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Archive for December, 2010

Projection

“The effect of projection is to isolate the subject from his environment, since instead of a real relationship to it there is now only an illusory one.”

Jung (CW 9ii, par. 17)

You may have noticed that I am using this blog to explore some of Jung’s basic psychological concepts. More importantly, I am trying to relate these psychological concepts to everyday life. Recently, I have been reflecting on the concept of projection…

Imagine the last time you saw a really good film, so good that you forgot that you were actually watching the film. You became so absorbed in the moving image, story and acting that the film became reality. You were literally drawn into the projection… Over two thousand years ago, Plato  suggested that what we call reality is but a projection of ideal objects. He used the image of shadows projected on a cave wall to illustrate this idea.

The psychological concept of projection was first described by Freud in 1911. He discovered that we have a tendency to project onto others aspects or qualities that we hold within our unconscious. These qualities may be either positive or negative. If positive, then they can lead to our being strongly attracted to another. This attraction may even manifest as extreme adulation or worship. If the qualities projected are negative, then the other person appears to us as holding the very negative aspects that we are unaware of in ourselves. Freud saw this as a way for us to deny that part of ourselves that we cannot consciously accept. Thus, projection is a means to defend ourselves against parts of ourselves we cannot own.

Jung pointed out that a hook exists in the person receiving the projection. In other words, there has to be some small amount of the positive or negative aspect in the person being projected upon for the projected aspect to stick. We project unconscious aspects onto others. If they are positive aspects they pull us closer to the other. If they are negative aspects, then they repel us from the other. Either way – as Jung points out – the projection gets in the way of relating to the real other. We relate to the illusory projected aspects rather then the real person.  As Jung (and also Freud) noted, the “other” need not be a person, the “other” may be the surrounding environment.

The important question is: How do we know when we are seeing a projection? If you are beginning to feel like you are in the Matrix, welcome to the world of projections.

I will continue to explore the issue of projections in my next post, until then look out for those projections…

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Restoring Balance

“Normally the unconscious collaborates with the conscious without friction or disturbance, so that one is not even aware of its existence. But when an individual or a social group deviates too far from their instinctual foundations, they then experience the full impact of the unconscious forces. The collaboration of the unconscious is intelligent and purposive, and even when it acts in opposition to consciousness it’s expression is still compensatory in an intelligent way, as if it were trying to restore lost balance.”

C.G. Jung (CW 9i, par. 505)

Keeping ones balance is essential to life. Being out of balance means drifting too far in one direction. Living a balanced life is a message found in many world religions and belief systems. It seems to make sense to live in a balanced manner. Indigenous peoples inherently know that living in balance with their environment is a good thing. Being in balance seems to be a natural state, while being out of balance evokes images of unsteadiness, lack of control, and chaos.

Yet, at times, it seems difficult to maintain a balanced life. We have a tendency to drift off into behaviors that are anything but balanced. This is particularly true when it comes to consumption. Industrial societies have developed consumer habits that are far out of balance compared to our actual needs. Do we really need to choose among twenty different brands of soap? Currently, humans are consuming more natural resources than Earth can supply, a situation that clearly cannot continue into the future. We are living out of balance with Earth itself.

Jung observes that if we live too far from our “instinctual foundations,” then unconscious forces arise to correct this imbalance. Here instinctual foundations are processes deep within our psyche that are close to Nature. These instinctual forces know, at an animal level, the way to live within an environment. Jung is saying that psyche is homeostatic, i.e. it is self-regulating. Called upon or not, this self-regulation process will bring things back into balance.

We have a choice in life. We can consciously choose to restore balance in our lives. However, if we do not consciously carry out this task, then the “intelligent and purposive” unconscious will do the restoring for us. One response to this is that we can just let the unconscious take care of the balancing act in life. The problem with this approach is we may not like the unconscious’s solution to imbalances. A better solution is for the conscious and unconscious to collaborate on finding balanced solutions to life. Of course, if we consciously open ourselves to the intelligence of the unconscious, we are already living a balanced life.

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A Sense of Place

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.

from The Lake Isle of Innisfree by W.B. Yeats

How does place evoke such strong feelings? I’m sure you have experienced a significant, special feeling when entering a certain place. The experience of place is a wonder to me. I remember my first trip to Ireland. Early on in my visit, I stood in the western countryside and felt a deep connection to the earth. I experienced the earth entering through the bottoms of my feet and spreading up into my body. The land had come to greet me and had entered into me. I felt completely a part of the land. In that moment, my sense of time ended. I was lifted out of chronological time, and found myself suspended in a sacred time and place. My state of being was one with the land of Ireland. In that moment, I experienced the land as animate. The soul’s land and mine were one. Place creates these kinds of experiences and is unique to each of us. My place may not be your place, but sometimes certain places are so powerful, they provide a special experience to all who stand there.

These places stay within us forever. As Yeats says, these places remain in “the deep heart’s core.” When we are in these places we are rooted in Earth. Psyche sinks deep into itself and connects to Earth. Jung (CW 10, par. 53) says that archetypes are “the roots which the psyche has sunk not only in the earth in the narrow sense but the world in general.” Thus, experience of place is archetypal and holds a numinosity that is true to a specific location. I do not believe that these special places exist only in the wild. We can have profound experiences of place in any setting. Some of my deepest experiences have been sitting quietly over a cup of coffee in a cafe. I have little interest in analyzing why such experiences occur in certain times and places. These are sacred moments that are best left alone. I am just thankful that they occur. They are momentary openings to a greater world.

Over the coming holidays, the outer world (and perhaps our inner world) seem compelled to have us rush from one place to another. In this very moment of living in the fast lane, I encourage all of us (myself included!) to stop and sit quietly in a place. You may be able to step into a park, or walk on a path, or sit with friends over a meal. In whatever place you find yourself,  settle into that place, drop your concerns for the next moment, the next hour, the next day. Just try and BE in the place. Allow yourself to hear and experience this very place down to your “heart’s deep core.”

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Once Upon a Time…

“Now in psychology, one of the most important phenomena is the statement, and in particular its form and content, the latter aspect being perhaps the more significant with regard to the nature of the psyche.”

C.G. Jung (CW 9i, par. 384)

Everyone loves a good story. We grow up hearing stories, reading stories and seeing stories told through the moving image of film. In days gone by, people would gather around in the evening to listen to tales told by a storyteller – a person gifted with the ability to bring stories alive in the imagination of the listener. Today, there are rich and imaginative collections of fairy tales, myths and legends that we can still read to each other. As the saying goes, there is nothing like a good yarn to excite one. Simply put, a good story excites and animates us.

Our lives are stories filled with, to name just a few experiences: joy, excitement, love, anxiety, sadness, and loss. Each of us lives their own storyline, but our stories also overlap and interweave with the stories of others. At times, we become stuck in a particular storyline, which evokes the image of a fairy tale character who becomes enchanted and trapped by the wicked witch or wizard. Psychologically, we no longer develop and repeat old destructive patterns. This analogy between fairy tale and our lived experience illustrates the tremendous value of being familiar with story. Embedded within stories are metaphors, images that point to deep experiences. Jung (CW 9i, par. 267) says, “An archetypal content expresses itself, first and foremost, in metaphors.” Thus, by reading stories we are awakened to the reality of archetypes. Why is this so important?

Archetypes are coherent patterns that guide us in life. In times past, they were the gods that helped or hindered us in our journey through life. Jung (CW 9i, par. 266) says, “Archetypes were, and still are, living psychic forces that demand to be taken seriously, and they have a strange way of making sure of their effect.” The more aware we are of the archetypal forces playing out in our life, the more we can consciously participate in the writing of our lived story. Ignoring the archetypal forces in life is an invitation to disaster. Think of Ulysses, who by neglecting to honor the gods, ended up wandering the Mediterranean sea for years. Life invites us to be integrally involved in writing our storyline. Jungian psychology points out that an important part of this process is becoming aware of the archetypal forces populating our world. Reading a good story or seeing a good film keeps us in touch these interesting and powerful forces that live in us. What was last good story you heard or saw?

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Engaged Jungian Psychology

“Our effort today should be the double one of consciousness plus a full participation in life.”

C.G. Jung (Analytical Psychology, p. 68)

Depth psychology – a psychology that recognizes the importance of the unconscious – is often viewed as a method focused only on inner work. The approach invokes an image of two people sitting in a room working on dreams, complexes, and inner dynamical processes. Indeed, doing ones inner work is essential to discovering the dynamic principles that are  playing an active, important and often disruptive role in our lives. For Jungians, the unconscious is a vast territory filled with powerful forces of nature. Doing ones work implies making an honest and courageous attempt to explore this dynamic inner territory. The Jungian analyst accompanies the individual along the journey with the advantage that they have experience in navigating around this territory. As a person encounters their inner life, they develop a conscious working relationship with not only the territory, but the dynamics animating the territory.

The perception that this analytic process takes place in an isolated consulting room is quite limiting. As humans, we not only have a fundamental need to Be, but also to Belong. Being in relationship is essential to self discovery. Relationship in the consulting room provides a tremendous opportunity for self discovery. Outside of the consulting room, daily relationships continually open doors to exploring who we are and how we work. So many people come to analysis not solely for inner self discovery, but because their relations to others and the greater world don’t work as well as they would like.  Jung said that we cannot individuate on top of Mount Everest. In other words, relating to others and the world are essential to the individuation path, or the path to becoming whole.

In the same light, our relationship to Nature offers an opportunity for self discovery. It can be an important part of our individuation process. In the above quote, Jung tells us that our work is twofold, i.e. to bring conscious into our world AND a full participation in life.  Depth psychologists and those doing inner work need to remember the importance of a “full participation in life.” Perhaps we could call this Engaged Jungian psychology, analogous to what some refer to as engaged Buddhism. Here engaged means full participation in what life brings to us and what we make of life. Active participation in conservation efforts and living in balance with Nature are examples of engaged Jungian psychology. How do you see yourself being in a full participation in life?”

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The Call of the Infinite

Earth, isn’t this what you want? To arise in us, invisible?
Is it not your dream, to enter us so wholly
there’s nothing left outside us to see?
What, if not transformation,
is your deepest purpose?

Rainer Maria Rilke

What does Earth want of us? Rilke awakens us to a realization that Earth is ever present and is ever arising within us. Have you ever experienced this sense of flowing into? I have discovered that we can invite Nature into our being-in-the-world. The next time you are walking down a path begin to dwell on the ground beneath your feet, the air blowing past you, the light reaching you eyes and your skin. Literally, open the palms of your hands to the world around you. Then wait for a feeling of something invisible arising within. In these moments, I feel a connection to all that surrounds me. This feeling fills me, it extends me into the surrounding environment. I believe that in these moments I have entered an experience of the one world. As Rilke says, Earth’s deepest purpose is our transformation.

The words “invisible” and “deepest” reflect a sense of psyche, or soul. So many things can remain invisible to us. They escape our conscious perception or experience. According to Jung, our call in life is to bring more consciousness into the world. I take this to mean making the invisible, visible. Jungian psychology is rooted in the path of making the invisible more visible. We work with dreams, fantasies, active imaginations, and other windows into the unconscious. Rilke’s words remind us that Earth itself can be invisible. It is up to us to bring consciousness to the things of the world. We can allow the solar light of consciousness to shine directly on Nature, or we may want to bring a more reflective lunar consciousness to shine of Nature. Both of these forms of consciousness make things more visible in their own unique way.

What of the word “deepest” in Rilke’s poem? Nature is infinite in extent. Nature can include all that exists in this universe. For me, a deep experience invokes a sense of wholeness and the numinous. There is a sacred quality to being in connection to Nature. There is a sacred quality to being in relationship with another. Recently I came upon a quote from Jung in Thom Cavalli’s book, Embodying Osiris. Jung says,

“The decisive question for man is: Is he related to something infinite or not? … In the final analysis we count for something only because of the essential we embody, and if we do not embody that, life is wasted.”

Are you related to something infinite? If so, how do you embody the essential quality of this infinite? Jung always pushes us to the boundaries. He is asking a very challenging question. Have we heard the call of the infinite? This call may come as something invisible and only we may be able to hear this call. Can we work to develop a relationship to this infinite? I venture that Nature can appear to us as the infinite. By developing a relationship, an embodied relationship, to the infinite we are transformed by our very recognition of Nature within and around us. Are you “related to something infinite or not?”

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Imagine a New Way…

“… every good idea and all creative work are the offspring of the imagination… The debt we owe to the play of imagination is incalculable.”

C.G. Jung (CW 6, par. 93)

We have tended to gravitate towards a particular way of looking at our world. Collectively it is a way that emphasizes concrete facts over speculation. We feel more comfortable if we have something we sense is real and right before our eyes. Society also tends to trust reason over feeling. These preferred tendencies in the way we perceive the world evolved over centuries with the culmination being the Age of the Enlightenment. Is there anything wrong with using reason and the five senses to perceive the world? Of course not, they are very important aspects of our way to understand the world in which we live. Jung found that we have, in general, four different ways we perceive and interact with the world around us. I have already mentioned two of these: thinking and sensing, which are the dominant means of perceiving for modern society. According to Jung, the remaining two ways of perceiving the world are through feeling and intuition. Here feeling does not specifically mean emotional reaction. Feeling has more to do with perceiving the inherent value of something in the world. It is a valuing function, rather than an emotional function. Intuition is that special sense we often experience about something that is going to happen, or that has happened but is not visibly present to us. It is often said that intuition is the way that allows us to “see around corners.” Intuition manifests in our lives as “hunches” or “flashes of insight.” Intuition is a powerful and fruitful process for those working in creative or inventive fields, e.g. the arts and sciences.

Jung pointed out problems arise when we neglect some functions in favor of only one. This one-sided approach to living in the world inevitably leads to trouble. We are limited in how we relate to others and to the world as a whole. One-sidedness leads to miscommunication and misunderstanding. A soulful way of relating to the world involves all four ways: feeling, thinking, intuition and sensation. We cannot bring all of these ways into one experience. What is important is that we are consciously aware that we have access to each these. In a specific moment we can access the most appropriate way of relating to the world. Jung pointed out that we are born with an innate tendency to one way of relating. This is our natural way we react to the world. Some of us tend to work from the thinking function, others feeling, etc. The Jungian process enables us to attain more ready access to the various functions. We learn that thinkers can feel, and that feelers can think! You can begin to see how important this is to relating to one another. For as we begin to appreciate other ways of relating, we can experience deeper connections between each other.

How does Jung’s typology model (for that is what we have been looking at) help us understanding our relationship to Nature? Engaging Nature through only thinking and the senses leads to a limited experience of our environment. We objectify Nature and begin to look upon it as a resource. If we are going to transform our relationship to Nature, then we will need to bring more feeling and intuition into our way of experiencing the world. Imagination is a process that is rooted in all four of the ways of relating, but specifically in intuition and feeling. Our play of imagination becomes excited around things we value. Intuition is that function that allows us to see beyond the present into the future. It is a function that is not bound to the concrete. According to Jung, if we lack imagination we are cut off from creativity. Can you imagine a world that does not rely on fossil fuels? Can you imagine a world where we use feeling as much as thinking to make our decisions about the environment? Can you imagine experiencing your world in new and exciting ways?

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