Through a Jungian Lens

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I Can See Clearly Now

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I have to admit that I am pleased with this photo taken two days ago.  I was standing in the kitchen of my home, looking out at the storm raging.  The patio door through which I was watching was streaked with rain which blurred the scene outside.  Somehow, I knew that I had to try taking a photo of the outdoor scene through the filter of the rain-streaked glass.  Somehow, this appeals more to me than a typical photo.  For me, the photo becomes art, a portal into a world that can never been seen directly.

One of the readers here has been talking to me about shifts that life seems to throw at one when one least expects it.  Well, in truth, it appears to come out of left field but if one admits it, staring at us from the edges, a “numinous” field does give notice.  In looking at the photo above, it would be easy to deny that it represents reality.  Yet, as the photographer, I “know” that this is “real”.  It just doesn’t conform to what one “expects” to see.  The same happens to us in “real” life.

Often our unlived life surfaces at key moments, as in the projection of our contrasexual others -anima or animus- in a love affair, or in an intractable  depression, or in a sudden enantiodromia which sends one off on an urgent, compulsive shift in one’s life course.”  (Hollis, On This Journey We Call Our Life, pp 37-38)

I want to bring focus here to “enantiodromia”  as it is the one shift that truly does catch us off guard, the one that leaves us stunned saying “Where in hell did that come from?”  Here is what Jung had to say:

I use the term enantiodromia for the emergence of the unconscious opposite in the course of time. This characteristic phenomenon practically always occurs when an extreme, one-sided tendency dominates conscious life; in time an equally powerful counterposition is built up, which first inhibits the conscious performance and subsequently breaks through the conscious control.”  (Jung, CW Volume 6, par 709)

In reference above to the photo having a “numinous” quality that points to this “unconscious opposite” I want to again take a few words of Jung in an attempt to understand that which I sense intuitively:

“The numinosum is either a quality belonging to a visible object of the influence of an invisible presence that causes a peculiar alteration of consciousness.”  (Jung, CW Volume 11, par 6)

There, with all of that said, I can return to the idea of finding oneself caught in “an urgent compulsive shift” as Hollis puts it.  The shift I talk about here is one that leads from being a part of community, family, culture, etc., to a focus on soul and self – individuation.  Midlife crisis often serves as the shifting catalyst.  Sometimes it is a divorce that, though a long time building under a marriage’s foundation, suddenly appears on the scene to alter one’s known world.  Sometimes it is simply the result of peeling away of projections that finally allows one to “see” the world and others through a different lens.

Obviously, the photo represents for me a looking at the world with a different lens, giving me a glimpse of something that has to this point been consciously invisible.  Am I being prepared or warned about a shift in my reality?


9 Responses

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  1. Jung rules! If you perceive your external reality as a reflection of your internal perceptions of the external world, then is everything in our external life an archetype of some greater psychic understanding? If you get a chance, you may enjoy my website…


    MapMaker Mike

    June 10, 2010 at 10:45 am

    • Thanks for taking the time to check out my blog site, Mike. I have visited yours and have found it to be quite interesting. I look forward to your continued presence here.

      Robert G. Longpré

      June 10, 2010 at 12:10 pm

  2. This one needed some thinking time. For what it’s worth:

    The enantiodromia can be ‘expressed’ in a couple of ways. Firstly through our relationships, in particular with our life partner. It seems that quite often people marry those who are the complete opposite of themselves. Extroverts marry introverts, workaholics marry sun-baking cats, sportsmen marry readers. This suggests to me that we recognise the unconscious opposite and move to either fulfill or manage it.

    Secondly, we fear it, and put many rules in place prevent it from rising and changing our world. Is this what we fear as our ‘dark side’?

    And perhaps, finally, when it does force its way to the surface, demanding that we make life shifts, we try to diminish its power by labelling it ‘mid-life crisis’ ’empty-nest syndrome’ etc. To name something gives us control.

    Or we look at it and say ‘this is the real me’, without realising that if we live long enough, that it too will eventually be replaced by the ‘old’ self who kept it locked away for so long, or a newer self that is different again.

    Lotus Light

    June 10, 2010 at 10:09 pm

    • I must admit that I am enjoying the level of response you are bringing to the posts, Lotus. There are so many levels of definition as though one must peel back layers of an onion. After all that is done, all the stripping away we are left with what? Jung tells us that we get to come face to face with “Self” the god within.

      Robert G. Longpré

      June 11, 2010 at 10:19 am

  3. Enantiodromia is one of my favorite expressions. I sometimes think it is one of Jung’s most important contributions to psychology.


    June 10, 2010 at 10:44 pm

    • I agree with you, Dr. Urspo. 🙂

      Robert G. Longpré

      June 11, 2010 at 10:15 am

  4. I think that Debbie Ford covered this phenomena very well in her book: Why good people do bad things. Basically, she talks about repressing disavowed parts of our ‘self’ and how those parts will have their day in the sunshine so to speak. She calls it the beach ball effect. You use all of your might to hold the ball under, but the moment you loosen your grip, even slightly, it flies to the surface (suddenly). You can only deny your ‘self’ but for so long.

    Paul Lester

    June 11, 2010 at 2:55 pm

    • Again, as usual, you add extra dimension to the topic at hand. Thank you, Paul for the comment and the imagery.

      Robert G. Longpré

      June 11, 2010 at 3:17 pm

  5. Thank you. That helps immensly. I am going to be writing ow that I’ve had a sabbatical. I hope more will come to light, and if you at all feel inclined and have the time to read and think about it, perhaps may find its way here in one form of interpretation or another. I realize it is up to me to find the way but it helps to have others who have been to the dark side, and lived through it as an image that light is possible in the end. Why do I crave light?

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