Book Review: Knowledge in a Nutshell: Carl Jung

Book Review: Knowledge in a Nutshell: Carl Jung

I enjoyed writing this review of Knowledge in a Nutshell: Carl Jung by Gary Bobroff for the Jung Society of Utah blog. The book is an excellent primer on Jungian concepts. Highly recommended.

“To find out what is truly individual in ourselves, profound reflection is needed; and suddenly we realize how uncommonly difficult the discovery of individuality is” 1

– C.G. Jung

Knowledge in a Nutshell: Carl Jung provides an introduction to Jung’s in an easy-to-understand format.

“Jungian psychology is something that we do,” Gary Bobroff writes in Knowledge in a Nutshell: Carl Jung. “Its work is to come into greater relationship with ourselves, to discover and relate to parts of ourselves beyond our regular conscious awareness.”2 As a Jungian-oriented therapist, I have found this to be true, and Jung’s body of work can be a powerful guide on the difficult journey of creating this relationship with oneself. However, for those who are unfamiliar with Jung, the complexity and sheer volume of his written work may be overwhelming. This was my experience six years ago (before I began my career as a therapist) when I became interested in Jung and his work.

I first came across Jung’s ideas on introversion, which were cited in a book that had been recommended to me. I became curious about him and sought out the source material, but often struggled to understand it, despite having some background knowledge of psychology. Bobroff’s book would have been a great help to me at that time. It contains good descriptions of Jungian terms in simple language. The writing is clear and engaging, easily understandable even for those with no background in psychology. This would be an excellent book to recommend to clients or others who are interested in learning about Jung’s basic ideas.

The book is also enjoyable to read, with several charming anecdotes about Jung that I had not come across before. In my favorite one, Bobroff writes, “C.G.’s laugh was so infectious that his secretary Aniela Jaffe told the story of a hiker who, travelling the road above Eranos, a research centre in Switzerland, heard laughter from high above in the mountains and had to come and investigate who this man was.”3

Jung was reported to have an infectious laugh and believed in the value of humor.

Bobroff presents a concise yet thorough introduction to who Jung was and his ideas. Included are chapters on the shadow, inner work, the Self, personality types, archetypes, anima and animus, and synchronicity. Each chapter provides examples to help readers understand these big concepts, as well as ways to connect with them personally:

“Integrating the shadow sometimes begins when we notice ourselves doing something out of character. Perhaps with genuine embarrassment, you wonder: ‘Why did I get so angry just then?’ For a moment, you’re seeing a part of yourself with which you’re not very comfortable. Our blind spots are momentarily revealed to us in such ways.”4

Such an approach gives readers a practical way of working with material that can often seem heady and overwhelming, as well as an entry point for engaging in a grounded way with the unconscious, which “holds the blueprint of who we are… The task of unfolding that pattern requires a relationship to inner forces within us.”5 The journey to relate to these inner forces and “search for who we really are, including both our current known ego self and a future version of ourselves which includes more of our unconscious potential, is the quest of Jungian psychology.”6 This book offers a helpful ally on that quest.

An understanding of Jungian psychology can guide our journey to become more of who we really are.

For anyone who wants to find out who Jung was and/or find out more about themselves, Bobroff provides a good place to start. Those new to Jung will find a strong primer on the foundational elements of his theories, with suggestions on how to learn more. For those who have more familiarity with Jung, the book is an excellent review and a useful reference. I was personally impressed with Bobroff’s strong understanding of Jungian concepts, and his ability to elegantly distill the essence of Jung’s massive body of work into about 230 pages—clearly a heroic task.

In describing the importance of inner reflection and self-understanding, Bobroff writes, “In the face of today’s challenges, it remains within the power of every individual to be ‘the makeweight that tips the scales.’7 The ultimate reason that we’re still talking about Jung today is because of how seriously he took the inner life. May this book inspire you to realize how important yours is too.”8

Knowledge in a Nutshell: Carl Jung: The complete guide to the great psychoanalyst, including the unconscious, archetypes and the self by Gary Bobroff is published by Arcturus Publishing.

Notes

  1. Carl Jung, Collected Works, vol. 7 (Princeton University Press, 1966), par. 242
  2. Gary Bobroff, Knowledge in a Nutshell: Carl Jung (Arcturus Publishing, 2020), p. 72
  3. Ibid., p. 24
  4. Ibid., p. 63
  5. Ibid., p. 40
  6. Ibid., p. 75
  7. Carl Jung, The Undiscovered Self (Princeton University Press, 1957) p. 78
  8. Bobroff, Knowledge in a Nutshell: Carl Jung, p. 16

Interview with Dennis Slattery: Exploring Your Personal Myth

Interview with Dennis Slattery: Exploring Your Personal Myth

It was a joy to interview Dennis Slattery for the Jung Society of Utah blog, where this post originally appeared.

While much is said about the soul’s wisdom and capacity for creativity, it is important to remember that “archetypes always have a shadow,” Dennis Slattery said. As a teacher and a mythologist, he’s seen how vital it is to be aware that the soul also has the capacity for foolishness and destruction–that “the soul in its creative capacities can wreak untold horrors” through violence, war, and addiction. “Creativity is not always for the good,” he said.

However, once we are aware that this shadow side exists, we may begin to learn from it and develop greater awareness. A way of going about this creatively is to explore one’s own personal myth, which is something Slattery has helped countless people with during his 40 years as a teacher. Through the study of mythology and through writing about our own stories, he’s found that the creative process teaches us a great deal about cultivating presence and consciousness.

Join the Jung Society of Utah on Friday, November 16th for a special lecture by Dennis Slattery!

Slattery said he continues to be surprised by “the unbelievable stories that are unfolding inside each individual.” In his classes and writing workshops, he is “constantly blown away by the narratives that are unfolding in people. I could do this for 100 years and I’d never hear the same story twice.” A particular kind of magic happens when people share their personal narratives. “When someone has the courage and the voice to express their story in a small group setting, it immediately animates other people’s stories,” he said. This happens through mimesis, a term first used by Aristotle to describe the “interior transformation that takes place in the audience by means of what’s taking place externally in front of them on the stage.” Slattery described mimesis as “a creative act because you have to let the work in and be willing to be changed by it. If not, it will be ineffectual.”

“People want to be heard and they want to have their story witnessed,” Slattery said. Through that sharing and witnessing, “everybody in the room has their consciousness affected; by and large enhanced, strengthened even. One individual’s story becomes a communal story at the very same time it’s uttered. To me, that’s one of the great mysteries of being a human being–having that story. Part of it is by one’s own design, but I think there’s something deeper working. The narrative that one carries is also being cultivated by what Jung called the collective unconscious. Then it’s shaped by history–one’s own temporal being in the world–but at its core there is something collective about it. My sense is that’s what we truly listen for–that collective connection with other people.”

Sharing our stories with one another cultivates connection and makes us more humane.

Exploring and sharing one’s personal myth provides “a way of resonating the universal in and through the particular,” Slattery said, especially when it’s done with an attitude of openness and allowing. “So many people live a full life and then die never having been presented with this mystery–that they’re living originally a part of a larger narrative construct that cuts across races, ethnicities, countries, and is universal in its presence. That to me has been one of the great gifts in studying the humanities and working in depth and archetypal psychology–that it’s highlighted that one of the basic tenets of what makes us human is our narratives. It has the capacity to make us more humane.”

During his Friday evening lecture, Slattery will discuss ideas about what creativity is and what it evokes in us that “the audience can test that against their own experience of their own creative processes and products.” He will provide a written exercise to help audience members explore their personal myth, and will leave time to answer questions. “We’ll have fun with it,” he said. Because myth, depth, and creativity often fall by the wayside in our fast-paced culture, “we have to cultivate it among ourselves. That too is a joyful project.”

Don’t miss this enlightening evening with Dennis Slattery!

Lecture: Friday, November 16th
Time: 7:00-8:30pm (doors open at 6:30 with mingling, music before and after)
Location: Library Downtown, 210 E 400 S, Salt Lake City, UT 84111
Cost: free (please become a member)
Includes 1 free CE

Interview with Michael Meade: Connecting with the Inner Truth of the Soul in Troubling Times

Interview with Michael Meade: Connecting with the Inner Truth of the Soul in Troubling Times

It was a complete joy to interview Michael Meade for the Jung Society of Utah blog, where this post originally appeared.

If you’re in touch with your soul, you’re worth as much as the world—that was the old idea. The individual soul is in touch with the soul of the world. So, no change at the individual level of the soul, no change at the level of the world.”Michael Meade

Join the Jung Society of Utah for a special weekend with renowned storyteller Michael Meade, October 12th & 13th!

“We are in a soulful crisis about the meaning of individual life,” Michael Meade said, speaking of the current turmoil playing out on the world stage. This crisis is actually threefold, comprised of radical climate change, massive social injustice, and “a crisis of meaning and what’s now being called truth. If the third one isn’t resolved the other two cannot be handled,” Meade said. “You can’t have people genuinely dealing with social injustice if they’re not telling the truth.”

Truth and the Soul

Of his latest book, Awakening the Soul, Meade said he’s “trying to redefine truth, not in its abstract legal sense, but in the idea that we live our truth. The new book is about awakening that deeper soul and I wind up in the book writing about what I call living in truth.”

According to Meade, we are in an initiatory time, which makes it imperative for individuals to awaken to the deep soul within and live in their truth. “There’s a desperate need for the awakening of the individual soul because that will bring innovation, genius, imagination into the picture. Then if there are enough awakenings occurring individually, it can generate a collective or cultural initiation where people begin to value life more. We begin to understand the necessity of the soul more, and begin to value imagination, perhaps even greater than logic,” Meade said.

The individual who is in touch with the genius of their soul can offer innovative solutions to the world’s problems.

This awakening of the deep inner soul not only allows an individual know their own gifts, it also allows these gifts to play a part in addressing our current challenges. “If more people were aware of their genius and aware of their soul, more people could be dealing with more problems in both culture and in nature. The soul has answers through the equality of individual people,” Meade said. “Everyone’s inner soul is innovative by essence, because each person is unique. That’s the old idea—nature only makes originals, and right now nature as well as culture is calling on the originality in everyone and that means consciousness of that uniqueness.”

Ending and Beginning Again

“The old Greek idea for what we’re going through is apocalysis,” Meade said, speaking of the current disturbances we’re facing. “It means collapse-renewal. It means ending-beginning. We have to face what’s collapsing—we’re required to do that just by being awake—but we’re in the moment where some things are collapsing.” However, Meade noted that, “less evidently, some things are beginning and renewing. So, I think that’s the first thing to realize: that as bad as it is, according to mythology, the world doesn’t come to an end, it begins again—just the way a person begins their life again through initiation.”

In the video clip below, Meade shared a Native American story that illustrates the moment of ending-beginning we are facing:

“So, we’re in this dramatic moment,” Meade said. “What does a person do? I think there’s a requirement to be able to sit down in one’s soul, or from a Jungian point of view, be able to tap into the deep Self. Because things are wacky. There’s a tremendous pressure on everybody, increasingly so. People are anxious now without knowing why. The antidote to anxiety, in a certain sense, is being in touch with the deep Self. People need practices that keep us in touch with the greater part of ourselves.”

These practices include creative arts and contemplative practices. “The ancient shrines used to involve both of those things,” Meade said. “So, what people love in terms of beauty, art, music; whatever it is that a person loves—gardening, being close to the earth, walking in nature—that falls into the arts and practices we need more as an antidote to what’s happening in the collective psyche.”

Connection Amidst Chaos

Each of us connecting with our own soul, living our inner truth, and finding practices to keep in touch with what we love may help us to create a “change to where people live with dignity and a sense of inner nobility,” Meade said. Such changes “can begin to build respect back in terms of cultural healing. If people realized that what we do with our life affects the world, we can begin to have an initiation that starts in the individual soul and moves into the collective; that empowers the collective to deal with social injustice as well as climate change to a greater degree, because then it would all be fueled by imagination and the soulful sense of being connected to everything in the world.”

Meade spoke in the video clip below of the effect one awakened soul can have on others, through the power of imagination:

“Those who have a sense of soul, or deep Self, are one step ahead of everybody else because there’s at least the intuition that the way we deal with the lack of coherence in the world by finding more coherence in ourselves,” Meade said. “Then if we tap into the deep self, you’re going to have the giftedness that’s in everybody.”

Meade said that his Friday evening program will include songs, stories, and poems about the awakening of the soul. “There will be some kind of story about how it works on a mythological level, and commentary that will consider the state of the world, the state of the collective psyche, and the opportunity it presents to the individual psyche.” The Saturday workshop “will be much more about the idea of initiatory practice,” Meade said. It will address the question of “how do I, as one small person in this big, screaming drama, find things that are stabilizing and sustaining to me, and at the same time, develop paths that are creative and meaningful?” in order to address the third crisis of truth and meaning. “I’ll go into that more deeply, with more stories and more consideration of how the individual soul awakens and moves on the path of its life.”

Don’t miss this soulful weekend Michael Meade!

Lecture: Friday, October 12th
Time: 7:00-8:30pm (doors open at 6:15 with mingling, music before and after)
Location: Library Downtown, 210 E 400 S, Salt Lake City, UT 84111
Cost: free (please become a member)
Includes 1 free CE

Workshop: Saturday, October 13th
Time: 9:00am-4:00pm
Location: University Guest House, 110 Fort Douglas Blvd, Salt Lake City, UT 84113
Cost: $120; before Sept 27th $110 (lunch on your own, 6 CEs). Members additional 10% discount

Get your tickets here: https://michaelmeade.brownpapertickets.com/

Diane Hamilton on the Creative Play of Opposites

Diane Hamilton on the Creative Play of Opposites

It was lovely to interview Diane Hamilton for the Jung Society of Utah blog, where this post originally appeared.

Diane Musho Hamilton is a gifted mediator, facilitator, and teacher of Zen and Integral Spirituality. In her late 20s and early 30s, she trained to become a professional mediator. “My professional life was really structured around working with people in conflict. Whenever you are working conflicts, you’re encounter sets of polarities. Resolving conflict has to do with seeing how a polarity or set of opposites, actually contains commonalities and common interests. The mediator’s job is to help find them so that people are no longer in that opposition to each other.”

Join the Jung Society of Utah on Friday, September 14th for a special evening with Diane Hamilton on “The Creative Play of Opposites.”

Through regularly experiencing the opposites in people in conflict, she began to look at the oppositions within herself. For example, “I could see a side of myself that was more receptive and a side of myself that was more active and catalytic. Of course, I preferred one side to the other, as we often do. But over time, I began to recognize that opposites have both up and down sides, and I tried to see both.” According to Diane, practicing with polarities creates a flexibility in the mind.

With that kind of flexibility, we can start to being open to the kind of feedback that we get from the world around us. We aren’t so attached to our ideas of good and bad, particularly in ourselves. This leads to much more relaxation in our self-image, and we can, maybe for the first time, hear what works for people and what doesn’t. Diane recalled one of her meditation teachers saying, “Be yourself, the world will give you feedback.” She believes that we are in an enormous feedback loop with reality, and if we want to open our hearts to include more of what is true rather than less of what is true, polarity work can be a practice in compassion.

Acknowledging and working with our shadow aspects can create more compassion for ourselves and others.

This compassion begins with ourselves, in making room for the parts of ourselves that we might prefer not to identify with. “There is the Jungian idea that everything that is ‘out there’ is also ‘in here’, Diane said. “To the extent that we really know what is ‘in here,’ we can better work with what’s ‘out there.’” This includes working with our shadow, or “the parts of our identity that we don’t want to bring into the light, as Jung would put it.” These shadow aspects “that we don’t want to see as “I” are very rich and important parts of identity to bring forward,” Diane said. “This way, “We don’t get stuck seeing only ourselves idealized or good or always seeing the upside of ourselves.”

Jung himself engaged in a deep process of inner work. “He got very interested in the operations of the unconscious, and the Red Book was really Jung’s brave investigation into the unsavory parts of his mind.” Diane said. “Once Jung saw the creative capacity of his dark side, he realized it was basically endless, and the mind itself would always be spinning these possibilities.” Jung found that “the mind in its very structure creates opposites–you and me, this and that, here and there—that’s the way our mind works.” At that point, he was introduced to a Taoist book called, The Secret of the Golden Flower, where he relinquished the content of mind into the pure light of his own awareness.

Shadow work involves owning parts of ourselves we’d rather not identify with, and meditation introduces us to the part of ourselves that is beyond identity altogether. Diane said. “So, it’s both a matter of looking into our identity and including more, which creates compassion and creates more flexibility in the mind, and also seeing that all identity, at one level, is just completely fabricated. Identity is something we can always look at, play with, and drop as much as possible.”

To illustrate this point, she shared the following poem by Hafiz:

I
Have
Learned
So much from God
That I can no longer
Call
Myself

A Christian, a Hindu, a Muslim,
a Buddhist, a Jew.

The Truth has shared so much of Itself
With me

That I can no longer call myself
A man, a woman, an angel,
Or even a pure
Soul.

Love has
Befriended Hafiz so completely
It has turned to ash
And freed
Me

Of every concept and image
my mind has ever known.

“Identity itself has a zero point,” Diane said. “However, we tend to be enculturated into our egocentric identity, our ethnocentric identity, our world-centric identity, but those identities are actually creative and shifting all the time. They are not solid, but we tend to relate to them that way. The zero point, beyond opposites and identity, can be reached through spiritual practices such as sitting meditation.  As long as there are opposites in the mind, there is tension in the body. Without those opposites, there’s peace,” Diane said. “Stillness and silence open up a domain in which the mind is empty, and as the Tibetans like to say, luminous and blissful. It’s simply about discovering the peacefulness beyond opposites, which sitting meditation supports. That’s why Zen has been so important to me.”

Spiritual practices, such as meditation, can help us find an inner stillness beyond polarities.

As part of her program, Diane plans to include a group exercise in exploring opposites. “I’m hoping both to share some information, to provide an experience of the opposites, and help people touch into that zero point, so they can have an embodied experience of what I’m talking about. So, a little bit of theory, a little bit of experience, a little bit of reflection.”

Experiencing that zero point of stillness and peace allows for a more heart-centered life. “Part of Zen practice and Jung’s work is about creating a heart and a mind that can include the opposites of this existence,” Diane said. “What’s is so important about spiritual practice and psychological work is that they create an opening to include more of our experience. But we begin to see that the mind doesn’t seem to handle those opposites very well, but the heart does. The heart’s job is to be able to include the things in life that we don’t want to include. That is what we mean by being whole-hearted.”

Don’t miss this illuminating evening with Diane Hamilton!

Date: Friday, September 14th
Time: 7:00-8:30pm (mingle time before and after, doors open at 6:15)
Location: Saltair Room, University of Utah
Cost: free (please become a member)
Includes 1 free CE

A Jungian Perspective on Death

A Jungian Perspective on Death

This post originally appeared on the Jung Society of Utah blog.

Ironic, but one of the most intimate acts of our body is death.
So beautiful appeared my death—knowing who then I would kiss,
I died a thousand times before I died.

“Die before you die,” said the Prophet Muhammad.
Have wings that feared ever touched the Sun?
I was born when all I once feared—I could love.
~ Rabia Al Basri, Sufi poet

Carl Jung wrote, “When death confronts us, life always seems like a downward flow or like a clock that has been wound up and whose eventual “running down” is taken for granted.”1 In the year that has passed since my father’s death, I’ve experienced this sense of the clock running down. He was 67 years old, 30 years older than me, and the idea that half of my life might be over gave me pause about how I was spending my days. Along these lines, Jung continued:

When an aging person secretly shudders and is even mortally afraid at the thought that his reasonable expectation of life now amounts to only so many years, then we are painfully reminded of certain feelings within our own breast; we look away and turn the conversation to some other topic.1

Of this hesitancy to look at death, poet John O’Donohue wrote, “Though death is the most powerful and ultimate experience in one’s life, our culture goes to great pains to deny its presence…the rhythm of death in life is rarely acknowledged.”2 However, acknowledging, accepting, and even developing a relationship with death can help one to live a fuller, more vibrant life.

Jung suggested that the psyche might have a continued existence beyond death, “that it isn’t entirely confined to space and time…to that extent, the psyche is not submitted to those laws and that means a practical continuation of life, of a sort of psychical existence beyond time and space.”3 However, despite any hints about an afterlife, death remains a mystery. In order to cope with that mystery, Jung wrote that a person “ought to have a myth about death, for reason shows him nothing but the dark pit into which he is descending.”4 Jung viewed death as “an archetype, rich in secret life, which seeks to add itself to our own individual life in order to make it whole.”4 From this perspective, “symbols and images of death may be understood in terms of their significance and meaning for life, while experiences and intimations of life need to be construed as leading towards death.”5 Seen this way, life and death become companions, and equal parts of a complete human existence.

Accepting death as a part of life can help a person to cope with various forms of transition. “Life is an ocean with rising and falling tides. This means death is always implicit in it.”6 From this perspective, all changes in life can be seen as small deaths along the way, and turning toward the element of death that is inherent in all transitions can provide a means of overcoming fear. “To continually transfigure the faces of your own death ensures that, at the end of life, your physical death will be no stranger, robbing you against your will of the life that you have had.”2 Becoming familiar with death as a part of life can transform this archetype from a frightening adversary to a guide who can help one find courage in walking their individual path:

Death is the only wise advisor that we have. Whenever you feel, as you always do, that everything is going wrong and you’re about to be annihilated, turn to your death and ask if that is so. Your death will tell you that you’re wrong; that nothing really matters outside its touch. Your death will tell you, ‘I haven’t touched you yet.’7

The freedom and peace that come from creating a relationship with death can open the way for new possibilities, as well as greater self-expression and authenticity. “Masquerading behind the face of your physical death is the image and presence of your deepest self, which is waiting to embrace and meet you.”2 Released from the fear of death, one is able to live a fuller life and pursue their highest potential. Jungian analyst Erel Shalit spoke of life as being like a candle—the candle will never live out its purpose if it is not lit. “Only a candle you don’t like will never burn out. To live your life fully means that the candle will burn out.”8 Creating a relationship with death can provide the courage needed to light the candle.

Far from being the frightening monster it is often portrayed as in Western culture; the archetype of death can be a friend and a guide. “If you learn not to be afraid of your death, then you realize that you do not need to fear anything else either.”2 Reimagined this way, death becomes a messenger who brings many gifts, including courage, a higher perspective, increased awareness, greater authenticity, and deeper love for ourselves and others. Thus, whether or not the psyche continues to exist after death, we will be able to face death as “a meeting with a life-long friend from the deepest side of [our] own nature,”2 secure in the knowledge that our lives have been well-lived.

Works Cited

  1. Jung, C. G. “The soul and death.” In Feifel, H. (1959). The meaning of death. New York: Blakiston Division, McGraw-Hill.
  2. O’Donohue, J. (2004). Anam ċara: A book of Celtic wisdom. New York: Harper Perennial.
  3. Carl Jung speaks about Death [Video file]. (2007, June 18). Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LOxlZm2AU4o
  4. Jung, C. G. (1989). Memories, dreams, reflections. New York, NY: Vintage Books.
  5. Samuels, A., Shorter, B., & Plaut, F. (2005). A critical dictionary of Jungian Analysis. New York, NY: Routledge.
  6. van der Leeuw, G. “Immortality.” In Campbell, J. (1954). Papers from the Eranos yearbooks. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
  7. Castaneda, C. (1974). Journey to Ixtlan: The lessons of Don Juan. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books.
  8. “Interview with Dr. Shalit on The Cycle of Life” (2012) http://www.depthinsights.com/radio/ErelShalit-DepthInsights011212.mp4

 

Jung, Introversion, and Self-Acceptance

Jung, Introversion, and Self-Acceptance

I wrote the following post for the Jung Society of Utah blog.

“Your visions will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.”
–  C. G. Jung

While Carl Jung was mentioned briefly in my undergraduate psychology courses, my first real contact with Jung’s theories came many years after that. In 2014, I began seeing an acupuncturist for help with fatigue, depression, and anxiety. During the course of my treatment, the acupuncturist recommended that I read The Highly Sensitive Person, by psychologist Elaine Aron. According to Aron, highly sensitive people (HSPs) are the 15-20 percent of individuals in a population who have a nervous system that is more sensitive to stimulation than average.1 I strongly related to the information in the book and finally felt like my experiences of being “easily overwhelmed when you have been out in a highly stimulating environment for too long”1 made sense. This book cited Jung frequently, especially with regard to his ideas on introversion. Upon finding very little research related to the HSP trait, Aron “thought that the closest topic might be introversion. The psychiatrist Carl Jung wrote very wisely on the subject, calling it a tendency to turn inward. The work of Jung, himself an HSP, has been a major help to me.”1 The many mentions of Jung throughout the book intrigued me and I wondered if his work could be of help to me as well.

Carl Jung wrote wisely on the topic of introversion.

I began reading bits and pieces of Jung’s work that were available on the internet, along with commentary by depth oriented therapists and psychologists to provide clarity on aspects of it I was confused by. I also enjoyed watching videos and lectures about Jung on YouTube. I found that Jung’s work, especially his ideas on psychological types, helped me to understand and make peace with my own experiences, particularly those around being an intuitive introvert who never “fit in” with most of the people around me. It was absolutely my experience that “the introverted person must assume a good deal of chronic psychological stress”3 in order to adapt to an environment where extraversion is preferred. This further explained the fatigue, depression, and anxiety I had suffered from for so long. After reading Jung, I began to feel more at peace with my natural temperament and no longer felt the need to pretend to be otherwise. As I accepted myself, my physical and psychological symptoms gradually diminished. For me, Jung made being an introvert acceptable and even valuable; rather than a deficiency in my personality, which is how I had previously viewed this trait.

Reading Jung’s work helped me to turn within, make peace with myself, and begin learning to love myself.

I deepened my study of Jung by reading Memories, Dreams, Reflections. I often found myself laughing aloud as I related to Jung’s childhood experiences, particularly where he described his boredom with school: “It took up far too much time which I would rather have spent drawing battles and playing with fire. Divinity classes were unspeakably dull, and I felt a downright fear of the mathematics class.”2 In Jung, I felt I had found a kindred spirit after spending most of my life feeling lost in a deep, painful sense of aloneness.

I am grateful for the many ways Jung’s work has influenced my life for the better. Through his writing I became able to look within my own heart, wake up to who I truly am, and began to accept myself. As a result of this turning inward, I also found the sense of purpose that I had always lacked, and began the transition from an empty, dead-end career path to one I find fascinating and meaningful. I will continue to turn to Jung’s work as part of my studies to become a psychotherapist.

Books Cited

  1. The highly sensitive person: How to thrive when the world overwhelms you Elaine Aron.
  2. Memories, dreams, reflections Carl G. Jung.
  3. Jung’s map of the soul: An introduction Murray Stein.

Capturing the Wind: Aligning with the Archetypal Through Dreams

It was a pleasure to interview Dr. Michael Conforti of the Assisi Institute about his approach to dreamwork for the Jung Platform blog.

 

How can we best understand what our dreams are communicating to us?

According to Dr. Michael Conforti, dream images have an existence autonomous of how we think or feel about them. However, most of modern dreamwork has become very subjective. “People confuse the reaction that the dreamer is having with the message of the dream,” he said. “Psyche is telling a story in a certain way. Let’s get beyond what we think and feel.”

Michael Conforti
Jung Platform is pleased to present a free webinar and a four week course on dreams and dreamwork with Michael Conforti.

To illustrate, he provided the hypothetical example of two therapy clients who dreamed of sailboats. The first client associated sailboats with a romantic vacation in the Greek islands. The second associated sailboats with the loss of multiple family members in a boating accident.“The first interpretation is about passion and sexuality,” Conforti said, explaining that a therapist who is working with this dream might ask the client where they need more eros in their life. In working with the second client, the therapist might ask what is happening in their life related to tragedy.

However, “a sailboat is something unto itself,” Conforti said. “It travels by virtue of the sails, which capture the wind. The wind is the numinous. All that gets lost when you cover it up by the tragedy or the love and the passion. The powerful message of the dream gets lost under those conditions. Subjectivity is often diametrically opposed to the objective and archetypal.”

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A sailboat is an archetypal image with an existence autonomous of how one thinks or feels about it.

“Jung really built on the shoulders of giants before him—the spiritual teachers, the mystics, the sages and the dreamers from the beginning of time—and they knew there was something sacred about the dream,” Conforti said. “They knew the dream was coming from someplace that was beyond what we think about in ordinary consciousness, that supersedes it. They took the images and said, ‘This image is powerful. The dream is trying to awaken us to something we don’t know about.’”

Jung and the early Jungians studied the symbols and images that are often seen in dreams, myths, and fairytales, and found within them “themes of humanity and journeys through life,” Conforti said. “All these stories talk about the portals we cross in different stages of life. These are archetypal situations that have been with humanity from the beginning and are not to be muted by individual bias. But when we take an image and we say, ‘Well, what does it mean to you?’ the absolute autonomy of the image is lost.”

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Dreams often contain the same images and symbols seen in myths and fairy tales.

From the subjective to the archetypal

“The response evoked by a dream is often more about our own complexes than about the dream image itself,” Conforti said.“Ninety percent of what we typically do is filtering a dream through a complex and we miss the beautiful meaning of it.” So when working with dream images, Conforti starts with the subjective level, assessing the dreamer’s reaction to the dream.“You have to work through the emotion,” he said. “You’ve dealt with the complex but not the dream.”

However, once the emotions and complexes surrounding the dream have been addressed, it may allow the dreamer access to something deeper that is helping to direct their individuation. “The beauty of this work is to help people see their complexes and then to align with the archetypal,” Conforti said. “When one is able to push aside their own rendering or feeling for a moment and approach the dream, it is the beginning of ushering in their spirituality; of being affected by something bigger than them. But it is a difficult journey from the subjective to the universal.”

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“Dreams are like letters from God. Isn’t it time you opened your mail?” – Marie-Louise von Franz

Going back to the image of the sailboat, Conforti spoke of how the wind moves it across the water. “The wind since Biblical times is the Spirit, which moves us through life. When you work with the wind, you have to learn how to capture the wind, to move with the shifting winds, and how to steer, but the wind is guiding you,” he said.“The sailboat is a vessel to cross the collective unconscious. But when you put it into the sausage grinder of ‘what this means to me,’ you lose all of that.”

So in understanding and aligning with the archetypal meaning of dream images, we align with the natural order of life. In doing so, we begin to capture and work with the wind, allowing the Self to guide us toward our destiny.

 

Dr. Michael Conforti will present a four week course on these ideas beginning January 26th. Get your 10% discount by signing up before Jan 8th Enroll here.

Jung Platform is also pleased to present a free webinar on dreams with Michael Conforti on January 12th. Free sign up here.

Loneliness and Solitude: A Jungian View

Loneliness and Solitude: A Jungian View

I wrote the following for the Jung Society of Utah blog:

Loneliness does not come from having no people about one, but from being unable to communicate the things that seem important to oneself.”
– C.G. Jung

Loneliness can be described as “perceived social isolation, or the discrepancy between what you want from your social relationships and your perception of those relationships.” People are often ashamed of feeling lonely, but loneliness is increasingly common: Time Magazine and the Huffington Post recently published articles describing loneliness as a growing public health concern.

How then can we address this common, yet painful experience?

Loneliness as a messenger

Loneliness can be experienced by anyone, even those who are surrounded by other people. Personally, some of my loneliest experiences have involved trying to connect with loved ones who I felt deeply misunderstood by. From a Jungian perspective, this indicates that feelings of loneliness may often indicate an inner situation that needs to be addressed: “Loneliness is an aversive signal whose purpose is to motivate us to reconnect.”

Like other forms of suffering, loneliness can be a messenger, asking us to address an inner situation.

In order to being the process of reconnection, it is necessary to connect with the unpleasant, lonely feelings, rather than pushing them away, or numbing out with anything that provides a temporary distraction. Turning toward that suffering with compassion and considering its message can help us connect to our own inner resources.

Re-imagining loneliness

If we can let curiosity about the loneliness outweigh our fear of it, we can see what it might have to teach us. From there, we may begin to transform the loneliness through a change in our perception, perhaps seeing it as solitude instead, which offers a chance to know ourselves better and see ourselves more clearly.

Feeling heard, seen, and understood begins with compassionately witnessing what is going on with us. Being in solitude gives us this opportunity to examine our thoughts and reflect on our feelings, values, and desires. In solitude, we can get to know ourselves better, define more clearly what is most important to us, and develop the self-love and self-worth to be able to communicate that honestly. Jung wrote, “It is always important to have something to bring into a relationship, and solitude is often the means by which you acquire it.”

In solitude we may find opportunities for contemplation, as well as healing and self-growth through inner experience.

Connection with the Self

Loneliness can act as a catalyst for our individuation, offering us an opportunity to make our darkness conscious and transmute it into greater understanding and wisdom. This could be seen as connecting with the Self and realizing greater wholeness and coherence within the psyche. When we begin to see ourselves more clearly, recognizing our own inherent wholeness and value as individuals, we improve our ability to connect with others. Jung wrote, “But now, if you are in solitude, your God leads you to the God of others, and through that to the true neighbor, to the neighbor of the self in others.”

“It is … only in the state of complete abandonment and loneliness that we experience the helpful powers of our own natures.” – C.G. Jung

Productively addressing our own feelings of loneliness may also help us develop greater appreciation for our connections with others. “Loneliness is not necessarily inimical to companionship, for no one is more sensitive to companionship than the lonely man, and companionship thrives only when each individual remembers his individuality and does not identify himself with others,” Jung wrote. When we truly listen to our feelings and take appropriate action based on what we learn from them, we can become more authentic, which helps us connect with others in deeper, more meaningful ways.

Interview: Thomas Moore on Creating Soulful Relationships

Interview: Thomas Moore on Creating Soulful Relationships

This interview is the second of two with Thomas Moore for the Jung Society of Utah blog.

“How can we know ourselves by ourselves? . . . Soul needs intimate connection, not only to individuate, but simply to live. For this we need relationships of the profoundest kind through which we can realize ourselves, where self-revelation is possible, where interest in and love for soul is paramount.”
– James Hillman

“A soul mate is primarily someone with whom we have a soul connection,” according to bestselling author Thomas Moore. Although not everyone we meet is a soul mate, we can make all of our relationships more soulful.

The soul in relationship

“It’s very important in keeping your soul alive to be attached, to be close to people, to get involved in the entanglements and complexities of life, to really allow yourself to enter life in all of its mess and confusion,” Moore said. “That’s what my friend and teacher James Hillman used to say. “Soul is found in all the messes that we get ourselves into.” However, that shouldn’t provide an excuse to remain unconscious and let our relationships suffer. Moore suggested that a more mature and aware way of being in relationship is simply “through talking to each other and telling the stories of our lives to each other. That’s really important. We’re always influenced by the stories that have become part of our own personal mythology.”

What’s your story?

In fact, Moore places great value on the role personal mythology plays in relationships. “It’s a good idea to know the story we’re in and to know that we’ll never get out of it completely,” he said. “But the more we know it and the more we can tell our story, while admitting that it has some sides that are negative and difficult for us, the more we have a chance at not being so dominated by these images.”

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We can create soulful relationships through listening to one another’s stories with compassion.

Moore said that we often learn these stories from parents and other family members, through social or religious institutions, or from experiences that have deeply affected us. “When someone has had a big rejection in life, that can really affect the way they imagine their relationships in the future,” Moore said. “Someone’s belief systems may also affect their relationships. Some people think that they should only be with people who are of a certain religious or spiritual point of view, so that story influences their relating. Our history, our education, our culture, our family, our experiences all shape the way we see everything.”

It’s important to understand that those around us also have their own personal mythology. “Remembering that other people are in a story as well is the essence of a successful relationship,” Moore said. Keeping personal mythologies in mind can help us have greater empathy for others, especially when they’ve chosen to share any portion of their story with us. “It requires strength to be able to listen to another person saying things you might not want to hear and to think, ‘Well this is a human being they have their background, they have their own destiny, they have their challenges, and they have their life to live. Where we can share it, it’s wonderful,’” Moore said, while also pointing out, “but you can’t share the entire thing, really.”

Mystery, imagination, and compassion

Even when we have shared our stories, there are many things we may never understand about others. “You really are largely mysterious to yourself and the other person,” Moore said. “So when people come together, they really can never fully know themselves. Part of the job in a relationship is to allow the other person to have their mysterious fate and identity, and not demand that they be the way you would like them to be. That’s one of the biggest challenges: To honor their mystery, and also preserve your own.”

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“Love alone is not enough. Without imagination, love stales into sentiment, duty, boredom. Relationships fail not because we have stopped loving but because we first stopped imagining.” ― James Hillman

Because we are so mysterious to ourselves and others, “there is no such thing as a person as they really are,” Moore said. “They don’t exist. The reason is that we are always imagining. We see everything through imagination. That doesn’t mean there’s nothing there, it just means that we can’t perceive the world except through imagination. We’re always seeing through a story, or through images that we’ve developed.”

So while we may never completely understand our loved ones or learn their entire story, we can create soulful relationships through treating others with compassion. In relationships, Moore said, “you are there to be with [someone]. That’s what compassion means. Com- means to be with them and to feel with them. Not to feel the same, but to feel with someone. And so that compassion is a transparent way of having a conversation where you are strong and you have a great capacity to listen to what the other person has to say.”

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“When we practice loving kindness and compassion we are the first ones to profit.” ― Rumi

Interview: Thomas Moore on Soul Mates

Interview: Thomas Moore on Soul Mates

It was wonderful to interview Thomas Moore for the Jung Society of Utah blog. He is a truly kind, intelligent, and soulful person.

 

“I found [my soul] again only through the soul of the woman.”
– C.G. Jung

Carl Jung wrote in The Red Book about coming to know his own soul through relationship with an other. According to author Thomas Moore, our deepest connections with others often teach us the most about ourselves and lead to our greatest development as individuals.

What is a soul mate?

“All of our relationships may be soulful to various degrees,” Moore said. “So you may have a friend that is very close to you, and you could call them a soul mate, even though they’re not a lover.” In his extensive study on the history of the soul, including what it is and how it’s been written about, Moore found that “when you look at Western history, in almost all the books, every spokesperson for soul has written about friendship as being the best model for a soulful relationship. So even if you’re lovers or spouses, the friendship dimension is probably the most soulful aspect.”

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“A soulmate is someone to whom we feel profoundly connected, as though the communicating and communing that take place between us were not the product of intentional efforts, but rather a divine grace.” – Thomas Moore

“I understand that when people use the term “soul mate” they mean something very special and specific,” Moore said. “I like the idea that people begin to think in more mystical ways about relationship when they think of soul mates. So when you think of a relationship as being destined from eternity, I think it’s really good to shroud your relationship with that.” However, Moore also noted the importance of looking beyond the mystical to face aspects of relationship which can be difficult. “That doesn’t mean that it’s not a human relationship too. If the time comes that you need to end the relationship, you have to be able to do it; you can’t stay with the romantic mysticism of the soul mate idea. So there’s a side to soul that’s very challenging and has a lot of shadow. It takes a lot of work and courage to stick with it.”

One reason for this, Moore said, is because “a soul mate is not the same as compatibility. I don’t think those two things necessarily go together. There may be all kinds of things in ordinary life where you’re not compatible at all.” Some reasons one may feel incompatible a soul mate include poor timing, or an inability to reconcile the relationship with the details of life, such as career and children. “Sometimes the conditions just aren’t right,” Moore said. However, it is often possible to work out the demands of life so that “the deeper values carry over and are stronger, so there is something in common.”

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Our soul mate relationships can help us become our most authentic selves.

This process of “maturing the relationship and getting beyond the initial attraction” is important to the experience because it contributes to the growth of the people involved. “I think we expect relationships to be easy, but the fact is that we are bringing two individuals with unique lives together and it takes a very special vision, a special way of being together where you’re not expecting the other person to be a carbon copy of you,” Moore said. “We tend to think that the other person will have the same psychological makeup we have. They don’t. They also don’t have the same destiny or the same values. And yet we can share the process. We can enjoy watching and being with the other person as they emerge into their own individual nature. And we can hope that they become more of an individual because of our relationship.”

Daimonic invitations

“When we talk about soul mates we have to understand that part of that sense of destiny is also daimonic,” Moore said. “We haven’t just rationally said, ‘There’s someone who looks like my type or looks like we could probably share a life together pretty well.’ You just get struck and you want to get to know that person. You may know nothing about them, yet still you’re drawn and you don’t know why.”

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Each person is said to have a daimon that guides their destiny, possibly drawing them into soul mate connections.

While it is necessary to sort out the details and “see if that passion can create a life or not,” Moore said “the daimonic aspect is there to bring people together and to keep a person in that place where you’re not living too rationally all the time. It’s a different way of living. You respond to the passions you feel that pass through you. You are not responsible so much as you are responsive. You respond to the invitations that are daimonic.”

Why does the daimon invite us into these soul mate connections? “The material of our psyche or soul is raw at first,” Moore said, describing the prima materia of passions and desires we might not know what to do with. “One of the purposes of relationship is to create an alchemical vessel in which that raw stuff can be cooked and sorted out. So you sort out the raw material that is in you, and in a way you’re also helping your partner sort out his or her material,” Moore said, and pointed out the difficulties this can cause. “When you have a deep soul connection like that, it’s not easy to be the partner of someone who is pursuing their own deep life, which is always changing.”

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We can be transformed through the alchemy of relationship.

However, having such a connection is “a deep, profound, dynamic, mysterious source of identity that is wonderful because it traditionally is what makes you feel alive,” Moore said. “It makes you feel an individual. Those are wonderful gifts to have. But at the same time it means that the challenges are very strong and very deep.”

The eternal in the temporal

Even though dealing with such constant change can be difficult, the process provides “a possibility of great depth and joy because if it’s really a relationship that is full of soul then, it’s very deep and there’s a lot of mystery in it,” Moore said. “If you have a relationship where you feel that you are soul mates, it is a very deep, ritualistic way of honoring the fact that there’s some connection there that is mysterious and mystical, which I think is the essence of what the soul mate idea is. Having that can give everything you do a dimension that is very profound, and gives you the sense that the eternal is part of the temporality of your relationship. That can hold you together more effectively than the temporal side.”