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.