Through a Jungian Lens

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A Perspective On Becoming More Conscious

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This photo is a scene taken at the Jamestown, North Dakota reservoir.  For some reason I was drawn to this broken bit of tree emerging out of the bed of water.  I just noticed that I chose the word “emerged” rather than “submerged.”  The choice of word is one that sees something positive rather than negative in the scene.  Psychologically I see it as consciousness emerging, growing out of the unconscious contents which contains all that is yet hidden from me, from my ego.

As I look again at the photo, I wonder about this interpretation and the image of the broken tree, its stark bareness as though stripped to its skeleton.  Is this really an image of consciousness?  Or, is it an image of the unconscious, of shadow?  I took again to see if my original resonance holds, that this is consciousness arising out of water.  I immediately think of another image of consciousness arising, that of the phoenix which is a burst of colour, not near as stark.  And in response to my self-questioning, I still find a resonance.

Maybe this says more to me about myself than it does about the real nature of developing consciousness.  Yet, I think there is something in the image that goes beyond the limitations of my own level of awareness.  Does consciousness come fully clothed in a burst of light and colours?  Or, does it emerge pitifully naked bearing only a potential that needs to be nourished.  Ah, now that is what resonates with me.  There is nothing that is born fully clothed, not even an idea.  Without care, the emergence of potential consciousness will be lost as it sinks back into the depths from which it rises.

This individuation process is not as easy or as straightforward as I had imagined.  The way it looks from here, by the time I have enough consciousness, I will be too old to do much of anything with it.  I guess I will have to rule out becoming a guru or shaman with followers waiting for wise words from me.  I will settle for being able to finally hear and understand at least some of the wise words of others.


9 Responses

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  1. Ah Robert, you lead in to one of my favorite areas. And, as you have probably guessed by now I love to go the sources and provide quotes. These sources have been my teachers, mentors for all these years now. So back to Jung and some original insights on consciousness. You may never again view a creation myth in the same way.

    “. . .It is the growth of consciousness which we must thank for the existence of problems; they are the Danaa`n gift of civilization. It is just man’s turning away from instinct – his opposing himself to instinct – that creates consciousness. Instinct is nature and seeks only to perpetuate nature, whereas consciousness can only seek culture or its denial. . . . For consciousness is now called upon to do that which nature has always done for her children – namely, to give a certain, unquestionable, and unequivocal decision. And here we are beset by an all-to-human fear that consciousness – our Promethean conquest – may in the end not be able to serve us as well as nature.

    Problems thus draw us into an orphaned and isolated state where we are abandoned by nature and are driven to consciousness. There is no other way open to us; we are forced to resort to conscious decisions and solutions where formerly we trusted ourselves to natural happenings. Every problem, therefore, brings the possibility of a widening of consciousness, but also the necessity of saying goodbye to childlike unconsciousness and trust in nature. This necessity is a psychic fact of such importance that it constitutes one of the most essential symbolic teachings of the Christian religion. It is the sacrifice of the merely natural man, of the unconscious, ingenuous being whose tragic career began with the eating of the apple in Paradise. The biblical fall of man presents the dawn of consciousness as a curse. . . .”
    C. G. Jung, “The Stages of Life.”

    John Ferric

    August 17, 2011 at 9:02 pm

    • But of course, John, it is not an either/or polarity as Jung has stated over and over and over again. Nature and instinct are embedded in the self as are the archetypes, the collective unconscious and the personal woundings that give birth to our complexes. The new natural man is part nature, part conscious being. Is it the task of the human to escape his “nature” similar to the Hindu approaches to Nirvana, or is it the human task to embrace all as if to become whole/holy, the work of coniunctionis?


      August 18, 2011 at 4:00 pm

  2. Becoming conscious is the hardest thing a person can do. I warn patients before they start this is no yuppie hobby; it is hellish. Many don’t continue/too upsetting and too much work.


    August 18, 2011 at 8:05 am

    • It is fair in my opinion to be upfront with a patient/client. They should always be aware of the different therapeutic models that are an option so that they can make a choice. That said, sometimes it is the therapist who must decide the most appropriate model in terms of needs. Why is the patient/client in the office? What does the patient/client want/need? Sometimes is is about doing some basic quick-fix work via Solution-Focused Therapy because of the extenuating circumstances. Of course, I don’t need to say this to you, my good friend – I’m just stating what you and I already know. The work of consciousness is only a work for those who have first wrestled with their presenting issues and become aware that there is more and want that more.


      August 18, 2011 at 3:24 pm

  3. Urspo, When a patient comes to you for treatment (medication, psychotherapy/analysis – not sure which you are referring to) would ‘warning’ them interfere with the beginning of the clinical relationship and cause them to second guess their choice to journey to consciousness. Wouldn’t it be tainting the oh so important and vulnerable beginning of the patient’s process of finding out, in their own time, that the work is too difficult/painful to continue. I am interested in your thoughts on this. Patricia


    August 18, 2011 at 1:33 pm

    • I also am interested in your answer, good doctor Urspo. 🙂


      August 18, 2011 at 4:00 pm

  4. It seems that I have been confusing consciousness work with psychotherapy. I am a novice at ‘all things Jung.’ I appreciate your patients in helping me with my learning curve. I am a psychotherapist and clinical social worker. Can anyone recommend a Jung primer?


    August 18, 2011 at 4:52 pm

  5. Mary Ann Matton’s “Jung and the Human Psyche, An Understandable Introduction,” is a good starting point.
    Also, David Tacey’s “How To Read Jung,” is good.

    John Ferric

    August 18, 2011 at 6:51 pm

  6. I omitted an “o” her last name is “Mattoon.”

    John Ferric

    August 18, 2011 at 6:57 pm

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