Through a Jungian Lens

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Archive for July 2009

In Taking Risks, One Finds Meaning

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2008 01 026

These two guys were happy to have their picture taken while they hauled some rescued wood and scraps from some worksite to a buyer.  It was strange, needless to say, to see this type of transportation being used while modern trucks, cars and buses whizzed by.  Stranger, was the apparent level of happiness displayed by these two men.  I took the photo in January, 2008 in ChangZhou, China about five kilometres from the apartment I lived in for two years.

These men are aware of their lives and see the contradictions in comparison to the lives of others in their neighbourhood.  Rather than getting lost in envy, getting stuck in helplessness, they walk forward in shoes large enough for their tasks, their lives.  They choose to live with a spirit of happiness rather than slip into darkness, helplessness, fear, and the realm of evil.  It is obvious in looking at them that they are not living in fear, for fear would freeze them, shrink them

For the hero, fear is a challenge and a task, because only boldness can deliver from fear.  And if the risk is not taken, the meaning of life is somehow violated, and the whole future is condemned to hopeless staleness, to a drab grey … (Carl Jung, CW 5, paragraph 551)

Behind the Mask Lies the Real Self

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2008 01 013It was a cold January morning in ChangZhou, Jiangsu, P.R.C.  As I walked down the streets of the city basically wasting time, killing time, as I had finished marking the final exams and doing all the paper trail administrivia for the city university.  The air was pungent, almost acrid with industrial haze.  As usual, I walked carrying my camera.  Too often I had gone for walks only to miss capturing yet another image for my archives.  It seemed as though every day was a special event as far as my camera was concerned.

ChangZhou was/is a modern city, a city that could challenge almost any North American city for shopping adventures, for wide boulevards and spacious parks filled with flowers no matter what the season.  The streets buzzed with a mixture of Mercedes, Volkswagens and Toyotas.  There were no old cars, no clunkers.  No matter which day you would walk down a street you would see people dressed in the height of fashion.   There was little evidence that I was in a developing country.  Well, at least most of the time.

This woman showed a different face of China, one from a not so distant past.   She tells her own story, her story of her home country.

I guess that we all put on a special face when we go out into the public sphere, we wear a mask and act a role that would tell all that we have our shit together, that we are okay.  But underneath that mask and the persona, there lies a different story, one that isn’t so pretty.  So much for being “civilized.”  Truth is, we barely hold the shadows within at bay.  The harder we try to deny the dark stuff, the more it seems to squeeze out to embarrass us.

The Cast of Characters in Dreamland

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While sitting in a conference meeting in China, two years ago, I took this photo of the ceiling.  You can see the projector for the presentation which had been lowered from the circular mirrored surface.  Obviously the presentation wasn’t too engrossing for me as my attention wandered, something that often happens to me.  In the mirrored surface of the circle on the ceiling is a reflection of the group gathered for the presentation.  Now that caught my attention.  Now, I was in dreamland.

In my dreams, there is quite a cast of characters.  Each of these characters such as anima, appear in a number of disguises confusing the issue of exactly who they are in the dream.  They change their ages, their appearance, and their sense of presence.  Yet, they are important no matter what guise they take.  In fact, the guise they wear is vital in order to communicate needed information to the self.  Note that I said the self and not the ego.  Most times it doesn’t matter if the ego isn’t even aware that a dream happened let alone who was in the dream.  Yet, sometimes a dream forces itself into the ego’s consciousness.  When this happens, it’s time to pay attention.  Of course, that is a good time for working with a guide, a dream guide, who will ask questions.  The best dream guides will never give you an answer, an interpretation of the dream.  Only the dreamer, in the end, can know this.

A Lantern Of Hope

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2008 02 021This photo was taken on the evening of the Lantern Festival, the last event of the Spring Festival in China.  Since the event is tied to the full moon, that date shifts every year.   That evening, I watched as many sent off paper lanterns into the sky from the Buddhist temple that stood at the side of the park in which I was standing to take this photo.  The lanterns were like small hotair ballons which were powered by a flame in a small box which made the lantern glow in the dark night sky.  Each lantern is sent to the heavens with a prayer written within.  The year before this photo, I stood on the edge of the South China Sea and sent a lantern free into the night sky.

I guess I could say that this sending of a prayer into the night during a full moon is symbolic.  For me, the moon is representative of anima, that distant feminine aspect that is found within the deep and dark underworld of unconsciousness, in shadow country.   I choose to enter into this region of shadows, ghosts and relics in hope of finding hope and meaning.  I know that there is something deeper within, something deeper without that is waiting to be born, to be reborn in consciousness.

Something in us knows much more than the ego does, and in time the ego may learn to enlarge its frame to include this other wisdom.  This is how one benefits from the compensatory power of the unconscious as it seeks to enlarge the narrow frame of consciousness. (James Hollis, On This Journey We Call Life, 2003, p. 54)

Murky Mirrors

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DSC07866I think this type of photo might be the most honest portrait that one can have of one’s significant other.  A blurred sense of presence is perhaps the best one can ever achieve.

I guess it must be my time for revisiting older photos.  Here is one from May, 2008.  It was actually the May Day festival in China.  I was visiting at the home of one of my education students as part of the celebrations for both the May Day festival and her birthday.  One of the events planned for the day was to ride in a motorcycle taxi to visit a park just outside of the village about an hour’s drive from my apartment in the city.  The photo shows a blurred reflection of my wife in the motorcycle’s mirror.

Just how well can we know our significant others?  I wonder as I struggle to come to grips with who I am, how one can ever claim to know anyone all that well.  It seems that the closer one gets, the more the other becomes a mystery.  I think this even gets more confusing when projections begin to be withdrawn.  Long years of being together has given a person some sort of idea who this significant other is.  Yet, as one or both begin the quest for self discovery, then the image of the other shifts like some shapechanger.

Who is this stranger?  Are you ready for your eyes to be wide open, to risk seeing more clearly, to risk the relationship?  Or, will you retreat into past patterns, will you choose to get stuck?

On Being Stuck

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Wheresoever patterns are found, there are complexes at work.  Wheresoever complexes are found, history prevails over the present.  Wheresoever history prevails over the present, we are stuck. (James Hollis, On This Journey We Call Life, 2003, p.31)

Again, I include another photo from April, 2008, taken during that same time which could be considered as stealing from the conference in China.  For me, this walk in the rain was a magical time, where the world took on a numinous quality, where I entered into a larger place which once part of a childhood that knew the world was infinite and that it was bigger and fuller than could possibly be imagined.  For a moment, I felt free, filled with possibilities that had been both consciously and unconsciously denied.

What had I been denying myself?  I don’t know, really.  I do know that I was (and still remain) more focused on pleasing other(s).  I had looked outside myself for approval, an action that was and remains doomed to failure because without self-approval, the accolades from outside become just more tinsel.  Of course this is points to being dominated by complexes.

For example, a mother complex or a father complex.  Not getting one’s needs filled in childhood by one’s opposite parent usually results in one entering into a relationship with someone who either will fulfil the need or one who reinforces the devaluation by the parent (see James Hollis for more on this theme in both the book quoted above and in his book, The Eden Project).  The person becomes stuck in the relationship.   And in being stuck, it becomes that person’s task to confront himself or herself with the reality of the complex and the nature of the relationship.  Not willing to risk the relationship only dooms the quality of the relationship.  Worse, it dooms one’s soul.

On Whose Authority?

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DSC07709In thinking about this post, I thought back to this photo I took in April, 2008 in ChangZhou, Jiangsu, China.  I was taking part in a three-day event with other Foreign Experts who were at work in education in China.  Before I get into the post, I do want tos say that risking the two years as a university prof in China was one of the greatest gifts I ever gave to myself… Now back to the photo.  I was between sessions, well truth be told, I had snuck out during one of those interminable boring aspects of conferencing in order to wander in the light showers of an overcast afternoon.  I took ownership of my time rather than allow an outside force to maintain authority.  And in doing so, I found this flower.  I was there with it at this point in time, a point in time never to be recaptured.

Each of us loses so many of these precious points in time because we give authority over ourselves to others and to the world.  Failing to take the risk because of wanting to maintain approval of other(s), results in loss – loss of soul, a diminishing of self.

If I risk myself, I may lose your approval.  If I lose your approval, I will perhaps still be larger, for I will have gained my own approval. (James Hollis, On This Journey We Call Life, 2003, p. 30)