The Virtues of Caution – James Hillman
This is my third post on James Hillman in my small voice of tribute to a man who has moved many in North America, especially men. Hillman was the central figure behind the men’s movement that has made a significant impact on American culture in terms of how men relate to women and to themselves. For me, more important was Hillman’s daring to stand outside the norm of modern society and even challenge his own peers in the professional psychological world. In daring to challenge all, he inspires one to challenge one’s own beliefs and prejudices. Yet in challenging anything and everything, Hillman advocated caution in moving to change the things that needed changing. This voice of caution echoes what I have heard from Jung, a voice that continues to sound in my head – hold the tension allowing something new, something unpolarized to emerge.
More from Hillman, this time from an essay published in Resurgence Magazine in the July/August issue of 2002:
“A third psychological background to caution is quite simply the endemic background of Westernized societies anywhere: depression. Depression slows all heroic endeavour; the very thought of action is too much! Hence, depression whether of the psyche or of the economy is desperately feared in Westernized societies and every possible measure mobilized against it. The pressures we feel, the drugs we take, the expectations we nurture and the dictates of global economic expansion are all anti-depressive measures. Psychiatry could easily say that the headlong rush of the river itself is a manic defence against depression.” (Hillman, The Virtues of Caution, Resurgence, issue 213, 2002)
Hillman’s words give a value to depression, a value that I had never before appreciated. It is hard to appreciate something that is either physiologically or psychologically painful when one is in the midst of the pain. But almost everyone of us if asked if we would remove the pain from our past, most would say that it was this pain, the wounding that moved us to become the people we are today. If anything, we wear our scars with some pride believing that we have emerged from that pain as better people.
As a coach I would have my athletes (runners) learn how to go into their pain and embrace the pain in order to avoid becoming a victim to their pain. In counselling, the same thing happens psychologically. One doesn’t deny, one takes the time to hold the pain to integrate the pain and thus allow the psyche to move on with a stronger sense of self. Caution doesn’t mean to cease going forward, it simply means moving forward more consciously.
“. . . we must distinguish the moment of arrested movement from an identification with the arrest itself, as if beauty must stand still. But beauty, like caution, is not meant to stand still. The saying is not “Don’t leap,” but “Look before you leap.” Beauty means only for us to arrest for a moment the senseless insensitive forward thrust, in order to open the senses by inviting the aesthetic response.” (Hillman, The Virtues of Caution, Resurgence, issue 213, 2002)
I have to admit that these words take me back to my youth when the same words appeared in a 1967 popular song by Simon and Garfunkel, a song called “59th Street Bridge Song” or “Feeling Groovy.” Even then, the world was moving too fast.
Thank you, Dr. James Hillman.