Journeying Toward Wholeness

Vibrant Jung Thing Blog

The Symbolic Power of Home

June 4th, 2008 · depth psychology, Jungian psychology, Lifestyle, mythology, Psychology, Psychotherapy, suburbia / exurbia, symbolism

Toy_houses_for_blog Suburbia is fundamentally linked with the symbolism of “home”.  And the symbolic reality of Home runs incredibly deep in the human psyche.

In the western world, one of the greatest and most profound tributes to the depth and power of this symbolism is found in Homer’s Odyssey.  In that great poem, the hero Odysseus struggles through overwhelming difficulties and trials, motivated above all else by his desire to return to his home, Ithaca, and his wife Penelope and son Telemachus.  The wily and resourceful hero succeeds in his quest, only after many years, and much loss and sorrow, and returns home, where he finally encounters his wife again.

Then Ulysses in his turn melted, and wept as he clasped his dear and faithful wife to his bosom. As the sight of land is welcome to men who are swimming towards the shore, when Neptune has wrecked their ship with the fury of his winds and waves- a few alone reach the land, and these, covered with brine, are thankful when they find themselves on firm ground and out of danger- even so was her husband welcome to her as she looked upon him, and she could not tear her two fair arms from about his neck.  [Homer, trans. Samuel Butler, The Odyssey, Book XXIII]

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Deep Patterns in Suburban Life

May 31st, 2008 · Jungian psychology, Lifestyle, Psychology, Psychotherapy, suburbia / exurbia, Television

Autumn_suburbia_possible_blog_banne Underpinning the whole of life in the suburbs, in fact, the whole reason for the existence of the suburbs, is a particular vision of "the ideal life".  This ideal is incredibly pervasive.  Just as fish who swim in the ocean or an aquarium may have no particular awareness of water as such, so it can be that we who live in suburbia may not be aware of the omnipresence of this ideal in our lives.  Nonetheless, when we see it in explicit terms in front of us, it may seem very familiar.

This ideal can be best expressed in terms of a story, a narrative.  It would run something like the following. 

A man and a woman love each other.  They decide to get married.  They want to have children, but they don’t want them to grow up in the city proper because of the crowding, because of the anonymity, or because they simply feel that the city is not a very wholesome or healthy environment for children to grow up.  So they decide to buy a house and move to the suburbs, where there is more space, where the neighbors are friendly, and where kids can just be kids in a safe, hospitable environment.  In this ideal vision, the husband has a career, at which he works very hard.  At the end of the day, he comes home to his loving wife and they share an evening of warm family time with the children.  The wife is a devoted mother and devoted to making the family home all that it can be, and in the updated version of this ideal, she also has a valued and meaningful career, which she somehow advances by working extremely hard while simultaneously carrying out the child rearing and homemaking functions.

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A Way of Entry

May 28th, 2008 · Jungian psychology, Psychology, Psychotherapy, suburbia / exurbia

Door_for_gaining_an_entry_blog_28_2 Years ago, in 1974, analytical psychologist James Hillman introduced a lecture called "Abandoning the Child" in a way that in the age of blogs seems strangely prophetic.  Hillman described how he was trying to communicate by strongly emphasizing the subjective, rather than the empirical side of psychology, and how this meant that he was going to have to discover

…a style not yet worked out, where subjectivity is paramount, and yet where subject talking to subject is not conceived by older models of altering something, e.g., preaching, personal confessing or polemical debate, because psychological alteration means affecting subjectivity in depth through the constellation of symbolic and emotional reality.  …I shall not be proving something, demonstrating explaining or even informing.  …But we shall…be entertaining a theme, rather than answering a problem, hoping [to] our method to move us through a series of reflections on the same subject, like a string of water-colors, evoking insights, perspectives, emphasizing metaphorical speech, aiming to suggest and open, and where the aim is not a conclusion, not to close the subject, but to open it further.

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Spring Time for My Blog!

May 27th, 2008 · Lifestyle, Psychology, Psychotherapy, suburbia / exurbia

Spring_tree_for_blog Well, this is the first new post for me on this blog for a very long time.  Thanks to a tremendous amount of help from the people at Six Apart, my blog is now re-vitalized, with a whole new look, and very many new features.  A warm "thank you" to them for all the many ways in which they’ve helped to make the blog come alive!

In re-vitalizing the blog, I’ve been doing a lot of careful thinking about what it is that I really want to DO with it.  The brief answer is that I hope to use it, as a therapist, both to reflect on life in suburbia and exurbia and to gain insight from the experience of others who live "here".  According to the statistics, this is where most of us who inhabit North America actually live.  But there has been a lack of reflection on what it really means to live in "edge cities", as suburbia and exurbia are sometimes called.  At the very least, this is certainly true when it comes to thinking about what is unique to the suburban psyche, and about what it means to connect with soul in these environments, which are so often characterized in the media and academic and popular culture as shallow pre-fab places where people "live on the surface".

I am interested in these questions from the point of view of Jungian "depth psychology", with its concern with myth, symbol and image, and also with the Jungian concern with "individuation".  I hope to explore more in future postings just what I mean by this language, and some of the directions in which this perspective takes us when we look at our suburban lives. 

I look forward to your enlivening comments and dialogue!

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