Through a Jungian Lens

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Behind the Faces

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This lady works in the housing compound in which I live, Sunshine Garden.  Unlike the gentleman I featured yesterday, she is not of the same economic class.  What else do I know about her?  Well, honestly, nothing.  I do hope that over time I can find an opportunity to talk with her, even if only through the assistance of an interpreter.  For now, it is enough that she is aware of my presence and that I am aware of her presence.   I find that she is deferential to me and I wonder if it is because I am a laowai, a foreigner, or because I am a man.

It is difficult enough to engage with others in one’s own culture where language and a shared community are in place.  To shift to another culture where there is no shared history, no shared language or any recognisable silent language.  As Sergio Missana notes in his essay The Grip of Culture: Edward T. Hall :

“. . . people’s view of the world and behavior are largely determined by a complex grid of unconscious cultural patterns.”

So what is hidden there behind her face?  In thinking about what kind of personality lay behind her visage, I thought that even she would be at a loss to know the answer.  As Daryl Sharp explains:

Typologically, most people are a bowl of soup.  They function in an introverted or extraverted way depending on their mood, the weather or their state of mind; they think, feel, sense, intuit more or less at random, being no worse at one function than any other, and having little inkling of the consequences.”  (Sharp, Jungian Psychology Unplugged, p. 13)

To know oneself is a challenge that seems insurmountable at times.  To know another is almost a miracle.  The process of self-discovery and discovery-of-other is work that perhaps goes hand in hand.


5 Responses

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  1. We seek to know the unknowable. Our curiosity takes us on the adventures. When we apply that curiosity to others, to see how they live their lives, we can learn more about ourselves via difference.

    It seems to me that in China people live so much of their life publicly – a walk down the street shows people sitting on stools in the cool summer evening, playing cards, feeding toddlers, chatting to neighbours. To me this ‘open’ life is a cover, a protection for the real life occurring deep inside. To really have a deep connection and to learn more than the surface, takes a lot of trust building.

    Lotus Light

    September 4, 2010 at 10:53 am

    • Hi Lotus, yes it is amazing to see life lived on the street. Yesterday evening I watched as the sidewalk became home with bunkbeds and all for a crew working on adding new conduit pvc pipes under the sidewalk. There is no sense of privacy in situations like this or in trying to live in a tiny dorm room with eight bunk beds for my students. Sanity and identity is protected by deep layers upon layers of psychological buffers.

      Robert G. Longpré

      September 5, 2010 at 6:31 am

  2. What happens if you change the title from: “Behind the faces,” to Behind the masks?

    John Ferric

    September 4, 2010 at 11:11 pm

    • Ah, but John, the face has its own story as well – a biological one that defies the control of its owner, unlike a mask.

      Robert G. Longpré

      September 5, 2010 at 6:27 am

      • The “mirror” in this quote is the dream image:

        “Whoever looks into “the mirror of the water” will see first
        of all his own face. Whoever goes to himself risks a confrontation
        with himself. The mirror does not flatter, it
        faithfully shows whatever looks into it; namely the face we
        never show to the world because we cover it with the persona,
        the mask of the actor. But the mirror lies behind the
        mask and shows the true face. (Jung 1954/1968, para. 43)

        Robert here is my difficulty with your reply: Is the face of a celebrity a mask or a face? What story does, say for instance, Lindsay Lohan’s face tell us?

        John Ferric

        September 5, 2010 at 9:36 am

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