Through a Jungian Lens

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Working on a Relationship – Self, Other and Anima

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This is a photo of a Groove-Billed Ani, a strange looking bird as you can see.  I have other photos of this bird, but this was the first one I got that didn’t involve power lines.  One thing I have noticed about this bird is its tendency to sit in the sun with his wings spread wide, soaking up the sun’s rays.  In a way, he reminds me of myself here in Costa Rica with my own wings spread wide in order to soak up the sun.

Soaking up the sun is not simply about getting tanned all over, it is about being filled and about being emptied at the same time.  It is about working on relationship with my “self.”  Strange how this working on one’s self has the added bonus of being at work on relationship with other as well.

Here is what Sharp has to say about working on relationship:

You work on relationship by shutting your mouth when you are ready to explode; by not inflicting your affect on the other person; by quietly leaving the battlefield and tearing your hair out; by asking yourself – not your partner – what complex in you was activated, and to what end.   The proper question is not, “Why is she doing that to me?” or “Who does he think he is?” but rather, “Why am I reacting this way? Who do I think he or she is?”  And more: “What does this say about my psychology?  What can I do it?” (Sharp, Jung Uncorked:  Book Two, 2008, p. 22)

There is some very important stuff in what Sharp says.  What it doesn’t say is the fact that the relationship is even more complicated that this, that there is not only the sorting out of self, anima and with withdrawing of projections that a man is responsible for; there is also the same dynamic that needs to take place on the part of the woman in the relationship, her work on self, animus and the withdrawing of projections.  Given that all of this takes place, there is no guarantee that the relationship will survive as the two individuals may decide that staying together isn’t in the best interests of either party.

Is all of this worth the effort?  Why not just let sleeping dogs lie and suck it up and go on with life as it is?  Well, it just doesn’t work that way.  Once the box has been opened, there is no turning back.  Is it better then never to address the issues of the shadow, the anima/animus and the rest of the contents of the unconscious?  Is it better to deny the urge to self discovery?

Perhaps.  If one can avoid the inner world and only focus on the outer world, it might save a world of grief.  Perhaps it would help if one was an extravert.  But, for myself, an introvert, it isn’t possible.  I would go crazy and self-destruct.  I would lose my soul.  And so, I begin to work on relationship in earnest by first getting to know more about my self, my complexes, the faces of anima, the reflections of self that appear in others through projection.  Then, I will see how relationship with others in my face-to-face world are also transformed.  I will see how relationships stand the alchemical heat.


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