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  • Wednesday, December 07, 2022 10:00 AM | Anonymous

     “Trauma isn’t stored as history. It is stored as myth.” – Nathan Schwartz-Salant

    If fairy tales could choose us, Caperucita Roja chose me. Early in my childhood, I glimpsed myself in this Cuban version of “Little Red Riding Hood,” thanks to the clever ingenuity of my older siblings who sat me down in front of their makeshift radio to listen to a special “story hour.” The dramatic storytellers’ voices coming through the box seemed eerily familiar to me, but to a 4-year-old, the narrative was riveting. My siblings never attempted to explain the fairy tale; they simply told the story. But their Caperucita had an uncanny likeness to me, same hair, same dress, same mannerisms.  This description allowed me to draw my own inferences and hang my own projections upon the protagonist of the story. It was not until much later that I realized they had narrated the fairy tale of “Little Red Riding Hood” while stealthily attributing distinctive characteristics of my personality and appearance to the heroine – making me and her one in my young mind. 

    A year later, I was boarded onto a plane to the United States—an unaccompanied 5-year-old coming to America as a Cuban refugee. It was my Caperucita Roja doll that I clung to at the Jose Marti Aeropuerto in Habana on that frightful day. Sadly, my doll did not make it through the required military inspection, during which she was dismembered to ensure I was not smuggling valuables in her body cavity. It has taken me many years to acknowledge that, I, too, was experiencing a kind of psychological dismemberment from the rupture of family and cultural belonging and from all that I knew my world to be. Years later when I heard Carl Jung speak on exile in the documentary, Matter of Heart, my intuition was confirmed:

    Man is not born every day; he is once born, in a specific historical setting with specific historical qualities and therefore he is only complete when he has a relation to these things.... Having no connection with the past is a mutilation of the human being. 

    I understood Jung’s words to mean that to be exiled is to be psychologically dismembered, that the severance from emotional belonging, secure identity, and ancestral rootedness is a psychic wounding that perniciously persists in those who are forcibly expelled from their homelands. The words of philosopher Theodor Adorno corroborate this saying, “Every intellectual in emigration is, without exception, mutilated . . .  always astray . . . in an irreconcilable breach.” As with my decapitated Caperucita doll, parts of myself felt left behind in my native Cuba as I boarded the plane to America. And parts of myself felt lost in transit. 


    Origins of Caperucita Roja

    Although most interpretations of “Little Red Riding Hood” (LRRH) reference the Grimm Brothers’ 1812 version, scholars attribute the original narrative to Charles Perrault, noting that he wrote it to entertain the French court of King Louis XIV. It is believed the Grimm Brothers “cleaned up” Perrault’s 1697 version to make it more palatable to the general public by removing cannibalistic and sexual allusions and adding a happy ending. There are a variety of verbal and written forms of LRRH found worldwide, ranging from the Middle East, China, Japan, Korea, France, Germany, Spain, and Africa to Latin America. 

    Ultimately, since all fairy tales originated in oral form, any written version claiming originality is somewhat suspect. It all seems in keeping with the mystifying quality of the fairy tale genre: original authorship is difficult, if not impossible, to determine. Fairy tales are wonderfully pliable to interpretation; they resonate with diverse cultures throughout multiple centuries. This is reflected by its time-dismissing, enduring opening words, “Once upon a time,” which suggest anytime, anywhere, applicable to any people. As Marie-Louise von Franz argued in The Interpretation of Fairy Tales (1996, p.1), fairy tales “represent the archetypes in their simplest, barest, and most concise form.” They depict symbols and motifs of universal or collective human experiences, such as suggested in this blog, the individuation of the exile. 

    In many myths and fairytales, the hero or heroine in the story is typically thrust into a forest or an unknown, foreign land. There, the protagonist is threatened to be swallowed up by hardships - sometimes arriving inside the belly of a whale, like Jonah in the Bible, or dismembered like Osiris of Egyptian mythology, and must find a way of escape. Allegorically, these myths and stories illustrate the development of consciousness as a heroic adventure. The ego (as the protagonist) must struggle with unconscious forces (the big, bad wolf, a monster, or a whale) and differentiate from the maternal fusion (grandmother, Mother[land], Great Mother) in order to proceed to individuation (wholeness, synthesis of the self).

    In the Cuban version of the fairytale, Caperucita leaves her mother and sets out on a journey alone to take provisions to her feeble Abuelita (grandmother) in a distant village. Covered in a red-hooded capa that her grandmother had made her, Caperucita enters el bosque oscuro (the dark forest) and encounters el lobo malo (the big, bad wolf) who deceives her into giving up the location of her grandmother’s cottage. When she gets to Abuelita’s house, Caperucitafinds the wolf disguised as her Grandmother and must grapple with the discrepancies: “Abuelita, ¡qué ojos más grandes tienes! (What big eyes . . . what long nose . . . what big ears you have). She eventually recognizes that it is not her true Grandmother, her trueancestral heritage and the legacy to which she belongs. The Wolf swallows both Abuelita and Caperucita, but unlike other versions of the tale, which introduce a huntsman rescuer, my Cuban version credits the young heroine as the one who outsmarts the cunning wolf: the child fights her way out of Wolf’s belly, redeems Grandmother, and refills his belly with rocks, disabling his control over her.

    Archetypal Symbols in the Fairy Tale

    The Dark Forest

    Many folk tales originated and were set in the dark forests of Europe. These were areas thick with woodlands that obscured the infiltration of sunlight. Hence, they represented the edge of civilization because they were impenetrablewild, uncultivated, and out of the control of human or conscious effort. Travelers easily lost their way traversing through these liminal spaces and were confronted with dangerous predators, like hungry wolves or bears, that laid in wait in pursuit of their next meal. In addition, magical beings like dwarves, fairies, or witches were said to have made their homes in the forests, provoking the transformations of those lost or exiled from the human world. Therefore, the dark forest has long been considered a symbol of the unknown and the unconscious, a space where the conscious human world is separated from the world of archetypal figures. 

    In this fairy tale, Caperucita is thrust into a solitary journey through a dark forest to confront devouring adversaries, traversing a place of testing and initiation where something must die for something new to be born. It is there that Caperucita emerges older and wiser to face her wolves, within and without. Similarly, the exile must relinquish that which has been familiar and familial in order to acculturate into a new country and find new life.

    The Divine Child

    The figure of the child in fairy tales and other mythopoetic narratives usually represents the archetypal image of the Divine Child, symbolizing potentiality and futurity (CW 9/1 par.278). This archetypal force makes way for future transformation and life possibilities, often in the face of apparent impossibilities. The initiation of the lone child into the forbidding forest, with the clear threat of extinction, portrays the invincible quality of the archetypal Child who manages to push onto self-realization against all odds. We see that, through the deadlocked struggle between what has been and what is yet unknown (the future that wants to manifest), individuation advances, ultimately producing an irrational third. Caperucita, as the nascent Child, must leave Mother, step into the forest of unknown, and outsmart the wolf in order to step into new life and wholeness. It stands to reason that Jung linked the Divine Child archetype to the Self, as both exemplify the impulse towards potential development, invincibility, and individuation.


    The Mother-Grandmother

    At the beginning of the fairy tale, Caperucita, her mother, and her grandmother are in the foreground of the story with no masculine figures present. We see that the tale is set in the context of the maternal or feminine archetype. The setting and opening characters purport much Eros (the feminine principle) and little Logos. When the masculine appears in the form of a male wolf, it suggests an animal-like instinctual unconscious nature, perhaps cloaked underneath Caperucita’s very own red hood! As the tale unfolds, we see the display of traditional feminine virtues, such as trusting innocence and unselfish connectedness, displaced and eventually integrated by masculine values like power, discernment, logic, and independence. Fate thrusts the innocent girl into exile, and it becomes her arena of transformation as the feminine-masculine energies are assimilated in her individuating psyche. 

    It is the mother-grandmother figures that induct this young initiate into her destiny and full potential. The description of Caperucita’s grandmother as sick and weak, needing cake and wine to strengthen her, suggests a vulnerability or weakening of the family heritage, the birthright that ancestral grandmother imparts onto her lineage. Like Caperucita, the exile’s challenge is to redeem the wounded sense of ancestral roots that have been swallowed up and annulled by the devouring forces of the exile complex.

    The Big Bad Wolf

    The politically displaced person who flees to a foreign country for asylum will confront dark forces in the unknown forest. The threats are not just external. More pervasively are the internal complexes that take residence in the psyche: despair, outsiderness, loneliness, and the feeling of being utterly unprotected are just a few of the painful disturbances that often plague the exile long after the displacement occurred. As with our heroine in the story, an exile’s violent rupture from Mother(land) and assault by devouring forces (complexes) can be felt as a rape of one’s true identity.

    Along with the mythological image of Kronos (the king of the Titans who devoured his children for fear of being overthrown), I associate the Wolf with Fidel Castro whose failed communist experiment separated thousands of Cuban children (14,000-plus Pedro Pans) from family and home, devouring their sense of familial and cultural belonging. I find it ironic that Castro’s death has been attributed to diverticulitis, as I imagine that swallowing up a whole generation of Cuban children would do that to one’s gut. 


    Summary: Seeing Through the Fairy Tales

    My personal reading of the fairy tale, Caperucita Roja, corresponds to the initiation of an exile into a new country. Like the protagonist, the exile leaves the security of mother and home and struggles toward newfound awareness or what Jung called individuation. According to Bruno Bettelheim (The Uses of Enchantment), “Myths and fairy stories both answer the eternal questions: What is the world really like? How am I to live my life in it?... By recalling how the hero of many a fairy tale succeeded in life,...the child believes he may work the same magic” (p. 50).  As in the fairy tale, the exile is tasked with leaving the safe containment of the Mother(land) to face the regressive forces of the dark unknown forest (the unconscious). It is by wrestling within the belly of the Wolf (the exile trauma and complex that threatens to swallow up the exilethat Caperucita is reborn into new life. Following the mythic pattern of the hero’s journey, Caperucita (as well as the exile) is pressed into individuation, where she must integrate conflicting forces that threaten to split and devour her wholeness. Similarly, the exile must rescue the vulnerable self from the grasp of the devouring complex and bring the disparate cultural states into synthesis, redeeming her enfeebled and supplanted ancestral heritage (personified by Grandmother).

    The archetypal motifs of death/re-birth and endings/new beginnings are prevalent in this fairy tale. Caperucita Roja reminds us that separation from the “containing Mother” (e.g., the archetypal Great Mother, or Mother-land) and being thrust into unknown forests of frightening containment can serve to initiate our growth, rebirth, and individuation. By identifying with Caperucita and her triumph over the Wolf, I believed I could also work the same victory in my turbulent young years. It was through the power of this symbolic story, imbued with archetypal energies, that my traumatized young self was able to imagine a way through. Jung stated it this way: “Without the cooperation of the unconscious, the conscious personality would be too weak to wrench itself free of its infantile past and venture into a strange world with all its unforeseen possibilities” (CW 5, par. 463). In this manner, the fairy tale of Caperucita Roja became a living symbol, forever conflated with my early development and exile experience fleeing Cuba.

    In this writing, I have talked about the dynamics of exile through the fairy tale of Caperucita Roja as mirrored by my own political displacement. However, this psychological distress, which I am calling the exile complex, is not limited to political banishment. In my consulting room, I observe this emotional distress in many who have never been expelled from their country and yet suffer a deep-seated sense of outsiderness and estrangement from others and from place. Existential alienation and estrangement can ensue from a general mismatch with family, the death of a loved one, the loss of a home, or the dissolution of a marriage or business. There is also the debilitating childhood wound of early insecure parental attachment or birth trauma that often leaves the individual with implicit feelings of not belonging or even deserving of life. In addition, running throughout Jung’s theories and ideas is the individuation proposition of assimilating disenfranchised or shadowed aspects of the personality, those parts of the self which have been exiled from consciousness. I submit that exile is an archetypal aspect of the human experience and that perhaps we’re not really meant to fully belong in this world but are called to suffer the tension of both home and exile simultaneously.

    Lourdes Hernandez was marked by the traumas of war and political asylum when her family fled Cuba to take refuge in the United States. She holds post-graduate degrees from Pacifica Graduate Institute and Regis University in hermeneutics, counseling, and Jungian and Archetypal Studies. After a period of study in Zurich, Lourdes returned stateside to complete her analytic training with the Inter-Regional Society of Jungian Analysts and has a bilingual private practice in Boulder, Colorado. Lourdes is a lifelong musician and visual artist who values the curative power of the symbolic psyche and its restorative interventions. You can learn more about her at

  • Tuesday, November 08, 2022 1:00 PM | Anonymous

    Individuation, embodying one’s full essence, is not a solo endeavor even though it is an innately driven process of psychological differentiation from the collective. The process is inseparable from embodied moments of conuinctio with people in your life and the union of opposites within your psyche. Relationships, particularly intimate couple relationships, are an alchemical vas for encountering the unknown within yourself. As you adapt to living with the differences in your partner, your vital energies (innate essence) take shape in daily activities. As the specifics of your nature interface with the “other”—someone separate from you, your psyches naturally intertwine. This conuinctio offers an opportunity to live into your wholeness by embracing aspects of psyche that arise only in intimate relationship; or you can remain one-sided with an ego ideal that is identified with collective expectations or defended against your personal history (personal unconscious). 

    You open to the gift of Self by seeing your primary relationship as a transformative vessel where your partner mirrors unknown aspects of you. Your commitment to the “other” is bonded by unconsciously activated energies in psyche that want to be connected to your ego consciousness. This means you encounter yourself in every interaction with your partner as psyche filters the experience through your complexes. Strong, out-of-proportion affects, activated by non-harmonious exchanges, are the doorway to knowing yourself more deeply. 

    C. G. Jung writes, “The unrelated human being lacks wholeness, for he can achieve wholeness only through the soul, and the soul cannot exist without its other side, which is always found in ‘You’.”  (CW 16, par. 454) The reality of psyche as a phenomenal world coexists with the reality of the external “other” world where people are who they are, not our projections or images. Individuation demands conscious differentiation of your inner imagoes and the outer partner as an individual in their own right. 

    Imagoes carry both desirable and undesirable feeling tones. The desirable traits and affects are projected in the romantic love phase of relationship. Sooner or later, these are destroyed by reality that forces you to see beyond the one-sided idealized images. As the positive illusions die, there is often the projection of negative states of the imago onto the partner. Projection is an unconscious mechanism that transfers powerful, unmediated archetypal/instinctive energy that evokes certain ways of being and acting from the other. Unknowingly, a projected complex pulls your partner to act in sync with the projection. To be whole and to have healthy relationships, you must be willingly to see and claim the unintegrated bit of your psyche instead of exporting it.

    By addressing the projection of the internal imago onto your partner, you can differentiate internal factors that shape your experience from the external realities that trigger the perceptions. This necessitates withdrawing projections through consciousness of your complexes. This increased consciousness brings a clearer perception of your partner and a more focused use of the previously split off or projected psychic energy. You become more whole in the process of owning the projected energies or shadow. 

    Owning your projection can be difficult as there is always a hook for the unconscious material. An example: Sally has a harsh and critical father complex, so she unconsciously attracted a partner who is harsh and critical. The partner is an easy projection screen as they mirror her inner father/partner. Exporting the negative, she is left with an accommodating sweetness that lacks healthy aggression and fuels blaming the outer partner for feelings of inadequacy and failure. This keeps her psychologically stuck, thwarting her individuation, as she does not consciously address the inner aggressor to claim her autonomy and initiative for life. 

    Over time, Sally let go of blaming her partner and began dialoguing with her inner critical father/partner. She now listens deeply to connect with the seed of the Self that is cloaked by the negative father complex. Through this conscious relating, she connects with the vital energy of her larger Self that holds the needed opposite to balance the negative. When this happens, she experiences an inner coniunctio that results in inner and outer boundaries rooted in healthy self-respect and self-responsibility. She becomes more whole by standing with herself internally and with her outer partner.

    Jung writes,

    Wholeness is a combination of I and You, and these show themselves to be parts of a transcendent unity…. I do not of course, mean the synthesis of two individuals, but the conscious union of the ego with everything that has been projected into the ‘You.’ Hence wholeness is the product of an intrapsychic process which depends essentially on the relation of one individual to another. (CW 16, par. 454)

    The relationships to yourself, the Self, and another individual are the heart of individuation. Couples relationships are a particularly fertile ground for individuating as your most deeply rooted, personal needs and vulnerabilities are experienced. Your willingness to engage the intertwining worlds of inner and outer relationships simultaneously is the key for fully embodying your essence. Relationships are essential to individuation.


    Kathleen Wiley is a Jungian Psychoanalyst, LCMHC, and LMFT in Davidson, NC. Her work empowers individuals to fully embody their essence through conscious relationship to the Self and other. She is an articulate and engaging speaker who moves her listeners into their depths. She leads an online community with self-paced courses focused on embodiment practices and processes rooted in Jungian psychology and alchemical symbolism. Learn more at and 

  • Wednesday, October 05, 2022 9:30 AM | Anonymous

    I have been interested in Erich Neumann’s work since I was first introduced to Origin and History of Consciousness, just out of college. I was a language and arts major with a minor in psychology. Nothing prepared me to read this opus except my own imagination. Of course, without the maturity and experience to fully understand what he was saying, I found it intriguing, but difficult. I was drawn to books that made little sense to me at the time, but for some reason I suspected that the knowledge they imparted would eventually become clear—like a completed painting. Early on in college I ran across a four-volume set of books on Kabbalah at a used bookstore and was gripped reading the whole series. It was like a puzzle with such a different way of perceiving the world -- more like my childhood world of imagination where anything could be real, reality was relative. These books allowed me to step outside my limited worldview and begin to imagine once again. Reading Neumann remains such an experience; it opens up many new worlds of thought and feeling each time I re-read one of his books.

    Now as a so-called seasoned Jungian analyst, I am still amazed at the brilliance of his writing. He was Jung’s most brilliant friend and collaborator and challenged Jung’s thinking in many areas. Isn’t that what we want and need—to be challenged, to explore new ideas and perceptions of reality, to keep learning about this amazing world we live in and all the unique and interesting creatures that inhabit it with us, including other humans? How do we keep our sense of imagination and curiosity alive? 

    While Neumann describes in detail-- with more clarity and detail than Jung-- the stages of human psychological development from birth to death, recently in my reading I was particularly struck by his descriptions of what can go wrong in the process. He has a concept called mass man. Of course, being a “man of his generation,” he uses the word “man” to refer to “human.” Today, such a referral stops one in his or her or their or its tracks. Language needs to catch up. But to segue a bit here, Neumann is the early Jungian who was most conscious of the multiplicity that exists as male and female, as masculine and feminine blended and mixed in complex and unique ways in each of us, in our inner and outer realms. 

    OK, back to mass man. I have been thinking about the current political situation and how our country has become so polarized and angry. Reading history makes clear that this is not new for the U.S. -- or anywhere else in the world, for that matter -- but it feels more extreme and unresolvable now, perhaps because of the additional worry about climate change and the war in Ukraine at the same time. Neumann lived through the catastrophe of WWII and spent his time during the war in Palestine trying to understand what happened to the German psyche. His description in his essay explains how the development of the ego and self can fail and throw a person back into a collective state where ideologies and a powerful, charismatic leader become the ego and superego for the individuals. This can become a mass movement of “hysterical neurosis,” as Neumann called it. Now it would have a different name. Jung also described this same phenomenon in his essay, “After the Catastrophe.” It is interesting that they both came to the same psychological conclusion while having halted their communication with each other during the war. 

    Understanding the healthy progress of human psychological development helps us to recognize how children should develop, how important it is for adults to continue to develop to maintain a solid ego-Self axis, and how it can be lost along the way for so many reasons. What we are witnessing now is a huge failure in our mental health system. Of course, it puts an emphasis on drugs, not counseling. Without the difficult work individuals do to recognize and integrate their shadow material, we as a collective are vulnerable to huge negative shifts in the collective unconscious, resulting from all the splitting and projection.

    What a depressing way to end this blog. But better to understand than not, to challenge ourselves to give a few drops of precious, creative moisture-- the water of life-- to support the positive, constructive side of our collective. 

    I will be speaking at the Jung Society of Washington on October 21 & 22 on Erich Neumann and his work and why he is still relevant. As you have seen, I believe he is. I look forward to conversations and discussions about all of what I presented in this blog and much more. 

    Dr. Nancy Furlotti has written numerous articles and co-edited several books, including The Dream and Its Amplification with the late Erel Shalit.  She lectures internationally on Jungian topics, such as dreams, mythology, trauma, the feminine, and the environment.  A long-standing interest of hers is Mesoamerican mythology, specifically the Quiché Maya creation myth, the Popol Vuh.  Her book on this subject is forthcoming.  Her company, Recollections, LLC, edits and publishes the writings of first-generation Jungians, most recently Erich Neumann’s two-volume manuscript, The Roots of Jewish Consciousness 

  • Tuesday, September 27, 2022 9:30 AM | Anonymous

    Imagine, for a moment, that you are the universe. But for the purposes of this thought experiment, let us imagine that you are not the disen­chanted mechanistic universe of conventional modern cosmology, but rather a deep-souled, subtly mysterious cosmos of great spiritual beauty and creative intelligence. And imagine that you are being approached by two different epistemo­logies—two suitors, as it were, who seek to know you. To whom would you open your deepest reality?  To which approach would you be most likely to reveal your authentic nature?  Would you open most deeply to the suitor—the epistemology, the way of knowing—who approached you as though you were essentially lacking in intelligence or purpose, as though you had no interior dimension to speak of, no spiritual capacity or value; who thus saw you as fundamentally inferior to himself (let us give the two suitors, not entirely arbitrarily, the traditional masculine gender); who related to you as though your existence were valuable primarily to the extent that he could develop and exploit your resources to satisfy his various needs; and whose motivation for knowing you was ultimately driven by a desire for increased intellectual mastery, predictive certainty, and efficient control over you for his own self-enhancement? 

    Or would you, the cosmos, open yourself most deeply to that suitor who viewed you as being at least as intelligent and noble, as worthy a being, as permeated with mind and soul, as imbued with moral aspiration and purpose, as endowed with spiritual depths and mystery, as he?  This suitor seeks to know you not that he might better exploit you but rather to unite with you and thereby bring forth something new, a creative synthesis emerging from both of your depths. He desires to liberate that which has been hidden by the separation between knower and known. His ultimate goal of knowledge is not increased mastery, prediction, and control but rather a more richly responsive and empowered participation in a co-creative unfolding of new realities. He seeks an intellectual fulfillment that is intimately linked with imaginative vision, moral transformation, empathic understand­ing, aesthetic delight. His act of knowledge is essentially an act of love and intelligence combined, of wonder as well as discernment, of opening to a process of mutual discovery. To whom would you be more likely to reveal your deepest truths?

    This is not to say that you, the universe, would reveal nothing to the first suitor, under the duress of his objectifying, disenchanting approach. That suitor would undoubtedly elicit, filter, and constellate a certain “reality” that he would naturally regard as authentic knowledge of the actual universe: objective knowl­edge, “the facts,” as compared with the subjective delusions of everyone else’s approach. But we might allow ourselves to doubt just how profound a truth, how genuinely reflective of the universe’s deeper reality, this approach might be capable of providing. Such knowledge might prove to be deeply misleading. And if this disenchanted vision were elevated to the status of being the only legitimate vision of the nature of the cosmos upheld by an entire civilization, what an incalculable loss, an impoverish­ment, a tragic deformation, a grief, would ultimately be suffered by both knower and known. 

    I believe that the disenchantment of the modern universe is the direct result of a simplistic epistemology and moral posture spectacularly inadequate to the depths, complexity, and grandeur of the cosmos. To assume a priori that the entire universe is ultimately a soulless void within which our multidimensional conscious­ness is an anomalous accident, and that purpose, meaning, conscious intelligence, moral aspiration, and spiritual depth are solely attributes of the human being, reflects a long-invisible inflation on the part of the modern self. And heroic hubris is still indissolubly linked, as it was in ancient Greek tragedy, to heroic fall. 

    What is the cure for hubristic vision? It is, perhaps, to listen—to listen more subtly, more perceptively, more deeply. Our future may well depend upon the precise extent of our willingness to expand our ways of knowing. We need a larger, truer empiricism and rationalism. The long-established episte­mo­logical strategies of the modern mind have been both relentlessly limiting and unconsciously “constructing” a world it then concludes is objective. The objectifying ascetic rationalism and empiricism that emerged during the Enlightenment served as liberating disciplines for the nascent modern reason, but they still dominate mainstream science and modern thought today in a rigidly undeveloped form. In their simplistic myopia and one-sidedness, they seriously constrain our full range of perception and understanding. 

    The disenchanting strategy can be said to have served well the purposes of its time—to differentiate the self, to empower the human subject, to liberate human experience of the world from unquestioned pregiven structures of meaning and purpose inherited from tradition and enforced by external authority. It provided a powerful new basis for criticism and defiance of established belief systems that often inhibited human autonomy. It also at least partly succeeded in disciplining the human tendency to project onto the world subjective needs and wishes. But this differentiation and empowerment of the human being has been striven for so single-mindedly as to now be hypertrophic, pathologically exaggerated. In its austere universal reductionism, the objectifying stance of the modern mind has become a kind of tyrant. The knowledge it renders is literally narrow-minded. Such knowledge is at once extremely potent and deeply deficient. A little knowledge may be a dangerous thing, but a massive amount of knowledge based on a limited and self-isolating set of assumptions may be very dangerous indeed. 

    The remarkable modern capacity for differentiation and discernment that has been so painstakingly forged must be preserved, but our challenge now is to develop and subsume that discipline in a more encompassing, more magnanimous intellectual and spiritual engagement with the mystery of the universe. Such an engagement can happen only if we open ourselves to a range of epistemologies that together provide a more multidimensionally perceptive scope of knowledge. To encounter the depths and rich complexity of the cosmos, we require ways of know­ing that fully integrate the imagination, the aesthetic sensibility, moral and spiritual intuition, revelatory experi­ence, symbolic perception, somatic and sensuous modes of understanding, empathic knowing. Above all, we must awaken to and overcome the great hidden anthropocentric projection that has virtually defined the modern mind: the pervasive projection of soullessness onto the cosmos by the modern self’s own will to power

    Objectifying the world has given immense pragmatic power and dynamism to the modern self but at the expense of its capacity to register and respond to the world’s potential depths of meaning and purpose. Contrary to the coolly detached self-image of modern reason, subjective needs and wishes have unconsciously pervaded the disenchanted vision and reinforced its assumptions. A world of purposeless objects and random processes has served as a highly effective basis and justification for human self-aggrandizement and exploita­tion of a world seen as undeserving of moral concern. The disenchanted cosmos is the shadow of the modern mind in all its brilliance, power, and inflation. 

    As we assimilate the deepening insights of our time into the nature of human knowl­edge, and as we discern more lucidly the intricate mutual implica­tion of subject and object, self and world, we must ask ourselves whether this radically disenchanted cosmology is, in the end, all that plausible. Perhaps it was not as truly neutral and objective as we supposed but was in fact a reflection of historically situated evolutionary imperatives and unconscious needs—like every other cosmology in the history of humanity. Perhaps disenchantment is itself another form of enchantment, another highly convincing mode of experience that has cast its spell over the human mind and played its evolutionary role but is now not only limiting for our cosmological understanding but unsustainable for our existence. Perhaps it is time to adopt, as a potentially more fruitful hypothesis and heuristic starting point, the second suitor’s approach to the nature of the cosmos.

    Humanity’s “progress of knowledge” and the “evolution of consciousness” have too often been characterized as if our task were simply to ascend a very tall cognitive ladder with graded hierarchical steps that represent successive develop­mental stages in which we solve increasingly challenging mental riddles, like advanced problems in a graduate exam in biochemistry or logic. But to understand life and the cosmos better, perhaps we are required to transform not only our minds but our hearts. For our whole being, body and soul, mind and spirit, is implicated. Perhaps we must go not only high and far but down and deep. Our world view and cosmology, which defines the context for everything else, is profoundly affected by the degree to which all our faculties—intellectual, imaginative, aesthetic, moral, emotional, somatic, spiritual, relational—enter the process of our knowing. How we approach “the other,” and how we approach each other, will shape everything, including our own evolving self and the cosmos in which we participate. Not only our personal lives but the very nature of the universe may demand of us now a new capacity for self-transcendence, both intellectual and moral, so that we may experience a new dimension of beauty and intelligence in the world—not a projection of our own desire for beauty and intellectual mastery, but an encounter with the actual unpredictably unfolding beauty and intelligence of the whole. 

    Richard Tarnas is a professor of psychology and cultural history at the California Institute of Integral Studies, where he founded the graduate program in Philosophy, Cosmology, and Consciousness. Formerly the director of programs and education at Esalen Institute, he is the author of The Passion of the Western Mind, a history of the Western world view from the ancient Greek to the postmodern that is widely used in universities, and of Cosmos and Psyche, which received the Book of the Year Prize from the Scientific and Medical Network and is the basis for the documentary series Changing of the Gods. He is also the co-editor of Psyche Unbound: Essays in Honor of Stanislav Grof. Richard Tarnas is a past president of the International Transpersonal Association and has served on the Board of Governors for the C. G. Jung Institute of San Francisco.


    If you wish to buy Richard Tarnas’ books, here are links on Amazon:

    Cosmos and Psyche: Intimations of a New World View


    The Passion of the Western Mind: Understanding the Ideas that Have Shaped Our World View 

  • Tuesday, September 20, 2022 9:30 AM | Anonymous

    The earliest form of the archetypal perspective, and in certain respects its deepest ground, is the primordial experience of the great gods and goddesses of the ancient mythic imagination.  In this once universal mode of consciousness, memorably embodied at the dawn of Western culture in the Homeric epics and later in classical Greek drama, reality is understood to be pervaded and structured by powerful numinous forces and presences that are rendered to the human imagination as the divinized figures and narratives of ancient myth, often closely associated with the celestial bodies.

    Yet our modern word god, or deity or divinity, does not accurately convey the lived meaning of these primordial powers for the archaic sensibility, a meaning that was sustained and developed in the Platonic understanding of the divine. This point was clearly articulated by W. K. C. Guthrie, drawing on a valuable distinction originally made by the German scholar Wilamowitz-Moellendorff:

    Theos, the Greek word which we have in mind when we speak of Plato’s god, has primarily a predicative force.  That is to say, the Greeks did not, as Christians or Jews do, first assert the existence of God and then proceed to enumerate his attributes, saying “God is good,” “God is love” and so forth.  Rather they were so impressed or awed by the things in life or nature remarkable either for joy or fear that they said “this is a god” or “that is a god.”  The Christian says “God is love,” the Greek “Love is theos,” or “a god.”  As another writer [G. M. A. Grube] has explained it: “By saying that love, or victory, is god, or, to be more accurate, a god, was meant first and foremost that it is more than human, not subject to death, everlasting.  . . . Any power, any force we see at work in the world, which is not born with us and will continue after we are gone could thus be called a god, and most of them were.”

    In this state of mind, and with this sensitiveness to the superhuman character of many things which happen to us, and which give us, it may be, sudden stabs of joy or pain which we do not understand, a Greek poet could write lines like: “Recognition between friends is theos.”  It is a state of mind which obviously has no small bearing on the much-discussed question of monotheism or polytheism in Plato, if indeed it does not rob the question of meaning altogether.

    As the Greek mind evolved, by a process sometimes too simply described as a transition from myth to reason, the divine absolutes ordering the world of the mythic imagination were gradually deconstructed and conceived anew in philosophical form in the dialogues of Plato.  Building on both the Presocratics’ early philosophical discussions of the archai and the Pythagorean understanding of transcendent mathe­matical forms, and then more directly on the critical inquiries of his teacher Socrates, Plato gave to the archetypal perspective its classic metaphysical formulation.  In the Platonic view, archetypes—the Ideas or Forms—are absolute essences that transcend the empirical world yet give the world its form and meaning.  They are timeless universals that serve as the fundamental reality informing every concrete particular.  Something is beautiful precisely to the extent that the archetype of Beauty is present in it.  Or, described from a different viewpoint, something is beautiful precisely to the extent that it participates in the archetype of Beauty.  For Plato, direct knowledge of these Forms or Ideas is regarded as the spiritual goal of the philosopher and the intellectual passion of the scientist.

    In turn, Plato’s student and successor Aristotle brought to the concept of universal forms a more empiricist approach, one supported by a rationalism whose spirit of logical analysis was secular rather than spiritual and epiphanic.  In the Aristotelian perspective, the forms lost their numinosity but gained a new recognition of their dynamic and teleolog­ical character as concretely embodied in the empirical world and processes of life.  For Aristotle, the universal forms primarily exist in things, not above or beyond them.  Moreover, they not only give form and essential qualities to concrete particulars but also dynamically transmute them from within, from potentiality to actuality and maturity, as the acorn gradually metamor­phoses into the oak tree, the embryo into the mature organism, a young girl into a woman. The organism is drawn forward by the form to a realization of its inherent potential, just as a work of art is actualized by the artist guided by the form in the artist’s mind.  Matter is an intrinsic susceptibility to form, an unqualified openness to being configured and dynamically realized through form.  In a developing organism, after its essential character has been fully actualized, decay occurs as the form gradually “loses its hold.”  The Aristotelian form thus serves both as an indwelling impulse that orders and moves development and as the intelligible structure of a thing, its inner nature, that which makes it what it is, its essence.  For Aristotle as for Plato, form is the principle by which something can be known, its essence recognized, its universal character distinguished within its particular embodiment.

    The idea of archetypal or universal forms then underwent a number of important developments in the later classical, medieval, and Renaissance periods.6   It became the focus of one of the central and most sustained debates of Scholastic philosophy, “the problem of universals,” a controversy that both reflected and mediated the evolution of Western thought as the locus of intelligible reality gradually shifted from the transcendent to the immanent, from the universal to the particular, and ultimately from the divinely given archetypal Form (eidos) to the humanly constructed general name (nomina).  After a final efflorescence in the philosophy and art of the High Renaissance, the concept of archetypes gradually retreated and then virtually disappeared with the modern rise of nominalist philosophy and empiricist science.  The archetypal perspective remained vital principally in the arts, in classical and mythological studies, and in Romanticism, as a kind of archaic afterglow.  Confined to the subjective realm of interior meaning by the dominant Enlightenment world view, it continued in this form latent in the modern sensibility.  The radiant ascent and dominance of modern reason coincided precisely with the eclipse of the archetypal vision.  

    Between the triumph of nominalism in the seventeenth century and the rise of depth psychology in the twentieth, philosophy brought forth a weighty development, Kant’s Copernican revolution in philosophy, that subsequently had major consequences for the form in which the archetypal perspective eventually reemerged.  With Kant’s critical turn focused on discovering those subjective interpretive structures of the mind that order and condition all human knowledge and experience, the a priori categories and forms, the Enlightenment project underwent a crucial shift in philosophical concern, from the object of knowledge to the knowing subject, that influenced virtually every field of modern thought.  

    It was not until the turn of the twentieth century that the concept of archetypes, foreshadowed by Nietzsche’s vision of the Dionysian and Apollonian principles shaping human culture, underwent an unexpected renascence.  The immediate matrix of its rebirth was the empirical discov­eries of depth psychology, first with Freud’s formulations of the Oedipus complex, Eros and Thanatos, ego, id, and superego (a “powerful mythology,” as Wittgenstein called psychoan­alysis), then in an expanded, fully articulated form with the work of Jung and archetypal psychology.  Jung, drawing on Kant’s critical epistemology and Freud’s instinct theory yet going beyond both, described archetypes as autono­mous primordial forms in the psyche that structure and impel all human experience and behavior.  In his last formulations influenced by his research on synchronicities, Jung came to regard archetypes as expressions not only of a collective unconscious shared by all human beings but also of a larger matrix of being and meaning that informs and encompasses both the physical world and the human psyche.

    Finally, further develop­ments of the archetypal perspective emerged in the postmodern period, not only in post-Jungian psychology but in other fields such as anthropology, mythology, religious studies, philosophy of science, linguistic analysis, phenomenology, process philosophy, and feminist scholarship.  Advances in understanding the role of paradigms, symbols, and metaphors in shaping human experience and cognition brought new dimensions to the archetypal understanding.   In the crucible of postmodern thought, the concept of archetypes was elaborated and critiqued, refined through the deconstruc­tion of rigidly essentialist “false universals” and cultural stereotypes, and enriched through an increased awareness of archetypes’ fluid, evolving, multivalent, and participatory nature.  Reflecting many of the above influences, James Hillman sums up the archetypal perspective in depth psychology:

    Let us then imagine archetypes as the deepest patterns of psychic functioning, the roots of the soul governing the perspectives we have of ourselves and the world.  They are the axiomatic, self-evident images to which psychic life and our theories about it ever 

    return. . . .There are many other metaphors for describing them: immaterial potentials of structure, like invisible crystals in solution or forms in plants that suddenly show forth under certain conditions; patterns of instinctual behavior like those in animals that direct actions along unswerving paths; the genres and topoi in literature; the recurring typicalities in history; the basic syndromes in psychiatry; the paradigmatic thought models in science; the world-wide figures, rituals, and relationships in anthropology.

    But one thing is absolutely essential to the notion of archetypes: their emotional possessive effect, their bedazzlement of consciousness so that it becomes blind to its own stance.  By setting up a universe which tends to hold everything we do, see, and say in the sway of its cosmos, an archetype is best comparable with a God.  And Gods, religions sometimes say, are less accessible to the senses and to the intellect than they are to the imaginative vision and emotion of the soul.

    They are cosmic perspectives in which the soul participates.  They are the lords of its realms of being, the patterns for its mimesis.  The soul cannot be, except in one of their patterns.  All psychic reality is governed by one or another archetypal fantasy, given sanction by a God.  I cannot but be in them.

    There is no place without Gods and no activity that does not enact them.  Every fantasy, every experience has its archetypal reason.  There is nothing that does not belong to one God or another.

    Archetypes thus can be understood and described in many ways, and much of the history of Western thought has evolved and revolved around this very issue.  For our present purposes, we can define an archetype as a universal principle or force that affects—impels, structures, permeates—the human psyche and the world of human experience on many levels.  One can think of them in mythic terms as gods and goddesses (or what Blake called “the Immortals”), in Platonic terms as transcendent first principles and numinous Ideas, or in Aristotelian terms as immanent universals and dynamic indwelling forms.  One can approach them in a Kantian mode as a priori categories of perception and cognition, in Schopenhauerian terms as the universal essences of life embodied in great works of art, or in the Nietzschean manner as primordial principles symbolizing basic cultural tendencies and modes of being.  In the twentieth-century context, one can conceive of them in Husserlian terms as essential structures of human experience, in Wittgensteinian terms as linguistic family resemblances linking disparate but overlapping particulars, in Whiteheadian terms as eternal objects and pure potentialities whose ingression informs the unfolding process of reality, or in Kuhnian terms as underlying paradigmatic structures that shape scientific understanding and research.  Finally, with depth psychology, one can approach them in the Freudian mode as primordial instincts impelling and structuring biological and psychological processes, or in the Jungian manner as fundamental formal principles of the human psyche, universal expressions of a collective unconscious and, ultimately, of the unus mundus

    In a sense, the idea of archetypes is itself an archetype, an arche, a continually shape-shifting principle of principles, with multiple creative inflections and variations through the ages as diffracted through different individual and cultural sensibilities.  In the course of that long evolution, the archetypal idea seems to have come full circle, arriving now in its post-synchronicity development at a place very closely resembling its ancient origins as cosmic archai but with its many inflections and potentialities, as well as new dimensions altogether, having been unfolded and explored.

    We can thus conceive of archetypes as possessing a transcendent and numinous quality, yet simultaneously manifesting in specific down-to-earth physical, emotional, and cognitive embodiments.  They are enduring a priori struc­tures and essences yet are also dynamically indeterminate, open to inflection by many contingent factors, cultural and biographical, circumstantial and participatory.  They are in one sense timeless and above the changing flux of phenomena, as in the Platonic understanding, yet in another sense deeply malleable, evolving, and open to the widest diversity of creative human enaction.  They seem to move from both within and without, manifesting as impulses, emotions, images, ideas, and interpretive structures in the interior psyche yet also as concrete forms, events, and contexts in the external world, including synchronistic phenomena.  Finally, they can be discussed and thought of in a scientific or philosophical manner as first principles and formal causes, yet also be understood at another level in terms of mythic personae dramatis that are most adequately approached or apprehended through the powers of the poetic imagination or spiritual intuition.  As Jung noted about his own mode of discourse when discussing the archetypal content of psychological phenomena:

    It is possible to describe this content in rational, scientific language, but in this way one entirely fails to express its living character.  Therefore, in describing the living processes of the psyche, I deliberately and consciously give preference to a dramatic, mythological way of thinking and speaking, because this is not only more expressive but also more exact than an abstract scientific terminology, which is wont to toy with the notion that its theoretic formulations may one fine day be resolved into algebraic equations.

    Richard Tarnas is a professor of psychology and cultural history at the California Institute of Integral Studies, where he founded the graduate program in Philosophy, Cosmology, and Consciousness. Formerly the director of programs and education at Esalen Institute, he is the author of The Passion of the Western Mind, a history of the Western world view from the ancient Greek to the postmodern that is widely used in universities, and of Cosmos and Psyche, which received the Book of the Year Prize from the Scientific and Medical Network and is the basis for the documentary series Changing of the Gods. He is also the co-editor of Psyche Unbound: Essays in Honor of Stanislav Grof. Richard Tarnas is a past president of the International Transpersonal Association and has served on the Board of Governors for the C. G. Jung Institute of San Francisco. 


    If you wish to buy Richard Tarnas’ books, here are links on Amazon:

    Cosmos and Psyche: Intimations of a New World View


    The Passion of the Western Mind: Understanding the Ideas that Have Shaped Our World View



  • Saturday, April 09, 2022 10:31 AM | Anonymous

    We were living in Memphis when Martin was murdered, moving households after dark, against curfew; there were ongoing riots then; the city was burning.  But we were white, so no one bothered us, and we had a baby to protect.  My husband was a graduate student, earning his Ph.D. at the University of Tennessee, Medical Units; I was working as a lab technician at Baptist Memorial Hospital; both institutions were near the middle of town, a town that the National Guard, uniformed and armed with rifles, was trying to protect from the rioters.  

    We had been living within easy walking distance of what we’re called the “Projects,” where black people lived in large, red-brick buildings, each as desolate looking as the others, but most of the Guards were in the neighborhoods that were erupting downtown; they made their presence felt.  This part of the story, what follows, is little known and too rarely told.

    The reason that Martin had come back to Memphis was because of the garbage men’s strike.  You may have seen photographs of them marching, wearing signs around their necks proclaiming “I AM A MAN!” in black letters on whiteboard.  And the reason for this?  

    A few days prior, on a cool hard-rainy morning, the garbage men were out doing their jobs.  Each garbage truck had a driver, who was white, and two men to dump the garbage into the back of the truck; these men were black.  At break time, the work would be stopped for coffee, but only the white drivers had access to the coffee shops; black folk were not allowed in.  

    On that wet morning, a garbage-truck driver  went inside a coffee shop for hot coffee; the two others took cover just inside the back of the truck, where the rain was probably loud against the roof.  When the driver returned, he was probably unconcerned about the others, about where they might be.  He climbed into his cab and turned the key.

    What we don’t know is if the men in the back could have heard him return (probably not), if the driver knew where the two had taken shelter (probably not), if what happened next had been imagined (surely not).  When the truck was started up, the two in the back were thrown into the belly, and along with the trash, they were crushed.  They didn’t die immediately; they knew what was happening because there was evidence that at least one of them had tried to climb out, but couldn’t.  It was this horrific incident that brought Martin back to Memphis and why “I AM A MAN!” was proclaimed by the mourners.

  • Friday, October 15, 2021 12:00 PM | Anonymous

    Living More Sustainably and Mindfully to Protect and Honor Our Sacred Earth, with Sundance Metelsky

    We are told that the trouble with Modern Man is that he has been trying to detach himself from nature.  He sits in the topmost tiers of polymer, glass, and steel, dangling his pulsing legs, surveying at a distance the writhing life of the planet.  In this scenario, Man comes on as a stupendous lethal force, and the earth is pictured as something delicate, like rising bubbles at the surface of a country pond, or flights of fragile birds.

    But it is illusion to think that there is anything fragile about the life of the earth; surely this is the toughest membrane imaginable in the universe, opaque to probability, impermeable to death.  We are the delicate part, transient and vulnerable as cilia.  Nor is it a new thing for man to invent an existence that he imagines to be above the rest of life; this has been his most consistent intellectual exertion down the millennia.  As illusion, it has never worked out to his satisfaction in the past, any more than it does today.  Man is embedded in nature.

    From: Lewis Thomas, The Lives of a Cell, 1974

    Living More Sustainably and Mindfully to Protect and Honor Our Sacred Earth.pdf

    Written and Presented by

    Sundance Metelsky

    This post was written on behalf of April Barrett and Sundance Metelsky

    Sundance Metelsky is an existential shamanic mystic who has been walking the shamanic path since 1992. She has studied shamanism and shamanic techniques with Rena Yount, Tom Cowan, Nan Moss, David Corbin, Dana Robinson, Adam Davis, Mary Tyrtle Rooker, and with many helping spirits. She is the founder of the Weather Dancing Circle and is a member of the Universal Temple of Spirits, Sacred Women’s Circle, Sister Dreamers, WiseWoman Forum, and the Jung Society of Washington, where she is a regular attendee of classes and workshops. She is also a seminar student at the Philadelphia Association of Jungian Analysts. She has a BA in English Literature with a Minor in Psychology from the University of Maryland, and an MA in Liberal Arts from St. John's College Graduate Institute. Sundance led the sustainability team at her job to identify ways to improve environmental impact in the workplace. She cares deeply about the Earth and all Beings on the Earth.

  • Saturday, April 03, 2021 11:02 PM | Deleted user

    Interregnum periods are tough. They’re betwixt-between spaces that can leave you feeling unmoored. When you find yourself in an interregnum—whether as an individual or as part of the collective—it’s hard not to want to chew off all your fingernails and scream. What has been is no longer. What will be has not yet been born. The tension that builds between the opposites can feel like a living force, one that breathes down your neck ferociously. Most of us would rather strap on Mercury’s sandals and scoot rather than stay and get cooked.

    Yet, as good readers of alchemy and Jung know, you can’t skip steps if you’re interested in individuation. You must pass through the interregnum’s no-man’s-land in which everything from your past has washed up on shore—the roads taken and not taken; the relationships had and not had; the choices made and not made; the dead buried and the undead. You must gaze at it all with clear eyes and take stock. Because it is here in the blackest of blacks, the nigrum nigrius nigro (CW 12, para 433), that sacred transformation unfolds.

    Individuation is a private process. At times, it can feel joyful; more often, it can be painful. In this strange bardo, you are asked to consider your life in its entirety. Walking along the shore that sits between your conscious and unconscious, you must navigate through what Psyche has returned to you and pick through what you threw away a long time ago. Those unfelt things cough and sputter at your feet like silver fish. Widening your view, you see how the winds of the world have carved your sandstone soul…how the monsoons of your life have eroded what has kept you small. In the stilled sitting, it’s possible to distinguish the gradient of your own life and the songs it carries into your future.

    Each of us roams the interregnum in a different way. Poet Adrienne Rich dove herself down into the wreck, “…I came to explore the wreck. The words are purposes. The words are maps. I came to see the damage that was done and the treasures that prevail” (Diving Into the Wreck: Poems 1971-72). Jung launched himself into the unconscious after his break with Freud—a time when his own concentric circles of life were collapsing, “My soul…where are you? I have returned, here I am again. I have shaken the dust of all the lands from my feet, and I have come to you again” (The Black Books, Vol. 2, p. 149). Thoreau had his cabin in the woods. “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately…and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived” (Walden, 1854). 

    This is the alchemical power that lives in the interregnum. It is a birthing—the pushing through the first set of concentric circles that have ringed your life—and a thrusting into something new. Psyche is a kind midwife, and she knows where you’re going. Let her cut the cords holding you back with her sharp scythe. It’s okay to scream. It’s okay to kick and mourn and clench your eyes shut against the bright light of your future. It will wait until you’re ready to see the wideness of the world and its spectrum of possibilities.

    Even butterflies first out of the chrysalis must wait for the sun to ready their wings. The sap is always slow to move after its winter sleep. No human soul can run after being born. It takes time to learn how to spiral around the holy fire at your center. Don’t fear the tears or the pain that comes with the first stages of the alchemical process—the putrefaction, dissolution, and separation. Stay with it. Conjunction is coming, but so is further blackening and decay. Allow it. Let the grief and pain lodged in your bones sweat their way through your tear ducts. Be patient in the discomfort. Soon, you will distill. The clarity will come, as will the reddening of the new dawn of your life. You’ll soon burst into the world with “the force that through the green fuse drives the flower” (Dylan Thomas, 1952). This is a baptism, and it’s yours.   

    Kelly McGannon, M.A., M.A.R. is an executive leadership coach in private practice in the Washington D.C. Metro Area. She completed her graduate work in medieval art history and pilgrimage at Yale University Divinity School and Princeton University. She graduated from the JSW's Jungian Studies Reading Seminar in 2020.

  • Saturday, October 10, 2020 10:35 PM | Deleted user

    How do we go about discerning what forces are driving us?  I think these questions may help you personalize this otherwise abstract concept.   When we consider who we are, and what we are doing, how often do we really probe why we are doing what we do?   I may think I am performing a series of good acts, however defined by our time and place and level of awareness, but maybe they are simply conditioned behaviors.   Sometimes they may be coming from co-dependent places, or fear-driven places.   When we challenge our deeper motives we find rationalizations readily available to ratify, legitimize, perpetuate those behaviors.   So, the first place to start probing what is going on in the unconscious begins here:

    1. What are your patterns?  Especially those you find counter-productive to you, or possibly hurtful to others.  Assuming that what we do is “rational, logical,” based on the emotionally charged “story” inside us, what might that story be?   When and where did you acquire that story?   What is its message to you?  Does it empower you in this world or diminish you?   And what do you have to do to overthrow its sovereignty?

    2. Where are you stuck?   We all have stuck places, places where we know better, intend better, act better, but the same old, same old returns.   What is that about?  Why is it so easy to identify these roadblocks and so hard to get unstuck?  If we choose to call something “stuck” then we claim to know some behavior and attendant outcome that would be better.  

    What keeps us from that better behavior? The answer is always, always, fear.   The moment we begin to move on the problem, our psychological history sends up  immediate klaxon warnings: “beware, back off!”  We may not hear those warnings, but our repetitive behavior tells us that we have succumbed to the system alert. 

    Only fear-based stories, or complexes, have the power to keep us stuck long after will and five step plans have exercised their futile options.   So, for example, the person who wants to stop smoking, or over-eating will have an abiding terror: “what will be there for me, what will connect me, what will soothe me, if not that?”    And that’s a very good question, and important question.  And it can only be answered by conscious addressing of that issue. 

    The stuck places are evidence of shut-down protections we learned early in our lives, sort of like surge protectors that shut down the excessive energy before it destroys your computer.    We need to remember, always, that the inner machinery of the stuck places in our lives were put in place long ago and far away, most often in our early development.   These protections--that is what they are, and why they are so hard to transcend--derive from an early experience of our inadequacy in the face of the magnitude of the world around us.    In those moments, we ignore that there is an adult, us, on the scene who is perfectly capable of managing those issues directly.   They may not be easy, they may still be scary, but their engagement allows us to move into adulthood with the resources of a big person, finally.   

    3. What are my avoidances?   The stuck places are avoidances, of course, but there are many more where we consciously avoid tense matters.  Only sociopaths enjoy conflict.  Most normal people don’t.   The question then is what is it I avoid, and therefore undermine my value intentions?   Let us say I don’t speak up, and let someone else’s reality dominate the decisions.   I may rationalize that as being amenable, but it is really coming from the archaic precincts of fear.   Where do I lack permission to really own my life?   Where am I waiting for someone to give it to me?   Do I want to be on the proverbial death bed and be saying, “if only…?”   Where do I need to be honest about my desires, my unspoken yearnings, curiosities, and inclinations?   What will give me the momentum to step into my life while I am still here?

    4. What are my over-compensations?   By “over-compensation” we mean where do we work so hard to make something happen because our inner life is still so terrified if it does not?   Why is it I am always trying to “fix,” the other, mollify those upset, sacrifice my own well-being in service to bringing some homeostasis to the environment?  (Remember the profile of “the wounded healer” in all us).

    Given large experiences in our formation, and the large stories and defenses which arose in us from them, we have three choices: repeat them in our generation, run from them, or try to fix them in some way.   If I look to my life choices, frequent strategies, is there a secret service working underground here?  Is there some reactive repetition, flight, or reparation plan that I am enacting rather than living my life as if it were a different life, with a different destination than that of all the others?   If I don’t ask questions like this, one may be sure that one’s life is being lived reactively, rather than generatively.   And one’s psyche will not be amused?

    5. What are my symptoms?   What anxiety states perplex me; what depressions suck the joy out of my life; what “medications” am I employing to still the pain within?

    Symptoms, remember, are psyche’s way of getting our attention, and indicating that the soul is not amused, that is, is wishing something better from us.  So what if we are afraid, and hiding out.  When will we finally decide that now is the time to shut up, suit up, show up!

    6. What are your dreams telling you?   Jung said that dreams tell us the Tao of the moment—not what the ego thinks, but what is really going on within us.   If we live to 80 as I have been privileged to do, we will have spent six years of our lives dreaming, based on laboratory research into brain wave activity.   That surely suggests that nature has some serious purpose in our dream life.   Yes, it is true that our dreams help us process and metabolize the immense stimuli which flood us every day, but they also speak a mythological language.   When asked why dreams are so difficult, not clanking out tele-messages to make one choice over another, Jung said, they bespeak an ancient language of nature which our culture has forgotten.   So, as we sit with the metaphors and symbols which spontaneously rise in us each night, we begin to realize that they stir associations, sometime recognition, sometimes disquietude.  In short, we are confronted with another intelligence within us.  We can’t disown that source because it is our dream, not an implant from someone else.

     Over time, those who pay attention to their dreams--perhaps work with a therapist so trained, or not, who meditate, journal, reflect on whatever rises from below—begin to develop a deeper, more mature authority as opposed to succumbing to the messages we received from the world outside.    Following our dreams is not only the via regia to the unconscious, as Freud claimed; it is also the descent into the shadow.  But those nightly visitations are all meant in service to the soul and call upon us for healing, for balancing of life, and for growth and development. 

    There is something in all of us that won’t let us get away with much.   As my friend Stephen Dunn said in a poem about knowing himself pretty well, “that’s the good news, and the bad news too.”    All depth psychological work is informative, and humbling, and challenging—no wonder so many of us avoid it.

    James Hollis, Ph.D.

    Jungian Analyst

  • Sunday, August 30, 2020 12:24 AM | Deleted user

    Our personal and societal experience of the pandemic raise many collective questions, questions which affect all of us. Will there be long-term changes to our society?   Or will the lessons of this troubled hour be forgotten quickly in the rush to “normalize” and move back into a world of distractions?   Of course, it is the nature of our nature to prefer order to disorder, predictability, and demand a measure of control.  This pandemic flies in the face of all that.  An organism one thousand times smaller than a grain of sand is more powerful than the masters of the earth?  Go figure….     Yet, the rush to get back to “normal” has revealed an immaturity, a flaw in our character.   Our narcissistic self-interests demand the resumption of our previous life-style even in the face of reason, knowledge, and the lethality of making the wrong choice.  Not since WWII has there been such a threat to each American, a phenomenon that touches all of us, invades our homes, our jobs, our minds.   Yes, there have been many other national events: walking on the moon, the murder of a President, the Challenger explosion, 911, but they were all “out there,” “over there,” touching many directly, but most not directly and immediately as a threat. 

     We all have made adjustments, but it is also clear that complexes rise to the surface in the face of such threats.  Who would have imagined that medical facts would be denied in a nation that prides itself on its sciences?   Who would have imagined the moral bankruptcy of national leadership which chose political expediency over lives?   Who would have imagined that wearing a simple face mask could be a political issue?   It reminds one of H. L. Menckin’s remark that you can’t go broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people.  Heretofore, I might have contended with his remark, but not today.

    The toll of lives lost, families destroyed, jobs disappeared is staggering and their consequences will go on for many years.  The oppression of the disease and its sequelae certainly beget depression, and often impulsive actions ranging from violence to increased self-medication, to relational animosities.   All of these are expected, and lamentable, and all are keeping therapists, bar tenders, and delivery services busy--for those who can afford them.

    What are some of the possible changes that we may be noting in our cultural perspectives:

    1.     No doubt, there will be greater respect for telecommunications, teletherapy, in-home schooling, and the like.   For  just one example, hitherto professional societies and insurance corporations frowned on tele-therapy.  But, as we know, necessity is the mother of invention, and that shibboleth is probably broken forever.  As a result, less car pollution, less time wasted looking for parking places, less office rent, and more opportunity for those in distant places to avail themselves of resources once denied them by geography.  

    2.     I would like to believe--but certain politicians may still be around--that we might evolve as a society with a greater respect for expertise in all fields. The denigration of “science,” and professionalism has proved very costly in blood and treasure.   In the face of wide-spread ignorance, superstition, gullibility in the face of internet trolls, there is such a thing as knowledge, and knowledge may in fact free us.

    3.   The incredible disparity of access to saving resources has again revealed the egregious separation of haves and have-nots in terms of access to health care, computers, internet, and so on, even in a country that prides itself on its democratic vision.   This horrible discrepancy between our professed values may lead to some greater sharing of our wealth.

    But I won’t bet against the self-interest of the haves prevailing, as they have so many times before.

    4.   We seem now to have greater appreciation of so many who were so imperiled on the front lines of our society…not only the physicians and nurses, but those delivering goods, working in grocery stores, all essential workers.  Possibly some reduction in our stratified educational and economic snobbery will erode a bit.  Again, I may be expecting too much.  All I know is those folks have been keeping us alive, feeding us, bringing us more junk to fill our homes, and in general dying far more often than the likely readers of this essay.

    5.     We all recall American philosopher Ronald Reagan saying that the scariest sentence was:  “Hi, I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”  But attitudes change when the hurricane has leveled your city, when the virus is rampant, and incompetence and ignorance prevail at local levels.   Now we know that only a government of the people and on behalf of the people large enough, and expert enough to tackle really large problems, is necessary.   The hodge-podge and contradictions of local authorities has led to many more dead.  Assuredly, there is blood on the hands of those who chose politics over the health of their constituents.

    6.   I recently saw a political cartoon where a person said, “I wish Covid would leave so I could get back to worrying about global warming.”    When we come to on-going problems such as racism, economic disparities, global warming, we instantly hear that we do not have the resources, either of people or cash to address these issues.  Would that economic distribution of resources, and national will could be mobilized to address these problems which will survive long after the virus is gone.

    7.     Hopefully, some people, forced out of routine, deprived of their usual distractions, found some new interests, rediscovered old ones left behind, such as reading and conversing, and that some folks made better friends with themselves simply because they had to.  Human resourcefulness, a sense of humor, imagination, and sheer pragmatism are impressive when they appear. 

    I do expect, however, for a least a generation or two, that those going through this great time of uncertainty and threat, will take fewer things for granted, won’t casually assume that systems will always work, that food, health, and entertainments streams will flow uninterruptedly, and we will have a more realistic view of the contingencies and fragility of human life.  We can readily identify problems that require our mature responses; it is something else to shift resources and commitment in those directions once the heat is off.   Above all, we cannot afford complacency and naiveté because in difficult times they will kill us. 

    In these difficult hours, I am grateful for the work of Jung and depth psychology for helping many find a source of personal guidance when the outer structures are shaken and compromised.   The gifts of Jung and others will abide for us the rest of our ways.

    James Hollis, Ph.D. is Jungian Analyst in Washington and author, most recently of Living Between Worlds:  Finding Personal Resilience in Changing Times.


"As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being." – C. G. Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections

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