Through a Jungian Lens

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What Lies Beneath the Surface?

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Canada thistle – a noxious but beautiful weed

I took this photo while walking in the fields near Lake Diefenbaker, the same walk that gifted me with beautiful cactus flowers.To my eyes, this is one of the more beautiful flowers that nature provides us in an area that is more often than not, dry and drab in terms of colour. Most of the flowers are tiny and pastel in colour, matching the land which is itself sun bleached. For a brief period of time, the thistle dares to announce its presence, defying the sun and at the same time celebrating that very same sun. It shouts out: ‘I am here!’

I think about the youth in the modern, western world who do much the same as they pierce ears, eye lids, lips, tongues, noses, cheeks, foreheads and numerous other parts of their body; these young people who cover as much of their skin as possible with tattoos, often with symbols of which they have little or no knowledge. There is a lot of work, a lot of thought that goes into the crafting of a “look,” a way for each of these youth to scream out, “I am here!  See me! Acknowledge me!” And those screams are framed with anxiety that even with all of this work, they will remain unseen, lost to their communities and sadly to themselves. I do not say this as a critic of piercing or tattoos or of dress and hair styles, I say this because of the pain, confusion and anger that I see in the undisguised eyes of those “thistles” who dare to be weeds in order to feel alive for a brief moment in time.

At least we see  these individuals even if we are repelled or disgusted with what we see. So many of our youth that appear as clones of what we deem as acceptable, are just as wounded. They disappear into the music of their iPhones or mp3 players; they disappear into all sorts of gaming systems; they disappear  into addictions of drugs, booze and sex; or they disappear within as they mimic the norm in hopes that in this way they will find acceptance and meaning.

What do we hear and see about our youth? What do we want to hear and see? What do they tell us about ourselves as adults and about our communities in which they are raised? If we listen carefully we will hear that we have not given them a sense of self-worth that is below the surface of the outer world. Collectively we have destroyed the inner worlds.

Now, anyone who approaches what is left of those inner worlds is seen as being mentally unwell. We prescribe pills, therapy, camps, programs and even shopping experiences as a panacea in hopes that any or all of these prescriptions will put them out of their depths into the bright sunny outer world. And in our desperate acts to save our children from their depths, we teach them that if it lies below the surface, it is not good.



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  1. As a member of that younger generation, I was very lucky to have found solace and value in my inner life, helped by both chance (a dream misinterpretation–I took it too literally
    !) and circumstance (my supportive group of family, friends and a couple of therapists). This prevented me from having a stance that my siblings took–which was that of nihilism. This was also helped by my deepening sense of time as expressed through evolutionary and geological processes.

    It’s kinda scary at times, simply out of the inability to describe such personal experiences and insights to others and in part due to the somewhat lonely journey I had taken towards the unknown. But I know that humans have had difficulty with uncertainty and so try to cover this up in varying guises, which I do get at times too. So, in a way, I can understand the modern predicaments that we have, carrying the burdens of past generations’ mistakes, especially when it comes to the biosphere. It’s just too hard to bear this out on one’s own, I reckon, given how seemingly abstract these problems are. But they touch us in all of our materiality. Hence my interest in chemistry–I want to see both how much we have taken our material existence for granted…and yet attempt to make a difference, however small, in changing how we see ourselves as forms of Nature within the universe.

    [I’m now frozen Down Under. Last night, it got down to almost the freezing point of water!]

    Cathy Sander

    July 3, 2012 at 4:35 am

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