Journeying Toward Wholeness

Vibrant Jung Thing Blog

The Symbolic Power of Home, Part 1: Michaelle Jean

March 16th, 2010 · Home, symbolism

 

I think that many Canadians’ imagination and empathy has been caught by news stories of our Governor General, Michaelle Jean, who has been in the news here quite a bit this week.

 

Haiti for Vibrant Jung Thing

Her Excellency is herself a native of Haiti who came to Canada at age 11 in 1968.  In the last few days, she has returned to her homeland in the wake of the devastation, as an emissary of hope and solidarity.

Michaelle Jean has been both very strong, and also very apparently in grief over the loss of human life and destruction in her homeland of Haiti and her home town of Jacmel.  It is very clear how moved she has been, even shaken to the core.  Yet in the midst of that she has delivered a clear and unshaken message of hope for the future.  Clearly she is a very remarkable woman.

Her experiences should cause us to stop and reflect.  It is hard for those of us who have not been through such an experience to imagine what it would be like to see one’s home, the place from which one sprang, facing such devastation, to face the death of many whom one has loved, and to see the places of one’s youth endure such damage.

Horrific as these experiences are, they teach us an incredible amount about the psychological significance of home… to ourselves — and to every human.  It is the nature of human beings that we need a place to belong, a place that is fundamentally ours, where there are others to whom we are bound by ties that never break.  The very bond with the land where we come into being is a very powerful one.  The place that brings us to life marks us, shapes us, never truly lets us go.

Modern people tend to downplay the importance of place, and to feel that one country, one city, one house is interchangeable with another.  This is particularly so in suburban places, like Oakville, Burlington or Mississauga.  Here we often tend to think in terms of houses and the land they are located on as badges of particular social status or as arrangements of convenience, rather than as a fundamental reality that touches us in the deepest places in our being, in what we might very well call our soul.  But increasingly, environmental psychology is demonstrating to us the unshakeable importance of place.

This is a matter of particular psychological importance for nations like Canada, the United States and Australia, which are predominantly immigrant cultures, or particularly mobile.  The immigrant retains a psychological bond to the soil that brought him or her to life.  That bond is not easily broken, and may be a matter of great personal significance to the individual.  To come to terms with that bond, and to come to terms with the particular character of the new homeland may be a major piece of psychological work. 

For Jungians, there is another dimension, also, to the symbolism of home, and that is an archetypal dimension.  For the deepest and true home of all of us is the Self, the core of our being.  Ultimately, it is only by connecting with one’s true identity and the unique reality that each of us is, that we can really come to feel at home in the world, and in our lives.

 

I’d gratefully welcome comments and reflections on the archetype of home.  What does the symbol of “home” mean in your life?  Where is home for you, a place that you associate with your own fundamental identity? 

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

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

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PHOTO CREDIT: © Konstantin32 |Dreamstime.com

VIDEO CREDIT: © ‘A’ Morning Video, 2010 | //www.atc.ca/ottawa

© 2010 Brian Collinson

 

 

 

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Individual Therapy, Women, Men & Marilyn Monroe

March 7th, 2010 · Anima, feminine, individual, individual therapy, masculine, therapy

 It’s very striking how the figure of Marilyn Monroe sometimes comes up in individual therapy.

Individual therapy

Few people have gripped the imagination of popular culture as she has.  An iconic and fateful figure for both women and men.  A figure combining elements of both the erotic goddess and the cautionary tale.  Her story is disturbing.  In some important sense, she will not leave us alone.

A recent book, The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe by J. Randy Taraborrelli sheds light on the last period before her death at age 36 in 1962.  However, a CBC network television program, The Passionate Eye last fall aired an even more informative documentary, Marilyn: The Last Sessions , which described the last sessions that Monroe had with her psychiatrist Dr. Ralph Greenson.  This psychiatrist allegedly engaged in a wide range of boundary-violating behaviour, including seeing Marilyn twice a day, and involving her in his family life.  I wonder whether Greenson did not himself fall under the spell of the archetypal child-woman symbology that our culture had already imbued on Monroe. 

Even today, Marilyn Monroe is an unbelievably powerful symbolic figure — for both men and women, and on all kinds of levels.  In her persona and public image, Marilyn represents a female figure who is essentially conformed to the will of men.  In her whole bearing, in her breathy-voiced, man-pleasing manner, she represents a very powerful manifestation of the “anima woman”, a woman who is so permeated on the unconscious level by her need to conform herself to the inner image of woman in male fantasy that it takes over her entire outer presentation.  A woman who lives out her entire life in this mode is very often headed for a tragic outcome.  Such seems to have been the fate of Marilyn, the fatherless girl who so deeply yearned for male approval and love.

Marilyn is clearly a powerful image of male-dominated womanhood, and is a tragic figure for women.  What is not so often seen is how destructive a figure she can represent for a man, if she embodies a man’s “anima”, which is to say that receptive dimension of a man that enables him to relate to women and the feminine.  How could a man dominated by such an image really have anything but contempt for his own receptive, feeling “feminine” dimension?  Or anything but pity or contempt for the real women who occupy his life — if he sees them through the image of Marilyn, the child-woman?

Is the Marilyn Monroe type of feminity the only way in which our society or individuals in it can access the feminine?  If it is through “Marilyn lenses” that we view the world, how can we have any feeling connection to the feminine parts of reality — nature, the earth, our own feeling and relational dimensions, even those parts of ourselves that are receptive, gentle and creative?  If feminity can only be imaged as an absence of the masculine and its strength, then we are doomed to perceive only half of the world.  

Our culture is desperately yearning for the healing that the feminine can bring, but that healing is nowhere to be found in the tragic symbology of the female pushed into a mold created by the male.  In his 1975 film based on the “rock opera” Tommy by The Who, avant-garde film director Ken Russell captured our dilemma with a certain bizarre eloquence…”You talk about your woman…”

Tommy – “Eyesight to the Blind”

I’d gratefully welcome comments and reflections on Marilyn Monroe specifically, and, more generally on the place of femininity in our culture.  How has the way our culture treats the feminine impacted you?  I think that this is a very important matter, and I’d very much like to share with you about your views.

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

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PHOTO CREDIT: © Konstantin32 |Dreamstime.com

FILM CREDIT: “Tommy”, Directed by Ken Russell, © Columbia Pictures, 1975 

© 2010 Brian Collinson

 


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