Archive for May 2014
Yesterday, I wrote about depression. Today, I want to focus on the other side of depression. When it comes to my struggles with depression, I am fortunate as depression is something that is cyclical with descents and ascents. Unlike some, it isn’t a constant state of being.
As I stood on the scale this morning and once again found the dial stopping at 163 lbs, I was encouraged that this number has held for almost a week. It wasn’t long ago that I weighed between 177 and 182 lbs, a weight that had suddenly appeared on my body back in the 1990’s. Before that time, I weighed between 145 and 155 depending on the season – was it road racing season or not. I ran and competed for many years at various distances from 5 km to 42.2 km.
In the 1990’s things changed. First on the change agenda was the shift into midlife where the foundations of what we believe about ourselves and our purpose in life undergoes a revolution. If that wasn’t bad enough, it was then that I began to revisit my past – or should I say that my past decided I had buried it for too long and it needed to be aired out so that the records could be set straight. And then one of my brothers committed suicide. The whole lot sent me into analysis. I knew what was happening to me as I had been dealing with others as a psychotherapist. And so, like a good trooper, off I went to wrestle with dreams, nightmares, and memories that decided to haunt me.
“Fixed,” or so I thought, I returned to work with a will and a vengeance. I didn’t return to running as I had mysteriously developed heel spurs. My weight went up and my fitness levels went down. My work in education began to be affected as well though my counselling practice continued to thrive. There were unresolved issues that decided that it was their turn to put in an appearance which resulted in my hurrying back into analysis in order to deal with these issues so that I could just as quickly return to a productive life. More years passed and the pattern was again repeated.
Following the last series of analysis, things have radically changed. The heel spurs have disappeared, a desire to test my body, and a desire to return to a better appreciation of my physical, emotional, psychological and social self re-emerged from some deep hidden place. As a result, I am getting physically stronger and my weight is slowly dropping. I know I am not “there” yet, there meaning where I am at a state of balanced well-being. However, I know that it is coming closer and will be achieved. Like the buds of new leaves on the Green Elder bush at the side of my house, I sense a revitalisation and a re-invigoration in my life. The move from darkness to light is a promise of the best is yet to come.
I want to begin today’s post with a few quotes from James Hollis’ book, Why Good People Do Bad Things. Hopefully, what follows will explain the choice of these quotes.
“The shadow is composed of all those aspects of ourselves that have a tendency to make us uncomfortable with ourselves. The Shadow is not just what is unconscious, it is what discomforts the sense of self we wish to have.” [p. 9]
What version of my self do I want running around in the world? Ideally, it would be the version of self that lives in harmony with the people who come into contact with me, the version of self that deserves respect and unconditional regard. Anything within me that works to disturb others and the harmony then becomes the enemy.
“The . . . healing of the world, begins with ourselves, begins with what we do not wish to know about ourselves.” [p. 23]
It has been a while since I last brought words here. Why? Likely because I am hesitant to expose too much of myself at this time, a self-protection kind of response that doesn’t make sense when I consider all that I have written here in the past, all of the disclosures. Also figuring in on the hesitancy to post has been another round of depression and the fall out in my life that comes with its re-appearance. I am not Mr. Nice Guy when depressed, when I lose the energy to hold onto carefully constructed masks that attempt to keep peace with my outer world. Another factor that has been playing a significant part in this has been the writing of my history as a child, youth, and young adult before I got married.
As I have been writing, I have been able to watch the life of a young Robert move through events which served to create and empower complexes as well as the attempts by his attempts to protect himself on his journey toward adulthood. Dissociation, excessive pleasing, caretaking of others, numbing of body and mind, retreat into music, retreat into safe places such as closets or into the words of dead authors or into empty spaces in nature – empty of powerful adults. All of these strategies helped me navigate through a life where control in the hands of a variety of adults – my strategies were my efforts of having some control on an inner level. I learned to craft a Robert that was presented to the world that wouldn’t cause anger, disappointment or offense to others. I believed that to allow the authentic Robert be seen was only to invite anger, abuse, rejection and a host of unnamed fears.
Adult life has been easier for me. I worked hard at being a nice guy. I worked hard at putting a lid on all of those things that I believed (wrongly or rightly) would make adult life too difficult to live. It wasn’t that I was living a lie, that the adult Robert was a fiction. Rather, it was simply that this visible adult Robert was just a thin sliver of the whole Robert. However, when the veil that I had put between the whole Robert and the outer world began to disintegrate – think of it as tears in the costumes and masks that I wore – and part of that long disowned self began to emerge, life began to be problematic. As in the world of the young Robert, it appeared that the leakage was disappointing, confusing, upsetting, and offending others.
Yet, for all of this, I have no one to blame for my depression. I can’t really blame parents for being dysfunctional. I can’t really blame the broken people who abused me as I made the journey from birth to adulthood. I can’t blame anyone in my adult life who feel that I have betrayed them by not being the person whom I had taught them I was. There is no blame to be laid on anyone’s doorstep.
So now, I find myself stuffing the bits of shadow, those things about me that cause unease, dis-ease in others back into the cubbyholes that were built within a long time ago. Thinking about it, it’s easy to see that I am not really into the real work of “healing myself” as Hollis tells us. I am not ready to sacrifice, to risk sacrifice of relationships with others. So, it’s back to the old strategies and restoring an outer world of calm harmony. It’s hard work, somewhat like trying to stuff one’s intestines back into the stomach after spilling one’s guts out into the world. And with a bit of time, the world will feel some relief as the good old Robert returns – at least until the next time that shadow decides it has been held back long enough.
“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light , that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.” [Bible, Genesis 1 to 4]
I want to step aside of Christian theology for a moment and look more carefully at this story of creation, the words and their implications. If one reads on, one comes to realise that this creation of light was the first act of creation. Darkness already was in place, characterized as a formless void, emptiness. It took the creation of light to begin the process that eventually lead to the final act of creation, that of humans.
All is nothingness, an unending darkness in which there is no matter of any kind. It was as though this black emptiness, black being the absence of light, contained all the potential for what might come to be. Without light, there would be nothing. If one is able to enter into a space where light is completely barred entry, one is not able to see anything other than blackness, one is blind. Imagine that the blackness was such that there was nothing to touch or taste or smell or hear as well – that all was a black void.
If one brings light, banishing the darkness, but does not have anything to stand in contrast to the light, one again is blinded. In such a condition where only light exists, all is still a void. One needs a separation in order to discern the difference between light and non-light. If I look at this in a psychological framework, with non-light being unconsciousness and light being consciousness, the problem of the void continues to exist if consciousness is fully absent, or if unconsciousness is fully absent. In either state, there is no sense of “self” in relation to “other” whether that other is animate or inanimate or even conceptual.
It is no accident that all of our creation stories begin with the emergence of light to define itself in contrast to darkness. The creations stories are there for us, as a way to comprehend the duality of existence. Even the “Big Bang” theory has the same story to tell – out of the void something happened that shifted the formless and dark void with the result of light emerging and energy gathering itself into form.
That dark void from which all emerges with the appearance of light, is God. God can’t be separate as to have a god separate then changes the void into actually being something separate – in a separate space, place and time. Separating the void from God limits God as much as it limits the void.
In case you are wondering, this is going somewhere that will end up within the human psyche which mirrors all creation stories. It will take some time for me to bring all the pieces together here. But it is vital to begin at the beginning – darkness – where nothing, no one exists, not even light.
Just before beginning to write my planned blog post for today, I want to let all know that sometime tomorrow, this blog site will have reached a quarter of a million views. It is hard to imagine that any blog site that is focused on depth psychology could find itself connecting with so many people over a period of five years. I began blogging eight years ago, a travel blog focused on keeping family and friends aware of our life and work at a university in China after my retirement from the education system in Canada. Three years later, I moved to WordPress and began again, at that time shifting my focus to reflections on the human psyche through the lens of Jungian psychology. I can’t even begin to think that I have said all I want to say leaving me to wonder just how long this blog site will continue to pull me into writing.
Someone along the way suggested that this collection of posts could be my chef d’oeuvre, my contribution to the world as a writer, when I wondered aloud about what and when I would ever write something that was worth surviving. Perhaps he was/is right. Perhaps this ongoing process is worth keeping in the archives of published human thought. Like any writer, I have had doubts about its worth and whether or not to let it continue to exist. But now, these words have a life of their own. I don’t own them anymore. They belong to the 249,800 who have invested their time and energy to read them, sometimes adding their words in reflective response.
So, it is with a bit of pride that I vow to continue writing here until there are no more words left to say. Thank you.