Through a Jungian Lens

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Being Alone and in Relationship with Others

with 10 comments

A beautiful image from A Quintessence of Dust

Sometimes I find an image on the Internet without going in search of it. Sometimes the image comes to me through a “Tweet” or flashing passed my screen as I search for some unrelated information. Today’s image is one of those gifts that appear as it was passed from one viewer to the next to the next – a dynamic found on Tumblr. I was sent to the site of Aphrodite where I found the photo with an accompanying text:

…We leave our homeland, our property and our friends. We give up the familiar ground that supports our ego, admit the helplessness of ego to control its world and secure itself. We give up our clingings to superiority and self-preservation…It means giving up searching for a home, becoming a refugee, a lonely person who must depend on himself…Fundamentally, no one can help us. If we seek to relieve our loneliness, we will be distracted from the path. Instead, we must make a relationship with loneliness until it becomes aloneness.” (Chögyam TrungpaThe Myth Of Freedom And The Way Of Meditation)

These are heavy words, the words of the “Hero’s Journey” that C.G. Jung calls individuation. The image is perfect in terms of showing the isolation of one on a path for only one. In a previous post I talked about the idea of the “crooked road” that is the only way to get from here to there which is curiously the straightest path through the wilderness, the swamplands. As I read these words I wonder at what losses must yet come on my own journey to healing.

Like most people, I am a lonely person even though I am surrounded by people who love me and whom I love. I am lonely because I am trapped in a body, a mind and inner shadows that hide the essence of who I am from myself as well as those around me. The only way through loneliness is to become one with my body, my mind and my inner shadows rather than be isolated from these key aspects of self. Then as Chögyam Trungpa tells us, I become alone rather than lonely.

Because I am in a separate body with a separate mind and heart I can never bridge the distance to lose this “aloneness.” I try, as do most others, by falling in love, making love, becoming a spouse, a parent and a grandparent – but the distance remains.

When I finally reach the goal of “aloneness” then, and only then, will relationship with others be full and nourishing to both myself and to those others.


10 Responses

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  1. I have a woodprint with a very similar design as this photo.
    And (true!) I have seen this sort of photo on two of my blog reads today.
    It is one of my favorite images: The Journey into the Woods.


    February 4, 2012 at 11:58 am

    • I have quite a few variations on the theme in my own photograph archives as the “journey” is key to the second half of “my” life.


      February 4, 2012 at 1:52 pm

  2. Robert,
    While I find your image fetching I want to point out something from King Arthur and Knights of the Round Table. Your image shows a path; others have gone this way before and created a path for others to follow. In Arthur’s legend the Knights begin their quest by entering the forest at points where NO PATHS exist:

    “But the knights seeking the Grail all enter the forest alone, apart from their fellows, in a place where the wood is thickest and where there is no path. When there is no path, only the self remains.”


    John Ferric

    February 4, 2012 at 9:50 pm

    • 🙂 Ah but, John there is a path though one can’t see it. It is a numinous path that is there in spite of the apparent lack of a path. And, if one isn’t wary, one falls off the path because one loses site of the numinous path that zigs and zags through what others only see as trackless wilderness.


      February 7, 2012 at 12:10 pm

  3. “I alone must become myself; I cannot become myself alone.” ~ Pittman Mcgehee

    Marla Estes

    February 6, 2012 at 11:16 pm

    • Beautiful, Marla. thank you for this quote. 🙂


      February 7, 2012 at 12:10 pm

  4. It’s helpful to see the difference between “loneliness” and “aloneness”. And interestingly enough, my inner critic (who has many negative things to say about loneliness) seems to be silent on the concept of aloneness. Very freeing, very hopeful.


    February 7, 2012 at 2:53 am

    • Yes, it is. I guess that the hopeful thing is that when one finally becomes awake and accepts the wholeness of one’s self, one stops being lonely.


      February 7, 2012 at 12:13 pm

  5. I love the photo…and I’ll have to work on the post…interesting, appropriate, compelling, but I wonder where I am sometimes. I love the alone of being in the canyons and mountains by myself…and still feel that way when I return to the community of my family and work associates. I’m sure I need to dig deeper and find something of myself, but there seems to be a near tangible wall…always present. Again, compelling. Thank you, Robert, again and always…something to process further.


    February 9, 2012 at 11:54 am

    • One “is” where one is. There is little more that can be said or done. One has to accept the fact of place and condition for the moment and take advantages of the slight shifts and openings that appear as windows of choice.


      February 10, 2012 at 4:36 pm

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