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Posts Tagged ‘Jungian psychology’

symposium-tall-wide

Please check out the exciting upcoming symposium on Earth, Climate, Dreams, which is sponsored by the Depth Psychology Alliance. For more information please click here.

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I will be discussing, reading and signing my book “Facing Climate Change: An Integrated Path to the Future” at the Trident Bookstore & Cafe, Boulder, CO on April 16th from 2-4pm. Please stop by…

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Big Sur

“Anxiety has an unmistakable relation to expectation.”

Sigmund Freud

Our reliance on fossil fuels as the main source to address our energy needs is untenable. The burning of these fuels is causing carbon dioxide levels to rapidly increase and thus warm the planet via the greenhouse effect. The burning of coal is destroying local air quality and placing many thousands at direct health risk. We are experiencing human caused climate change now. If we continue on our current path, planetary warming will reach unprecedented levels within decades. We can no longer afford to deny, ignore or diminish the problem of climate change. Yet, despite the overwhelming evidence for climate change we continue to burn these fuels and in the United States we continue to turn away from the warnings of what is happening to our world.

Denial is a classic way to avoid dealing with a disturbing issue. You can probably remember either consciously or unconsciously using this strategy to avoid or postpone action on a pressing problem. Disturbing information or situations evoke a sense of anxious dread within us. We feel overwhelmed by facing the situation and procrastinate. We all do this. Often when we actually do face the problem it turns out that addressing it was less painful than imagined. Our expectation of loss created a deep sense of fear that amplified the actual situation. Understanding the psychological processes that occur in situations of denial can actually help us penetrate the barriers preventing us from moving beyond the problem. This is why it is so important to explore the psychological dimensions of climate change. We can learn much from the experiences of clinical psychology, social psychology and neuroscience. These fields have delved into the many ways we make decisions and avoid making decisions. They shine a light of understanding on the darker shadow regions of denial, ignorance and diminishment. For example, the emotional reactions experienced around the issue of climate change mirror those of a physical or psychological trauma. Thus, the vast knowledge of trauma and its treatment can aid in dealing with the resistance to addressing the state of our climate system.

The physical, chemical and biological sciences have provided us with a comprehensive picture of climate change and our integral role in this problem. The manifold dimensions of psychology can provide ways to actually address the problem. By combining the studies of climate and psyche we not only see what is happening to our world and why, but also, how we can move beyond the problem to create a more flourishing world for future generations.

Find more here.

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meltmen

Hello,

I was honored to be interviewed for Gaia Field Radio today by Lisa Maroski. Lisa and I discussed how Jungian psychology can shed light on the issue of global warming.

I encourage you to listen to the interview by clicking here.

 

 

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Risky

“Life is a laboratory, an experiment of nature, and many things fail. … We must be able to say of certain things, “I will try it even with the conviction that it might be an error.” Only when you live in this way can you make something of life, perhaps today one way, tomorrow another.”

C.G. Jung (1929)

I recently came upon these words and something stirred within me. As I look back on my life I realize that so much of my development was linked to a willingness to take risks. I remember my analyst once saying to me, “Jeff, sometimes you just have to step off into the abyss.” How true this was for me at that time in my life. I was reluctantly holding back from what I was being called to become, because it did not seem rational. Therein lies the problem, for Jung states that for the, “… [rationalist] things must be safe, ‘no risks please.’” Our culture is one obsessed with success. Every decision we make, every action we take must be successful for ‘failure is not an option.’ This attitude instills tremendous fear and anxiety in us. I see this especially in young people who would rather not try for fear of failing. They want to get the ‘right’ answer with their very first attempt, rather than feel humiliation for having failed. It is terrible that we instill within our young such beliefs. Many carry this fear into adulthood and end up living a ‘provisional life,’ a life of just getting by. Most who live this safe life know that something is missing, but cannot figure out what.

Avoiding risks may keep us from our greatest passions and personal discoveries. As a scientist I learned so much from trying and failing. I found that my failures truly were my greatest teachers. I just needed to listen to what they were saying to me. Edison once said regarding his discovery of the light bulb, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” When we hear the voice of reason saying, ‘no risks please.’ We need to step back and look at where this is coming from. Certainly this may be excellent advice that we need to heed. But, if our fear of taking risks is keeping us from living a fully engaged life, then we must question our fears. My becoming an analyst began with stepping off into the abyss. At that time in my science career, it certainly was not the rational thing to do, but definitely the right thing to do for my soul. Now, I sit with people who are facing their own fears, while they ask, “Is it time to take a risk?”

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mandala-kalachakra1

“… life calls not for perfection but for completeness…”

C.G. Jung (CW 12, par. 208)

“The [individuation process] is, in effect, the spontaneous realization of the whole man. The ego-conscious personality is only a part of the whole man, and its life does not yet represent his total life.”

C.G. Jung (CW 8, par. 557)

Our culture holds striving for perfection in high regard. Such a lofty goal places us in a difficult situation for perfection is ever receding. Try as we might, we never reach a state of perfection. Holding such beliefs create tremendous anxiety within us. We get on a treadmill to nowhere. Psychologically, perfectionism can arise from an unconscious part of us that continually judges our beliefs and actions and finds them lacking. This part pushes us onto the treadmill, which ultimately means we create very little in life for it never seems to be good enough.

Jung felt that our journey in life was not one of striving for perfection, but of completion, or wholeness. This is also a difficult journey for there is so much that we are called to integrate within ourselves. But there is an important difference here. On the journey towards completeness or wholeness we become more aware and more open as we travel the road. With each step along the journey we enlarge consciousness. Becoming conscious of the unknown parts of myself is beneficial to my ability to relate to others and to the world as a whole.

Striving towards wholeness is what Jung called the individuation process. It works through us whether we are conscious of it or not. If we remain unconscious of the process, then we find life more difficult to understand. We are at the whim of the Fates. If we consciously work to make the unknown known, then we are part of (CW 9i, par. 278), “the production and unfolding of the original, potential wholeness…”  within.

Jung argued that our original true self is one of wholeness and our task in life is to become aware of our innate wholeness. The image of innate wholeness is far more positive than that of perfection. What would our world be like if we held more to the image of wholeness rather than that of perfection?

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Superman

“What we seek in visible human form is not man, but the superman, the hero or god, that quasi-human being who symbolizes the ideas, forms, and forces which grip and mould the soul.”

C.G. Jung (CW 5, par. 259)

 “The archetype of the redeemer-god … is age-old – we simply do not know how old.”

C.G. Jung (CW 11, par. 202)

Summer is upon us and once again the superhero has returned to movie theaters. Let me begin by stating that I enjoy watching the occasional superhero film for it can simultaneously entertain and enlighten us. In my youth, I was an avid reader and collector of comic books with a special fondness for The Fantastic Four (was this the beginning of my becoming a Jungian?).

From a psychological perspective, even the most cursory consideration of these films reveals the age-old archetype of the hero, including motifs of the wound, redemption and the granting of a gift providing power for the good of humanity. The superhero story also always possesses an opponent of near equal strength (but of course not equal or greater strength than our hero) to add tension to the narrative. For how interesting would the story be without the possibility of the hero’s demise?

It has been noted that the comic book hero Superman first appeared around the time of the Great Depression. His original form, as a very strong man fighting for the underdog, helped people during this time to cope with their feelings of disempowerment. Psychologically, people projected their inner hero onto this comic book hero thus imaginatively allowing them to experience exploits of empowered justice. Also, the portrayal of a simple division between good and evil helped people deal with the ambiguity and complexity of their lived-world. As Jung notes, the archetype of the redeemer-hero has been with us for a long time. Each age, each culture creates its own nuanced form of the archetypal hero story.

What I find most interesting is the current superabundance of these films (see a recent article on the implications of this for film in general). To be sure, Superman has been with us for many years on both television and film screens. But recently it seems the door to the hallowed hall of the superheroes has been thrust open allowing a veritable stampede of heroes to enter our everyday world. Consider the appearances of Superman, Batman, the Hulk, Spiderman, Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, X-Men and the Avengers, to name but a few! Truly the world is in safe hands with such an abundance of hero-redeemers. Consider also that these superheroes return each blockbuster summer season, nicely synchronized with the appearance of the summer solstice… perhaps, this is no coincidence given that the original hero myths were tied to the Sun’s (Son’s!) rebirth each year.

Apparently, we are in dire need of the redeemer-hero given the large number of people attending these films. The hero eternally returns – most recently in form fitting tights and modern metallic armor (remember the archetype is universal, but its particular form adapts to the times). Today we find our superheroes as projected images on film screens, which is certainly deeply ironic for depth psychologists. A positive aspect to these projections is that they allow us to gaze into the unconscious. Analytic gazing opens us to a path back into ourselves. Perhaps, by questioning why we are so fascinated with our many superheroes we may ultimately find the hero within ourselves.

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