CANYONS OF THE SOUL

It often seems not to occur to the contemporary citizen that the ecological crisis that we now face is, in fact, the symptom of the success of a one sidedness of our vision of the world. Armed as we are with the illusion that our rationality represents, most of all, the path to a better existence, that we are becoming a more just, peaceful, and reasonable people, we miss the fact that incrementally the discrete benefits that we have attained at one level of experience are paid for at another. The late Biologist Brian Goodwin, in a little book called, Nature’s Due, observed the following.

“The process of continuous growth that our politicians and economists offer as a path to happiness and fulfillment is in fact a policy of conflict resolution that continually transfers our debt to nature, whose bounty we are living from and systematically destroying.”

 (Goodwin, 2007, p.161)

Central to Goodwin’s observation is a level of unconsciousness on the part of humanity of any means through which the fate of individual could actually be felt as intimately tied to that of nature. The core reason for this is that with the arising of scientific thought and its power, all other modes of existing in the world, and relating to it were not simply eclipsed, but actually negated. Problematic, for this perspective, was the lack of any understanding that that the former forms of awareness that seemed suddenly illegitimate were not addressing the same problems of existence as the one that supposedly supplanted them. The mythological mind, as well as the magical and the archaic, served very different functions, and addressed very different aspects of experience. Most problematic of all, the exclusively outward gaze of the rational mind cast into shadow the inner world of humanity, an inner world whose nature was the very thing driving our actions in the physical world. Sayyed Hossein Nasr states this point beautifully.

“For a humanity turned towards outwardness, by the very process of modernization, it is not easy to see that the blight wrought upon the environment is in reality an externalization of the destitution of the inner state of the soul of that humanity whose actions are responsible for the ecological crisis.”

  (Nasr, 1997, p. 3)

Ralph Waldo Emerson also expressed a very similar view.

“The problem of restoring to the world original and eternal beauty is solved by the redemption of the soul. The ruin, or the blank, that we see when we look at nature is in our own eye. The axis of vision is not coincident with the axis of things, and so they appear not transparent but opaque. The reason why the world lacks unity and lies broken and in heaps is because man is disunited with himself.” 

(Emerson, “Nature”1941, p.114)

All around us today there is a cry to wake up to the climatological crisis. At issue is the fact that we must act differently from now on. While not wishing, in any way, to speak against such a move, my experiences as an analyst tells me that this will likely not be enough. Our attitudes towards the interior universe, with which we all participate, will, in the long run, likely matter far more than our outward gestures.  This is so because in spite of what our society has taught us, the universe of magical consciousness, and of mythic consciousness, forms that still exist within us, served us well. They tethered us meaningfully to the nature around us and rendered visible and relatable the universe within us. Theirs was not a project of domination of nature, but of participation and relatedness with it. It is not a more rational world that we need. It is a more connected one. The problems of our time will likely not be solved by the amassing of information about the material order, but rather through a coming to terms with the one aspect of nature that we understand hardly at all, our own inner nature.

To the modern, the old forms of awareness, those forms which tied human consciousness intimately to the cosmos, represent merely quaint, ill conceived, and unsuccessful, means to manipulate the world. This perspective merely illustrates how trapped within a given perspective we actually are. Rene Guenon wrote;

“Modern civilization appears in history as a veritable anomaly: of all known civilizations, it is the only one to have developed in a purely material direction, and the only one not based on any principle of a higher order. This material development, already underway for several centuries now, and continuing at an ever accelerating pace, has been accompanied by an intellectual regression for which it is unable to compensate.”

(Guenon, “Symbols of Sacred Science”.2004, p. 2 )

The irony of all of this is that, drunk on the power to manipulate nature, humanity has, by virtue of dissociation from nature, nearly succeeded in destroying itself. Psychology, for its part, has participated in this process as theologian Jurgen Moltmann pointed out.

“Any therapy is directed towards health. But health is a norm which changes with history and is conditioned by society. If in todays society health means ‘the capability to work and the capability for enjoyment’, as Freud could put it, and this concept of heath even dominates psychotherapy, the Christian interpretation of the human situation must nevertheless also question the compulsive idolatry which the concepts of production and consumption introduce into this definition, and develop another form of humanity. Suffering in a superficial, activist, apathetic and therefor dehumanized society can be a sign of spiritual health.

  (Moltmann, “The Crucified God”, 1974, pp. 314-315.)

The irony of much of this is simply that the means to establish our connections back to nature were never really lost. Those forms of awareness, which evolved as meeting places between man and nature, and of which we are the inheritors, never left us. Additionally, the purported superiority of rational thought was itself a myth. To be sure rational thought is indeed, in it’s own way, quite superior. In the realm of manipulating matter for humanities presumed advantage, it is unsurpassed. But the problem lies in its tendency to assume a role of power over all meaning, a role that is logically impossible. Like many other things ascendant, it has became a basis for a societal belief system and has sought to extend its purview infinitely, something it could only achieved through the denial of the existence of anything it could not account for. And like all things that seek dominance and define the world according to a given view, a shift occurs so that they go from being a means to extend humanities relationship with nature, to something that begins to obscure. That is what Emerson told us above.

Poet William Stafford, drawing in part from his Native American roots, offers the following simple poem.

                                              These are some canyons

                                              we might use again

                                              sometime.  

What Stafford points to may be literally come to pass. Humanity, if it survives at all, may find itself once again returning to the shelters that nature once provided for us. But I have in mind another reading of Stafford. That such canyons have always been within us,in the inner landscape of the soul. There to offer shelter from everything we have wanted to see as progress but only served to draw us away from ourseleves.

AUTHOR

Mark Dean, MFA, MA, ATR-BC, LPC is a Certified Jungian Analyst and an art psychotherapist with credentials as a Registered, Board Certified Art Therapist and Licensed Professional Counselor (PA) with nearly twenty years’ experience. He has been an Adjunct Professor at Arcadia University since 1990. Previous work experience includes providing addiction treatment at the Charter Fairmount Institute, Clinical Case Management for the Adult Day Program, and serving as the Clinical Coordination of the Geriatric Outpatient Programs at Belmont Center for Comprehensive Treatment as well as his private practice. His volunteer work includes providing clinical intervention with violent and displaced youths in the Violence Postvention Program and at The Northern Home for Children in Philadelphia. Mr. Dean has been the recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts Award for Artistic Excellence and has twice received the Pennsylvania Council of the Arts Award. Prior to his graduate training as an art psychotherapist, Mr. Dean was a professional artist. His work is featured in several prominent private and public, national, and international collections. Mark can be reached at markdean2@me.com.

Mythological Dreams

Ligozzi_(Una_quimera)

According to Jung, the unconscious spontaneously produces images that are mythological in nature, meaning that they are symbolic, universal, and address the nature of the cosmos, and our place in it. Mythologems, or mythological motifs, are a kind of pre-existing psychic natural resource, present at least in potential in the deep layers of the psyche of every person. These mythological images are the raw materials from which the grand narratives that we know of as myth are formed.

Myths are products of the unconscious and reveal its workings. Jung wrote that “myths are original revelations of the preconscious psyche, involuntary statements about unconscious psychic happenings.”[i] Jung believed that myths and dreams spring from a common source – that they both draw from to the same aquifer of universal images. “The whole world of myth of fable is an outgrowth of unconscious fantasy just like the dream.”[ii] Jung believed that the motifs found in dreams and myths were so similar that they were nearly identical.

Dreams, being statements of the unconscious, play no small part in the therapy….The indubitable occurrence of archetypal motifs in dreams make a thorough knowledge of the spiritual history of man indispensable for anyone seriously attempting to understand the real meaning of dreams. The likeness between certain dream motifs and mythologems is so striking that they may be regarded not merely as similar but even identical. This recognition not only raises the dream to a higher level and places it in the wider context of the mythologem, but, at the same time, the problems posed by mythology are brought into connection with the psychic life of the individual.[iii]

Joseph Campbell adds some nuance to Jung’s assertion that myth and dream originate from the same source. He contends that myths are produced with the help of consciousness, and contain not merely upwelling of instinctual wisdom, but the distillation of generations of lived knowledge.

If we are to grasp the full value of the materials, we must note that myths are not exactly comparable to dream. Their figures originate from the same sources – the unconscious wells of fantasy – and their grammar is the same, but they are not the spontaneous products of sleep. On the contrary, their patterns serve as a powerful picture language for the communication of traditional wisdom. This is true already of the so-called primitive folk mythologies. The trance-susceptible shaman and the initiated antelope-priest are not unsophisticated in the wisdom of the world, not unskilled in the principles of communication by analogy. The metaphors by which they live, and through which they operate, have been brooded upon, searched, and discussed for centuries – even millenniums; they have served whole societies, furthermore, as the mainstays of thought and life. The culture patterns have been shaped to them. The youth have been educated, and the aged rendered wise, through the study, experience, and understanding of their effective initiatory forms. For they touch and actually bring into play the vital energies of the whole human psyche. They link the unconscious to the fields of practical action.[iv]

The grand mythic narratives, therefore, have been forged by culture. Myths tell us how to live and contain the distilled wisdom of the ancestors. Mythological stories, then, always tell us something important about the collective. They instruct the individual about how he or she ought to orient toward the wider culture. It may be that, at decisive moments in personal individuation, our individual choices intersect with larger collective currents. At these times, our personal story becomes part of the larger myth unfolding in the life of society around us. It is likely that mythological dreams appear at just such junctures.

As Jung points out, our dreams often include images that could have come from myths or fairy tales. There are big symbols such as snakes or trees, and these are accompanied by big feelings. Or our dreams have supernatural creatures or occurrences. Animals talk. There are witches or vampires. Then we know we are in the realm of the mythic. When mythological dreams appear, it may be that these are there to link our personal story to collective events, to place our personal drama decisively in a historical context. If we are indeed connected to the entirety of human experience through the underground rhizome of the collective unconscious, and influence flows both ways, then receiving a dream from this level of the psyche alerts us that we are in the flow of a collective psychic happening.

Consider the following dream:

It was a sunny day, and I was carrying a little girl dressed in a long white gown to be baptized. The path to the church led up a steep hill. But I was holding the child safely and securely in my arms. All of a sudden, I found myself at the brink of a crevasse. I had just enough time to set the child down on the other side before I plunged into the abyss.[v]

The image of the little girl alerts us that we are potentially in mythological territory. The child is a profound symbol of futurity, of that which is both fragile and yet destined to survive us. Jung says that the child is a symbol that new thing that appears spontaneously as a result of the union of opposites just at that time when we feel most stuck and desolate.

The “child” is born out of the womb of the unconscious, begotten out of the depths of human nature, or rather out of living Nature herself. It is a personification of vital forces quite outside the limited range of our conscious mind; of ways and possibilities of which our one-sided conscious mind knows nothing; a wholeness which embraces the very depths of Nature. It represents the strongest, the most ineluctable urge in every being, namely the urge to realize itself.[vi]

The transpersonal content symbolized by the little girl is being carried by the dream ego toward a ritual experience of rebirth and consecration. The dream is reassuring that this content will survive beyond the destruction of the conscious personality. As a symbol, the child can stand for that which was there before consciousness, and that which will remain after consciousness ceases to be.

The child…is thus both beginning and end, an initial and a terminal creature. The initial creature existed before man wan, and the terminal creature will be when man is not. Psychologically speaking, this means that the “child” symbolizes the pre-conscious and the post-conscious essence of man. His pre-conscious essence is the unconscious state of earliest childhood; his post-conscious essence is an anticipation by analogy of life after death.[vii]

Just as our actual children will survive us and go on to carry a part of our essence into the infinite future, the symbolic child carries transpersonal values into the future beyond our personal, temporally limited engagement with them. (The image of the child is used to suggest just such a content at the end of the film 2001 A Space Odyssey.)

sophie

In fact, this dream was dreamt by Sophie Scholl on the night before her execution. According to the biography written by her sister, Scholl interpreted the dream to her cell mate thus:

“The child represents our idea, which will triumph in spite of all obstacles. We are allowed to be its trailblazers, but we must die before it is realized.”[viii]

Such a dream reveals to us the mythic substrate on which our personal drama unfolds. Mythological dreams may also perhaps reflect the currents of history and world events which flow beneath us at all times, but which we may not be capable of detecting without the benefit of hindsight.

Mythological dreams are usually Big Dreams, dreams that affect us powerfully, and stay with us for years. Mythological dreams encourage us to fulfill our personal destiny, so that we can take up our unique role in the life of the collective. They seem to appear at nodal points in our life, often prefiguring decisive moments when we face a choice whether to move in the direction of our mysteriously pre-ordained unfolding.

[i] “The Psychology of the Child Archetype,” The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious, CW 9i, par. 261.
[ii] “Principles of Practical Psychotherapy,” The Practice of Psychotherapy, CW 16, par. 17.
[iii] “Foreword to White’s ‘God and the Unconscious,’” Psychology and Religion: West and East, CW 11, par. 450.
[iv] Jospeh Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, pp. 256-257.
[v] Beradt, C. (1968). The Third Reich of dreams. With an essay by Bruno Bettelheim. Chicago: Quadrangle Books, pp. 107-108.
[vi] “The Psychology of the Child Archetype,” The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious, CW 9i, par. 289.
[vii] “The Psychology of the Child Archetype,” The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious, CW 9i, par. 299.
[viii] Beradt, C. (1968). The Third Reich of dreams. With an essay by Bruno Bettelheim. Chicago: Quadrangle Books, p. 108.

AUTHOR

Lisa Marchiano, LCSW is a certified Jungian analyst in private practice in Philadelphia. She blogs at http://www.theJungSoul.com and is the co-creator of This Jungian Life podcast. She can be reached through http://www.lisamarchiano.com

 

What Goes on Down Below: The Collective Unconscious

I first started reading Jung in a New York library on East 79th Street back when library stacks were open. My library visits in those long-ago years were surreptitious affairs: a half hour stolen between work and home, or a weekend hour nicked from grocery shopping and kids. I felt like I was sneaking into an alchemist’s laboratory, tantalized by important truths I couldn’t fully understand. Although it eluded me, the concept of the collective—or objective—unconscious was particularly fascinating.

Dr. Seuss, In McElligot’s Pool, brings this concept charmingly closer to both understanding and experience.  A young boy, Marco, fishes in a small—very small—pool. A farmer looks on and says,

Young man…
You’re sort of a fool!
You’ll never catch fish
In McElligot’s Pool!
The pool is too small.
And, you might as well know it,
When people have junk
Here’s the place that they throw it.
You might catch a boot
Or you might catch a can.
You might catch a bottle,
But listen, young man…
If you sat fifty years
With your worms and your wishes,
You’d grow a long beard
Long before you’d catch fishes!

Hmm…answered Marco,
It may be you’re right.
I’ve been here three hours
Without one single bite,
There might be no fish…
But again,
Well, there might!
‘Cause you never can tell
What goes on down below!
This pool might be bigger
Than you or I know!

This MIGHT be a pool, like I’ve read of in books,
Connected to one of those underground brooks!
An underground river that starts here and flows
Right under the pasture! And then…well, who knows?
….This might be a river,
Now mightn’t it be,
Connecting
McElligot’s
Pool
With
The
Sea!

Our nascent depth psychologist, unlike the ego-bound farmer who thinks he knows what’s what, intuits a lot more going on underground. His little pool, like the psyche, is connected to a river, and the river flows to the sea. Furthermore, these waters are full of life, imaged as ever more fantastical fish–a delightful illustration of the collective unconscious as a wellspring of creative life. For Marco, the oceanic unconscious offers huge possibilities indeed:

I’ll catch whales!
Yes, a whole herd of whales!
All spouting their spouts
And all thrashing their tails!

He concludes:

Oh, the sea is so full of a number of fish,
If a fellow is patient, he might get his wish!
And that’s why I think
That I’m not such a fool
When I sit here and fish
In McElligot’s Pool!

Marco was right, though the treasures of the psychic deeps are even more wonder-full than the fish he so exuberantly imagines. Our individual psyches are connected to one another in a mysterious subterranean way, an idea that set Jung apart from other psychologies (along with his closely related theory of archetypes).

Like Marco, we can go fishing, a fitting image for psychotherapy. The process often starts with an exploration of the seemingly unpromising junk-filled pool of the personal unconscious. These are experiences we’ve repressed, suppressed, or simply forgotten–the dismaying feelings and memories represented by the old boots and tin cans of McElligot’s pool, close enough to the surface of consciousness to be readily hooked. But ego’s fishing line of intention also reaches deeper, and can be counted on to catch ideas, images and inspiration, especially through dreams.

Beneath the personal unconscious lies a level of the unconscious connected to group and regional history, represented by the underground brook. It is evidenced in religious and cultural traditions established over generations and absorbed by individuals. The symbolic life of groups is expressed in deeply felt resonance to particular rituals, holidays, or music, a collective level of psyche we experience as part of our identity: Japanese, Jewish, or a jazz fan with New Orleans roots.
Marco’s underground river, like psyche, eventually flows to the sea, symbolic of a deep and mysterious level of the unconscious common to all humankind. Jung said, “Just as the human body shows a common anatomy over and above all racial differences, so, too the human psyche possesses a common substratum transcending all differences in culture and consciousness. I have called this substratum the collective unconscious.” Or as Marco puts it,

You never can tell what goes on down below!
This pool might be bigger than you or I know!

Jung theorized the collective unconscious from his dreams and cross-cultural studies of myth, fairy tales, and symbols. He discovered universal human patterns that appeared, with variations, worldwide. We recognize the king, the crone and the quest, for example, because these motifs live in us with all their pitfalls and promise. They are the common psychic patterns, analogous to DNA, that define what it is to be human.

“The collective unconscious contains the whole spiritual heritage of mankind’s evolution, born anew in the brain structure of every individual.” It connects us to knowing beyond our individual selves, and compensates creatively for the limitations of consciousness. Dr. Seuss lets children and those who read to them know through Marco about the collective unconscious. Its life is abundant, encouraging us to look ahead toward growth and wholeness.

NOTE: I thank Jungian Analyst Lisa Marchiano for the idea of McElligot’s Pool as an image of the collective unconscious, and for her generosity in allowing me to use it.

AUTHOR

Deborah Stewart is a certified Jungian Analyst living in Cape Cod. She is a co-creator of the podcast This Jungian Life and a faculty member of the Philadelphia Jung Institute. She can be reached through her website at http://www.deborahcstewart.com

When Politics Invades the Personal: Towards a New Mandate for Psychoanalysis in the Trump Era

             attic beams

 James arrives at his session, bleary-eyed, having stayed up very late to hear the results of the 2016 presidential election. He doesn’t speak, but instead begins playing a recording of Judy Collins singing. As the song ends, he quietly repeats the refrain:

The weight of the world, too heavy to lift
So much to lose, so much to miss
It doesn’t seem fair that an innocent boy
Should have to carry the weight of the world

He says, “I am a seventy-year-old man, and feel like an innocent boy totally unprepared to handle the weight that the world now thrusts on my shoulders.” After a very long pause he continues, “Trump has said that he would demand that all Muslims be registered, citing as precedent the internment of Japanese Americans, both citizens and aliens, for national security, or rather” — James scoffs — “because of national hysteria and prejudice.”

His words take on the haunting rhythm of the song he has just played, as he yearns for a time when there can be room for diversity. James has begun to define a new anxiety. It has penetrated his heart and now penetrates the therapeutic space. He has the renewed sense that who he is (who anyone is) no longer has value.

Annick, another patient who is a writer, also feels a new kind of anxiety.  She reports that Trump has penetrated her dream life, and therefore infiltrated her psyche and her creativity. This “master of surprises,” and “internal terrorist” appears in her dream as an “evil magician, sly and catalytic.” In one dream, she is working on the final stages of writing an essay, and waiting for an important “package of words” to arrive. Rather than getting the package via FedEx, as she was expecting, Trump intervenes — arrayed in a colorful robe like a modern-day Merlin. He holds her package hostage and transforms it from a catalyst for her imagination into a briefcase of burdensome and tedious paper work that will keep her from completing her essay, consigning her to years of endless and “dogged slogging.”

Both James and Annick’s experiences of despair reflect their deepest terrors — especially their fear of losing their capacity to express themselves fully and realize their aspirations. But their stories — along with those of many more of my patients — stand out because they reflect the devastating and profound impact of our new political context. They show us not only the fault lines of their individual lives, but also how the new political environment in which we live has torn the fabric of our collective psychology. Their ability to speak of their suffering enlarges my understanding of what psychotherapy and psychoanalysis must now consider one of its most important tasks. Something new has nudged its way into the center of their psyches, and — for those who identify with a diverse and democratic America — something elemental and seemingly uncontrollable is making itself felt inside the inner sanctum of the therapy office.

The president-elect’s overt racism and sexism, his homophobic and xenophobic comments and his grand cry to “make America great again” have unleashed enormous fear in those who don’t support him. Donald Trump has demonstrated the capacity to invade the private world of each and every one of my patients, making inroads into the inner recesses of their lives. Many are able to resist the intrusion, but almost all experience his political style as an assault on their personal agency, their connection to their creative unconscious, and their ability to enjoy the generative and free interaction of emotions and ideas — all of which have previously informed their work and relationships.

Above all, news coverage of Trump’s incessant tweets constantly interrupts our thoughts. Never before have we had a political figure with so much need to make himself the center of all conversation. I think of this style as “manipulative power speak”; he bombards us every day in order to re-configure our version of reality and align it more closely with his. He brands everything he touches with his name, he disregards social and political norms, and he insists that nothing can stand in his way.

Many of my patients connect these intrusions with feelings of personal abuse. The ones who are most deeply affected reassure themselves by touching their stomachs or their hearts, or wrapping their arms around themselves as if to protect against assault. And like an intimate abuser, Trump keeps us hooked by occasionally giving us hope that he might respect our identity and dignity, or behave in “normal” ways. Then he resumes his rampage and rains down insult and threat without regard to consequences. His behavior is thus unpredictable and menacing. Even when we think he is wrong, he is still “right.”

The impact of the Trump phenomenon forces psychological professionals to think again about how our analytic work rests within the larger vessel that is society at large. Severe disruptions and transitions of values and emphasis in socio-political processes call attention to a force outside the analytic dyad that nonetheless has the power to alter the work done between analyst and patient within it. This force cries out to be defined and understood as having an impact that interacts explosively with other realms of analytic concepts. The necessity of articulating our changed context casts patient and analyst out of the safe space of the “analytic container” and into the larger world, where both are unprotected by the carefully constructed analytic logos that has traditionally provided security and clear guidance.

It is now up to us as psychoanalysts and psychotherapists to admit to the same vulnerability and loss of security that many of our patients are sharing with us during therapy. We must try to understand the powerful impact of the new political-social context on our work, and on the individuals in our practices. This involves a willingness to admit that the world in which we live has irrevocably changed for patient and analyst alike.

At the same time, the analyst must not get lost in the quicksand of the changing context, but always hold a stance — and a space — that allows for reflection. We must ensure that our patients do not unwittingly become absorbed in and “adjusted” to this intrusive and destructive social environment, but instead encourage them to grapple consciously with the “Trump within,” unseating his influence on internal psychological processes. Helping our patients reflect on the socio-political context in relation to their internal context will ensure that they don’t unconsciously succumb to this new kind of terrorism, one that works seditiously by negating their creative power and undermining their ability to think, live and act autonomously.

THE AUTHOR
Joan Golden-Alexis is a Jungian analyst practicing in New York City
The names and identities of the patients described in the following have been changed to protect their anonymity. In addition, signed consents to use their material have been obtained.
(drjoangolden@gmail.com)

I Lift My Lamp Beside the Golden Door

statue-of-liberty

Since we live in Brooklyn, I have crossed the Brooklyn Bridge countless times, but even when I have to crane my neck Brooklyn-bound from Manhattan, I look for Lady Liberty. She moves me every time with her blazing testimony to the truth of the human spirit. In difficult times—after 9-11, Hurricane Sandy, or current waves of human emigration—I like to see her steadfastly lighting the way.

The goddess Libertas, widely worshiped in Rome and symbolic of emancipation from slavery, has appeared in various forms throughout history, most majestically as The Statue of Liberty. Libertas seems always to have been represented as feminine, for the promise of liberation is new life, ever the gift of the maternal matrix, wellspring of birth and transformation. We recognize the power of a new beginning and its potential to redeem all in us that has been forsaken, oppressed, or denied.

Liberation is an image of what Jung called individuation, the process of discovering your innate potential and becoming wholly who you were meant to be. Individuation, “the central concept of my psychology,” is a process by which “the psyche is transformed or developed by the relationship of the ego to the contents of the unconscious.” Symbols spark individuation, for only a symbol has the numinous power to unite conscious and unconscious and awaken us to a new reality. Like the Statue of Liberty.

Conceived and built in France as a gesture of friendship between nations, Lady Liberty inspired people from her inception. More than 100,000 French people contributed funds to create the 30-story copper lady. When Congress refused to allocate the funds necessary to build the massive foundation for the 225-ton statue, 120,000 Americans gave money. A symbol mobilized thousands to give Lady Liberty a home in New York harbor. Artists donated paintings, children sent small change, and Emma Lazarus wrote her famous poem, which concludes:

                       Give me your tired, your poor,

                        Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

                        The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

                        Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me:

                        I lift my lamp beside the golden door.

 

Lady Liberty represents more than freedom from injustice and oppression in the external world. She represents liberation in the inner world, as we set sail from restrictive beliefs, imposed roles, and one-sided attitudes. Like immigrants packed miserably in steerage for weeks, suffering and sacrifice often precede the discovery of new life. But if we embark on the journey of individuation, Lady Liberty will ever lift her lamp beside the golden door of wholeness.

Deborah Stewart, LCSW is a Jungian analyst in private practice in Brooklyn, NY.

On Active Imagination

red eyed frogOne of the most surprising and vivid experiences of my life occurred because of my Jungian studies. Our Philadelphia seminar was studying active imagination, and our reading included a letter from Jung to “Mr. O”:

“The point is that you start with any image, for instance just with that yellow mass in your dream. Contemplate it and carefully observe how the picture begins to unfold or to change. Don’t try to make it into something, just do nothing but observe what its spontaneous changes are. Any mental picture you contemplate in this way will sooner or later change through a spontaneous association that causes a slight alteration of the picture. You must carefully avoid impatient jumping from one subject to another. Hold fast to the one image you have chosen and wait until it changes by itself. Note all these changes and eventually step into the picture yourself, and if it is a speaking figure at all then say what you have to say to that figure and listen to what he or she has to say….therewith you gradually create the unity of conscious and unconscious without which there is no individuation at all.”*

With a mixture of skepticism, curiosity and hope, I went outside, sat down in a lawn chair, and focused on a nearby river-fed pool where watercress grows. In my image, the pool was about four feet in diameter, with the black-green cress growing thickly around the edges. Suddenly two bright red eyes gleamed up at me from the upper right quadrant of the pool, just in front of the watercress, and I saw the gestalt: the pool was a face, with curly cress locks and two eyes, which then blinked shut, as the frog to whom they belonged sank beneath the surface. I knelt down and found myself brushing leafy locks from the water maiden’s face as a mother would brush hair from the face of her sleeping child. And then I simply leaned into the pool, dived down, and found myself swimming underwater behind the ruby-eyed frog.

My vision went on to an encounter that was alive and surprising. Although I had had intention to actively imagine, “I” did not control the process and could never have created such a magical gift—one that ended with an introduction to a lost part of myself I could then begin consciously to reclaim. I understood what Jungian analyst Edith Wallace meant when she said that to be understood, Jung must be experienced.

Over time I came to understand that Jung’s psychology and methodology repeatedly seeks to achieve a dialectical, experiential relationship between consciousness and the unconscious. This is the essence of the process of individuation, or wholeness, that is central to Jung’s work. Unlike dreams, reverie, meditation, or fantasy, active imagination allows an intentional, living relationship with the unconscious. Jung says active imagination “…is a way of attaining liberation by one’s own efforts and of finding the courage to be oneself.”

I love the availability of active imagination. Although what arises—or doesn’t—on any particular day is uncertain, the unconscious tends to welcome willingness to engage it, and active imagination provides a connection in waking life to the autonomous, creative inner companion Jung so often referenced. Often, some new aspect of the chosen image or issue will emerge that consciousness can continue to mull over to make meaning—or reflect on with gratitude.

What I know for sure is that when our conscious self and the unconscious engage over time in the mutual play of active imagination, we find ourselves bigger, more alive, and truly companioned.

*You can find this passage and more in Joan Chodorow’s book, On Active Imagination, part of the Encountering Jung series.

Deborah Stewart is a Jungian analyst in private practice in Brooklyn, NY.

The Healing Power of Myth

alchemyIn describing myth, Kwame Scruggs, PhD likes to quote a kindergarten student, who astutely noted that “myths are stories that are false on the outside, but true on the inside.” Scruggs, who received his master’s and doctorate in Mythological Studies from Pacifica University, founded and runs Alchemy, a non-profit based in Akron, Ohio.

“The concept of our program is to create a safe space and a sense of community to assist in the development of urban adolescent males through the telling, discussion, and analysis of myths, stories, and fairy tales told to the beat of an African drum.” In the program, youth start in 6th grade, with 22 weeks of in-school meetings per year until 8th grade.  From 9th-12th grade the youth meet 10 months out of the year, four hours per session.  Scruggs, along with two others co-facilitators lead the youth through a fairy tale or myth, stopping periodically to elicit reactions from the participants, or to ask them to engage the material through questions that invite the young men to reflect on their own lives.

Dr. Scruggs’s work with Alchemy has received considerable attention in recent years. In 2012, the organization was one of 10 recipients presented with the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award from the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities, the nation’s highest honor for after-school and out-of-school programs. Scruggs, along with an Alchemy youth, accepted this award at the White House. And last year saw the release of a documentary about Alchemy entitled “Finding the Gold Within,” by award winning director Karina Epperlein.

Scruggs is doing something important and far too unusual, in my opinion – he is taking Jung’s insights out of the consulting room, and into the world, where they can work their transformation magic. Of the 30 young men in the original core group of participants, 28 graduated high school on time, and 26 enrolled in college. Most of us who are passionate about Jungian thought know how beautiful and personally meaningful these ideas are. If we are clinicians, we have likely had the honor of seeing these ideas transform the lives of the individuals with whom we work. Alchemy is putting these ideas to work in the service of social change.

In advance of Dr. Scruggs’s upcoming workshop in Philadelphia at the invitation of PAJA, I got a chance to speak with him briefly. In our conversation, he shared with me a bit about his discovery of myth and its healing power. Scruggs was introduced to Jung during an African-based rites of passage experience in 1993. Through Jung, Scruggs became interested in the work of Joseph Campbell. When he read Michael Meade’s Men and the Water of Life, he knew he had found something of great personal value. At the time, he was counseling high school drop outs. He found that getting them to talk was like pulling teeth. When he shared with them stories such as The Water of Life, the youth engaged and opened up, allowing themselves to become vulnerable.

I asked Dr. Scruggs what about myths make them such effective tools for reflection and healing. “When you tell someone a story,” Scruggs explained, “it removes them from the situation. It gets around a person’s defenses.” One Alchemy student, reflecting on the power of myth, had this to say about how it works: “Because it’s not real but then again it is real. So instead of directly telling us how to become well and get better you kind of do it indirectly which gets into our minds better or in a different way.”

Alchemy’s program of mentoring youth through myth helps the young men to have a relationship with something greater than themselves, develop a sense of purpose, and become the heroes in their own stories. Powerful stuff, indeed. I can’t wait to hear more about it at Dr. Scruggs’s workshop in Philadelphia on October 9.

To buy tickets to this event, please go to https://www.universe.com/citywherepeoplearemended

This post was written by Lisa Marchiano, LCSW. Lisa is a Jungian Analyst in private practice in NW Philadelphia and is on the faculty of the Philadelphia Jung Institute.