Through a Jungian Lens

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Problems Unsolved But Outgrown

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Elusive Butterfly

It took some time to get this photo as the butterfly was loathe to sit still long enough for me to get a photo. There is no doubt that to my mind, it was elusive. But, for whatever reason, I took one last photography, mostly out of desperation as I knew it would be the last photo as I had to return to the classroom and begin teaching a classroom full of eager university students, eager because the topic of the day was money, another elusive target. The result of the last photo was only evident later when I cropped the photo – Ah ha! I had captured the essence of what I knew was this next blog post.

What had changed between my earlier attempts at photographing the butterfly and this successful attempt? Well, basically, I had given up, realised that the problem was not one I could solve. I had to turn to another approach, one that trusted the workings below my ego. I had learned the craft of photography years long past and had taken tens of thousands of photographs. My eye and the trigger finger have seemed to developed their own awareness. So, when times like this arise and I get frustrated with my ego’s attempt at controlling the shutter and the subject, I admit defeat and withdraw from the conflict. Then, unintentionally, I shoot or I don’t shoot.

This has been one of the hardest lessons for me to learn as a man – that I can’t fix everything, that I can’t control everything, that I can’t solve all the problems. The truth is, I don’t get to solve many problems other than those that I create. Problems that come out of my behaviour, my attitude or lack of knowledge can be solved with time and effort, as long as I admit that it is my behaviour, my attitude, and my own ignorance that is the cause of the problems at hand. That is the crucial starting point. But the other problems, the real big problems? No, I can’t solve them.  All I can do is let them defeat me or acknowledge the problem and move on as best I can.

“Now and then it happened in my practice that a patient grew beyond himself because of unknown potentialities, and this became an experience of prime importance to me. In the meantime, I had learned that all the greatest and most important problems in life are fundamentally insoluble. They must be so, for they express the necessary polarity inherent in every self-regulating system. They can never be solved, but only outgrown. I therefore asked myself whether this outgrowing, this possibility of further psychic development, was not the normal thing, and whether getting stuck in a conflict was pathological. Everyone must possess that higher level, at least in embryonic form, and must under favourable circumstances be able to develop this potentiality.” (Jung, C.W. Volume 13, paragraph 18)

It now seems to me that I can be kinder to myself unlike patterns in the past where I would get angry at myself for being so weak, so helpless, so impotent. And, I wonder how this plays out in the bigger world. Perhaps the big problems are not to be solved, but to be outgrown, one by one, community by community. Polarity must exist – black and white, good and evil. And, when one looks deeply into each psyche, I think one will find no pure goodness, no pure evil. And in saying this, I do realise that it is also necessary to do something, to try and right wrongs, especially the wrongs we commit. To focus on the wrongs of others is simply acting outwardly, projecting one’s own darkness.

The road from here to there is not a straight line – ever!


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