Through a Jungian Lens

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Holding the Tension of Opposites

with 11 comments

“If we succeed in bearing the anxiety of solitude, new horizons will open up to us and we will learn finally to exist independently of others.” (Aldo Carotenuto)

When I took this photo out in the countryside where it was so quiet that one could actually hear silence, I thought about how lonely solitude could become.  At the time the photo was taken I was with my brother-in-law and was struck by how easily he slipped into a state that seemed not to “need” others as he wandered from my side to investigate.  He suffers Alzheimer’s and is indeed alone with himself.  From what I can see, most of that alone-ness is filled with anxieties.

I wonder at times about being alone, sometimes thinking that it would be easier, that there would be fewer distractions, fewer interruptions.  What books I might then write, what photos I might then take, what learning about “self” I might then discover!  But each time I find myself alone, I slip into lethargy and do less.  Anxieties seem to surface and paralyze.

I “know” that I must learn to bear the anxiety, but I cling to the hope that in relationship to an “other” I will be saved the pain of loneliness, that in relationship to an “other” I will have meaning and purpose.

Indeed, next to the fantasy of immortality, the hardest fantasy to relinquish is the thought that there is someone out there who is going to fix us, take care of us – spare us the intimidating journey to which we have been summoned.” (James Hollis, Swamplands of the Soul, p. 11)

Well, I’ve thought about this for so long, chasing the idea all around my head and heart that I only get dizzy.  My heart says that this “other,” this someone is there.  My mind says that this “other” is found within, not without.  Now, if I understood Jung correctly, I must continue to hold on to this polar opposites for a something else to emerge that reconciles these opposites.


11 Responses

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  1. It is incredible how we can have those compelling opposites as desired and necessary as they have become. Your words resonate deeply with my wish for solitude and need for company. It can be an uncomfortable paradox, at times. My stronger leaning is toward solitude, though, I find a restoring peace there…a grounding that enables me to be in the mix of company again. Thank you for your reflections…your beautiful and soulful words.


    May 27, 2010 at 9:55 am

    • I doubt that we would be “alive” without these competing needs and desires. Without them, we become part of the fully unconscious scenery.

      Robert G. Longpré

      May 27, 2010 at 1:58 pm

  2. Uncanny. I always find something here. 🙂


    May 27, 2010 at 1:04 pm

    • 🙂 There are no “coincidences”

      Robert G. Longpré

      May 27, 2010 at 1:57 pm

  3. I think it is part of our socialisation and culture to believe that the ‘other’ is external. This creates stable families, where fathers support mother and children, where mother does not ‘jump the fence’. With a modern outlook we have turned this bio-economic process into a romantic one. Therefore it is necessary for us to seek the ‘other’, the one who will be forever our ‘other’ to fit into our romantic society.

    But… being in a relationship can be so much more lonely than being alone. Being unable to speak your deepest thoughts when you believe this is what others do; not feeling the depth of trust you believe others have; feeling the relationship is an unequal burden, when all around you the music, movies and happy pretences of others make you feel a failure…this becomes so lonely.

    I cannot overrate the joys of solitude. Alone-ness becomes a choice. Knowing that the internal ‘other’ is ALWAYS with you, always available, always attentive… this gives a deep sense of peace, and paradoxically makes it possible to fully enjoy being with others.

    Deborah Howard

    May 28, 2010 at 12:14 am

    • Of course you are correct, Deborah. One can feel more alone within a relationship than if one was actually alone. There are no rules or truths other than what the head and heart tell us, and then only for that moment.

      Solitude has always been one of the key healing components in my life, even if that solitude is limited to an afternoon of shooting photos in nature.

      Robert G. Longpré

      May 28, 2010 at 12:05 pm

  4. Hi Robert. I have been living alone for the past 6 years and yet I still find that in the company of others I often crave solitude. That said, I do often slip into lethargy (like you said) but whether or not that is caused by anxiety I am not sure. I find myself more anxious around people, with some exceptions of course..


    May 28, 2010 at 12:17 pm

    • Hi J. I hope that you don’t think this is all one-sided. One can be more comfortable with solitude, with separation from others and be healthier for it. That said, at some point the need for relationship with inner cast of characters will have to embraced. That might be a much more difficult task than one could ever imagine. Thanks for stopping by and adding your voice to the comments. Your voice has been missed.

      Robert G. Longpré

      May 28, 2010 at 12:30 pm

      • I don’t think it is all one-sided and in truth I often crave a meaningful relationships as much as solitude and thankfully through this wonderful world of blogging, I have developed some truly wonderful friendships.

        Whilst the comments have been scarce on my part I have been reading regularly..


        May 28, 2010 at 12:51 pm

      • Thanks, Jesper. I do appreciate your presence.

        Robert G. Longpré

        June 1, 2010 at 2:57 pm

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