BEWARE THE PARTS
In this world of ours, the one we call our own
How much of what we’ve learned is truly known?
Thousands of years of inquiry, great schools of thought
What fundamental truths have we bought?
Limited as we are, we see but two sides
From all the rest humanity hides
Too random, too unruly, impossible to control
Are we not chasing some impossible goal?
Should that be true, how then to approach
That which appears like a wall we cannot broach
Do what we can and ignore the rest?
How will that help meet any test?
Perhaps then there remains but one solution
To acknowledge our failings, in thought, a revolution
To know what we know brings meager advance
Leaving us with no answers when intervenes chance
Search instead for what we cannot (don’t care to) see
Embrace how little we know of reality
And rather than build castles in the sand
To the unknown, welcome, take a stand
Search for questions not answers, a better way
One closes the door, the other keeps it open to stay
Renounce this obsession all things to control
Beware the parts for they hide the whole
In the constant battle between light and dark
Where the differences are clear because they are stark
How much we miss from in between
Shield our eyes from what should be seen
Darkness, Evil, were created first
Out of the darkness came the worst
A place which could not survive
Devouring itself it would not stay alive
Like all things living, it needed to eat
Something to master, something to defeat
Lacking a prey, whatever set the tone
Called into existence, a light that has shone
Younger with much yet to know
And meant to learn and to grow
It’s place in the universe yet to acquire
Not yet real, its motor: to aspire
Inevitable the battler, two foes destined to meet
Both, in their manner, seeks the other to defeat
One ground in all things material, embedded within
The other, an idea to be realized, each day to begin
Is this conflict meant to endure
Can one prevail, is it sure?
Of must there be tension for the world to exist
If such be the case, what have we missed?
That we must see things as they are
That we fear not to question, no matter how far
That we yearn to know, knowing we can never understand
The rules of existence that prevail in this land
All that we can, all that we must
Lift up the rock, oneself learn to trust
Not blindly as if we must always be right
But with humility, our weapon of choice in this fight
To battle others, but ourselves most of all
To call out of failings, to break down the wall
To fear not to see what lives deep inside
For it is ourselves from which we hide
Who Is this other, the one we fear to know?
Is it not ourselves, the one taught not to show?
Cast off before it could ever reveal
Left stunted, its purpose not to harm but to heal
Life is a journey that will always test
Whether we bring out the worst or our best
Even those parts we thought that had no place
They were there from the start and deserve their space
A homecoming of sorts, where finally one
Where connections lost are once again begun
With who we are, who were were meant to be
Can enter the world whole, finally
Then, only then, can we stand a chance
To resist Evil’s inevitable advance
Not to win, for Life must endure
Good without Evil, answers are never pure
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An introduction to Jungian Psychotherapy with an emphasis on the true nature of Jung' work and the n
Operating as usual
BEWARE THE PARTS
JUNG'S MYSTERIOUS 'SHADOW'
For those not familiar with Jungian Psychology (also known as Analytical Psychology), the concept of the Shadow as an archetype, or complex if you prefer, is necessarily clouded in some obscurity Often considered some sort of passive repository of repressed elements, the place where what is found unacceptable in us by our environment, is pushed into the unconscious to leave consciousness free to continue its necessary adaptation to the world outside. During out lifetime, the drive towards integration of the different parts of our psyche, with the Self being the endpoint.
Jung himself discussed society as having a Shadow, particularly in the events leading up to the Second World War. Also, it can be found in the succession of different periods in Western history, such as the Middle Ages giving way to the Renaissance, itself ceding its place to the Age of Reason, and ultimately, our current obsession with all things material. Placed in the context of Jungian Typologyy, each function, existing on the same spectrum, but at opposite ends of its opposite, this historical succession becomes even more obvious and relevant. What can prove difficult is our ability to correctly anticipate the coming age. That being said, if intuition and sensation are opposed, the religious fundamentalism is obvious. Fortunately, we are not stuck in a duality, going back and forth. As no function dominates absolutely, combinations of them can produce surprising shifts.
I have no dispute with any of this except for the fact that it grossly underestimates the role of the Shadow in mental illness – as well as mental health – as the most important key to an individual’s ability to change. As some of you may recall, I published a two volume commentary entitled “The Problem with Problems.” Though many thought it was a mathematical textbook due to the cover art, it was really a very simple concept: Behind ever problem that we just can’t seem to solve lies a deeper one which we fight with all our might not to recognize, let alone address.
To call it resistance is to minimize the scope of it influence, residing principally as the home of those aspects of our conscious self are exiled, mostly during childhood – a period when the developing mind has yet to develop sufficient awareness and analytical abilities to understand why traits that are experienced as naturally part of the whole must be painfully split off and forgotten, no matter how central they may be to the developing personality. Parents, for any number of reasons ranging from protecting a child from some activity to sanctioning embarrassing behavior, will deploy different means to impose what is essentially an amputation of the personality. Children may be beaten, punished, rewarded, misled, all subject to interpretation by the child. Most often, it is taken as bad, with no adequate explanation, and imposed without discussion (or excessive discussion which can be just as bad since the child cannot grasp all these words, but will experience lengthy explanations as confusion).
Deprived of its natural complement, this truncated version will find itself less than it would otherwise be. Of course, integration into society requires adaptation, itself requiring a selection and repression of certain traits. The result is a lesser version of the child without the ability to access all its capacities. In exchange, it does receive a structure, a framework, within which to learn and adapt to the demands of the outside world. Without this, there would be no society. Is it a fair trade? Yes and no, for every compromise comes at a cost. What Nature has anticipated, by the concept of Individuation, is a natural healing process whereby we spend many of our years first experiencing, then understanding, and finally learning to establish a healthy connection with these repressed contents. These aspects, having spent many years in exile, yet longing to return home where they belong, will regress over time become more primal in their expressions. Often appearing in dreams with disturbing contents. Other manifestation erupt into consciousness – all due the contents of the Shadow.
What to do? What lives in darkness longs only for the light. Acknowledge them, consider them and, deprived of the energy coming from the tension between their natural desire to integrate and the energy required to repress them, th0ey will begin to evolve. Over time, they will become more ‘normal’ in appearance and behavior, become less intrusive, and adding those talents and creativity which flow from the Shadow to the panoply of skills consciousness can access.
If this all sounds a bit formulaic, perhaps it is. But then any model is designed to inform observation and experience, not rigidly define it. In my many years of practice with a wide variety of cultures and individuals, one constant seems to guide every process of change. There is the obvious symptom or behavior which has proven to be resistant to every intervention designed to alleviate if not eliminate it. Whether truly troublesome or minor, there is no approach which seems to truly work. Treat the symptom but deny the cause? Presume that Evolution allowed for no defense?
The Shadow is in many ways the flagship of the unconscious for it contains perhaps those elements of experience which belong – albeit in their most undeveloped state since many of these early amputations occur which the entire personality is taking form. It’s implications and ramifications can extend well beyond their origin. Treat one symptom without understanding this, and even if some improvement has been observed, not only will the rest remain to emerge should circumstances elicit it, but he need for integration will remain.
As in all situations when the elements of the Shadow are involved, consciousness will have developed ways of blocking it out. Most people are successful in maintaining their cohesion during their lifetime, though external challenges – be they local of societal – will continue to create new stresses. Many, and given how often we speak of mental illness as the cause of so many problems in todays world, will find themselves unable to cope. It is just as these moments, when we face new difficulties for which old solutions are inadequate, that the need for the freedom to set aside the rigid defensive structures we impose on ourselves, our inherent fear of the unknown which is simply another way of looking at change, is most necessary. Lacking vial elements of our nature, having forged a defensive system to hold the unconscious’ manifestations, clinging to the known and therefore rejecting the opportunity to learn what we don’t know, any species chances of survival are seriously reduced.
The need for change is obvious. We talk about ‘new’ all the time. We even want what’s new. But to accept what is new into our lives, to open our closed systems, welcome back that which we were taught to fear, reject in ourselves before understanding what we were rejecting, and if we might someday need it, and abandon the curiosity and taste for real risk, is to close ourselves to the natural ability to progress. After all, change is the hallmark of progress, and our ability to meet the challenges of change are perhaps best represented by the Shadow. Fear it and one lives in darkness, feigning contentment with the unending emtptyness of the present. Look to it as an essential component of internal coherence, creativity, and the chance to realize our own potential.
What is the Shadow? Much the Unconscious in which it resides, it is a concept with a physical existence an can neither be located nor known directly, but only through its unmistakable manifestations. Jung, though his observational skills, his synthetic mind and his fearless dedication to understanding, has offered a model based on concepts which capture metaphorically a process which no one else has even attempted. Too often judged as more relevant to anthropology and the occult than to the struggling dubious science of psychiatry. Yet seen within the framework provided by his model, so many aspects of the human mind appear meaningfully, It matters little in which lobe the unconscious might exist, for it is an example, much like the mind, where the phenomenon is more than the sum of its parts. Yet the sum remains impossible to identify or situate. And for these very reasons, we remain stuck at the parts searching for an answer to a question that is itself incomplete.
Is the brain the mind – another transcendent concept – or is the mind what this is all about, with the brain providing the physical means for the mind to exist? When we speak of my brain being hard wired, we have removed so much of the mystery and wonder of the mind with its far more dynamic and plastic capabilities, able to imagine and create that which has never been thought or existed. How is it possible for something with a concrete existence, and therefore limited by its own nature, able to transcend this limitation, and imagine something entirely new?
If you can step outside the reassuring familiar and into a world where things interact because life is dynamic, in constant movement, a place where the whole is more important the any of the parts taken as one or together. It is only when they function as one, the composite of a lifetime of experiences, noted, retained, available for use in almost any circumstance whether foreseen or not, that we can escape our physical existence, the restrictions imposed by the laws of time and space, and imagine whatever might be necessary for our kind to survive. Evolution, Nature have been generous with us. Now we just have to learn how to use what was designed into us by Life itself.
THE MYTH OF THE PATIENT BILL OF RIGHTS
Given the name of the law passed by New York State, that the intention of it was to recognize that patients have rights which limit the ability of the medical community to dictate treatment – whether desired or not by the patient. Being confront in the present moment with such a situation, I decided to look into it further. Why might this be of interest to you when you always thought that the medical community, and the State as licensing authority, was most concerned with the patient’s well being, as defined by themselves. To believe this would be to be making a fundamental error for which the price may be high.
For some populations – geriatric, religious communities with restrictive beliefs, and perversely enough, the female population in reproductive age, there are some articles of law which offer some protection. My particular concern is with them mental health community where the very definition of mental health, and conversely mental illness, are so social mediated, variable, subjective and thoroughly misunderstood by the expert community, as to create a zone of influence where the patient, once having falling into the grasp of this community, has virtually no rights whatsoever once the psychiatrist has determined they must be protected. They might say protected from themselves. My point of view is that the most danger comes from the expert community itself – psychiatry.
As background, in our haste to deal with a problem rather than understand it, the entire area has been reduced to its simplelist, binary, and frankly arbitrary state where one is this or that. Some effort has been made to acknowledge this impossible situation with the introduction of the notion of the ‘spectrum.’ As a qualitative qualifier, rather than purely quantitative, it implicitly acknowledges the complexity of the human mind, clothing itself in what may appear to be a more subtle understanding while in fact, it does nothing to elucidate the issues, let alone its cause.
The friend I have been writing about has been diagnosed with every term in the book – chronic depressive, bipolar, schizophrenic, addict – and prescribed treatments more designed to reduce him to a more pliable state. No one would pretend that psychiatric medication brings any curative prospects. The goal is custodial. Period. And once ‘mentally ill,’ and in spite of all the supposed research, current treatments are lifelong, unless the patient rejects this enslavement and finds other means to recover.
Without diminishing the importance of mental illness, endowing a group of professionals whose training is directed towards diagnosing and treating (a euphemism) a patient (already reduced to an inferior, defective status) an individual purely in terms of visible symptoms. Little to no interest is paid to the causes, the reactive nature of much, if not most, of psychological problems. Other things we study from a developmental perspective, cognitive development is one, but the toxic influences deriving from family contexts have been placed in a protective zone since we all have families with problems, and though we may complain about our families, we are loathe to see them as agents of serious pathological influences.
To take a look at one’s own patterns and the begin to consider how they took shape and hardened into the structural elements of our personality would be enormously beneficial, if only we had to courage to do it. After all, life is a story, with actors, a theme, a plot, all of which combine to mold us into who we are. It is far more comfortable for our fragile egos to look for other, less engaging factors where one does not have to assume any responsibility for one’s actions and life. The current acceptance of lying, of never admitting any mistakes, of always seeking someone or something else to blame for our missteps, and the absolute ban on any sincere apology as an implicit recognition of imperfection – all point towards the regressive movement from mature, adult behavior to an attitude more befitting an adolescent – an individual with no solid identity, fearful of external judgement, defensive, excessively critical of others, fragile and ever fearful of its façade being pierced. This might be a good description of the current practice of psychiatry.
Imbued with a sense of purpose it does not itself believe in, battered by the lack of respect of its medical colleagues, overcompensating feelings of inferiority with an exaggerated sense of superiority which is as fragile as it is transparent. Are we not seeing the risk of an abuse of power over those most vulnerable? When you attack someone’s sense of identity by pointing out their frailties, flaws or deep seated problems, you are stripping away the normal protections we all benefit from, and rendering the naked and defenseless. What choices do they have but to submit or rebel, for they are placed, by the law, under the absolute opinion – for it will never be more than that – of some pumped up martingale whose own sense of self requires absolute unquestioning of their own role. With closed minds, rigid models and diagnostic methods, and without the humility to understand that no one can truly enter the mind of another reliably, determine their sanity and ability to manage their own lives. Absolute power corrupts absolutely, and what I have experienced with my friend is the tragic illustration of what transpires in hospitals, with the full blessing of the State.
This can happen to almost anyone, for who is immune to the right kind of questioning where the very basis of one’s identity is the subject at hand, where one individual has the authority and the power to be always right and never wrong, and whose opinion will weigh more heavily than one’s own.
I am not denying that there are instances and individuals when it is necessary to intervene. But who are we really seeking to protect – the individual or ourselves, from the intrinsic fear of that which we don’t understand? My first hand experience has revealed in unmistakeable detail just how supposedly benevolent authorities can impose an interpretation of an event, mandate sequestration against the individuals wishes – supported by an assertive advocate without whom he would be devoured by ‘the system’ put in place to remove these individual from circulation or at the very least, reduce their role in society to lose to nothing.
The plans put in place are not regenerative for they deal exclusively with a symptom. The failure rates, rarely discussed yet necessary if we are ever to evaluate the effectiveness of what we impose on the vulnerable, are high. Yet we persist. I am hoping against hope that my friend will survive what is turning into being an incarceration under conditions one might find extreme in a prison, put on medication at dosage levels that are arbitrary and often contradictory to that which other experts might have deemed appropriate, clearly shown that their opinion counts for nothing and what happens to them is beyond their ability to control. I could elaborate further, but to those who survive this traumatic violation of their identities and all that this implies, I can only marvel at their resilience. To those who succumb, I can only point out the violence to which they were subjected in the name of psychiatric care and how what claims to want to heal the mind only serves to undermine its ability to heal itself.
I thought my journey through darkness had come to an end
Finally a message of hope Life deigned to send
I held off writing, waiting for some kind of sign
Who wants to consume another’s whine?
Of late I have struggled to make sense of things
What’s happened to people that such changes brings?
Though on the surface it may look the same
No one has surfaced this alteration to claim
Is it the virus and the confusion that ensued?
Did it cause or worsen our senses that we’ve come unglued?
Where once there was us, there remains only me
All in the name of our right to live free
We vaccinate ourselves hoping to protect
With a third of our number determined to defect
Ignoring that each shot will help us all
When into disfavor did civility fall?
The tension is high, the undercurrent malign
We’ve been headed this way for a very long time
On the spectrum, a term much misapplied
I think to ourselves how we have lied
Our kind, like all species, strives to survive
To propagate, to prosper, to remain alive
A worthy objective when kept in perspective
Yet when gone too far, we think to take, not give
Life has progressively acquired a competitive zeal
We measure things in what and how much, not how we feel
You are no friend, but someone to beat
We look at each other with mistrust and deceit
If there’s an advantage to find, we want it all
Sharing, caring, once there to forestall
When did we leave them behind, what lies ahead?
Without them I see only darkness instead
We build to improve, yet see not what is lost
As long as another is there to pay the cost
The present reigns, the future forgotten
Through gluttony, our souls have grown rotten
Complain of things, find someone to blame
We are innocent, victims, hail the new game
Perfection is the image of ourselves that we see
How dark inside we must really be
To invent such a lie, to keep it alive
Living this way, no one can thrive
To win every time, others must lose
More numerous they become, easier to choose
They clamor for more, from whom will we take?
Not me, not while I’m able and awake
From another, less deserving, and surely less smart
In equations such as these, I will stand apart
More for the few, less for the others
No concern of mine be they fathers or mothers
Sisters and brothers, raised as I was
See no harm they do, frankly who does?
This darkness I feel, it’s all around
Anger, resentment, frustration abound
Nothing can prosper when there’s insufficient light
As our journey continues into a more dangerous night
Must it be so? Is there no hope for our kind?
Can we not rediscover those things that bind?
Experience and perspective offer no reason to believe
Yet I am not yet ready to give up and grieve
If we’ve reached the end of our human term
If we have proven the limits of what we can learn
If we care not, and curiosity dies
If blindness is our vision, our language, lies
Before it’s too late for the rest of Creation
Before we’ve reached a level of devastation
Another kind, more gentle and real
I pray they emerge to save what we so thoughtlessly steal
Affordable Jungian Psychotherapy updated their address.
Affordable Jungian Psychotherapy now takes appointments on their Page.
Affordable Jungian Psychotherapy now takes appointments on their Page.
Affordable Jungian Psychotherapy now takes appointments on their Page.
Affordable Jungian Psychotherapy now takes appointments on their Page.
WHAT'S THE HURRY?
More and more, I have been struck how life has accelerated. Most see that as a positive thing where we can squeeze more into living, achieving, striving. Yet there is and must be a downside to this race we call life. Underlying this seemingly endless battle against time is the nature of our culture and economic system. Historically, the immigrant experience is based on a desire for a better life with the understanding of the American Dream is sacrifice today for a fuller, richer life. With this premise comes the need to do more and better than the next person, for to get ahead, one must beat out someone else. Aside from the ignored truth in our system, not everyone can win. In fact, there are always more losers than winners. Funny how we rarely talk about them, though they may be equally, if not more, deserving than the winner. Here in America, there has been a reliable, though rarely openly stated explanation for failure: one was morally deficient. To lose brings a double whammy: one has lost out on what may have been one’s best shot at success (whatever that means) and we now carry with us the burden of somehow being morally unworthy. With the growing complexity of life along with the increasing number of competitors, the pressure increases. So to somehow meet the challenge there is no alternative but to add things on to our qualifications hoping that this will provide the essential edge over someone else.
We tend to focus on education, but what actually are we learning. Liberal Arts had as its objective a well rounded individual, considered an essential component of any democracy. After all, if we don’t have someone telling us what to do, we must figure it out for ourselves. Not only did this type of education exposed us to things we would never have encountered otherwise, we are also challenged to learn to think critically and to express ourselves rationally and clearly. Education was considered the great equalizer since everyone was to receive if not identical, at least comparable exposure to this broad mix of subjects. Thus, with an open mind and an intellect that would allow citizens to make informed decisions, the need for a single rule would simply disappear. Idealistic? Of course, but wasn’t that the point of the Enlightenment? Was our country not founded by men (women would have to wait – not so enlightened after all on an ideal? The question of whether or now we have lived up to that ideal will be for another time.
But what has happened to Education? It went from the foundation of an informed citizen as the keystone of democracy to the a purely skills based training (not sure it still qualifies as an education given the subject matter). Not everyone needs to go to college and get a liberal arts degree – that is very much a matter of personal choice. Given the ever increasing cost, the debt burden and the need, in some professions, for a graduate degree, many people find themselves simply priced out of this great equalizer, or crushed under huge sums of college loans. Much like medicine, we have the most expensive system in the world, yet our outcomes tend to lag other countries. In other words, no long do we recognized that basic requirement of any successful democracy – an informed electorate. Without that, all intellectual activity suffers, opinion replaces facts, and reality becomes so deformed as to be too often unrecognizable.
Something strange happened as our country grew where this land of the rugged individual lost sight of who they were. Worse still, the very notion that such individuality – which does not exclude belonging to a collectivity – has been abandoned as a fruitless endeavor since is it not impossible to know who one is? Yet everyone will claim that their self-knowledge is more than adequate – all evidence to the contrary. In it’s place, we have generated a new vision of what it means to be a person, built on notions of material success, rather than intellectual accomplishment, celebrity, ability to influence others, and a taste for division and disruption. Perhaps the single most telling and destructive trend illustrating this has been what has happened to the labor union movement and the notion of collective bargaining.
We now have an industrial oligarchy which, though its influence, regulations, wealth and power, have achieved those characteristics mentioned above, and anything which might disrupt their forward progress or impede their profitability has become antithetical to Capitalism – a system that has long since vanished from these shores. Employees may gripe, but when offered the choice, and for the illusion that if they reject collective bargaining, they will be better off – or so says Management. There is no evidence to support this assertion. In fact, quite the contrary.
All of this reflects the situation in the general population. But what has happened to the family and the individual? The answer is disarmingly clear: to stay ahead of the pack, one must always run faster, squeeze more into every hour of the day, sacrifice the very things that make us and our lives rich and fulfilling. Children are encouraged early on to grow up faster, missing out on time it takes not only to learn but to assimilate what they are learning. After all, education is not data entry. Deprived of the reassuring presence of a parent whose time is not portioned out in 15 minute segments, how will they develop the deeper sense of trust and understanding that will serve as the basis for their future mental health? Parents who compensate on the premise that quality time can replace the simple availability to thoughtfully guide their children through their formative years. Parenting is an honor and a responsibility, not an accessory to a successful life. If one is constantly on the run, what kind of role model are we providing for children who, if raised under these conditions, will grow up anxious, confused, adultomorph yet profoundly immature, their development – intellectual and emotional – incomplete.
What led me to write this reflection – incomplete itself – was something I saw in the newspaper today – uncurated by myself according to my opinions and preferences. Axios, the online platform for political news was suggesting a new format for its reporting. Instead of lengthy articles which no one has the time or interest to read, let alone think about, they are proposing to present the news as bullet points. Having worked in the corporate world, I know the role played by Powerpoint presentations and how we have even done away with the Management Summary, now replaced by the bullet points at the beginning and the end of the presentation. They are supposed to reduce a complex situation into a series of one line statements on which Management is supposed to base important decisions. Though the deck might include fifty slides, there is but one or two of interest: key bullets and how much it will cost/profit.
If you pay attention to language, the words most frequently employed and those that seem to have disappeared form our discourse, I would suggest two: the quantification of language and the irrelevance of wisdom. The former reflects how, In our constant search for more, the simplest way to represent it is in numbers. Though they may appear to contain some truth (rarely, since they are always used to make a point), they are based on poor quality data and therefore provide a skewed vision of reality. They are the fast food of information, rich in calories but of poor quality. In short, they are the junk food on which we nourish our brains (not our minds – something else that seems to have disappeared). We may grow fat from a reductionist diet simply because these numbers are not food for thought, but designed to provide be consumed ad infinitum without ever feeling full. And wisdom? What might that be? Ask some people what the word, once valued above all others, means today. Why? Because the entire intellectual process requires time to see and understand more than the few factors , biases, on which we tend to build an argument, then more time to take all these seemingly disparate elements and mold them into something more complete, more nuanced, clearer and meaningful. Rush through the numbers – no matter how big the data set – and what comes out is another number, reduced down from its components to something that looks simple, but which has lost most of its meaning along the way.
This is one other way of seeing where we are as a society, how we got here, and why things have stopped working. One can never turn back time, but values can and often should be adjusted to reflect new realities. And when one ceases to search for clarity, content only with impressions and opinion presented as fact, then reality is misrepresented, and decisions based on it can never succeed. As the need for quick decisions increases, given how fast things move, we have less time to make them. This whole approach is headed to a place where we will no longer have the wherewithal to face the challenges that await us. Less can be more, in terms of quality. Perhaps that is the new direction we need to consider.
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