Through a Jungian Lens

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Esteem and the Collective Unconscious

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I have gone into my archives of last month’s photos to get this one for today’s post simply because I had wanted to use this photo when I originally took it but somehow it fell off the radar until I accidentally saw it while cleaning up photo files.  There is a “freshness” about this photo that matches the feeling of beginning a new year at the university.  It’s a good feeling as the months to come have much that is a known quality for me.  Having taught for most of my life, I have a good idea what is in store.  Yet, there are always surprises, stuff that comes out of nowhere (or out of the shadow) to make life interesting.

A new school year means new students for the most part.  It also means a few new colleagues joining the team.  Because of relationships continuing from last school year, relationships that move up in terms of depth, trust and familiarity, I sense that I have somehow gained more stature in the eyes of my Chinese colleagues.  And, because of the evident esteem, there is also a greater distance that is created.  With thirty-five years of teaching experience and a proven record at this university as I go into my fourth year here, as well as being the eldest of all teaching staff at the university, I occupy a special place of privilege.  I am separated by more than race and culture.  I am the powerful wise teacher.  With this mantle comes an unspoken fear on the part of my Chinese colleagues.  They don’t want to displease me and lose “face.”

Culture is powerful.  I see the collective unconscious acting in response to my professional power, in response to the breadth of my knowledge of teaching methodology, especially in the domaine of second-language instruction.  To add to this the fact that I was a school administrator only accentuates the potency of my power.  It doesn’t matter that I am of a different race.  In Chinese terms, a teacher (lao shi) is held in high esteem.  A school leader (xiao jian) is held in higher esteem simply because he is a leader because of the more than one thousand years in which the Confucian model of societal organisation has been dominant.  One doesn’t think objectively about any of this, it is just the way it is at the collective level, at the unconscious level.

I wonder, how does each of us reflect the collective unconscious in what we do and how we are perceived and ranked in our culture?  Can we ever know the answer to this question?

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Written by Robert G. Longpré

September 3, 2011 at 5:21 pm

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