Through a Jungian Lens

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Individuation: Can Someone Ride Shotgun on the Journey?

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I was lucky to get this photo of a Red-Necked Grebe in one of the sloughs on the Saskatchewan prairie.  That I was able to get this close without it diving and again going beyond the range of my camera was pure luck.  I think I could use a new camera with longer telephoto capabilities.  The problem isn’t necessarily the cost, though that is significant, it is the fact that a proper DSLR camera and lenses take up so much space and weigh a considerable amount.  The size factor is the most prohibitive for me.  I need a compact camera so that I can carry the camera with me to most locations with little effort.  It all comes down to choices.  Do I go with a full-featured DSLR and become more stable or continue my wandering ways packing as little as possible?

I followed this grebe for quite some time and took quite a few useless photos in the process as the bird kept diving to reappear in unexpected locations.  There is no doubt that the bird was aware of my presence.  What was my fascination?  Why take so much time with this photo when I knew that the result would not likely be rewarded?  Well, the only thing I could offer is that I was fixated on the task.  I was simply hooked.

There is no doubt in my mind that this grebe is symbolic of the individual diving into the unconscious in search of nourishment.  I noticed that the grebe was solitary unlike most of the other birds who liked to gather in pairs or larger groups.  There is something important about being alone and the journey of individuation, a journey that has many descents into the unconscious contents that draws my attention.

Underlying the symptoms that typify the Middle Passage is the assumption that we shall be saved fy finding and connecting with someone or something new in the outer world.  Alas, for the drowning midlife sailor there are no such life preservers.  We are in the sea-surge of the soul, along with many others to be sure, but needing to swim under our own power,  The truth is simply that what we must know will come from within.  If we can align our lives with that truth, no matter how difficult the abrasions of the world, we will feel healing, hope and new life.  The experience of early childhood, and later of our culture, alienated us from ourselves.  We can only get back on course by reconnecting with our inner truths.”  (Hollis, The Middle Passage, pp 95-96)

I have to admit that I had been holding to the hope that some special person out there somewhere would complete me.  I know that many cling to this hope, especially the lonely men that I have met who were living as expats in various countries.  They left their lives gone bad, lives which had left them broken.  But rather than look within for the sources of their own pain, they seek a woman who would love them, would complete them so that they wouldn’t grow old as miserable hermits.  These men feared solitude.  Is this my excuse as well?

It is possible, in my mind, to be in relation with a significant other and to “reconnect with our inner truths.”  I look at the example of Jung who engaged not just in one such relationship, but in balancing two intense relationships: one with his wife, Anna; and the other with his mistress and colleague, Toni Wolff.  At this point in time, I will risk that it is possible to do this work while still being engaged in relationship.


4 Responses

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  1. Interesting that Carl Jung, even with all of his ‘understanding’, still had a wife and mistress. We indeed do fear the darkness and the loneliness.


    June 4, 2010 at 2:02 pm

    • Yes, there is a lot of fear. If you can, read some of the reviews of Jung’s Red Book. A lot of dark stuff within it tells us that Jung was conflicted, complexed and wrestling with demons much the same as us.

      Robert G. Longpré

      June 4, 2010 at 6:26 pm

  2. I can’t helping thinking that Jung had a lot of energy to have a wife AND a mistress. One is usually enough hassle for most men to keep content….


    June 6, 2010 at 9:47 am

    • Or needing to live out the shadow contents. We do we fear the inner stuff so much that we work overtime to suppress and deny?

      Robert G. Longpré

      June 6, 2010 at 3:31 pm

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