Before I get too deep into it, I want to be clear that the book as I understand it, and my intentions in presenting parts of it here have nothing to do with “fixing” relationships with others. This isn’t couple therapy. Jungian psychology, analysis, and psychotherapy is about the individual. Know thyself – well at least as much as you can through risking digging through your own trash and unlocking buried chests with the ghosts and scary monsters that linger in darkness. Perhaps, and I am only speaking for myself here, it is about trying to understand in part why and how I react and relate to others in my life, particularly those others that have a prominent place in my life. Is the book a recipe book for bringing the magic back into your [or my] couple relationship? No! If you are looking for that, you’d be better off looking at the magazines on sale beside most cash registers. At least those magazines will leave you feeling all warm and fuzzy for the moment.
Don’t get me wrong, relationships is at the core of the book, but only from the viewpoint of the self.
“It is no accident that the primary motive, the hidden agenda in any relationship, is the yearning to return … the yearning for the Beloved. It is essentially a religious search …” p. 17
Hollis stresses that it is the birth of consciousness that is at the root of neurosis.
“As the child uneasily carries this growing burden of consciousness, it desperately needs to learn what it can in order to reattach if possible, survive if not.” p. 18
I am a parent. I was at the scene of the births of each of my three children. I saw them emerge into the bright light of the hospital delivery room. I heard their initial wails which both the mother and I cheered as it meant that our child had arrived safely. For both of us, this moment of birth was a miracle. This child of ours was a mystery, a stranger that somehow was forged by an act of love between mother and father. The miracle somehow stood outside of simple biology.
It didn’t take long for each of our three children to “reconnect” with their mother as she fed them. Their lifeline to mother shifted from umbilical cord to the breast. If they were taken from the breast before they had slipped into a satiated state, the cried. They instinctively knew that survival depended upon that connection.
As the months passed and our babies began to learn that they existed separate from their mother, we saw them become conscious of themselves, their bodies, and the fact of being separate from us though somehow connected to us. Unknown to us at the time, and unknown to the child, the tiny separations that fed the development of consciousness were wounds.
“How we read our ego-selves vis à vis the Other begins at birth. The child experiences bonding, or the lack thereof, as an extrapolated statement about the world at large. Is it reliable, protective, or is it unpredictable, even hurtful? It is not an exaggeration to say that the entire course of one’s life may derive from the phenomenological reading of such messages.” p. 18
Of course no infant, baby, child, or youth can ask or does ask these kinds of questions. All there is for them are experiences which at some point begin to take on some sort of meaning as their consciousness grows. And as babies and toddlers and children, that meaning is shaped through magical thinking. And it is this magical thinking that serves as the roots of complexes and the scripts that will come to mark the child’s life as an adult.
For a moment I got lost in the writing of this post as I had taught developmental psychology for a number of years. I fell into a professorial mode. This isn’t about developmental psychology, but about the “self” that I am at this stage of my life, a self that has most of its foundations in magical thinking. I confess, I have uncovered much over the decades of my life, become “more” conscious in the process. However, I am still engaged in life responses due to the scripts of a child’s magical thinking.
Do we ever become conscious enough to fully engage with others without the unconscious contents taking over to mess up our relationships? What’s your opinion? Do you think you have it “all together” and are fully “in control?” Or, are you like me, left wondering “what the hell?”