Archive for the ‘Swamplands of the Soul’ tag
Yes, it’s raining again here n the Canadian prairies. This is an unusual state of affairs as this is the land of sunshine and wind, a semi-desert country that is now so soggy that farmers are actually having a legitimate reason for complaining about the weather. The rain is allowing me more time to read and think. However, perhaps it makes too much time for this in terms of “comfort level.” In some ways, it is almost as if the “shadow” is too close to the surface, too close to consciousness.
“Perhaps the most functional definition of shadow is that which I am uncomfortable in my culture or myself.” (Hollis, Swamplands of the Soul, p. 68)
Darkness, dampness, and the closed-in feeling smells, feels and tastes like a depression, not much different than an atmospheric depression that brings on the rain. The darkness limits vision and we tend to see what is inside when we can’t see what is outside. And so it cycles until a high pressure system lifts the darkness and allows the sun to shine again. Instinctual or biological or both, it doesn’t matter. The psyche must deal with this mood.
“We are asked to bear what is often felt to be unbearable. This is the task awaiting us in the swampland of the soul we call loneliness – to bear the unbearable. But in doing, by “going through,” one breaks the hold of the primal fear that holds sway over much of our lives. To go through it with the insight and courage of an adult, to make friends with it, somehow, breaks that tyrannous hold.” (Hollis, Swamplands of the Soul, p. 64)
Yes, it is about loneliness. The rain and the darkness forces one to deal with the loneliness that is “self.”
As I was walking down the street as evening was deepening into night, I came across a pair of toads, Cane Toads that were in the ditch. I managed to get a few photographs using flash with this photo being the one that I chose for this post. For me toads and frogs evoke images of swamplands, bogs, sloughs and standing pools of water in ditches.
Frogs also have made an appearance in my life based on my ethnic heritage. I am a French-Canadian and often was called a “frog” by the anglophones. Being called a frog is about being marginalised, about being devalued. I taught my children how to take their power back when being called frog. They learned to respond with croaking sounds and claiming that their favourite colour was green.
Little did I know that this denizen of swamplands would be more of who I really was than that of being French-Canadian. I learned that I was able, like the frog, to move between the dry land of consciousness and the swamplands of the unconsciousness when I began the search for meaning, in search for survival. When I read James Hollis’ book, Swamplands of the Soul: New Life in Dismal Places, I began to appreciate just what was happening to my self. It seemed that the world suddenly became awash in all kinds of books about soul. This is what Jung had to say about what was happening to me:
Among all my patients in the second half of life – that is to say, over thirty-five – there has not been one whose problem in the last resort was not that of finding a religious outlook on life. It is safe to say that every one of them fell ill because he had lost what the living religions of every age have given to their followers, and none of them has been really healed who did not regain his religious outlook. (Jung, CW 11, par 509; cited in Sharp, Jung Uncorked: Book Two, 2008, p. 35)
This is where the search for self transforms into a search for soul. There is a need to find meaning, a need to plumb the depths of the unknown in search of something that is greater than what has been the sum total of life as experienced. All the stuff, the relationships, the activities lose their power to sustain and in doing so, they become a poor substitute for life, for explaining life and giving it meaning. There is a desperate need to come to grips with the shadows within, shadows that clamour and shriek in hopes of being recognized as part of self.
And once the journey into the swamplands has validated the existence of something more than the ego, something more than our ego’s agitations in the world, the self begins to burn brighter. Self-discovery has led to a discovery of something greater than self. And it is this which feeds the conscious spirit for it has discovered its mate in the depths of the swampland, the soul.
The goal of individuation is not narcissistic self-absorption, as some might believe, but rather the manifestation of the larger purposes of nature through the incarnation of the individual. Each person, however insignificant in geopolitical terms, is the carrier of some small part of the telos of nature, the origin of which is shrouded in mystery but whose goal is conceivably dependent upon the enlargement of consciousness. If that be true, and I believe it is, then the task of individuation is wholeness, not goodness, not purity, not happiness. And wholeness includes the descent which the psyche frequently imposes upon the unwilling ego. – Swamplands of the Soul, James Hollis, from the introduction.
As I sat out on the beach side patio for my morning cup of coffee, listening to the morning waves break on the sandy shore, a long string of flamingos began to pass by. There were so many birds, I had more than enough time to race into the villa for my camera and then take a fair number of photos hoping that a few would be worth adding to my collection. There is just something about the vitality of nature that captures my attention. For all of my education, time spent living in cities and business in a modern world, nature resonates and adds to my sense of self and satisfaction. I cease to be trapped within my own head and rejoice in the breadth of a universe larger than myself.