Archive for the ‘personal unconscious’ tag
I took this older photo from 2006 in order to continue the series about naturism. But before I go further, I want to be upfront and say that in this series of photos, judicious cropping has led to the illusion of my being fully in my own skin. It’s not true. I cropped the swim wear in each photo to give an illusion. Obviously in each photo I was not alone and someone else was taking the photographs with my camera. And because of the fact of the presence of another person, I find myself, like the vast majority of North Americans, uncomfortable in my own skin concerned about my less than perfect body. I wouldn’t think of going “au naturel.” And so, I ask myself “Why?”
Well, I have convinced myself that it is “selfish” of me to not care about the sensibilities of others. I have told myself that I would embarrass those closed to me in any given situation, embarrass strangers that would accidentally see me. Being seen unclothed in a public place, even at a beach in Mexico, Cuba or elsewhere would be an intrusion into the space of others, an assault on their own concepts of self and others. And as I continue to think about it, there appear many layers of “reasons” for my feeling uncomfortable in my own skin when others are present. I want to include a few words here that I found on another site while researching the psychological aspects of naturism:
“Progressively, over the centuries, society has developed the use of clothing as a mask. Clothing was originally used and designed to protect people from the elements of heat and cold, to stop themselves from getting burned or frozen. It was also used as a method of adornment to enhance attractiveness and for ritual and ceremonial reasons. In the latter centuries, people developed a cultural dependency on clothing. Clothes became a mask and a prop for perceived personality and character deficiencies.
“We frequently see people who would not be seen dead without their clothing on. Clothing is often used to portray an image that is different from the person’s perceived inner deficiencies. It is a form of artificiality or masking that they outwardly project to cover up any personality or emotional defects they think they have. People tend to feel that by hiding behind clothing they can metaphorically cover themselves and deny others exposure to the inner-self they perceive to be crippled. The need to do this most commonly occurs in people with low self-esteem.” (Naked Beneath Your Clothing)
Again, the masking of the self, the portraying of an image that would be more socially acceptable, one that would leave me safely protected from the collective. I know that I have a lot of scars and messy aspects and I desperately want to hide them so that others will like me. I hide my true self. But that hiding can only go on so long before one is forced to expose one’s true self. I have no issue with seeing others in their own skin, something which isn’t so rare in other countries such as India, and in IndoChina. Seeing others in their own skin in North America is also not an issue for me other than me berating myself for lacking the courage these others demonstrate in being comfortable in their own skin.
The journey of individuation forces one to become honest with one’s self, and in turn, that leads to a transparency that forces one to be honest with others. I am not really there yet though I yearn to be there, need to be there in order to feel whole, to feel a sense of real holiness. This blog space is one place where I feel a real sense of safety, especially in allowing my inner self to be more transparent. The journey continues.
Along the Mekong River going north of Luang Prabang the small boat I was travelling in stopped at a very small village where I found this young family. The village is now a tour stop specializing in the making and sale of woven cloth and the manufacture of a potent white lightning that actually had a pleasant taste in comparison with most that I’ve tried in Canada and in China. This little family was attempting to sell bead work, mostly cheap trinkets. Being in the midst of the dry season, villagers are actually present and not working in the rice fields not too distant. My initial response to such as scene is to lament that parents would employ their children to do the sales work, placing a world of stress on pressure upon these children causing a loss of childhood. But, that is my stuff and I have learned to keep my own counsel and allow others to govern their own lives.
It is easy for me to sit in judgment of others in many instances as I think I know the difference between right and wrong. I say to myself “I’d never do that!” believing that somehow in a similar situation I would be able to think the way I do now and make better choices. But in truth, I don’t know what I would say or do in another life, in other circumstances. As I think over my own actions, I see that I have done things I would not do anymore. Yet at that time, I was a different person at a different level of self-awareness. I compromised my self in order to make it a little better for my children or for my wife. I was blind to my shadow and stumbled into hurtful situations for my children and my wife. With age and with some hard work, I have learned that ego doesn’t have all the facts needed to clearly think through the minefield of options. The biggest learning was that all choices, all paths are literally minefields because of both a personal unconsciousness and the collective unconsciousness.
There is so much remaining for me of my self that remains a mystery. Now, I am hesitant to make judgment – hesitant, but not unwilling. Because I engage in relationships, both in a face-to-face life and a cyberspace life. I am left only with being able to describe acts as having negative or positive affect for me, to me – and this affect is more about bringing me a personal darkness or a personal light that is felt by my soul. And in saying these words I begin to perhaps understand how at the day of judgment one’s self is the judge that chooses the darkness or the light, a personal heaven or hell in response for the life one has lived. I leave it to others to be their own judges as much as I can.
With many judgments set aside, I have begun to learn how to engage in relationship which is an act of trust. I must trust the other as well as my self as I enter into relationship, as I deepen relationships in which I have long engaged.
“. . . 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. With the thousand adaptive strategies derived from the fortuities of fated time, fated places, fated Others, we contaminate the frail present with the germs of the past.” (Hollis, The Eden Project, p. 32)
This photo was taken in looking out from the ancient city of XiTang to a more modern XiTang. It’s surprising what one sees behind the scenes. The ancient city is a preserved tourism site that celebrates the approved myths of a culture’s past. Outside the boundaries of this mythic past, one comes into a modern world that lives its own myths of the present. And, the face of that modern world doesn’t always present a satisfying image. I am sure that the tourism authorities hope that the tourists don’t wander off the controlled beaten paths causing a loss of wonder in the myth they have worked so hard to construct.
I am certain that we are all guilty of the myths we create for ourselves, a myth that gets presented in our collection of masks, our personae. We craft identities for consumption by others in our lives. As an example, I have numerous identities that are published for consumption – some are authentic is as much as any identity can be authentic, and some are quite contrived. My identity as a husband is real and as a result, is messy. My identity as a father and grandfather are equally as real as I don’t worry about hiding my warts in my confidence that my children and grandchildren would love me in spite of these warts. But from there, it gets a bit complicated.
My identity as a neighbour is quite contrived. I hold to a definition of myself that they can resonate with, an identity that comes close to mimicking without being offensive. My talk is their talk which is enhanced by spending most of my communicative time with them, listening; my likes are their likes as I smile and murmur appreciative words. I don’t bring forward my interests or real passions as they only jolt them causing a distance that is often too difficult too bridge if I don’t quickly return to their comfort zones and levels of awareness.
Yet, somehow here, in cyberspace, perhaps I become the most authentic outside of my relationship with my wife. In some aspects more authentic and in other ways, more silent in order to protect the relationship.
My myth? I guess it would be safe to say that the collection of identities, those that I am conscious of as well as those that interact with the world without my conscious awareness all combine to bring my personal myth to life. Yet, the myth is more than this as it is tied to a larger myth that is our our time and the collective myth in which I find myself. So many miniature myths consciously crafted as well as one in which I am simply a smaller bit part. But it is the personal myth that I want to hold here, the one, like this image behind the scenes, the fullest personal myth that shows my self on a journey of redemption, a journey of meaning and salvation.
A Chinese magnolia tree in Sunshine Gardens is about to blossom. This flower bud will become a large pink blossom. All the white magnolia blossoms are already on display. Spring in ChangZhou is all about colour and vitality. Yes, the image chosen today is very evocative of the masculine, something that I didn’t notice when I was busy with the camera taking a raft of photos for a posting on my other blog site, the one which chronicles my life in China as a laowai (foreigner) teaching ESL, a posting about the flowers in the gated community in which I live. However, once I went over the photos, the masculine aspect became evident. Using a little editing, the colour and texture made that fact even more obvious.
One of my readers remarked to me once, “What is it with you and erection?” in response to yet another post and photo that highlights the masculine. I guess the question was really more of a “What is your story that notes these images as you pass through life?” Each of us has a story, or more correctly, stories that compose the foundation of our identity, of how we see ourselves and how we understand and decode the world.
Well, I’ve been thinking about how I would answer the question posed to me and realise that I have been answering the question about my stories with each of these posts. The posts are more of a living story telling about my own psyche as if this space was no different from the container of an analyst’s office and that the stories told here are those I could have spoken to an analyst. Each of the images I have brought here illustrate my personal myth. I want to call on the words of James Hollis to somehow explain this idea of a personal myth.
“To ask, what is your story? is to be obliged to ask what are your stories, for we are no single narrative. What is humbling is the acknowledgment through age, repetition and the growth of consciousness that we have less autonomy in the construction of our lives than we had fantasized. In the end, the chief result of a long-term analysis is not a solution to our dilemma, for life is not a problem, but a progressive unfolding of mystery. The joyful discovery is that our lives become more interesting to us as we discern that we are part of a larger mystery. This is a proper relocation of the ego from its imperial fantasy to its unique, personal place. We become amazed witnesses of the great theater wherein we play our part, and are reminded of the progressive incarnation which occurs in even the most modest of moments.” (Hollis, Mythologems, p. 113)
So the answer I have found is that there is nothing “the matter” with me. Rather, I am discovering, uncovering, my self in a way that is transparent and honest. There is nothing to hide, nor any reason to hide that which I discover as bits of shadow enter into consciousness and cease being shadow.
This is another scene taken during a week-end trip to WuZhen, ZheJiang, PRC. At a number of locations in the ancient village, narrow bridges arch over the series of canals that serve as streets. With the improved economy in China, the number of visitors to sites such as this one have become tourism hot spots. Modern China is wrestling with its identity in the modern world and finds that it needs to reconnect with its past, in a mythological way, as it embraces the heady pace of economic expansion, stock markets, real estate and private enterprise. Places like WuZhen serve this purpose admirably.
This photo of people going “over” the water has a certain “feel” of modern man mindlessly following a path, not daring to think deeply about what and where they are going, not questioning. The leaders of modern man promise wealth, happiness, freedom from evil. Listening to the noise that comes out from the different corners, I hear leaders exhorting their communities to overcome evil, the evil of others that gets defined in religious terms, racial terms, political terms, economic terms, or even in class terms. Enemies are evil made manifest. Goodness is always the collective to which one belongs. Bob Dylan’s song, “With God On Our Side” is a good example of this kind of belief.
But, how can one understand this “overcoming evil” represented by our enemies be they Republicans or Democrats, Communists or Capitalists, Christians or Muslims, the corporate elite or the shiftless and lazy welfare bums? The problem shows itself in deadly terms as is being witnessed in Libya today as sides are taken and bombs are flying. Caught in the middle, dying, are Libyans, ordinary people at the centre. And this is just one of what seems to be an uncountable number of “conflicts” where good is trying to overcome evil with both sides of each conflict being both the good and the evil depending on which side one stands holding a gun or power or an idea.
“People speak sometimes of “overcoming” evil. But have we the power to overcome it? It should be remembered, first, that “good” and “evil” are only our judgment in a given situation, or, to put it differently, that certain “principles” have taken possession of our judgment. Secondly, it is often impossible to speak of overcoming evil, because we are in a “closed” situation, in an aporia, where whatever we choose is not good. The important thing is to be aware that we are then in a numinous situation, surrounded on all sides by God, who can bring about either the one or the other and often does.” (Jung, CW 10, par. 883)
That is the problem in getting caught in taking sides, we end up caught in a closed situation rather than being able to “hold the tension” in order to allow another possibility to emerge, one that doesn’t take sides. Rather than following blindly down a prescribed trail, one needs to stop and step off the trail long enough to allow other voices to be heard. Listening to voices banished into the shadows of the personal and collective unconscious allows for new possibilities to emerge where before it was only a black or white possibility.
We are a strange animal, we humans. We want it all to be black or white. We want it all to be understandable, to be quantifiable and provable by reason, fact and evidence. I have been reading a historical novel set in China called Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay. Just a few moments ago, before setting down to write today’s post I read the following words: ”The World is not something to be understood. It is vanity, illusion to even try.” (p.333) And, these words feel right, that one needs to accept the unconscious faces of whatever God we choose to believe in, for the world will never make sense otherwise. All would end up becoming nothing but meaningless chaos.
This is a detail from the hallway that separates the main temple from small meditation and prayer rooms at a Buddhist temple in the central part of the city of Changzhou. The temple, Jiuhua Chansi, is a Buddhist Temple For Nuns. One of the things about this photo that caught my attention was the shift from darkness below to darkness above with the light located at the bottom central part of the photo.
This temple was a lot smaller than most Buddhist temples I have visited here in China. It’s smallness made me think of how focused the life of the nuns must be. Each bit of space was treated as if it was at the centre of their care, even the darker spaces. Being within the temple with its dark and light spaces, I sensed that they “fit” together and “belonged” together. There was no attempt to banish the dark areas with artificial light.
I know that I am driven to bringing more light into my own darkness. I now doubt that the intention is to banish the darkness, but more to give it form and to feel that I am “more” rather than “less.” The darkness is also who I am on a personal and a collective level.
“A more or less superficial layer of the unconscious is undoubtedly personal. I call it the “personal unconscious”. But this personal layer rests upon a deeper layer, which does not derive from personal experience and is not a personal acquisition but is inborn. This deeper layer I call the “collective unconscious”. I have chosen the term “collective” because this part of the unconscious is not individual but universal; in contrast to the personal psyche, it has contents and modes of behaviour that are more or less the same everywhere and in all individuals. (Jung, CW 9i, pp 3-4)
It would be absurd for me to think that “I” could bring light to all this darkness, awareness to all that is unknown within me including the collective darkness. In thinking more about this, I realise that to banish darkness would leave one blinded by light, totally undifferentiated. The “I” would disappear and all that would be left would be a white void. So, I begin to be thankful for the shadows that give form and substance. that gifts me with images.
I looked a bit further into Jung’s work and found this:
“Why have we not long since discovered the unconscious and raised up its treasure-house of eternal images? Simply because we had a religious formula for everything psychic — and one that is far more beautiful and comprehensive than immediate experience. Though the Christian view of the world has paled for many people, the symbolic treasure-rooms of the East are still full of marvels that can nourish for a long time to come the passion for show and new clothes. What is more, these images — be they Christian or Buddhist or what you will — are lovely, mysterious, richly intuitive.” (Jung, CW 9i, pp 7-8)
Ah! Now I know why I am entranced by these images, they “are lovely, mysterious, richly intuitive.”
The fog is beginning to lift. My medications are finally beginning to do their thing allowing me to be less forced into a world of tunnel vision due to the pressure in my head, one of those side effects of having allergies.
One of the good things about suffering physically is the fact that it has helped me find a theme for my photo book project – tunnel vision. I have ideas of content for the photos, and have been wondering how I would unite the various photos to form a theme. Presentation using a tunnel view such as this photo was my answer to my “self”. I am also thinking that I would have a poem for each photo – or a quote from one favourite Jungian book so as to accentuate the presentation as a unified document.
Tunnel vision is part of my life, part of my journey. Thinking more about tunnel vision, I realised that we are all wandering through this earth dimension with tunnel vision, limited by our shadow, limited by how little of the personal and collective unconsious we have yet faced. Tunnel vision limits not only our sense of “self” but also our knowledge of “other”. We are small islands of light that are drawn to each other in the darkness, yet unable to fully see each “other” because of the surrounding darkness. And, we live in mystery and confusion in our relationships as a result of the surrounding darkness.
????? ??????. Know thyself. I want to thank one of the people who come here to read, Thelma, a woman from Greece, for these words. This is what the whole process of blogging here is about. This is just one of the things that I am engaged in with the purpose of “knowing my self” a bit better. This isn’t as easy as it sounds.
For example, writing this blog. What do I say? What do I disclose? What do I omit saying but at the same time leave small direction signs that hint at what I am thinking? What do I omit without even any crumbs of evidence of what is on my mind? And these are just the conscious aspects of self knowledge in this blog conversation with my “self” and “others”. The act of putting words and photos on this blog has both personal and collective unconscious aspects that insinuate themselves within the words and in the choices of photos. It is my belief that in blogging, the shadow presents itself in a numinous fashion, hoping that the conscious self “gets it” with one of those “ah-ha” responses.
This time in Mexico is quickly coming to an end. In less than 48 hours I will be in a plane headed back to my place in the outer world. I will then see just how the alchemical processes being enacted under the hot sun here in Mexico, will become manifest in my presence in the outer world of “home”. I have changed. How will that change fit the old container?