Wednesday, November 01, 2006

ALL PUNS INTENDED - A Humorous Interlude

ALL PUNS INTENDED! 1. Two antennas met on a roof, fell in love and got married.  The ceremony wasn't much, but the reception was excellent. 2. A jump lead walks into a bar.  The bartender says, "I'll serve you, but don't start anything." 3. Two peanuts walk into a bar, and one was a salted. 4. A dyslexic man walks into a bra. 5. A man walks into a bar with a slab of asphalt under his arm, and says: "A beer please, and one for the road." 6. Two cannibals are eating a clown.  One says to the other:  "Does this taste funny to you?" 7. "Doc, I can't stop singing 'The Green, Green Grass of Home."  "That sounds like Tom Jones Syndrome."  "Is it common?"  Well, "It's Not Unusual." 8.  Two cows are standing next to each other in a field.  Daisy says to Dolly, "I was artificially inseminated this morning."  "I don't believe you ," says Dolly.  "It's true; no bull!" exclaims Daisy. 9. An invisible man marries an invisible woman.  The kids were nothing to look at either. 10. Dejà Moo:  The feeling that you've heard this bull before. 11. I went to buy some camouflage trousers the other day, but I couldn't find any. 12. A man woke up in a hospital after a serious accident.  He shouted, "Doctor, doctor, I can't feel my legs!"  The doctor replied, "I know you can't - I've cut off your arms!" 13. I went to a seafood disco last week...and pulled a mussel. 14. What do you call a fish with no eyes?  A fsh. 15. Two fish swim into a concrete wall.  The one turns to the other and says, "Dam!" 16. Two Eskimos sitting in a kayak were chilly, so they lit a fire in the craft.  Unsurprisingly it sank, proving once again that you can't have your kayak and heat it too. 17. A group of chess enthusiasts checked into a hotel, and were standing in the lobby discussing their recent tournament victories.  After about an hour, the manager came out of the office, and asked them to disperse.  "But why," they asked, as they moved off. "Because," he said, "I can't stand chess-nuts boasting in an open foyer." 18. A woman has twins, and gives them up for adoption. One of them goes to a family in Egypt and is named "Ahmal."  The other goes to a family in Spain and they name him "Juan." Years later, Juan sends a picture of himself to his birth mother.  Upon receiving the picture, she tells her husband that she wishes she also had a picture of Ahmal.  Her husband responds, "They're twins!  If you've seen Juan, you've seen Ahmal." 19. Mahatma Gandhi, as you know, walked barefoot most of the time, which produced an impressive set of calluses on his feet.  He also ate very little, which made him rather frail and with his odd diet, he suffered from bad breath.  This made him.... A super-calloused fragile mystic hexed by halitosis. 20. And finally, there was the person who sent twenty different puns to his friends, with the hope that at least ten of the puns would make them laugh.  No pun in ten did. A friend, Tom Gleeson recently sent me the above 20 puns which he found somewhere on the WEB. Thanks Tom, they're brilliant!

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Frightened of our very own Depths

Frightened of our very own Depths
Encountering Our Shadow 3

Many people will neither attend a psychiatrist, psychotherapist or even counsellor for fear of what they may find out about themselves.  This is true indeed.  Due to personal circumstances, that is having being diagnosed with clinical depression (also called endogenous or uni-polar depression) when I was approximately 40 years of age I have been accustomed to attending a consultant psychiatrist every three months for the last eight years.  Added to that I recently attended some 20 sessions of counselling to explore where I am now in my life at 48 and what possible change in direction I may need not alone for my sanity, but to live a more fulfilled life.  All of this allows me some little knowledge of the quest for self-knowledge and some little understanding or rather appreciation of Jung’s process of individuation. This journey has indeed proved to be frightening and illuminating by turns.  It initially involved being hospitalized for seven weeks where I was bombarded with the hard-hitting psychiatric drug largactil (an antipsychotic drug which acts as a neuroleptic drug or major tranquillizer) which allowed me to escape severe agitation of mind and soul and being.  I have described this elsewhere as my descent into hell.  Being weaned off largactil was also a strange and difficult experience.

Anyway, the journey to individuation requires that we meet our shadow self head on as it were.  Personally I have been keeping a dream journal for over 15 years and during that time I have encountered many of my demons.  I will probably outline some of these images in a later post and how “domesticating” them helped me incorporate other aspects into my personality that had been suppressed or repressed for years.

I will return to a story I have told many time in these pages and others.  When I was a senior student in O’Connell School in the late 70s of the last century we were fortunate to have a wonderfully erudite and wise teacher called Michael McLoughlin whom we fondly called “Mac”.  Once when we were studying Hamlet, a play on which he and his brother had written an excellent introduction for students, he informed us that anyone of us was capable of being Hamlet, that anyone of us was capable of murder, given the right circumstances.  I was always fascinated by this fact which I instantly believed and still do.  We all have good and bad in us.  An unpalatable corollary of this basic axiom is that there are no such reality as a totally good person and a totally bad person.  Jung would agree – we’re a complex admixture of both.  The trick seems to be in acknowledging the dark or bad or shadow side of us and incorporating it into our total personality – we thereby somehow domesticate it, take away its sting, disarm it and prevent it from causing further evil as a separate personified demon or devil as it were.  What comes to mind here is how quickly two opposing nations, or two opposing political parties as we have in the North of Ireland demonise each other.  Rather than facing and incorporating one’s own national or racial or denominational shadow in this case either side prefers projecting it large and demon like on the opposition.

How often have you heard a man or a woman say something like: “I was drunk. It was the wine that made me say all those dreadful things.  It will never happen again!” Facing the Shadow means that we have to travel down into the dark and shadowy valleys and sometimes into dark and damp caves if I may speak metaphorically but really and truly.  Meeting our shadow is daunting – it does make the hair stand upright on your neck.  This encounter tears holes in our masks – which are only that masks – skin deep!  There will be aspects of our unconscious of which we are ashamed, embarrassed, find totally unacceptable and even obscene.  There is a great book which is well worth the read called Romancing The Shadow by Connie Zweig Ph.D. and Steve Wolf, Ph.D. (Thorsons, 1997).  I cannot recommend it highly enough to anyone interested in getting to grips with their very own Self through shadow work. The picture I have placed above is of a small jellyfish I took on Donabate Strand this summer 2006

Monday, October 30, 2006

The Shadow Walking Always With Me 2

The Shadow Walking Always With Me 2
A further note on the Thought of Carl Gustave Jung

The goal of life is surely the acquisition of self-knowledge, getting to know who one really and essentially is.  This has been variously called “self-realization”, “self-actualization” or “individuation” in the words of Carl Gustave Jung. What I like about Jung is the openness of the man to science, mythology, religions, alchemy, history, story, medicine, indeed to all areas of knowledge.  Then, I also love his ability to assimilate and synthesize all this knowledge for the psychological stability and wholeness of the human person.  Jung considered personality to be an achievement, not something given.  This for me is very important.  Though he had very little in common with Jean-Paul Sartre he shared with him the vision that the human being has one project only – namely the creation or development of his or her self.

It is interesting to see how Jung defined individuation. I love these words form my psychological hero: “Individuation means becoming a single, homogenous being, and, in so far as ‘in-dividuality’ embraces our innermost, last, and incomparable uniqueness, it also implies becoming one’s own self.  We could therefore translate individuation as ‘coming to selfhood’ or ‘self-realization.’”[CW 7, par. 226; quoted Jung: Fontana Pocket Readers (1996, p. 418)]  Also as regards my own personal psychological growth it is satisfying and comforting for me to realize that essentially Jung’s psychology of the individuation process is quintessentially the task of the second half of our lives.  According to Jung, and this coincides with my own experience of living, that we spend the first half of our lives developing a healthy ego, so that we can function and perform our duties in society or in the outside world.  For me this entailed getting a professional qualification as a teacher and several other degrees and diplomas to help me on my way.  When this has been accomplished successfully, we then enter on what we may term a more spiritual quest, one which writing in these pages of my blog partially fulfils. As Dr. Robert Robertson succinctly puts it: “Until we have dealt successfully with the world, we can’t hope to find a deeper spiritual side to the personality.” (Introducing Jungian Psychology, Gill and Macmillan, 1992, p.105).

I also wish to return here to Jung’s own words on what he saw the Shadow as being, as he discovered or invented this marvellously complementary archetype central to our spiritual growth as persons.  I always find Jung’s own words enriching.  Please note that while the Shadow can be negative in effect, it can also be positive in its eventual “illumination” of the real self.  I feel that the Shadow is one of the best ways of integrating the whole self who I am essentially.  It is the inferior part of our personality for sure.  It comprehends or collects in itself or personifies in itself the sum of all personal and collective psychic elements which we are forced by society to suppress and repress into the dark and shadowy recesses of our unconscious. (Forgive my metaphoric excesses as words fail me here!)  In short this repressed personified figure becomes a sub-personality in itself or indeed a “splinter personality” until with much travail we manage to integrate it into the eventual wholeness of self.

I will finish with two marvellous quotes from Jung which I will copy here from p. 422 of the marvellous book alluded to above:  Jung: Fontana Pocket Readers (1996):

  • The shadow personifies everything that the subject refuses to acknowledge about himself and yet is always thrusting itself upon him directly or indirectly – for instance, inferior traits of character and other incompatible tendencies. (CW 9 I, par. 513)

  • The shadow is that hidden, repressed and guilt-laden personality whose ultimate ramifications reach back into the realm of our animal ancestors and so comprise the whole historical aspect of the unconscious…If it has been believed hitherto that the human shadow was the source of all evil, it can now be ascertained on closer investigation that the unconscious man, that is, his shadow, does not consist only of morally reprehensible tendencies, but also displays a number of good qualities, such as normal instincts, appropriate reaction, realistic insights, creative impulses, etc (CW 9 ii, pp. 422-3)
The Photograph I have inserted above is one I took this summer of my footprints in the sand on Donabate Strand, Co. Dublin.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

The Shadow Walking Always With Me

The Shadow Walking Always With Me – A Note on Carl Gustave Jung

I have always been haunted by the words of T.S. Eliot ever since my former English lecturer Mr John Devitt introduced me to the great poet reading his poems in his own inimitable style and in his acquired Oxford English accent way back in the 1970s of the last century.  Eliot’s words have that effect on all who read his poems.  These following words are apt and applicable to my theme and to my title.  They are from his great poem called The Wasteland:

........................... Only There is shadow under this red rock, (come in under the shadow of this red rock), And I will show you something different from either Your shadow at morning striding behind you Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you; I will show you fear in a handful of dust.

(from THE WASTELAND. T.S. ELIOT.
Part One: The Burial of the Dead.)

I must admit I have never completely or even partially understood T.S.Eliot – though I have always attempted to do so - but understanding is always a secondary thing in great poetry – secondary to the experience of hearing it read, having its cadences roll over you as the waves of the sea, of letting it percolate through your being as you might a great piece of music.

Anyway, so much for this tangential reference to shadow, now it’s down to business.  I wish to say something about the great psychiatrist and psychotherapist Carl Gustave Jung with respect to his treatment of what he termed the “shadow” aspect of the human psyche.  Before I even began to think properly about my topic T.S.Eliot’s words leapt into my mind.  This always happens with great poetry.  Enough tangents.  Let’s get down to the task at hand.

Carl Gustave Jung (1876-1961)

Freud had said that the goal of therapy was to make the unconscious conscious.  An excellent goal indeed and it sums up the ideal end point of therapeutic journey well.  However, Freud’s idea of the unconscious sounds to me like a frightening hell of every type of perverse urge we’ve ever had as a species.  To my mind Jung brought an element of mystery and adventure into the exploration of the unconscious and in so doing made it appealing for us to explore.

Preliminary Terminology

One can’t begin to read Carl Jung without knowing a bit about his terminology.  Firstly, the contents of the collective unconscious are called archetypes.  He had other names for these latter – dominants, imagos, mythological or primordial images – before he settled on the term archetypes.  In short, the archetype has no form of its own but rather it acts as an “organizing principle” on all the things we do or see or experience.  Dr C. George Boeree, whose internet notes on psychology are excellent to say the least, puts it beautifully and succinctly when he states: “An archetype is like a black hole in space.  You only know it is there by how it draws matter and light to itself. (See http://www.ship.edu/~cgboeree/ )(It is marvelous that such a brilliant psychologist shares his marvelous notes with the general public, thanks George)

One such archetype discovered by Jung is what he termed The Shadow Archetype.  The shadow is the inferior side to ourselves, that part of us who wants to do all the things that we would never allow ourselves to do in real life.  It is the Mr. Hyde to our Dr. Jekyll, the portrait in the attic to our Dorian Gray.  Sometimes when we are overcome with rage we get an inkling of this foreign or hidden personality.  Sometimes people even say when they give vent to such fierce emotions, “I don’t know what came over me!”  What came over them was in fact our shadow, the primitive, uncontrolled, and animal part of ourselves. In the Shadow we have an admixture of all the life instincts, including sex of course, all deriving of course from our pre-human, animal past when we were not self-conscious.  In other words the Shadow is the dark side of the ego and all or any of the evil that we are capable of doing is stored there.  There are many symbols of the Shadow and we all know them well from our dreams and from mythology (both of these latter areas were subjects of deep interest to Carl Gustave Jung and he was a quintessential expert on both) – snakes, demons, devils, dragons, monsters.  We have often heard people in therapy or those who attend AA meetings talking about how they have to struggle with their demons.  In essence they are doing shadow work.  

Jung went to great lengths to point out that there could of course be no Shadow without the Sun, no Night without the Day, no Dark without the Light.  Likewise there is no Shadow (in the sense of the personal or even collective unconscious) without the Light of consciousness (the Ego).  The Shadow has been variously called “this disowned sub-personality (Anthony Stephens in Jung, Past Masters Series, OUP, 1994, p 47), “an aspect of our deeper selves (Robin Robertson), or “that other side of ourselves, which is to be found in the personal unconscious.”(Frieda Fordham) The Shadow wishes to remain hidden, because we have pushed it down into our unconscious since we were little under pressure from others along the way – and these repressed contents become personalized or rather personified in the Shadow.  The shadow shows itself much to our surprise, and often beyond our conscious control, in moods, irritability, physical symptoms, accidents, emotions, strange and not so strange behaviours, and even in cruelty.

I will finish this post with a quotation from the great poem maker Rainer Maria Rilke and it goes:   Perhaps all the dragons of our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us once beautiful and brave.  Perhaps everything terrible is in its deepest being something helpless that wants help from us. The photograph I have placed above is one I took of my own shadow on Donabate Beach sometime in early Summer 2006