself. It is a rare person who can say with honesty that he or she truly understands him or her “self.”
“Understanding oneself is difficult enough; understanding others is their responsibility, if they are inclined to do so and have a mind for it. What one can know of another is just the tip of an iceberg; the far greater part of anyone’s personal identity is beyond the ken of an outsider. For that matter, those who have worked on themselves enough to be comfortable with who they are – as opposed to those arrogant souls who are simply narcissistic – do not need, nor do the ask, to be understood by others. I am what I am; take it or leave it..
The appropriate attitude for a long-term relationship is not understanding, but acceptance. Each accepts the other, to the extent one can, and makes no issue of the rest. This is not easy. It means accepting not only the loved one’s persona, but also his or her shadow and other complexes. It certainly requires empathy, but it also involves a mutual acknowledgement that one is responsible only for oneself.” (Sharp, Jungian Psychology Unplugged, pp 74-75)
What I am learning to apply to my relationship with those I hold closest to me in my life, I am learning to use here in China as I build relationships with a country, a swirling mass of conflicting cultures, and the few individuals who see me and are willing to allow me into their orbit of relationships whether as friend, colleague, teacher or simply “laowai.”
I took this photo a while ago while strolling down the street. At first, I simply saw the humour in the photo, humour from a Canadian male point of view. Young men in Canada would not be caught dead carrying their girlfriend’s purse, let alone a pink purse, down a public street where other young men would see them. Yet, here, the scene is not that rare. Proving “love” to the “other” has so many quirky twists and turns regardless of the culture one finds oneself in. When there is a focus on “self” in the situation of “love,” it is usually about insecurity and the need for proof that one is valued by the “other – “Prove you love me,” kind of thinking takes over. When there is a focus on “other” then the “self” feels abandoned and almost valueless. There is no space where two become one. Does it matter which one is suppressed and which one suppresses? The result is the same for both, albeit from different viewpoints – the individual, unique self is no longer is valued.
The last day I wrote about distance and intimacy. I want to return to that topic in order to add to the idea of what “distance” really means in terms of intimacy and relationships.
“A relationship based on intimacy with distance does not require separate living quarters. Intimacy with distance means psychological separation, which comes about through the process of differentiation – knowing where you end and the other begins. Intimacy with distance can be as close and warm as you want, and it’s psychologically clean. Togetherness is simply fusion, the submersion of two individualities into one. That’s symbiosis, identification, participation mystique. It can feel good for a while but in the long term it doesn’t work.” (Sharp, Jungian Psychology Unplugged, p. 73)
In China, I see this “psychological distance” every day on the street, especially in crowds. It is as though each person, though surrounded by a sea of others, is alone, is separated as if on a deserted island. People walk by each other only aware on a peripheral level that there are others present, but oblivious of the them other than as objects to navigate around while walking.
How does one move to being self-contained rather than as half of a couple? This is the real problem for our heads, at least for mine. How can one be “separate” without having one’s partner feel abandoned? Living in the same place together and having a privateness is often taken as a rejection by the other. Somehow, it takes two moving through individuation and arriving at the idea of intimacy with space for relationship to survive. When it is a journey only one chooses to take, the relationship is threatened and all hell breaks loose.
“Togetherness is to intimacy with distance as being in love is to loving. When you’re in love, you absolutely need the other. This is symptomatic of bonding, which is natural at the beginning of any relationship, at any age. But need, finally, is not compatible with loving; it only shows the degree to which one lacks personal resources. Better take your need to a therapist than dump it on the one you love. Need in an intimate relationship easily becomes the rationale for power, leading to the fear of loss on one hand, and resentment on the other.” (Sharp, Jungian Psychology Unplugged, p. 74)
In the photo, this expression of love is about power. At what point will this young couple move from “falling in love” to a fear of loss and of resentment?
Another look at the architectural style that is being preserved in quite a few locations in the city shows classical lines and contrast. The colour, or should I say the lack of colour as in comparison to Latin America speaks loudly about keeping it simple yet classy. But of course, it isn’t an either/or for me. I enjoy both, colour, and black & white; both China and the colourful heat of Latin America.
I love the intensity of colour and heat in Latin America as well as the language. I could easily see myself in my private villa enjoying the best of the winter season in warmth. But then again, the vitality and contrasts in China invites me to remain here as well. But of course, I don’t have to choose one or the other. I can choose both without thoughts of exclusivity. By spending most of the time in neither, I can better appreciate these places from a distance. I know that to actually choose one over the other would have me become poorer. It is the same with relationships.
Like almost all other modern men and women, I have bought into the idea of “Soulmates.” Thomas Moore’s book as well as a number of others by various authors, as well as classical literature over the centuries have painted high expectation on us poor humans in terms of relationships. Anyone who dares partner up with us is bound, in the end, to disappoint and give rise to anger. A mere human being cannot hold all the the word “soulmate” encompasses. Yet, we willingly put out their, our “lost other,” the half of ourselves that will make us whole, even holy.
“The mistake is expecting to find our “lost other” in the outside world. In fact, it is our contrasexual self inner other, animus or anima, who should be the object of our search. Outer relationships, already hampered by personal complexes and a multitude of day-to-day concerns, cannot bear the extra weight of archetypal expectations. Although individuation is not possible without relationship, it is not compatible with togetherness.
Individuation, finding your own unique pat, requires a focus on the inner axis, ego to unconscious – getting to know yourself. The ideal of togetherness lets you off that hook. Togetherness doesn’t acknowledge the natural boundaries between people, and it gives short shrift to their differences. All you are left with is unconscious identity. When you are on the path of individuation, focused on your own psychological development, you relate to others from a position of personal integrity. This is the basis for intimacy with distance. It is not as sentimental as togetherness, but is’s not as sticky either.” (Sharp, Jungian Psychology Unplugged, p. 73)
There’s a lot to chew on here. Hmmm? Time to sit quiet and think.
I have to admit that I find old Chinese architecture very interesting. This is a detail from a traditional roofline found on most older buildings still found in China. As I wander the city of Changzhou, I see frequent examples of this style still remaining. Most are in some state of disrepair though functional. Some, such as this one, have been carefully restored using original materials. I chose this photo because of the simplicity of colour – just black and white against a “whitish” sky.
Then after choosing the photo and cropping it so that it seemed to be right for inclusion here, I saw more, the layering of the tiles as though I was seeing the layering of shadow. I also saw in greater detail, the white flower which appeared to be growing out of a tree. And then I saw the tree and was struck by the image that emerged, a symbol of man, potent man. Out of the darkness, the light grows upwards.
I find my mind caught is a number of contradictions here, just as I find my mind caught in the contradictions of relationship. The key to a good relationship is communication. However, from what I said yesterday, the key to a good relationship is keeping one’s stuff to one’s self. Sharp sums it up nicely:
“Those who think that talking about a relationship will help it get better put the cart before the horse. Work on yourself and a good relationship will follow. You can either accept who you are and find a relationship that fits, or twist yourself out of shape and get what you deserve.
The endless blather that takes place between two complexed people solves nothing. It is a waste of time and energy and as often as not actually makes the situation worse.” (Sharp, Jungian Psychology Unplugged, p. 72)
Communication is served by silence, and consciousness is arrived at through darkness, through the unconscious. How can I sense any truth to these paradoxes? The image helps me. I see the swollen member bursting forth with life and I think how that swollen member gives life only in the darkness of the mysterious, dark and moist inner world. And in giving up the essence of self, there is a unity that allows the self to disappear into a wholeness in which there are no separations between darkness and light, between masculine and feminine, between self and other.
Looking into a hole left at one of the work sites along the sidewalk near my apartment while it was raining, I saw this photo opportunity. It’s amazing how one’s eyes get drawn into dark holes hoping to see treasure, or perhaps see proof of hell.
It’s interesting how one can see something and then load the thing with all manner of meaning. It’s important to realise that it the “self” who holds the meaning and not the object. Again, it is all about projection. Images allow us to project safely for the most part. However, this isn’t the case when we project on others.
When a relationship hits a rocky patch, it pretty much looks like everything is going downhill, down into a dark hole. One’s field of vision is reduced to a narrow band of possibility, and the possibility is in darkness, a damp darkness that reminds one of a swampland at night where sinkholes are just waiting to suck one down. In an instinctive reaction we lash out hoping to back off the demons and find a bit of breathing space. The enemy is out there, and the enemy is wearing the body of one’s partner in relationship.
“You work on a relationship by shutting your mouth when you are ready to explode; by not inflicting your affect on the other person; by quietly leaving the battlefield and tearing your hair out; by asking yourself – not your partner – what complex in you was activated, and to what end. The proper question is not, “Why is she doing this to me?” or “Who does he think he is?” but rather, “Why am I reacting this way? – Who do I think he or she is?” And more: “What does this say about my psychology? What can I do about it?” Instead of accusing the other person about driving you crazy, you say to yourself, “I feel I’m being driven crazy – where, or who, in me is that coming from?”
That is how you establish a container, a personal temenos.” (Sharp, Jungian Psychology Unplugged, p. 71)
Sharp’s words make sense, but they aren’t so easy to put into practice. It seems that “knowing” and “doing” are two different things completely. I know in my case, it has taken so many stumbles with a lot of personal conferences of one in which I have asked myself these questions after the fact. Maybe this is part of the learning to build a level of consciousness about relationship, in relationship.
This photo was taken at the site of the collection of buildings that was moved from downtown Changzhou into the suburb village of XueJia which was featured in yesterday’s photo. The buildings were all white and trimmed in black with black tile roofing. To see a bit of “red” was startling and I was almost compelled to focus on the small but brilliant splash of colour in an otherwise black and white world. For a moment it reminded me of following the bit of red in the film, Schindler’s List, tracking fragile life.
So much for first impressions, now on revisiting my photos I see something different. The colours of white and black are also the colours of consciousness and the unconscious; and, they are the colours of masculine and feminine. Add in the “red” and I think of the heart at the centre of relationship between man and woman.
“Intimate relationships are fraught with difficulty. There are any number of landmines to be negotiated before two people feel comfortable with each other; more when they become sexually involved, and more again if and when they live together. On top of projection and identification, there are ech other’s personal complexes and typological differences. In truth, the very things that brought them together in the first place are just as likely to drive them apart.” (Sharp, Jungian Psychology Unplugged, p. 70)
Curious how the original impression of fragility is found again.
This photo was taken in Shanghai as a scene from the Costa Rican sector of the Central American pavilion. I took it because of my association with Costa Rica and because of the actual representation of a woman with a ball.
The oldest artifacts in Costa Rica are stone balls which date from about 200 B.C.. before contact with Europeans. Other than the fact that they exist and that they pre-date contact with the rest of the world, there is little that can be said about these balls. In looking at this sculpture, I get a sense that this is all about the “game” of life. And of course, for me, life is best represented in the image of a woman.
As a man, the image of a woman is also an externalised representation of anima, or the soul of a man. I don’t mean to discount the reality that an image of a woman is a real representation of the person behind the image. But when the image is not about a particular woman, then the image takes on an “archetypal” quality. And it is to this quality that I project the contrasexual aspect of “self.”
“Psychologically the anima functions in a man as his soul. Jung described the anima as “the archetype of life itself.” [Jung, CW 9i, par 66] When a man is full of life he is “animated.” The man with no connection to his soul feels dull and listless. Nowadays we call this depression, but the experience is not new. For thousands of years, among so-called primitive peoples, this state of being has been known as loss of soul.” (Sharp, Jungian Psychology Unplugged, p. 62)
I can’t speak for women, but the notion is that a woman’s soul is represented by the contrasexual animus, a masculine archetype. Both anima and animus are representations of life. To live fully, I can’t deny soul, I can’t deny the contrasexual aspects of self. Denying soul leaves me a half a man. I become reduced to functioning in a male body without meaning, no different that a biological machine. Soul is the living water or “l’eau vive,” that courses through the psyche. And, it is only with soul that I can find the will and energy to “play” to engage in being part of the game of life.
This is yet another photo from Shanghai taken on the Expo 2010 site. The thing I like about flowers is that they illustrate a truth about our transience as humans. Like the flowers, we have our moment in the sun then we begin to fade into the shadows until we return to the collective soil. Oops, there I go again with “identifying” with something. Okay, so it is more in terms of a metaphor rather than to “equate” myself with the flower. I do, however, want to talk a bit more about the problem of “identification” when it comes to relationship with another person.
“When you identify with another person, your emotional well-being is intimiately linked with the mood of that person and his or her attitude toward you. . . . It’s a classic double-bind. You can’t function independently and your dependence has the effect of making the other person responsible for how you feel. More: you have a relationship that is psychologically no different from that between parent and child. Worse: at any given moment it is hard to tell which partner is parent and which is child.
We may gladly accept this responsibility toward our children, but between grownups, in the long run, it is unworkable. Neither can make a move without double-thinking the effect on the other, which automatically inhibits the self-expression of both.” (Sharp, Jungian Psychology Unplugged, p. 61)
Now, I have been asked if I believe that “love” in a relationship is all projection. I don’t believe that it is. Over time, we get to take back projections and discover real qualities and characteristics in the other. But when it comes to falling in love with someone who is otherwise a stranger, yes, this “love” is projection. Falling in love after a long period of being in each other’s presence is a different story. In this case, one learns who the other is over time and through interaction. A face of love grows and the pair can engage in a loving relationship that is based on awareness of the other rather than based on projections.
Sometimes, life is just like this. Here in Changzhou, China the air quality sometimes suffers. A low pressure system brings on clouds which hold the exhausts from hundreds of factories and thousands of cars. We are washed moment by moment with our own grayness, our own toxins. I chose this scene to present because this is also reality. Other than cropping the photo to fit this space better, no editing was done to this photo which I took from a classroom window in a primary school where I had gone to present an “English Corner” to grade five students. This morning as I write this post, dawn is just breaking and I can already see blue skies and know that this will be a day of sunshine.
Strange how the weather seems to have personality. Looking at the scene above I can reduce it all to simple terms that have no “emotional” connotations. Air is just air. But, my head looks beyond the conditions of air and finds life. That life isn’t always shadowy nor is it always sunny. What I see is myself as though in a mirror. Projections.
So what do I see in an “other,” in a woman with whom I have “fallen in love?”
“There is passive projection and there is active projection.. Passive projection is completely automatic and unintentional. Our eyes catch another’s across a crowded room and we are smitten, head over heels. We may know nothing about that person; in fact the less we know, the easier it is to project. We fill the void with ourselves.” (Sharp, Jungian Psychology Unplugged, p. 59-60)
Today’s post is short. In a few moments I leave on an early train to travel to Shanghai where I will spend the day with a camera wandering around the site of Expo 2010. I wonder what photos will present themselves to me and I wonder at the resonance and the words to follow.