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.”

shutterstock_146837942
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.”

shutterstock_276496151
“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.”

shutterstock_413439157
“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.”

ThomasMoore
“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.”

shutterstock_121083355
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.”

shutterstock_323723186
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.”

shutterstock_412416157
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.”

Book Review – The Unseen Partner: Love and Longing in the Unconscious

Book Review – The Unseen Partner: Love and Longing in the Unconscious

It was a joy to write this review of Diane Croft’s beautiful book, The Unseen Partner: Love and Longing in the Unconscious, for the Jung Society of Utah blog. The book is a poetic documentation of her individuation journey. Highly recommended.

“I have again and again been faced with the mystery of love, and have never been able to explain what it is…For we are in the deepest sense the victims and the instruments of cosmogonic “love.””
– C.G. Jung

UnseenPartner
The Unseen Partner: Love and Longing in the Unconscious is a poetic documentation of Diane Croft’s personal journey of individuation.

“In the center of my being, there is no external object of affection—no I love you—just love itself,” Diane Croft writes in The Unseen Partner: Love and Longing in the Unconscious. “This is transpersonal love, an ideal psychological state only temporarily felt.” In her book, Croft describes the journey to that center, guided by an “unseen partner” through automatic writing. Croft’s personal confrontation with the unconscious came in the form of poetry, fragments of which appeared each morning for three years. She “took dictation,” and then spent two decades making sense of the experience.

The Journey to the Center

The gods grew tired of waiting
and woke me from a heavy sleep,
not by shaking my shoulder
but by breaking my heart.

In the commentary for the poem above, Croft describes her life at the time as “out of balance,” relying too heavily on intuition and thinking as her dominant functions. “What “the gods” were attempting to do was to redirect my energies at midlife toward feeling and sensing.” Some form of heartbreak is often inherent in the individuation process, as a person finds that the ways of being in the world that had previously served him or her well are no longer working. “The individuation process begins with a psychological “death,” a descent into the unconscious, for the purpose of “resurrecting” that which was lost to consciousness, namely our connection to the life-giving aspect of the psyche,” Croft writes, while also acknowledging that “few people are willing to undergo the process of individuation because it’s so disagreeable.”

484px-Johann_Heinrich_Füssli_008
The Silence by Johann Heinrich Fussli mirrors Croft’s feelings of alienation during parts of her individuation process.

Several poems and their commentary make clear that Croft often found the process quite disagreeable indeed. In a poem titled “Barren,” she describes the ““dark night of the soul,” where life feels emptied of psychic content and meaning.” However, by surrendering to the process through what she refers to as “conscious suffering,” she was able find greater acceptance of herself and her life. “Suffering—that painful feeling we all try to avoid—understood in the larger context, means a willingness to bear our own burdens in life, an acceptance of life as it is (a natural conflict of opposites) that takes on meaning when we attempt to balance it ethically.”

The Great Presence Within

For Croft, that attempt to find balance and meaning was a “process of searching…But what I seek has been staring right at me all along, which speaks to the reciprocal nature of an ego-Self reflection, i.e., seeing and being seen… From a Jungian point of view, the “game” is to redeem by conscious realization the hidden Self. This is not a passive game of the redemption of God through faith, but an active process of making conscious the Great Presence within, to seek and find our own true self.”

436px-Oaktree&mirrorimage
The individuation process opens a dialogue between the inner and outer world. (Image: “Oak tree standing on lakeside with reed and reflection by Hartmut Josi Bennöhr.)

Through this process of creating a dialogue between her inner and outer worlds, and embracing her authenticity, Croft found that “there is love in the unconscious. But first we must make manifest and heal what has been hidden and ignored. How do we take part in this transformation? For the unconscious to become morally responsible, it must first be seen.”

Croft presents individuation as a journey of love: To truly see and heal these hidden and ignored aspects of ourselves, love is required. When we are able to accept and love our own shadow aspects, we are better able to love others in the same way. From there, we may access the type of transpersonal love Croft writes of near the end of the book, a love with no object, which, though felt only temporarily, has great power to transform. The purpose of the individuation process, as Croft describes it, is to lead us to that center of transpersonal love, from which we can truly be authentic.

605px-Reading-jester-q75-760x753
Croft selected images from Wikimedia Commons to accompany each poem. (Image: Jester reading a book.”)

Croft’s writing is clear and elegant throughout the book, offering an excellent description of what individuation is and how this experience can manifest. She makes Jungian ideas deeply relatable through the poetry and her commentary, which is rich with relevant quotes, particularly from Jung, Edward Edinger, and Rumi. In bringing her experience to consciousness with this book, Croft has made the unconscious morally responsible through love, truly a heroine’s journey.

Finding the Hidden Gifts in Suffering

Finding the Hidden Gifts in Suffering

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

“There are as many nights as days, and the one is just as long as the other in the year’s course. Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness, and the word “happy” would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness. It is far better to take things as they come along with patience and equanimity.”
– C.G. Jung

During an interview in 1960 Carl Jung was asked, “What do you consider to be more or less basic factors making for happiness in the human mind?” Jung replied:

  1. Good physical and mental health.
  2. Good personal and intimate relationships, such as those of marriage, the family, and friendships.
  3. The faculty for perceiving beauty in art and nature.
  4. Reasonable standards of living and satisfactory work.
  5. A philosophic or religious point of view capable of coping successfully with the vicissitudes of life.1

However, this type of happiness is based mostly on exterior factors, which Jung noted later in the interview: “No matter how ideal your situation may be, it does not necessarily guarantee happiness. A relatively slight disturbance of your biological or psychological equilibrium may suffice to destroy your happiness.”1

How then can we be happy regardless of our external experiences?

Suffering and the unlived life

The five factors Jung listed describe a life that is safe, uncomplicated, and familiar. Often, however, there comes a point when that ceases to be enough, and we might experience “unspeakable boredom,” even in the best of circumstances. Such feelings of boredom, a personal loss, or a crisis of some kind may force us from our comfort zone as we deeply consider the “unlived life” outside of our familiar experiences, and truly begin the process of individuation.

shutterstock_113875279
“Inside all conflicted and stuck situations there is a creative vulnerability that can lead to a release of unexpected imagination and genuine ideas of renewal.” – Michael Meade

As we step into this unknown territory, we often experience suffering. “Coming to terms with oneself is very hard and painful work. It’s actually much easier to blind ourselves to our inner conflicts and to suffer various neurotic symptoms than it is to carry the ultimate cross of becoming an authentic and healthy individual.”2

“The gold is in the dark”

So why choose to walk into the darkness? “Man needs difficulties; they are necessary for health,” Jung wrote. It is through the often troubling experience of contrast that we learn and evolve: “You could not know Warm without Cold, Up without Down, Fast without Slow.”3 Suffering provides a way for us to reconcile opposites and begin to transcend duality, thus developing a “wider and higher consciousness.” Additionally, through holding, forgiving, and accepting the contradictions within ourselves, we develop greater self-love and compassion. From such a place of healing, we also have an improved capacity to love and accept others as they are.

shutterstock_305139659
“It is by going down into the abyss that we recover the treasures of life. Where you stumble, there lies your treasure.” –  Joseph Campbell

This is, I think, what Jung meant by, “The gold is in the dark.” Through “making the darkness conscious,” by facing our suffering and experiencing it deeply, even if that seems at odds with our happiness, we can find the gold of individuation and self-love. If we are able to endure the night-sea journey of sitting with our suffering long enough to learn from it, it can be transmuted into various gifts, such as increased wisdom, higher consciousness, greater understanding of one’s purpose, or a deepened bond of friendship. When I have looked very closely at my most painful experiences, I have always found this to be true.

shutterstock_90416728
“When you are surrounded with darkness… be a light unto the darkness… Then you will know Who You Really Are.”3

While it may not seem so at the time, suffering can be a gift that helps us connect with our wholeness, fulfill our unique promise, shows us our true capabilities, and links us to the Divine. Through truly facing our suffering we can learn to connect to a consciousness within that allows us to experience bliss regardless of our outer circumstances. Upon looking back after having made it through troubled times, we can begin to see the suffering we experienced as a crucible that helped us become a better version of ourselves, and from here we become more able to accept all of life’s experiences with gratitude.

Jung wrote: “Nobody can know what the ultimate things are. We must, therefore, take them as we experience them. And if such experience helps make your life healthier, more beautiful, more complete and more satisfactory to yourself and to those you love, you may safely say: ‘This was the grace of God.’”

Works cited

  1. C.G. Jung Speaking: Interviews and Encounters. Edited by William McGuire and R.F.C. Hull.
  2. Words of Wisdom from Carl Jung, One of Psychology’s Greats. Dr. George Simon.
  3. The Little Soul and the Sun. Neale Donald Walsch.

 

Anima, Animus, and the Magical Other

Anima, Animus, and the Magical Other

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

“When animus and anima meet, the animus draws his sword of power and the anima ejects her poison of illusion and seduction. The outcome need not always be negative, since the two are equally likely to fall in love (a special instance of love at first sight).”
– C.G. Jung

Carl Jung used the term anima to describe “the inner figure of a woman held by a man,” and animus to describe “the figure of a man at work in a woman’s psyche.”1 The anima or animus functions as a psychopomp, or “guide of soul” which mediates between the conscious and unconscious, often becoming a “necessary link with creative possibilities and instruments of individuation.”1

These archetypes can profoundly influence our relationships. Individuals often choose partners based upon a resemblance to the anima or animus, or who outwardly express characteristics and feelings that lay dormant in their own psyche. This type of projection can lead to disillusionment and heartbreak once we get to know “the real him, the real herin extremis, the mask slipped from the face,” particularly if that face turns out to be very different from the idealized archetypal image we hold.

Searching for wholeness in the Magical Other

Perhaps it is the anima or animus that leads us to seek out a “Magical Other,” a term coined by Jungian analyst James Hollis to describe “the idea that there is one person out there who is right for us, will make our lives work, a soul–mate who will repair the ravages of our personal history, one who will be there for us, will read our minds, know what we want and meet those deepest needs; a good parent who will protect us from suffering and spare us the challenging journey of individuation.”2 Such romantic fantasies may drive us to search endlessly for our “perfect” match, or fixate in fascinated longing for an Other who seems to be our “ideal.”

shutterstock_314930138
Projections of the anima or animus may lead us on a search for our ideal or “Magical Other.”

According to Hollis, such patterns of behavior are unsustainable. “Given the gap between our expectations of the “Magical Other” and their finite capacities, we often hopelessly burden the relationship and, predictably, end in disappointment, cynicism, blaming, and then roll it all over again onto the next solitary soul.” To break the cycle, Hollis suggests using relationship as a way to examine unconscious contents. “The paradox lies in the fact that the Other can be a means through which one is enabled to glimpse the immensity of one’s own soul and live a portion of one’s individuation.”

Turning within

So love for an Other can serve as a fire that lights the way on our own journey, helping us to better understand ourselves. Even disappointments in relationship may hold an opportunity for personal development. I remember an afternoon I spent sitting with a loved one and telling her about an experience of heartbreak. After listening to my story, she asked what attracted me to the person I’d been discussing. When I told her, she replied, “He’s a mirror.”

shutterstock_388056640
Our relationships often serve as a mirrors, reflecting unconscious contents.

Therefore, we can use those characteristics we admire in the Other as a guide for our own evolution, and work on developing our own inner opposite, rather than searching for someone else to “complete” us. “Consider the courage of those truly willing to look within and own what they find,”2 Hollis says. In doing so, we can make the effects of the anima and animus conscious, possibly helping us discover our own gifts and purpose in the process.

Additionally, one of the tasks of individuation is to integrate the anima or animus in an internal marriage of the masculine and feminine parts of the psyche. Hollis writes, “Hierosgamos, the sacred marriage, properly honors the other as Other and at the same time protects the absolute uniqueness of the individual partners.”2 Through such inner work, we become free to truly love the Other as they are, rather than our projections or fantasies of them. Or as Alan Watts said, “When you’re loving somebody, you are simply delighting in that person as such.”

shutterstock_175045886
“Where the myth fails, human love begins. Then we love a human being, not our dream, but a human being with flaws.”   – Anaïs Nin

And if there is no “Magical Other”? Perhaps the true magic happens when we realize we are already complete, just as we are. From this place of integration and self-acceptance, “We may even come to bless those who have most hurt us, for they have most contributed to our transformation,” Hollis says. “We may even love them, allowing them to be who they are, even as we struggle to be ourselves on the journey toward our own destined end.”2

~Amanda Butler
Blog Manager and Newsletter Manager
Jung Society of Utah

Books cited

  1. A Critical Dictionary of Jungian Analysis. Andrew Samuels, Bani Shorter, Fred Plaut.
  2. The Eden Project: In Search of the Magical Other. James Hollis

 

African Wisdom Traditions and Individuation

African Wisdom Traditions and Individuation

(It was an honor and a delight to write the following post with my dear friend Pamela Thompson for the Jung Society of Utah blog.)

“The process of individuation is founded on the instinctive urge of every living creature to reach its own totality and fulfillment.”
– C.G. Jung

What does it mean to become who you truly are and live an authentic life? Carl Jung created the term individuation, describing it as a process in which one becomes aware of one’s true, inner self. Jung believed that: “Man is not a machine that can be remodeled for quite other purposes as occasion demands, in the hope that it will go on functioning as regularly as before but in a quite different way. He carries his whole history with him; in his very structure is written the history of mankind.”

shutterstock_370485233

“Each person bears a uniqueness that asks to be lived and that is already present before it can be lived.” – James Hillman

In our Western way of thinking about our individual purpose relevant to society’s notions of success, we have gravely limited ourselves, dismissive of the indigenous cultures which we deem as ignorant or primitive; without sophisticated means to solve and correct a perceived unwanted malady. We see ourselves more as machines, that we can “remodel ourselves as occasion demands” and function as a means to satisfy a superficial conformity. Even if we are not aware of this as our fundamental belief, it can manifest through the everyday choices we make against the irrational and imperfections that would in reality, guide us to a more authentic path. We accept society’s “glowing” images as “normal” and believe from the norms of popular culture that what we need is to avoid our darker sides by covering them up and hiding behind a superficial facade of success and perfection; living a life free from the shadows of misfortune, grief and suffering. But as we turn against the genuine calls of healing experiences and avoid coming into our authentic gifts and purpose by fearing to look into the darkness of our own shadows, we do so at our own peril.

When Carl Jung stated, “Man is not a machine that can be remodeled for quite other purposes as occasion demands,” it is clear that he did not believe in hiding our shadows, but rather owning them despite fear and judgement. Yet if we are not to strive for the perfection of “the Machine” that would strip us clean of our imperfect humanness and exploit us for society’s gain, what then is our true purpose? How can we creatively discover our true nature and how can we see our suffering and our shadows in new ways?

Many African wisdom traditions teach that an individual can find totality and fulfillment through their community. According to Dr. Malidoma Somé, a West African shaman of the Dagara tribe, “the community exists, in part, to safeguard the purpose of each person within it and to awaken the memory of that purpose by recognizing the unique gifts each individual brings to this world.”

shutterstock_64294903

Just as the oak tree’s destiny is contained within the tiny acorn, each person is born with a unique purpose, and it is our mission in life to fulfill that purpose.

This type of inter-subjective life is well established in African cosmology, where the universe is seen as a series of interactions and interconnections, a vision that is especially applicable in understanding the relationship between the individual and the community. This network of forces shows that people do not live in isolation; one individual needs another to continue to exist. Humans need other humans to be truly human, and the community can be seen as facilitating our individuation.

So it is through relating with others that we see ourselves as we truly are, and come to realize our own unique gifts and purpose. Rather than remodeling ourselves to conform to society’s demands, with the love and support of a community we can learn to integrate our shadows, withdraw our projections, and live an authentic life in line with our purpose.

Learn more about this perspective on individuation from African shaman Malidoma Somé in the Jung Society of Utah Season Finale! Malidoma will discuss “Gift and Purpose” on June 24th at at Publik Coffee House, 975 S West Temple, from 7:00pm until 9:00pm.

Come early to get connected with your community in this celebration, and also to enjoy free tarot readings, music, and more!

~Pamela Thompson and Amanda Butler

Projection: You Are My Mirror and I Am Yours

Projection: You Are My Mirror and I Am Yours

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

“Projections change the world into the replica of one’s own unknown face.”
– C.G. Jung

Projections are images we have of others, which are generated by the psyche and based in our own fears, desires, impulses, and unresolved issues, most of which are unconscious. Jung wrote, “We must bear in mind that we do not make projections, rather they happen to us.” Projection happens when we are “certain we know what other people think or what their true character is,” and interact with with them based on those assumptions.

We see others not as they are, but as we are 

While the most obvious example of projection is seeing our own shadow traits in others, this can also be true of those traits we view as desirable, since the ego projects anything it is unable to identify with. An example of this could be someone who is jealous of a friend’s beauty or intelligence, but is unable to recognize those traits in him- or herself.

Projection-for-Vibrant-Jung-Thing

Projection is the cause of many misunderstandings in relationships.

Additionally, when we feel certain we know what others think or what they’re really like, this may cause us to judge them or ourselves unfairly. It is likely that many of our insecurities are based in our own misguided perceptions of others, as well as our worries over how we believe they see us. Consider the things we keep to ourselves, the lies we tell, and the masks we wear in order to impress others or protect ourselves from them, based on whatever images we have projected onto them.

As an example of this, I recently had dinner with a friend, and an opportunity came up in the conversation to tell him what he truly means to me. But instead of honestly sharing my feelings, I froze and said something else because I felt worried about how he would respond—certain that it would be some form of rejection.

Withdrawing projections 

The antidote to projection is authenticity, which I have heard referred to as “the highest form of spirituality.” When we are authentic, we are willing to risk being seen as we truly are, shadow and all, and we also become more able to see others as they truly are. In my experience, the willingness to take that risk is based in love, both for oneself and others, which creates a relationship that allows for reflection. Jung said:

“Now “Love thy neighbor as thyself” is really a very profound formula … You can never get to yourself without loving your neighbor—that is indispensable … You would have no means of comparison … So whoever insists upon loving his neighbor cannot do it without loving himself to a certain extent.”

With the self-knowledge and greater wholeness that is created through this love, we may begin to withdraw our projections. According to Jung, “The best political, social, and spiritual work we can do is to withdraw the projection of our own shadow onto others.”

projection-desire“As you live Deeper in the Heart, the Mirror gets clearer and cleaner.”
– Rumi

Embodiment: The Body as a Gateway to Presence

Embodiment: The Body as a Gateway to Presence

(It was a joy to interview Erin Geesaman Rabke and Carl Rabke for the following post, which originally appeared on the Jung Society of Utah blog. I also thoroughly enjoyed their presentation about “The Wisdom in the Wilderness of Your Body.”)

Erin Geesaman Rabke and Carl Rabke met in their early 20s when they both worked at the Oasis Cafe. In their first conversation they discovered that they had both been walking very similar paths—including practicing in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition and studying Tai Chi and Yoga. After a few years of being close friends, they got together as a couple. Their love of embodied practices has been a shared passion all throughout their 20 year connection. They answer some questions below about embodiment and why it matters.

What is embodiment?

Embodiment invites a different relationship with our bodies—a rich one, indeed, where the body is no longer regarded as an object, but an intimate, living process. The body offers us a gateway to presence, as long as we’re alive.

Embodiment includes awareness of sensation, feelings, thoughts, and environment in a not-purely-mental way. Being embodied doesn’t preclude conceptual thought, but offers a grounded infrastructure through which we can have a different relationship with our thoughts. Embodiment is mindfulness not as a mental practice, but as a lived experience. “I’m here. I’m resonating with what is, and I’m aware of it.”

In our work, we learn to more fully inhabit our bodies with non-judgmental awareness. We learn to reclaim a way of sensing our selves that we knew as children. We learn to trust the organic intelligence of our bodies as an expression of nature. Living in this way can lead to a life that is curious, rich, respectful, and optimistic.

aspen leaf and droplet

How embodiment relate to Jung’s ideas, especially with regard to individuation and wholeness?

There is a great story of Carl Jung meeting with the Hopi Elder, Mountain Lake in 1925. Essentially, Mountain Lake said, “You know why White people are so crazy? They think in their heads. We think here (gesturing toward his heart).” This interaction had a profound impact on Jung’s work.

In our embodiment, there is a need for differentiation and integration; another way to describe individuation and wholeness. Often, as modern western people, we lean a bit heavily in the individuation direction, holding ourselves as separate beings encapsulated by our skin. But our bodies are always in relationship with a larger whole—individuated and integrated at the same time. Our heartbeats and our breathing rates affect each other; our bones are being made in this moment through the force of gravity and the support of the earth; our breath puts us in relationship with the plant life in the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide.

We also tend to do this within ourselves—separating our wholeness into parts. We do this most intensely when there is some kind of pain or challenge. The sciatica, the migraines, the food allergy, the grief, the aging knees… these can seem to become solid things that we relate to. Part of our work with people is to help invite these parts back into an experience of interdependent wholeness. Not only is the back pain in relationship to what your ribs and jaw are doing, but also connected to what is happening in your marriage, your work, your relationship to your dreams for your life.

cmzc buddha hand

How has working together as a team been beneficial for you and those you teach?

When we teach together, it can be really valuable to have two voices and we often love to riff off of each other, even as we joke that we “share a brain” because we often think so alike about this work. We also find there is something beneficial in having the masculine and feminine presence teaching together. We adore each other and the work deeply, and we truly live this work in our relationship. Many people have said they’ve found it helpful and inspiring to see our relationship as a part of our teaching.

What can Jung Society guests expect from your presentation?

Well, what they should not expect is a lecture where we are in our heads talking and sharing information, and they sit in their chairs listening from their heads. We plan to share our understandings of principles in this work not just mentally, but to invite the guests into embodied experience. We plan on exploring together the question of “What is embodiment?” and “Why does this perhaps matter in your life?” We plan on keeping the gathering as experiential as possible, as opposed to simply sharing ideas. We hope to have a lot of fun.

Please join the Jung Society of Utah for this soulful evening!

Date: May 5th
Time: 7-9pm
Location: Downtown Library
210 East 400 South
Salt Lake City
Cost: Free, please become a member

Love and Individuation

Love and Individuation

(I wrote the following for the Jung Society of Utah blog. Click here to see it on their website!)

“Nothing is possible without love…for love puts one in a mood to risk everything.”
– C.G. Jung

Carl Jung used the term individuation to describe the “process of integrating the conscious with the unconscious for the purpose of realizing or fulfilling one’s talents and potentialities.” Individuation usually begins with a crisis, often death or some other loss. “The shattering, emotional power of such crises breaks down our ego identification, causing us to question our sense of self and our life’s meaning.”1

Love as a Crisis

That same “shattering, emotional power” may also be found in love. Jung considered Eros to be a “kosmogonos, a creator and father-mother of all higher consciousness.” He wrote, “we are in the deepest sense the victims and the instruments of cosmogonic love.” Falling in love “can shatter normal ego identifications. Through such experiences of ego death, we awaken to a more expansive way of being.”1

img_20140311_230210

Our relationships may reflect contents of our unconscious. (Image via aestheticblasphemy.com).

A Mirror for the Soul

In The Red Book, Jung wrote that he found his soul again “only through the soul of the woman.”2 He later explained that unconscious contents are first met in relationship with a partner: “This urge to a higher and more comprehensive consciousness … if it is to fulfill its purpose, needs all parts of the whole, including those that are projected onto a ‘You.’”3, 4

Often, it can seem easier to love someone else than to love oneself. We may be more willing to see and accept both the light and shadow aspects of another than to acknowledge those same aspects within ourselves. However, Jung said, “We meet ourselves time and again in a thousand disguises on the path of life,” meaning that any light or shadow traits we see in others are merely a reflection of those traits within us.

twisting-love-ii-original-painting-by-madart-megan-duncanson

Love can be a transformative process of mutual individuation. (Image: “Twisting Love” via paintinghere.com).

Both Are Transformed

Sometimes it is through loving another, including their shadow aspects, that we learn to accept and even love those same shadow aspects in ourselves. “If one’s partner is ‘truly loved,’ then that human being becomes a ‘representative of the unconscious.’ Love is a mediator, circulating energy both outwardly and inwardly.”4

This type of love, which breaks through “the illusory maya of unconscious projections,” could be considered “a process of mutual individuation.”4 If the tension of opposites can be held, a “third kind of relationship” can be formed, which Jung called a “Golden Thread.”4 He considered this type of relationship to be “the only lasting one, in which it is as though there were an invisible telegraph wire between two human beings.”4

Jung said, “The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.” Through the transformative reaction of love, one may discover “the distinction between what one really is and what is projected into one, or what one imagines oneself to be.”4 Understanding that distinction contributes greatly to individuation.

Books Cited

  1. Lucid Dreaming: New Perspectives on Consciousness in Sleep, Volume 1. Ryan Hurd and Kelly Bulkeley.
  2. The Red Book: A Reader’s Edition. C.G. Jung.
  3. The Psychology of the Transference. C.G. Jung.
  4. Jung in Love: The Mysterium in Liber Novus. Lance S. Owens. PDF provided by the author here.