Archive for the ‘marriage’ tag
As most of my readers know, I take time in my life for meditation. A few of you also know that I am a naturist at heart. So, it is my preferred habit to combine both. Why did I choose this photo for today’s post? Well, for one thing, I want to share this excellent photo with you, a photo taken by my wife. She saw something in the way that the light was falling on me while I meditated and she tried to capture what she saw. She didn’t see nakedness, nor meditation. Rather, she saw a deeper meaning, one that said something about who I am in this modern world. She saw something and respected what she saw.
Relationships are difficult things. With two individuals who fall in love the initial image is one of projection. One sees an archetypal image that is bigger than any one person can ever hope to fill. As time passes and one begins to see this person without the archetype clouding vision, one must learn to respond to the reality of this person. Often we exclaim that this wasn’t the person we married. The truth is that this statement is a true statement. One marries a real person but one thinks one is marrying a different person, one that is created within one’s own psyche.
As the years pass, we begin the process of discovering the real person we have taken as a mate. As we note the reality and adjust, we change ourselves to fit with the other in an attempt to continue the relationship. Sometimes the changes are too much or go against the fundamental beliefs we hold of ourselves. When this happens the relationship enters stormy waters. We are forced to re-examine these fundamental beliefs and weigh them against the positives, and there are always positives, in the relationship.
If one is honest, then a relationship will always enter stormy waters. We must be honest with ourselves and with our partners. That honesty will point out the differences between each other and the differences we hold about the other than are causing personal discord. This honesty isn’t spoken with the intent of changing the other person as that can’t be realised and have the other person be true to their own nature. With honest there is an opportunity to see each other in a new light and consider how that resonates or complements what one honestly knows about oneself.
Attempts to change the other, demand change in the other, or force change on oneself for the other always ends in fracturing. Accepting the differences allows a relationship to continue and to grow. As the relationship grows, the strength of the individuals in the relationship also grows. The relationship becomes a sacred container within which both partners feel safe, the relationship becomes a holy marriage.
On the Tonle Sap River in Cambodia near Kampong Chhnang, I came across these children who live on the river. These children are a proof that there is a beauty and vitality and hope for life. These children are the product of the human instinct for survival as a species and a deeper instinct for the preservation of the self as an immortal being. One doesn’t think of any of this when one meets the other with whom mating and giving birth and child-rearing becomes a life-consuming task.
Many reasons are given for marrying in our modern times – love, wealth, power, duty, loneliness – but whatever the initial impulse the two entering into a marriage begin to change because of the marriage, because of the intimate contact with an other person. Two people choose to be together in a contractual arrangement that is best described as a marriage. Yet, it isn’t too long before both parties of the contract have changed. Intimacy evokes a response as much as dropping a stone into a still pond affects change in an environment.
“Many marriages simply evolve beyond the implicit terms of the invisible contract. Whatever complexes or programmed ideas of self and Other may have inspired the marriage the psyche has moved to another place. It is not so much that people fall out o love, but that the original controlling ideas have waned in favor of others – or the complex has decided that the Other cannot meet the expectations of the original agenda. (Hollis, The Eden Project, p 44)
Imagine if the two in a marriage became stuck in the initial human psychological developmental stage (it happens). Two who become forever adolescent; two who never move past that initial Magical Other; the result is tragic from the view of individuation as individuals, and perhaps even more tragic if these become parents who are so fixated on each other that the children are basically orphans in a psychological sense.
The binds and blindfolds of the Magical Other deny the growth of self. One is frozen in place and in time. One never does find the person behind the projections. And, one never does find the depths of one’s self.
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?
Today I have another rose photo, this time taken in Hong Mei Park yesterday. As I mentioned yesterday, the rose has a special significance to me because of my wife. While taking many rose photos yesterday, a good number of the photos had her in company with them. As much as I talk about the central relationship being with the self, it is impossible to come to grips with that primal and primary relationship without first engaging in relationship with an “other.” I don’t want to limit this “other” to a contrasexual definition as it isn’t so simple. Human psychology is never simple.
Each of us falls in love at some point. If we are lucky, the someone with whom we fall in love, reciprocates the same feeling thus allowing a relationship based on this initial impulse to love. In my case, it was love at first sight for both of us. If one only thinks about it for even a small moment, this doesn’t make any rational sense. How can two complete strangers fall in love simply by seeing the other person? What does one see in this circumstance? Certainly not the person. Jung calls it projection. Some others call it magic or fate. Regardless of what one calls it, the result is a marriage of two individuals. And by marriage, I mean a consensual agreement to live in a loving relationship with this significant other person, not necessarily legal arrangement. Whether or not the two lovers sign documents, the consensual agreement gives birth to a marriage.
It doesn’t take long to discover that this person with whom you have fallen in love and with whom you have engaged in marriage is a stranger, a mystery person. Reality has a way of forcing one to question who this “other” person really is. At that moment, a moment of psychic separation, one becomes a bit more conscious, not only of the other, but of one’s self. Interactions with this significant other leads to a constantly shifting sense of self, a deepening of self-awareness. Where this gaining of self-awareness is stalled, in situations where one remains entranced with the myth of the other not allowing the other to be human. Each gain is achieved only through the loss of an aspect of the original fiction – yet that loss doesn’t necessarily mean a loss of the other person, just a loss of a projection. A marriage can survive becoming conscious with the creation of a new relationship. Again, I want to bring a few words from James Hollis:
“the quality of all of our relationships is a direct function of our relationship to ourselves.” (Hollis, Eden Project, p. 13)
Know thyself and one can get to know the real person that one loves. It comes back to our desire to love, to be loved – especially for who we are, who we really are, warts and all. And when the passion dies, life seems to somehow shrivel and we shrivel within ourselves. And now, for a few final words for today’s post from Gao XingJian:
“you regret not chasing after her, you regret your lack of courage . . you regret losing the opportunity. . . You don’t even know how to go about starting a romance, you’re so weak you’ve lost your manliness, you’ve lost the ability to take the initiative. Afterwards, however, you decide to go to the riverside to try your luck.
. . .
Only you are left sitting in the pavilion, like an idiot, pretending to wait for an appointment which wasn’t made, with a woman who came and vanished, just as if you’re daydreaming. Could it be that you’re bored, that you’re fed up with your monotonous life devoid of passion and excitement and that you want to live again, to experience life itself again?” (Gao XingJian, Soul Mountain, p. 41)
A bench found on the mountain path through the Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve appears as though it hasn’t been used in quite a long time. As I walked the mountain paths over a distance of perhaps eight kilometres, there were three benches placed for those who felt they needed a time out from the strenuous trek going up and down the path as it wound around the mountain.
I will admit to doing a bit of touch up to the photo, a reduction of contrast as well as reducing colour saturation in order to come closer to the feeling and reality of the scene as I remember it. Sometimes the camera lies when it records a scene, giving more contrast or richer colours in one instance or removing contrast, shadows or the richness of colours.
What the eyes see is not always what the lens sees. What one person sees is not the same as what another person sees either. And, as I learn as the years pass, what I have seen at one point in time changes over time, not because the scene has changed, but because I have changed. This is true about seeing people as much as it is about seeing things.
Since this is my experience, I wonder about the experience of others. For example, I know that my children saw me as someone quite large in life. Yet, over the years, that vision has been replaced as those children grew into adults. Now, I am a much smaller person in physical size. As well as the way I am seen by my children, there is the question as to how I am seen by my partner, the woman I married almost forty years ago. There is no doubt in my mind that over the years I have become more of a stranger that a constant familiar presence. In my mind, both of these examples can be seen in a positive light. My children now look at me from the position of being adults, my wife now sees me as a complex and real person while living her own complexity. For all of us, the lens has changed.
I return to the subject of relationships, that as found between men and women, relationships that could be characterised as marriages. Typically, a relationship has one partner be the container and the other partner being the contained. This works well until midlife when the rules change:
Middle life is the moment of greatest unfolding, when a man still gives himself to his work with his whole strength and his whole will. But in this very moment evening is born, and the second half of life begins. Passion now changes her face and is called duty; “I want” becomes the inexorable “I must,” and the turnings of the pathway that once brought surprise and discovery become dulled by custom. (Jung, CW 17, par. 331)
At this moment, this entry into midlife, the lens through which we view and understand the world has also changed. And, with the change of the lens, what had been familiar and comfortable now becomes less comfortable. Above, I mentioned that in each marriage one is the container and the other is the contained. Well, that is true to a certain extent, but in reality both partners become both.
It is an almost regular occurrence for a woman to be wholly contained spiritually in her husband, and for a husband to be wholly contained, emotionally, in his wife. One could describe this as the problem of the “contained” and the “container.” (Jung, CW 17, par 331)
Both are containers, both are contained. I could easily see how this becomes a problem, especially as the lens changes in midlife. I will draw more on Jung to clarify this business of container and contained. But as I draw on his words, it is important to realise that references to the male and the female can easily be switched. Gender has no ownership to a specific relationship that of being either container or contained.
The one who is contained feels himself to be living entirely within the confines of the marriage; his attitude to the marriage partner is undivided; outside the marriage there exist no essential obligations and no binding interests. . . . The great advantage lies in his own undividedness, and this is a factor not to be underrated in the psychic economy. (Jung, CW 17, par 332)
Yikes! This is as close to a personal portrait as I could ever find in terms of relationship and containment within my marriage. The problem for any marriage with this is the building up of need in terms of dependence. Fears, not based on anything in the outer world, but based on one’s shadow, cause one to cling to the other, the container unreasonably. That fear manifests in a heightened sense of insecurity, fear that at any moment the reciprocal love of the partner who is the container will disappear and with the disappearance of that love, the disappearance of the partner. It’s as though one begins grieving long before an ending. But what about the container?
The container, on the other hand, who in accordance with his tendency to dissociation has an especial need to unify himself in undivided love for another, will be left far behind in this effort, which is naturally very difficult for him, by the simpler personality. While he is seeking in the latter all the subtleties and complexities that would complement and correspond to his own facets, he is disturbing the other’s simplicity. . . . And soon enough his partner, who in accordance with her simpler nature expects simple answers from him, will give him plenty to do by constellating his complexities with her everlasting insistence on simple answers. Willynilly, he must withdraw into himself before the suasions of simplicity. . . . The simpler nature works on the more complicated like a roon that is too small, that does not allow him enough space. The complicated nature, on the other hand, gives the simpler one too many rooms with too much space, so that she never knows where she really belongs. So it comes about quite naturally that the more complicatexd contains the simpler. (Jung, CW 17, par 333)
There is so much here, so much to say, so much to chew on. I guess I will have to return to this theme again in the next post so that I can say what I need to say. I want to find out more about container and contained about simple and complicated …
This is a flower that I found on a dirt trail about three kilometres from the villa one morning. I was captured by the delicate nature of the flower, especially how it was in very close proximity, almost entangled with its mate. It reminded me of how a man an a woman are often entangled in each other sometimes to the point of being so enmeshed that they have trouble figuring out who is self and who is other. I guess one could say that they are so “into each other” that there is no room left for self awareness, for being conscious.
In the beginning, a relationship based on love is not a relationship built on consciousness. It is a relationship built on projections and hooks. Both man and woman see the “other” as the ideal that is buried within the unconscious, a projected anima/animus. For me, it was unquestionable, it was love at first sight. Three hours after meeting the woman I was to marry, I proposed and she accepted. What did I “know” about this woman? Nothing and everything; I knew nothing about her as a person, but I knew everything about her that somehow connected to a deep inner place within me. I didn’t need anything more other than the inner confirmation. I guess it was the same for her as she accepted my proposal immediately. Now, decades later we are working at trying to understand, trying to get to know the reality of the other. It is only now that a real relationship is being examined for its possibilities. That said, there is so much still in place that is based on unconscious responses based on complexes.
Young men and women cleave to each other on the whole for instinctive gratification, not because they are enamored of the loved one’s psychology. This may not be all bad, for at least it perpetuates the human race. But the truth is tha the heart-felt words, “I love you,” are generally motivated by physical desire, social standing and the like. (Sharp, Jung Uncorked: Book Two, 2008, p. 89)
This is very evident in marriages between young people, but I am finding out here in Costa Rica, that it is no different for those in midlife who have come here alone and soon pair up with a local Costa Rican. The same was seen in China and Mexico. It is enough just to have someone to cling to in order to escape loneliness, to escape too much of being with the “self.” What I am seeing suggests most of the pairing is instinctual, a meeting of needs rather than a conscious assessment of the self and the other in order to establish a relationship based on both parties being conscious. The problems of relationship are not solved in clinging to a new partner if the relationship isn’t based on being conscious of what is going on within self and other. When the needs change and the blinders again fall off, relationship is again doomed. Patty Loveless sings about what remains when projections are withdrawn and one is faced with the stranger they married . . .
“She left the car in the driveway
She left the key in the door
She left the kids at her mama’s
And the laundry piled up on the floor
She left her ring on the pillow
Right where it wouldn’t be missed
She left a note in the kitchen
Next to the grocery list
It said, you don’t even know who I am
You left me a long time ago
You don’t even know who I am
So what do you care if I go
He left the ring on the pillow
He left the clothes on the floor
And he called her to say he was sorry
But he couldn’t remember what for
So he said I’ve been doing some thinking
I’ve been thinking that maybe you’re right
I go to work every morning
And I come home to you every night
And you don’t even know who I am
You left me a long time ago
You don’t even know who I am
So what do I care if you go
You don’t even know who I am
So what do I care if you go”
So, what to do when one feels misunderstood, when one’s needs are not being met, when the feeling is “you don’t even know who I am?” I guess the best place to start is with your “self.” It’s hard to blame the other when even the self is a stranger. Will this solve the problems and allow the relationship to be saved? Well, not necessarily. But, what is the alternative?
“On the whole, depth psychology . . . is suitable more for older couples whose relationships have foundered, run aground, precisely because of the lack of the partners’ self-knowledge. Even later education may not heal a broken relationship, but it can prepare both parties for another kick at the can, without blindfolds. After divorce or separation, they are indeed often ripe to know, open to learn, about the role played by their respective psychologies – typology, projection, complexes, shadow, animus and anima – in their unhappy situation.
I am not suggesting that marriage counseling is the answer, or even individual therapy, though often it is. Truth to tell, becoming conscious is responsible for quite as many break-ups as kiss-and-make-ups. When projections are taken back, there is often nothing or very little , to hold people together.” (Sharp, Jung Uncorked: Book Two, 2008, p. 89)
Ouch! Not too hopeful is it? I guess if nothing, it is about honesty, and that is worth quite a bit in itself. At least in becoming more conscious one one’s self, one is able to avoid most of the blind mistakes as one moves through what remains of life. It might not be as hopeless as it looks as it all depends on the willingness of both to become conscious and to re-approach each other consciously with the intention of fulfilling the promise of “for better or worse until death do we part.” For, as one learns, it is about balance, not perfection; it is about providing a safe place for both darkness and light within the relationship.
At the northern end of Playa Jacó, my wife sits on the rocks with the Pacific Ocean in the background. Sunset is on its way. We began our story together in a world-wind of emotion, a true-life tale in which I proposed to her within hours of meeting her. She accepted the proposal immediately. That was thirty-nine years ago. Though we were complete strangers, something moved within each of us as projections were put out on both sides landing on ready hooks. Today, she isn’t the woman I married. Today, I’m not the man she married. Hard work, tears, shared joys and a willingness to look at ourselves when things don’t go right in order to find out what “we” did, not what the “other” did – this is how we have made it so far. And the journey isn’t over yet so the ending is unknown, as it should be.
If a man cannot get along with his wife, he naturally thinks the conflict would be solved if he married someone else. When such marriages are examined they are seen to be no solution whatever. The old Adam enters upon the new marriage and bungles it just as badly as he did the earlier one. A real solution comes only from within and then only because the patient has been brought to a different attitude. (Jung, CW 4, par. 606)
Carl Gustav Jung has it nailed on the head. You can’t fix anything if you only do half of a job. It’s easy to blame the “other” person in a relationship, blame them for not living up to our fantasy, our projections. It’s hard to do the work on one’s self to see if the relationship will improve with self-knowledge increased. There is a risk of course. The risk might be that when projections are withdrawn, this might not be the person needed for a full and healthy relationship. But the risk of not doing this work is worse. For then, no matter how many relationships we manage to engage in, we will still have a blindness to our own contributions for relationship dysfunction.
A photo taken last night as the sun set in Playa Jacó. I had hoped to catch my wife, the sun, the surf and a few who were in the water surfing. Originally, the photo was destined for our family photo album and not for this blog. But on spending time with the photo, I came to realise that there was something important here to be said. Of course, by that I mean, important for me to say and hear. How important it is for others is not what the blog is about. Again, I want to remind all reading here that this is more about self and self-reflection than it is about trying to teach others.
Often, the images of my wife are actually images of anima. Here anima faces the setting sun, a moment of communion, a moment when both soul and spirit acknowledge each other with honour. The masculine aspect begins to make way for the feminine – both making for the whole. Together, they form the holy couple, a marriage between soul and spirit. So why do I refer to this woman as anima? Well, to be honest, she isn’t my anima. She is a woman that is as human as I am with her own soul and spirit. But that is a different story, one that may or may not ever be told here. These words travel within myself to look at how eros and logos, anima and spirit have come to honour the “otherness” that separates, yet an attitude that joins.
My work on the SoFoBoMo project is coming along though not at the same speed. Yesterday I only added one photo page with its accompanying text page into the layout. That being said, I don’t have any worries about finishing on time as ten photos are in place with only only four days of project time used up. It’s the text that is slowing me up, following a rigid template, that of the hero’s journey.
Today is day five and I have already added one more photo, this one, which I feature here along with it’s accompanying text. The photo was taken on Thursday as I went driving in search of more Saskatchewan photos that might “fit” into the story. All stories are situated in “place.” The place for the hero journey for my story is Saskatchewan, Canada. I struggled with the idea of using other kinds of photos, those of people or urban scenes or abstracts. However, in the end, I decided to keep true to the setting for the story, the open prairies of Saskatchewan. This photo is representative of the fifth stage, “the belly of the whale.” Only twelve more stages to go in order to complete the story and book. And now, the text.
- – - – -
Man and Women, One
His return to childhood
Abdication of power
… sweetest of all, however, is that gentle and painless slipping back into the kingdom of childhood, into the paradise of parental care, into happy-go-luckiness and irresponsibility. .(Jung, CW vol. 10, “The Individual’s Understanding of Himself,” paragraph 538, 1958.)
Strange how life turns, how relationships change. Falling in love, being a man on top of the world, building a new life with a partner. Then as years pass, slipping into a comfortable role. Decisions in the home shift to the wife-mother leaving the outer world of work as the domain for husband-father’s control. Relations become strained as passion is buried in business. His need for comfort, her need for control and the end result, he becomes like a child building yet another wall between their union.
What is more strange is how the “self” begins to slowly disappear as the years go by, how the “fusion,” the joining of two into one, becomes more about loss than it does about gain. Husband and wife cease being “individual” people in “relation” to each other as they become united as a couple, as parents. Marriage ceases being a partnership of equals. Too much and both are caught in the sticky web wondering who is this stranger that they had married.
… individual psychological development – individuation – is not possible without relationship, it is not compatible with togetherness. Individuation requires a focus on the inner access, ego to unconscious. Togetherness blurs or obliterates the boundaries, because it aims at the commingling of one ego with another. (Sharp, Daryl, The Survival Papers: Anatomy of a Midlife Crisis, p. 70, 1988.)
What does this commingling feel like? Being swallowed, like Jonah had been swallowed by a whale. To find one’s undiscovered self, one must be freed from the belly of the whale, and one must do this on one’s own by destroying the monster, the anima-mother complex.