Through a Jungian Lens

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Individuation – An Odyssey Of Mythological Proportions

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Individuation - An Odyssey Of Mythological Proportions

I am in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) after a thirteen hour flight and the associated waiting hours in Shanghai and the arrival time spend at the Toronto airport. All of the baggage made it through safely – and I don’t mean that the baggage was limited to physical bags, but also include the psychological baggage (attempt at humour). It is good to be back in Canada and I can “feel” the difference that comes with being in community rather than in being “un étranger” or “laowai” or “farang” or “gringo.” Here I become more invisible, more anonymous and with that anonymity, freer in a way. It is easier to just “be” rather than to have to hold to a foreigner persona.

As I wrote that last sentence, I realise that even though I am home in Canada, I am un étranger regardless. We all are strangers even within our own families and communities, even if we have never left our home communities. In truth, we are strangers to ourselves. Our families and our communities simply place the mystery of who we are, in context.

The journey of individuation is rather interesting. We begin at a point of time when we think we know who we are, a self that has carved out a place and identity based on career, family, possessions, experiences and relationships. At the moment in time when we wake up to the fact that the sense of identity, the sense of self that we have created is nothing but a fragile mask and costume, the real journey begins, a journey of self-discovery. I think most of us come to this point in our lives, see the dark hole and run screaming back into what we think is a safe place, sitting within the costume and investing all of our energies in maintaining the disguise hoping that no one looks to closely, especially ourselves. Energy is spent holding back that dark hole and in shoring up the personae that have become the public faces of who we are.

But, for some, the darkness is too powerful to hold back and we have no choice but to confront that darkness of disappear into a nothingness in terms of “self.” For me, this journey of awakening to a deeper and fuller sense of self has been understood by myself as an “Odyssey.” Like Odysseus, I wander through all sorts of trials, troubles, storms and temptation in order to find the centre of my own being, a glimpse of who I really am beneath all of the personae I live in the outer world of family and community. In the real world I have been travelling from country to country so much that I almost feel totally out of sync with the world. My body doesn’t have a sense of “time” anymore because of the constant shifting of time zones and the disorientation that comes with jet lag. Reality shifted to something within me, not something outside of me. I came face-to-face with the shadows, the gods and goddesses of this inner world that have haunted my outer world sense of presence.

Like this image of Odysseus, I am engaging in a battle with these gods and goddesses, not a battle that sees one defeated, but rather sees “me” become conscious of who I am because I dared these battles. There are no weapons or any armor that will help me other than what I can find within me and perhaps a talisman to carry in my hand on this journey.


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  1. Time to reread “Ithaka” by Cavafy


    February 17, 2012 at 10:06 am

    • Ithaka – C.P. Cavafy

      Here is the link to the poem spoken by Sean Connery to music by Vangelis

      As you set out for Ithaka
      hope the voyage is a long one,
      full of adventure, full of discovery.
      Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
      angry Poseidon—don’t be afraid of them:
      you’ll never find things like that on your way
      as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,
      as long as a rare excitement
      stirs your spirit and your body.
      Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
      wild Poseidon—you won’t encounter them
      unless you bring them along inside your soul,
      unless your soul sets them up in front of you.

      Hope the voyage is a long one.
      May there be many a summer morning when,
      with what pleasure, what joy,
      you come into harbors seen for the first time;
      may you stop at Phoenician trading stations
      to buy fine things,
      mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
      sensual perfume of every kind—
      as many sensual perfumes as you can;
      and may you visit many Egyptian cities
      to gather stores of knowledge from their scholars.

      Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
      Arriving there is what you are destined for.
      But do not hurry the journey at all.
      Better if it lasts for years,
      so you are old by the time you reach the island,
      wealthy with all you have gained on the way,
      not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.

      Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.
      Without her you would not have set out.
      She has nothing left to give you now.

      And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.
      Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
      you will have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.


      February 17, 2012 at 11:35 am

    • Beautiful, good Dr. Urspo. Thanks for reminding me. I thought it would be best to provide those words here as well as the YouTube version. 🙂


      February 17, 2012 at 11:37 am

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