Archive for the ‘libido’ tag
How appropriate after writing about depression to find this image on my way to classes early this morning. If there is a picture possible about what depression might look like, then, for me, this is it. The actual sky was dark, but not this dark and the sun was weaker than it appears here. Light plays tricks on a camera as it tries to cope with images taken of the direct sun, even a sun filtered by layers of clouds. The camera paints a darker scene with a stronger sun. I then think that perhaps even this is trying to tell me something for the camera doesn’t really lie when it shows me something that I thought was different. There is more than what I see, more than I understand about what I see.
I then think of my own experience with depression when I entered mid-life. The world I saw was much different than the world those around me at the time saw though we all saw the same scene. In depression I didn’t have full access to my mental capacity nor my senses. My range of vision was more like I was wearing blinders which cut off all peripheral scenes. The world had less depth, more two-dimensional. Even sound was muted. If I payed any attention, it was only to the bits of the world that mimicked my mood. But I didn’t see and note all of this at the time. I thought that the world had changed; I didn’t see it was not the world, but my self that had muffled and filtered. Depression is called abaissement du niveau mental for a reason.
Though my dreams were talking to me, though the natural world was talking to me, I was deaf. It was time for help and help came in the guise of a guide. That’s one of the important things that come to one when life ceases to have depth and meaning, a guide. A real guide will coax images, sensations and fantasies into existence, images that point back at the blockages of energy and in doing so, point to new ways of thinking, doing and being that are necessary so that the journey can continue.
As I went walking later in the day, after writing up the first part of this post, I saw that the day had become even more bleak, grayer and darker with thick air. It made me think of how depression is not limited to individual people but can often seize a community or a country. In small communities, a tragedy involving young people often steals the energy and vitality from the community. It is only after a period of grieving and healing that the community can again find a new way to go forward. In the modern world we see a bleakness descend over whole countries. We call it recession and depression and we dig in, bury our heads and wait for the darkness to pass. But like an individual, a guide is needed for the collective psyche, a guide that will invoke active imagination which will bring new possibilities and new hope.
Who will be our guide? What fantasies will our collective imagination produce? How do we get there from here?
I took this photo earlier today, just before I ate my lunch. The scene was quite near the apartment, less than 50 metres away. Because it was lunch time, the people who work at hard, physical jobs such as taking care of the boulevard green spaces, often quickly eat a small lunch then use their time to rest. They have learned the art of sleeping on pavement and hard ground at a moment’s notice. I guess one could say that they have mastered the art of energy conservation.
In Jungian terms, psychic energy is often referred to as libido:
“All psychological phenomena can be considered as manifestations of energy, in the same way that all physical phenomena have been understood as energic manifestations ever since Robert Mayer discovered the law of the conservation of energy. Subjectively and psychologically, this energy is conceived as desire. I call it libido, using the word in its original sense, which is by no means only sexual.” (Jung, C.W. Volume IV, paragraph 567)
The photo talks about conservation of energy and about the absence of energy, at least in terms of conscious energy. Digging further into my texts to see where the absence of conscious energy would take me, I soon found myself looking at the word depression. Interesting. As a therapist I have often been faced with clients having serious issues with depression. In their waking life they had little energy to perform tasks, to be present in their relationships, to care about themselves or their work. Since I learned long ago in science classes that energy is neither created or destroyed, it made sense that the energy that used to be present in waking life had to have gone somewhere in the psyche. But where? If not in the conscious psyche, it must then be in the unconscious psyche.
“The unconscious has simply gained an unassailable ascendancy; it wields an attractive force that can invalidate all conscious contents – in other words, it can withdraw libido from the conscious world and thereby produce a ‘depression,’ an abaissemnet du niveau mental (Janet). But as a result of this we must, according to the law of energy, expect an accumulation of value – i.e. libido – in the unconscious.” (Jung, C.W. Volume VII, paragraph 63)
Since the energy has gone underground, so-to-speak, in order to regain energy in the conscious state we must do the work of connecting with the unconscious via dream work, or via active imagination. In a way this work is not much different from being a plumber and unplugging a drain or a toilet so that the water (energy) can again run free.
For myself, continuing to work with active imagination sort of acts as a way of preventing an accumulation of libido (energy) in the unconscious as well as having too much energy located in the outer psyche (ego). I do better when there is balance between inner and outer
I searched for a while for today’s photo and decided that this photo taken in February in Angkor Wat deserved to brought forward for you, my readers. I chose the photo before any thoughts as to what today’s post was to be about as I was unsure about the direction of this post. As I come closer to returning to Canada for the summer, I find that I am disrupted from normal routines. I haven’t taken my camera out for a walk in weeks and my sleep patterns are changing as the weather warms up. I find it harder to focus, even to read. It is as though some alien force has clamped an energy suppressant shield over me.
I think some of this is due to the frustration I feel in trying to access Internet and write up posts. At times, the good times, I can simply turn on a browser and log into this page and write to my hearts content, taking time to search for the right photo and browse though a book or two to find words that resonate. Recently that freedom has all but vanished. I use a program called Freegate to try and get passed the Firewall used to limit the access both into and out of China’s web spaces. If there is a small opening in the wall, I can sneak in to catch up on a bit of reading and posting using social media such as Twitter or Facebook, media which shortens the distance between family and friends left behind. However, I can’t post blogs using Freegate as my host site in Canada doesn’t allow proxy access to do so.
Yet adding to the Internet issues is the perennial issue of end of course documentation so that the university can release grades and move on to a new term. At least Internet isn’t an issue in doing this work. However, it is a dull, dispiriting kind of work that drains the energy levels and leaves one lethargic.
I realise that this post is not much more than a rant, and that, thankfully is not typical for my way of being here. Now, if I could only get this tree off my back and renew my presence in both face-to-face life and here in my sacred container, Through A Jungian Lens.
Heading northwest on the Mekong River not too far out of Ho Chi Minh City, these homes on stilts made me realise how life along this river must be always subject to the unpredictable water of the river. Looking at the network of supporting poles, small sticks that would by themselves seem insignificant spurs me to think about all the differences I encounter while living in Asia and in China in particular.
Working at a university, I get to see young men and women every day as they move through the steps from childhood to adulthood. Teaching them a second language allows me to find out a lot about their ways of understanding the world. When teaching a second language, the quickest method is to use base knowledge of the first language and life experience as hooks for the second language. In other words, teach them what they already know, only in the target language. Since at this stage of life, relationships are the biggest focus of these young people, giving them a chance to talk about relationships and their beliefs allows them to speak with more confidence as they don’t have to learn new concepts, just the vocabulary and expressions. Aside from their romantic notions that come out of watching American films, these young people have a very practical sense of what marriage is all about. Love is not synonymous with marriage as it is in the western world.
“Historically, love and marriage have not been synonymous . . . As a matter of fact, only in the last century and a quarter has the vox populi claimed marriage and love as one and the same. This is not to say that happily committed people have not loved each other, but rather that for most of human history the purpose o marriage was to bring stability to the culture rather than make an individual happy or serve the task of mutual individuation. Possibly the greatest number of history’s marriages would, by today’s standards, be described as loveless, for they were contracted arrangements made to produce, protect and nurture the young, thus to preserve the tribe, to transmit social and religious values and to channel anarchic libido in socially useful directions.
Similarly, in many marriages love, whatever love may prove to be, is simply not the determinative value. What more commonly has brought people together, the energy which seeks synergy, are the operative complexes of each. One or both may seek to find the good parent in the other, may even wish to find an abuser in order to confirm a wounded sense of self, or may be seeking what was missing in the family of origin. Or, one may marry for a sense of transferred power.” (Hollis, The Eden Project, pp41-42)
With these words, I understand better how the young men and women in my classes dutifully abandon a “love” mate because the parents don’t support the union. I understand better why young Asian women willingly enter into relationships with older western men. As one young female told me, it is about power. The want to marry power and thus gain power themselves, a sense of security in a crowded and competitive world where there is not enough for everyone. These young people believe in love, fall in love and rebel for love. But, for the most part, these young men and women fall back into line in order to fit in with the needs and demands of their culture.
Maybe there is something to learn here. Maybe we (I) put too many demands on the people we marry making all of us crazy in the process?
I was finding it hard to capture the real mauves and violet colours of this climbing bush, so I was pleasantly surprised at how this image turned out. Many of my photos are taken simply for pleasure, not with any particular psychological purpose for this blog. Flowers, scenes, places and people form the bulk of such “personal pleasure” photographs. It is my way of being “in the moment.”
That is something that many of us, myself of course included, find difficult to accomplish. I know that I want to be “over there” where the action is, doing something “vital and meaningful” for my family, country, community and mostly, for my ego. Yes, I admit it, I am often “full” of myself. The problem with wanting to be over there is that I miss what is here in front of my eyes. I lose the real opportunity for being vital and being authentic which in turn makes life meaningful.
My wanderings around this city with a camera provides me with an excuse to be present in my own quiet way. As I wander with the camera, I get surprised by others who then see me being curious and take that as an invitation to communicate, to connect. And so, I get drawn into a more vital presence.
Back in the apartment, with the doors closed, I often fall back into a less vital existence, at least until I visit my photos which kindle anew, the sparks of connection I experienced earlier. Slowly, I learn what it means to find meaning through the act of being present in life.
This is a photo taken yesterday when walking to visit a colleague who had recently given birth to a baby boy. New blossoms of all sorts are opening and the willow trees have new green buds which give a thin veneer of green on their branches. After so many bits and bytes of news that talks of death and destruction around the world, it is good to witness another side of nature, the side that shows life emerging.
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As the above marks indicate, I somehow had a significant “pause” in the process of constructing this post, a two-day pause. It had to do with being a bit under the weather and not being able to focus too readily. However, now I am back with an improved state of being. I wonder if it was synchronistic that I lost my energy during the the time of tragedy unfolding in Japan and in the Arab world? Somehow, I think that this was the case. The tragedies have not ended, if anything, they are set to worsen. But, life must go on for me.
It is easy to get caught in the drama and have one’s energy sucked away. I see this happening to some in various parts of the world via social media such as Twitter. Those affected are possessed even if they are thousands of miles or kilometres away, getting little sleep and hanging on to every bit of news that comes out of cyberspace, reposting the news without checking for validity. The individual mind has fallen asleep at the switch while the archetypal energies run free, eating away at the human host.
So, I had to stop and take a time out, to relocate my “self.”
Eight Koi fish swimming in a pond in Hong Mei Gong Yuan caught my eye on a recent trip to that park. In my travels through many parts of China, I have found these golden colored fish swimming in ponds and canals and aquariums. I don’t think there is a park in China that doesn’t set up a pond for the Koi fish. The Koi is a symbol of good luck, of prosperity and of happiness. In this small school of Koi which caught me eye, the number of fish, eight, also has a symbolic meaning in Chinese terms, a symbol of luck. I guess that you could say that I stumbled upon “Double Good Luck” with this image.
The fish has a wealth of symbolism in psychology as well as in all cultures. In my culture, the fish symbolizes the peace of Jesus. In Jungian psychology, the fish is representative of the archetype of the “Self,” an archetype of wholeness that is often synonymous with “God.” The fish is a denizen of the water, symbol of the unconscious and as such is often symbolic of the unconscious movements in one’s dreams which point to libido, and to personal growth, a fertility of consciousness.
The number eight is also significant as it symbolizes “infinity” or that which is without end or beginning including all that is – present, past and future – all that yet isn’t. Eight is about balance, about the recycling of time and the process of continual rebirth. The cycling evokes a rising into consciousness and a descent into the unconscious only to again rise into consciousness. In a way, one could take the symbols of fish and the number eight to represent the process of individuation – personal growth through a journey embracing both the dark and the light, consciousness and the unconscious.
As I was visiting the park with my wife, she noticed my interest and looked at the scene and decided it was time for a rare photo of myself, thinking.
I went for a walk yesterday afternoon, my first real walk since I have come back to Canada. The blizzard kept me indoors for a couple of days and my allergies stole whatever energy I had on the other days. The allergies are still going on strong but I knew that I had to get out or else I would simply turn into a zombie.
Out in the countryside, I found this lone seagull standing on the ice-covered lagoon looking rather lonely. I would imagine that he felt abandoned and alone out in the cold, a feeling that I share at times when depression decides to pay another visit. Depression, as described in this article, Fighting that Frozen Feeling, steals one’s energy to do things and to interact with people.
So what to do with this feeling? Well, the first thing is to realize that there is some purpose at work. The depression isn’t simply an incident of chaos. As my friend Ur-Spo reminds us:
In the Jungian theory, depression is a symptom of a wrong direction, or a necessary step of discarding false matters to make room for real psychological growth. So, in Jungian psychology, depression is not an ‘illness’ per se – it is a signal; sort of like a ‘red warning light’ that comes on when your engine has a problem. (Ur-Spo, Spo-Reflections, Depression From a Jungian Point of View, January 6, 2008)
Rather than fleeing or trying to deny the depression, one looks carefully at the depression in order to see what needs attention. Yes, there are roots, past events that can be held as responsible for the depression’s origins. However, it is something about the present that is not quite right according to the psyche, something that needs to be brought to light so that energy or libido can be freed up so that normal living can continue.
With energy freed, one begins to feel warmed by the spirit, the inner sunshine which then thaws the soul. Being able to move again, one can then relate again with others in a life-affirming manner, so that one is no longer alone and out in the cold.
Life can flow forward only along the path of the gradient. But there is no energy unless there is a tension of opposites; hence it is necessary to discover the opposite to the attitude of the conscious mind … The conscious mind is on top, the shadow underneath, and just as high always longs for the low and hot for cold, so all consciousness, perhaps without being aware of it, seeks its unconscious opposite., lacking which it is doomed to stagnation, congestion, and ossification. Life is born only at the spark of opposites. (Jung, CW 7, par. 78 – cited in Sharp, Jung Uncorked: Book One, p. 43)
Today’s photo was taken just moments before writing this post. In a way, before seeing this scene from the small patio in front of our casita, I had little intention or energy for doing a post. Truth be told, I was feeling conflicted and low in a way, but not really depressed, just a bit lost and empty. Life does that to a person. I sometimes get so into my head, so into the sky, that I lose sight of what lies beneath the sky.
And, in being lost in the sky, I fail to notice that I have begun to operate unconsciously, not my usual somewhat aware self. And in doing so, conflict finds its way back into the picture as I rail against this incursion of shadow into my “self.” It took this photo to remind me that I, too, need balance. I can’t stay all in the sky, in my ego-aware head. I can’t wander unconsciously acting in ways that spill out either, something that happens when I get too caught up in my head. Remembering, I can juggle both a bit and hope for the best with a sense of balance. And in juggling, I find again the energy to do.
While driving down the highway a few days ago, I came across this scene that just begged to be photographed. Of course I took quite a few photos here and of a number of other locations that will find their way into this blog site. It was a moment of pure beauty with winter putting on its best show. I love hoar frost as it dazzles and scatters sunlight. Its as though the night fog that has enveloped the world has lifted to temporarily show us an alternate universe, a fractal offshoot of the real world. But, one must be very aware that it still winter, still cold and that the scene, as beautiful as it may be, is still about stopping up libido, stopping the flow of life forces.