some thoughts from a friend
The following is a guest post by Jungian analyst, Heidi Kolb, one of my friends in the Jungian community. I met Heidi on Twitter a few years ago when I went in search of others who had a passion for Jungian psychology. Since that time, a friendship developed because of that shared passion. With this, I invite you to read this guest post from a friend.
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What makes a Jungian a Jungian? This is a question worth pondering. “By their fruit you will recognize them”, this thought, this image might be helpful in approximating an answer to this question.
If C.G. Jung’s work is to be worth its salt, it has to be put into practice in our daily lives. Jung noted that the living meaning “only lives when we experience it in and through ourselves”. Jungian thought must be experienced, at times suffered, at others enjoyed as a lived daily practice. Never mind having read all his books, although a worthwhile endeavor, never mind being in Jungian analysis, although, deo concedente, it can be a life altering experience. You are the vessel that matters. Only you and your fully lived, that is, consciously felt and understood life can bring forth this fruit .
There may be many different ways to imagine what is meant by this “fruit”. We may want to start with the notion of the image itself that is so much at the core of the Jungian path. Jung taught us that psyche makes herself known to us through image and affect. Maybe psyche’s first fruitful manifestation is our awareness of the images in our subjective experience. Let us follow the invitation to look deeper into medias res. Questions arise, what is a psychic image? Are psychic images our visual impressions, memories, thoughts, words, dream images, fantasies? Can a sound be a psychic image? How blurry is the line between image and physical sensation? As we imagine together and wonder, or even better, meditate on these questions, we are beginning to approach through our subjective experience, our subjective ego, something Other.
Yet we are not only observing, thinking and imagining beings, we are also instinctual creatures. Image and affect. For better or worse, our instincts, emotions and affects are part of who we are. We cherish some and have to do battle with others. But we need to relate and to find a conscious stance with all.
Our innate personality may favor either imaginative, mental understanding or emotional, feeling values. Yet both perceptive modes are needed. A movement towards balance is the key. For psyche to grow and to become anchored in our awareness, a natural, favored attitude needs to be curbed for a less developed psychic muscle to develop. So much of what seems natural to us needs to be overcome and conquered. The alchemists knew that, nature has it within her to overcome herself. And Jung knew that any imbalance can slant towards rigidified one-sidedness. In the unbalanced individual the opposites become more polarized. A sign of our times, we live in a world of extreme polarization, seemingly close to a breaking point.
These maddening, polarized and polarizing times need, more than ever, people who are willing to move towards holding the opposites together within the scale of their own individual lives. Follow, understand and feel the path led by image and affect, that is the seed of the fruit.
I was delighted when I was asked to share some thoughts on this blog. I know, I am in good Jungian company. “Through a Jungian Lens” always stays true to image, is always grounded in personal felt experience, the only orient of reality we can call our own. Image and affect. And from there, in the writer’s own pace, Robert connects his experience to snippets of Jungian thought. We, the readers, are allowed a glimpse into Robert’s process of separating and assimilating and ultimately transforming experience. He shows us how to walk the Jungian talk. That is what I call a genuine Jungian.
C.G.Jung had a profound understanding of the Moment and, if I may borrow from Ekkhart Tolle, the Power of Now. In this Jung differed from Freud. Jung believed that looking back and explaining a symptom or situation causally provides only half of the story. What remains amiss is the living meaning of the current moment. The newness of life which is created with every breath we take. Jungian thought encourages us to look forward. What is the trajectory of the current psychic moment? What bridge into her own future is psyche creating in this living moment? That is the right question to ask.
The paths these questions open up are as numerous as there are individual lives. Yet many of these individual experiences are also archetypal and collectively shared.
As we courageously peer into alien aspects of ourselves, as we refuse the pull to ease our burden by projecting the unfamiliar onto others, as we shine the light of our consciouness to illumine the darkness, something else, in due time, is beginning to shine back at us. A light that cannot be seen with the physical eye, yet it can be felt and imagined with our psychic eyes. As Paul Levy writes, it is not the visible light we see, but the invisible light by which we see. This light, the lumen naturae of the alchemists, allows us a brief experience of a non-dual world with no opposites, the realm of psychic wholeness, the Self in Jungian terms. A unity where it is hard to distinguish where light ends and darkness begins. Anyone who has ever integrated a piece of shadow knows how humbling yet illuminating it can be.
The path towards seeing and living with the lumen naturae begins with engaging our experiences with image and affect. Blogs like Through a Jungian Lens encourage us to get going and to keep on walking.