Archive for December 2011
This is my 1,035 post since I began Through a Jungian Lens in November 2008. The blog has had two homes since that time, the first at WordPress (https://retiredeagle.wordpress.com/) with this being the second home because living and working in China with its infamous Fire Wall makes posting to WordPress a nightmare activity unless one has a VPN. Since beginning this blog I have had just over 80,000 visits to the site and 2, 760 comments. I have to say that I am pleased with this as the blog site isn’t exactly promoting a theme that is of interest to many people. Thankfully the Jungian on-line community has decided that this site is worth continuing and supporting.
Since I moved the site in February of 2011, the statistics are only about the visits since that time, 26,800 visits.
The top posts for 2011 are:
- James Hillman – A Mythic Journey (280)
- Working on Relationships (224)
- The Hidden Universe Within (195)
- Eros and Kronos (179)
- The Lights Are On, But Nobody’s Home (178)
- Permeability – James Hillman and Margot McLean (119)
- After Life or Inner Life (115)
- The Truth About Projections (103)
- In Search of the Authentic Self (90
- Reclaiming Anima and Animus (87)
- Trying to Silence the Psyche (87)
This image taken last January while I was touring through Vietnam is a good analogy of entering into the depths of the unconscious, into the realm of the soul and darkness in search of treasures. As I make the journey through my personal past in hopes of understanding my present way of being, there is a fair amount of pain that rises up. This is actually something that is good as that pain is about release, the easing of long held in and denied emotions, fears and memories.
And in typical fashion, I received a few words that seemed to meet the needs of the moment; and again, these words are from Daily Om:
“Both emotional and physical pain are messages that we need to stop and pay attention.”
So what is it that demands one’s attention, that demands my attention? As I try to answer this question, I look at the context from which the pain and this message appears to arise. The context I noted was the work of this blog, in particular the issue of masculine transformation as discussed in Eugene Monick’s book.
A child’s dependence upon mother influences how an infant boy learns to identify himself and with what value.
“personal value begins as an inner, psychological reality for the child. This is the initial gestalt of self – or non-self, when negative mirroring predominates – upon which all subsequent experiences are built. Thus, through the interpersonal connections with the mother, the first knowledge of individual existence and suggestions of gender identity coincide.” (pp 26-27)
Of course, from the standpoint of adult consciousness, all this is buried deep underground. One needs to approach the dark opening as it presents itself with the right intention before entering if one is to re-discover any fragile threads that provide a sense of roots. Once in the darkness one is blind and can only feel/sense/intuit the flows of affect and energy. Stirring the contents in the depths of the unconscious one retreats back into the outer world to wait.
When the unconscious has been intentionally disturbed, there is typically a flow of images and affect that emerge through dreams and emotions. It becomes the task of the ego self to note that which presents itself and allow the ripples to begin fitting into the known stories of self allowing identity to become better understood.
Gender identity – how do we understand our real gender identity? We can easily (most of the time) figure out whether we are heterosexual or homosexual in orientation, but we struggle with understanding all the crossed signals, all of triggers that mess up our sexual identity. As men, we often go overboard when trying to prove our masculinity, or we use our gender to assert a sense of power, or we use our partners’ to fill in needs of which we aren’t even aware, needs that come out of our initial experience of self in relation to mother.
And so, the journey of self-discovery as a man must continue.
I have been reading a bit from Eugene Monick’s book, Castration and Male Rage: The Phallic Wound, as part of my process in dealing with stuff that is emerging from the unconscious. Monick talks about the six stages of masculine transformation: the prenatal stage, the pre-oedipal stage, the oedipal stage, the adolescent stage, the stage of accomplishment, and the final stage – individuation. As I read through these stages and saw where and potentially how masculine transformation can get derailed, I saw signals that resonated – warning bells telling me that there is something vital that had interfered with my own personal masculine transformation. But before I get into saying more about that, I want to bring a vital quote to your attention – to my attention:
“. . . that . . . a crisis will occur in the man who failed to negotiate a prior stage of transformation is a surety. A man can cover his own sense of self-doubt, his fear of inconsequentiality, his lurking sense of masculine incompleteness for only so long. Disguises, compensations, substitutions may hide his lack of inner phallic strength, but there can be no long-term avoidance of psychological impotence.” (Monick, Castration and Male Rage, p. 33)
I know I read this passage a few years ago because the passage is mostly highlighted. Ouch is all I can say as these words expose what I refused to acknowledge. And so I am forced to look more carefully at the six stages to see just where I drifted off course. Of course in reading the descriptions, I see that some things are universal to males simply because they are males and not females.
In the prenatal stage where males physiologically change from female embryos, there is a primal fear that is embedded in the psyche, that of castration, “it represents the ever-present threat to masculinity of a reversal of the addition of maleness, a return, a regression, to primal femininity.” (p. 24)
In the second stage, the pre-oedipal stage, a “boy’s discovery that he a boy parallels his discovery that his mother is not a boy. A girl child also discovers, at some point, that she is different from her mother, but the difference is one of personhood, not of gender.” (p. 25) A boy’s discovery of being different and that the difference is anatomical awakens both a fascination of his difference and a fear or anxiety. During this period there are a flood of mixed signals. A male child shifts from neutral gender identity to a bi-sexual identity before shifting to a masculine identity. Monick goes on to say that this stage is vital in terms of identity, especially gender identity, “The beginnings of consciousness at the son’s early age involve an awareness of gender differences.
As I look to my own story, I wonder about the role of father in the process. For much of the this second stage, my own father was busy with training and going to fight in the Korean war. I get a strong sense that there is something here that needs to be uncovered, to be reintegrated. Something to think about.
It has been a few days since my last post, days that have been crowded with the life and times of a university prof. Last night before heading out for a staff Christmas dinner at the newest and most expensive international restaurant in this modern version of a Chinese city, I took this photo of Maureen and I. It is destined for our Facebook pages as our cyberspace Christmas wishes for family, neighbours and friends.
Christmas in China is somehow something that “jars” the psyche. With sixty Christmases spent in Canada or in the States, there is a communal understanding of this day, something that is bigger than the Christian religion that wants to claim ownership. There have been cross-cultural transformations resulting in a Christmas that is more about the collective and less about a Christian story. People have seized control out of the hands of clergy and churches in order to have the day become a numinous event, one that is more in tune with the collective soul, anima mundi.
It is a celebration of wholeness, a celebration of people wounded by life yet refusing to concede defeat and rather grasping onto hope, knowing that like each day a sun will bring light to banish darkness, this day brings all a sense of hope that their spiritual darkness will be lifted. We gather together to sing, laugh, argue, smile, eat, drink and live with an energy that belies the lethargy that comes with the darkness of winter.
With all of my deepest feelings of a love that has too many shapes and forms to be contained in one meaning, I wish each of you a day of spiritual blessings in which you can revel in being alive, daring to smile and mean it regardless of the perils of your personal journeys.
This is just one of a huge variety of sea urchins that I found and photographed while in the Philippines in early November. Why was I drawn to take these photographs can’t be answered other than to say that I saw them and was intrigued. Some were rather plain looking and others, like this one, were rather colourful and vibrant. Of course, in choosing this photo for this blog post, I assumed that something would emerge as I began to write. And, as always is the case, something began to arise from my own depths.
I can almost see this sea urchin as a self-portrait, a portrait of my persona doing it’s best to protect the inner core of who I am, disguise the fact of that inner core. And then on another level I see this sea urchin as my unconscious self that has barricaded itself from the prying of my ego. I will take you further into this analogy so that you can see what I mean.
Like many others, I stumbled upon philosophy and psychology and spirituality in order to fill a hole in myself. A childhood that has yet to be fully re-discovered had enough trauma to have the inner psyche begin to build defense walls, burying the trauma so that life could go one with some semblance of sanity. When the ego stumbles upon the repressed contents, or should I say stumbles upon the barricades which could well be thorny, the ego is dissuaded from going deeper and retreats back to what it perceives to be safer territory. In this process, holes – black holes – are all that the ego has left of events in the past.
Under the cover of darkness, the guards are let down and bits and pieces of the repressed contents begin to ooze out leaving an affect, a depression and sense of loss. The work of therapy is to dare to consciously do the work of re-discovery and bringing light to the darkness so that one can feel whole, that one can cease blaming oneself for being wounded. This is not a work of forgiveness, but a work of understanding who one is so that one is free to move forward without constantly looking at life through a rear-view mirror and with holes in one’s lens. This is not a work of laying blame upon those who wounded either. In uncovering the wounds, and understanding how the wounding resulted in our unconscious responses to situation in our current lives, we begin to gain control of our responses rather than to continue to be a victim of the unknown, the darkness and the fear.
Walking through an older area of Saigon, near the Cho Binh Tay, a market place, I came across a couple of Buddhist temples that were Chinese rather than Vietnamese. On the outer wall of the temple I saw this T’ai Chi symbol, otherwise known as yin yang, surrounded by leaves. It made me think of how the union of masculine and feminine in the real world is an act of creation, a union from which new life springs forth.
I am amazed at how experiencing different cultures in different parts of the world has been so powerful in affecting change within my psyche. It is as though the small discoveries which are more often more about numinous image than about analytical thought, seep into the unconscious soup and find resonance and become part of the soup out of which I continue to grow as a person.
In a way, it is like this image which takes on a mandala like power. I grow larger consciously while the centre holds. The more conscious I become is akin to adding yet another corresponding symbol on the mandala that represents that consciousness, numinous symbols that also point back to the centre and back to the unconscious core that remains to be discover. As I go through this process, the centre doesn’t shrink, doesn’t empty. Rather, that centre becomes a portal to something beyond containment.
Experiencing countries such as India, Vietnam, China, Laos, Cambodia in the far east has taken me to the exotic and turned that exotic into something that is natural, something that becomes integrated into the new me, a transformed me. And, as I find out about the process of self-change, that change is not about adding something new, but more about discovering what has always been there.
I found another image of a crab that I took in the Philippines that I want to bring here. As I place the image here and begin writing the post, I still don’t know where the words will take me. Often it is like that, like the crab moving sideways through his life, I tend to move sideways into the unconscious process that marks a lot of my writing here at Through a Jungian Lens. Perhaps this is as much about my nature being born under the sign of Cancer than it is about anything else.
Now, with this association, I begin to see where this post is going to take me, in a direction of attempting a self-description in Jungian terms, but not necessarily Myers-Briggs in orientation. By this, I mean to reduce the sixteen potentials of the MBTI to the original eight descriptors found in Jung’s work on Typology.
My readers might remember that I have tested out, time and time again, as INFP. The problem with this description for me is that it doesn’t account for my extroversion, something I am conscious about, especially when it comes to expression of feelings. Looking at the data of my “testing” I noted that I am predominantly intuitive which translates as my first or dominant function being introverted intuitive – opposite this dominant function is the extroverted sensation, the fourth or weakest function. The second function is extroverted feeling, with the third function being introverted thinking.
The Myers-Briggs model has me described as only introverted for all of the functions. I took a reminder from John Beebe to have me refocus on what Jung had to say and how those who immediately followed Jung’s work, people such as Marie -Louise von Franz, to find a way to place extraversion into my way of being in the world.
As a teacher, I am seen as an extrovert. I monitor the mood of my class, picking up “cues” that allows me to meet the students needs so that the lessons have a better chance of succeeding. I learned a long time ago that a good teacher doesn’t teach a curriculum to students, but rather teaches students a curriculum – there is a difference, a huge difference. Teaching students has the students at the centre. When a lesson starts to fail, it is necessary to find a way of re-connecting with the students in order to find a different path for them to connect with the content (curriculum) objectives.
At Cognitive Processes I found this as a description for extroverted feeling:
“The process of extraverted Feeling often involves a desire to connect with (or disconnect from) others and is often evidenced by expressions of warmth (or displeasure) and self-disclosure. The “social graces,” such as being polite, being nice, being friendly, being considerate, and being appropriate, often revolve around the process of extraverted Feeling. Keeping in touch, laughing at jokes when others laugh, and trying to get people to act kindly to each other also involve extraverted Feeling. Using this process, we respond according to expressed or even unexpressed wants and needs of others. We may ask people what they want or need or self-disclose to prompt them to talk more about themselves. This often sparks conversation and lets us know more about them so we can better adjust our behavior to them. Often with this process, we feel pulled to be responsible and take care of others’ feelings, sometimes to the point of not separating our feelings from theirs. We may recognize and adhere to shared values, feelings, and social norms to get along.”
There is a lot of me in this description – meeting the needs of others. Most would describe me ” as being polite, being nice, being friendly, being considerate, and being appropriate” in my role as a teacher and as a member of the community when I am in the public sphere. And yes, I “respond according to expressed or even unexpressed wants and needs of others. If anything, I do this typically putting others ahead of my self. Interesting how this is another way of behaving “crab-like” as I side-step around my own needs in order to meet the needs of others in my life.