Journeying Toward Wholeness

Vibrant Jung Thing Blog

Let’s Keep Jung’s Red Book Away from Spiritual Hucksterism

July 21st, 2010 · archetypal experience, archetypes, Carl Jung, collective consciousness, collective unconscious, Identity, Individuation, Jungian analysis, Jungian psychology, Psychology, Psychotherapy, The Self, unconscious, wholeness

It is now quite clear that Jung’s Red Book, which I wrote about in an earlier post, has created quite a stir in certain circles, and has been very well popularized.  It has had quite an impact in cultural and literary circles, and has gained a lot of attention in the media since its publication.

On the whole, those who appreciate Jung’s psychological work must necessarily feel good about this.  Those of us who are passionately convinced that Jung has something profound to say about the human psyche and about life in our time cannot help but feel joy that his message is getting out more widely and deeply in our society.

However, it is hard at times to avoid the feeling that Jung’s legacy is suffering from an approach that is overly-commercialized.  I don’t fault W.W. Norton for a moment for bringing the Red Book to publication, even though Jung himself was very clear that he did not want it published, at least not in his lifetime.

The Red Book documents Jung’s own profound psychological struggle in a manner so eloquent and deep that it is difficult if not impossible to describe.  The world owes the Jung family, the Philemon Foundation, editor Sonu Shamdasani and W.W. Norton a huge debt for bringing the Red Book to the world.  In the sincerest possible way, I thank them all.

But do we really need mystifying and sensationalistic messages associated with it, such as the following?

Jung’s Red Book is a magnificent record of his interior journey through the most profound crisis of his entire life.  It is as if at every turn of the page Jung meets us, personally, with the same wrenching, implacable questions that he meets himself as he descends into his own depths.  Who are you?  What are you?  What are the unknown elements of yourself?

Do we really need this profound encounter opened up for us on the lecture circuit?  Or in webinars?  Or in talk show formats with Jungian analysts and pop culture celebrities?

Can we honestly persuade ourselves that Jung would have wanted this?  Frankly, who are we trying to kid?

As Jungian analyst Wolfgang Giegrich is at pains to remind us, Jung’s Red Book is not “The New Bible”.  Those of us who love Jung need to be careful not to portray it as some kind of divine revelation composed by a semi-divinity which answers all questions.  It’s the record of a very human struggle by someone who was ready to encounter his depths and ready to try to acknowledge his weakness and the inferior and broken parts of himself.  If we read the Red Book carefully, we’ll encounter Jung’s shadow.  We may not always like that and may be uncomfortable or even shocked by it.  Nonetheless, it’s a reminder that here was a human being much like you or me, who really wrestled with his darkness, and fought his way into it and through it to his own unique selfhood, and his own healing.  And he invites us to do the same.

Have you had any experience with Jung’s Red Book, reading it or seeing one of the current exhibits?  I’d love to hear about it if you have.

I wish you all the very best on your  personal journey to wholeness,

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

VIDEO CREDITS: © W.W.  Norton & Company; © Digital Fusion Creative Technologies Inc. These images are the property of W.W.  Norton & Company and/or Digital Fusion Creative Technologies Inc. and are used here in the fair use context of critical discussion.

© 2010 Brian Collinson

→ 4 Comments

Anxiety Behind the Mask, Part III: Heart Trouble

July 11th, 2010 · Carl Jung, collective consciousness, collective unconscious, Current Affairs, depth psychology, Identity, Individuation, inner life, Jungian psychology, Lifestyle, Meaning, persona, popular culture, Psychology, Psychology and Suburban Life, soul, symbolism, unconscious, wholeness

 

Anxiety Behind the Mask, Part III, Heart Trouble

…I asked him why he thought the whites were all mad. 

“They say that they think with their heads,” he replied.

“Why of course.  What do you think with?” I asked him in surprise.

We think here,” he said, indicating his heart. [Italics mine]

Conversation between Ochway Biano, Chief of the Pueblo Indians and Carl Jung, recorded in  CG Jung, Memories, Dreams and Reflections  (1961)

Everything has been “figured out”, except how to live.

Jean-Paul Sartre

 In Part I  and Part II of this series “Anxiety Behind the Mask”, I’ve been exploring the symbollic meaning of the pop cultural figure of Iron Man.  He is certainly a symbol for the relationship in our culture between the social mask and the inner human, and for the yearning that the social mask be smooth and impenetrable.   However, there is great psychological danger in complete identification with such an impervious persona: it can become a trap, become robotic, with no way left for the inner person to “get beyond the mask”.

One of the elements from the story of the origin of Iron Man is that Tony Stark, who becomes Iron Man, has heart trouble.  As the first Iron Man movie shows, he is injured in the process of his capture, and has to be fitted with a special magnetic device to keep shrapnel from ripping apart his heart.

There is of course a tremendous importance to the symbolism of the heart.  It is the seat of the feelings and of passion.  It is also the particular organ associated with eros, which includes but is more than the power of sexual love.  Eros is also the human capacity to connect and relate.  The place where our yearnings are located.  The place where hope and despair alike find their home.

Tony Stark is portrayed as a technical genius, someone who can create the most incredible machines.  As a hero figure, he symbolizes the incredible technical prowee of our culture.  This kind of technical knowledge exemplifies the tremendous power of rational thinking — what Jung identified as the principle of logos.  It is characterized by the ability to organize, quantify, discriminate, classify, and strategize.  But logos is always pulling things apart, using conceptual power to break things down into their component parts, and make them less than they are.  Our ability to do this as a species is a great strength, and has contributed mightily to the survival and success of our species.  It is a cornerstone of western civilization, and we all glory in our scientific and technical acheivements.

However, this scientific and technical prowess can leave us completely isolated and alienated from our world, nature, and other people.  And above all, it can leave us cut off from our inner selves, from our true ability to feel things, and to relate to others and to our world.

Like Tony Stark, the Iron Man, who is a symbol produced by our culture’s collective consciousness, it is all too easy for those of us who live in our culture to have “heart trouble”, to have lost touch with our ability to feel, to empathize, to relate.  But, as Leonard Cohen seeks to remind us, the truth of the heart is never really lost.  It is always there waiting for us, even when we seem to be in exile from ourselves, even when the world seems to say, “this heart, it is not yours”.

Four Questions about the Heart

Here are some questions that may help the conversation with your own heart.

Are there any feelings that you would find hard to share with the people closest to you? 
What are the three most painful experiences in your life?
 
 
 
What are the three most joyous experiences in your life?
 
 
 
 
What is it that you really yearn for?
 
 

What about your own heart?  It’s only by staying close to it that one can begin to be close to the spontaneity and aliveness that is one’s own real life.  Often, the course of analysis, therapy or counselling is following the road back to the deepest parts of the heart.

I’d welcome your reflections on the “heart trouble” of Iron Man and the ways in which it reflects our own struggles with our hearts, as individuals and as a culture.

My very best wishes to each of you as you make your individual journeys of wholeness and self-discovery,

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

PHOTO CREDITS: © Marvel Entertainment, LLC  These images are the property of Marvel comics and are used here in the fair use context of critical discussion.

VIDEO CREDIT: “By the Rivers Dark” by Leonard Cohen, from the album Ten New Songs ©  2001 Sony Music Entertainment Inc.  This music is the property of Sony Music Entertainment and is used here in the fair use context of critical discussion.

© 2010 Brian Collinson

→ No Comments

G20 Toronto: What the Heck Just Happened?

July 6th, 2010 · Carl Jung, collective consciousness, collective unconscious, complexes, Current Affairs, depth psychology, G20, Ontario, panic, popular culture, Psychology and Suburban Life, Toronto, Trauma, trust

On June 26 and 27, the leaders of the G20 nations and numerous other nations met in downtown Toronto.  For many living in this area, what happened in the course of those two days has something of the character of a nightmare in the collective psyche of the City of Toronto, and indeed, the whole of the Greater Toronto Area [“GTA”] and much of Canada.

For those of you who don’t know Toronto, let me explain that it is one of the more decent and livable large cities on the North American continent.  This is a city that is genuinely, vibrantly diverse, and one that is characterized by a great deal of openness and tolerance.  As I started to write this post on Sunday, July 4th, the City’s 30th Gay Pride parade –North America’s largest — was taking place.

But you wouldn’t have recognized Toronto during the two days of the G20 summit.  As many of you will be aware, we had burning police cars,  police arrests for which there was apparently no actual legal authority, shop windows of not only large corporations but also small merchants vandalized, and a small minority of so-called “Black Bloc” rioters who effectively kept the voice of thousands who were legitimately exercising their right of free speech from being heard.

In a democracy, people often have widely divergent views.  The exchange of those views can sometimes become very heated, especially when those of more left-leaning and more right-leaning perspectives encounter one another.  And especially when the issues being considered involve concerns as fundamental as debt, poverty, economic health, globalization and the environment.

However, what occurred in Toronto over these two days was not any encounter of this kind.  It was a fundamentally different kind of experience.  People on all sides seem to have been caught up in fear and confusion.  Over the last week, there has been a sense that the GTA is gradually emerging from some kind of fog, and coming back to itself.

I don’t think that it is an over-statement to say that the G20 events and their aftermath have affected many people in a manner that has the character of trauma.   Just what it was in the course of the G20 that any particular individual found traumatic varied.  It might have been the images of burning police cars, or the windows of shops broken in, or stories of individuals arrested and held without proper authority, or video images of overwhelming police presence.  Regardless of which particular images or stories it was, the response of individuals to the G20 events seems to have been “This isn’t the Toronto I grew up in and trusted!  What has happened to my city?”

In my opinion, that’s the right question.  What happened to our city?  More specifically, what happened to the psyche of our city?  And it’s at this point, I believe, that CG Jung has some things to say that are specifically relevant.  For instance, he states at one point in his Collected Letters:

Any organization in which the voice of the individual is not heard is in danger of degenerating into a subhuman monster.

I believe that this is the essence of what was wrong with the whole G20 summit experience in Toronto.  The individual, and his or her meaning and significance, became completely lost. The whole event was completely disconnected from the life of the City of Toronto, and the experience of its citizens.  Everything about the G20, and especially its titanic size, just serves to dwarf the significance of the individual.  The forces grinding and clashing at such an event are so huge that the voice of the individual simply cannot be heard in any meaningful way.

A democracy cannot afford to do politics in this manner.  At least, it cannot do so, and expect to remain a democracy.  In my opinion, there is a deep need at this point in our history to bring political decision-making down to a more human scale.  I don’t know whether that is a point that favours the right or the left, but it is a simple reflection of human psychological reality.  If we lose the individual, we will find ourselves submerged in crowds and mobs which we cannot influence, governed by unconscious psychological forces that we cannot begin to control or even understand.  That kind of mass psychology leads to disaster.

It’s up to each of us to take a personal stand to keep our political and social life fundamentally human, and to deliver a message to politicians, officials and others: individual persons–and only individual persons–count.

My next blog post will return to my “Iron Man” series, with “Anxiety Behind the Mask, Part III: Heart Trouble

I’d welcome your reflections on the G20 in Toronto.   Do you agree with me that it took us to some pretty unsatisfactory places, or do you have another perspective on these events?  Do you agree or disagree with me that now is a particularly important time to focus on the value and dignity of individual persons in our collective and political life?  As always, I greatly value your comments and reflections — and you certainly don’t have to agree with me!

My very best wishes to each of you on your individual journey to wholeness,

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

PHOTO CREDITS: © Turkbug| Dreamstime.com

© 2010 Brian Collinson

→ No Comments

Crisis

May 8th, 2010 · Anxiety, Carl Jung, collective unconscious, complexes, depression, depth psychology, Identity, Individuation, inner life, Jungian analysis, psychological crisis, Psychology, Psychology and Suburban Life, soul, stress

 

Sometimes we can be overtaken by things that happen in the psyche.  Such events can leave a person in a very vulnerable place struggling with intense anxiety, depression or stress.  Often these psychic events are triggered by events in our outer lives.  Nonetheless, it is their psychological impact, the things that they cause to happen in our minds, that has the most fundamental impact upon us.  It is the manner in which we perceive these events, and the meaning that we attach to them, that can led us into real difficulties.

There are many potential types of crisis.  I have chosen just a few types to mention here, which are among the most prominent and difficult.

Betrayal is often one of the very worst types of crises. A negative experience at the hands of one who is loved and trusted can be one of the most profoundly shattering experiences in life.  I will be writing a whole posting, or a whole series on this in the near future.  Nonetheless, what is important here is that such an experience can shake a person to the core, particularly if the relationship in which the betrayal occurs is one that is fundamental to a person’s sense of identity (see below).

Fundamental crisis of identity. A fundamental crisis of this kind is an experience in which an individual’s sense of themselves is pulled out from underneath them, as it were, rather than the kind of gradual change in understanding of identity that occurs in aging and maturation.  For example, consider the person who has 37 years in with the same firm, and who is unexpectedly laid off 2 1/2 years before retirement.  Or the 47 year old woman who learns for the first time that she is adopted in her mother’s last will and testament.  job loss.  loss of a business.

Grief and or profound disillusionment.  These two types of experience can be quite distinct, or else they can come together.  Often the loss of a loved one can lead to some of the deepest soul-searching and questions in life.  Sometimes grief, though, can also be associated with the loss of a way of life, or something that has provided a certain kind of meaning, such as a pattern of life that may be associated with living with a certain city or location, or in a certain community of people, when one has to leave it.

The sense of being fundamentally overwhelmed by external events.In my opinion, this is one of the most frequent kinds of psychic crisis for people in suburban environments like Oakville, Burlington and Mississauga.  In fact, at certain times in recent years in our culture, I think that this kind of psychic affliction has been almost epidemic.

The effect of huge life events of these types is that they can cause some pretty fundamental upheavals deep in the individual’s psyche.  These can lead to things in the unconscious getting very shaken up and emerging in consciousness, such as anxiety and depression.

However, it is important to recognize that contents from the unconscious might well be surfacing in an attempt to bring healing to the individual, also.

What do I do if I find myself in the grip of a crisis? Sometimes people keep on with business as usual, acting as if nothing has changed in their lives.  They work just as hard, maybe harder.  They are just as demanding of themselves as they ever were, maybe even more so.

1. Acknowledge that you are in a crisis. This can be hard to admit.  All of us would rather not go through this type of experience, even though they are a fundamental aspect of human life. Sometimes the need to look good–to ourselves, or to others–can keep a person from acknowledging in a self-compassionate way that she or he has something big with which they have to struggle.

2. Take care of yourself.  Carefully consider your sleeping, eating, working and stressful interactions.  Are you putting more burden on yourself than you can manage in a healthy way?  As in 1. , are you truly acknowledging what it is that you are going through?  If you respond to the distress of a crisis by, say, trying to drown the pain through working harder, you need to recognize that the outcome may not be at all good for you or for the people to whom you are close.

3. Get help.  Seek out a good therapist.  You are going to need to process what is happening to you, to come to terms with the feelings, and with everything, such as depression, anxiety and perhaps even panic, that may be coming up from the unconscious.  A skilled therapist who is aware of the deeper meanings of these types of events can help you to put them in a context where the psyche can start to make some kind of meaning out of them.

4.  Ask whether this situation reminds you of anything similar in your earlier life. Is this particular crisis bringing up things out of the past for you?  Does it connect with difficult things that you have had to deal with earlier in your life?  Does it reflect patterns that you have experienced at earlier times in your life?……..

I’d gratefully welcome your comments and reflections on psychological crisis.  Have you, like very many people, had experience of crisis in your life?  Are you dealing with forms of crisis now?

My very best wishes to you on your individual journey to wholeness,

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

Website for Brian’s Oakville and Mississauga Practice: www.briancollinson.ca

PHOTO CREDIT: ©  Icefields|Dreamstime.com

© 2010 Brian Collinson

→ 1 Comment

Seeking for Depth

January 18th, 2010 · archetypes, Carl Jung, collective unconscious, depth psychology, Identity, inner life, Meaning, Psychology, Psychotherapy, therapy, wholeness

 

Seeking for Depth for Vibrant Jung Thing In recent years, a great deal of emphasis has been placed on what are called “brief psychotherapies” by the therapeutic profession.

The emphasis has been on providing very short courses of psychotherapy to individuals, with an eye to providing concrete definable “results” with respect to narrowly defined issues.  In large part, the movement to this type of therapy has been driven by pressure from insurance providers, who have sought to keep costs down by focusing on achieving measurable progress on specific, very focused issues.  By keeping therapy short, the inscos hoped to return people who are off work back to the workplace in the shortest feasible time that is compatible with the safety of the client.

It may well be that the brief therapies and “solution-focused” therapies are quite successful in acheiving their defined goals.  However, that is not the point that I want to pick up in this particular post.  Rather, I want to ask a bigger and more fundamental question, which is implicit in the following quotation from Jungian analyst Mario Jacoby:

 …any psychotherapy founded on depth psychology should focus above all on the question of who we really are above and beyond the distortions provoked by the way we were brought up or by the society we live in.  Becoming conscious ultimately involves an unbiased experience of the ‘true self’. The self in the Jungian sense is rooted in the unfathomable domain that has rightly been termed the unconscious. 

Mario Jacobi, Individuation and Narcissism,

(London; Routledge, 1990), p. 96

 The type of psychotherapy Jacobi is describing is rooted in fundamental questions of depth.  The question that forms its basis is, quite simply, “Who are you?”  It does not accept any glib or shallow answer.  It also recognizes that who we fundamentally are is something that we will never be able to just size up intellectually.  It’s much deeper than that — a matter that we can only experience, and never exhaust.

While brief therapies may provide concrete value, there is a whole other level upon which we need to encounter ourselves, and there be healed.  For many people, it is that deeper level where the need is urgent.

I’d welcome comments from any readers on experiences of their own depth, in therapy or outside of it. Are there moments when you feel that you have really experienced yourself?

My very best wishes to you on your individual journey to wholeness,

Brian Collinson

Website for Brian’s Oakville and Mississauga Practice: www.briancollinson.ca

PHOTO CREDITS: © Gorbovskoy| Dreamstime.com

© 2010 Brian Collinson

 

→ No Comments

Exploring Liber Novis: Jung’s Red Book

January 15th, 2010 · archetypal experience, Books, Carl Jung, collective unconscious, depth psychology, inner life, Jungian psychology, The Self

Red Book for Vibrant Jung ThingIt has been some months now since the publication of Carl Jung’s famed Red Book, the book of images and text that he wrote during his formative crisis and encounter with the unconscious during the years 1913-1919.  I’ve had a copy of the Red Book for some time now, and have been exploring its richness in some depth.  This voyage of exploration will go on for a very long time, I expect.  To really plumb the depths of the Red Book is a feat not lightly or easily achieved.

In my opinion, the Red Book shows the true genius of C.G Jung.  There cannot have been many human beings who have had the courage to enter in so deeply into their inner lives as he, and to really confront the unconscious in all its dimensions.  Through years of inner crisis he sought to understand the depths of the Self.

Jung emerges from this inner journey with a clear message: there are forces in the unconscious that are seeking to bring us to wholeness; there is a wisdom in our depths that the ego can only just barely start to comprehend.  If we can have the courage to let go, and to open ourselves to our depths, there is a unique life in each of us, that is striving to become, and always has been.  This is not an easy journey, and it is not one about which glib and facile things should be said.  But for some, it is only by embarking on this inner journey that reality, life and meaning can be found.

 

Only what is really oneself has the power to heal.

-C.G. Jung

Red Book at Ruben Museum of Art

Chief Curator of the Rubin Museum of Art Martin Brauen, left, and Felix Walder, right, the great-grandson of Carl Jung, inspect Carl Jung’s famous “Red Book” after it’s arrival at the Rubin Museum of Art in New York Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2009. “The Red Book,” was displayed to the public at the Ruben for the first time on October 7, coinciding with the first-ever publication of the book by W.W. Norton & Company. (AP Photo/Rubin Museum of Art, Stuart Ramson)

Jung’s Red Book has now been published by W.W. Norton & Company. It is a major source for Jungian psychology, and a book that contains many of the treasures of the soul of C.G. Jung.  Here is the URL for the Red Book’s page on Amazon.ca:

http://bit.ly/5Lr5hu

I’d be interested in comments from any readers about your encounter with the Red Book, or with any of Jung’s other works. How have Jung’s writings impacted you?

My very best wishes to you on your individual journey to wholeness,

Brian Collinson

PHOTO CREDITS: © AP Photo / Rubin Museum of Art, Stuart Ransom

© 2010 Brian Collinson

→ 5 Comments