"The Unconscious Can Make a Fool of You in No Time" Carl Jung.
The other than human beings and the natural world give us many clues in our interaction with unknown and unseen parts of ourselves. Recently, I had been grieving and feeling regrets, a process triggered by the death of my mother. All her side of the family were gone, and I felt a deep sense of lonliness. They were such an important part of my early life and decisions I made that were not ones I would make now, particularly in relation to looking after my old people who cared and loved me.
I felt after allowing the process to emerge and reveal itself fully, the time had come to intentionally connect with my ancestral land, my ancestors, the natural world and bring in the next phase of life. It was one week with a section of each day put aside for this in a consciously created way. It was remarkable. Why? I had honoured the regrets and past pains until that process had come to a natural conclusion. Opening an intentional space for the future to be ushered in, was truly a healing and constructive gateway to evolving afresh my next chapter. A crow wailed sorrowfully with me, kookaburras kackled above me moving me toward joy, and the full moon urged me to trust and shone a light on my dreams. This process of giving time to connect with the cycles of life, to know when it is time to feel the pain of grief and regrets but also to then bring in the new, is something we have forgotten. We have forgotten to realise that time given to these deeper aspects of life actually provide so much texture and depth to our lives, and helps us make the right decisions for ourselves, our families and our communities.
When we are deceiving ourselves, we hurt other people, because our understanding of right and wrong is based on our distorted story, which is often a long way from reality.
Early in life, I was hurt by other people’s self deception, and that lead to betrayal by people I loved who were supposed to care for me and create a safe home, and this is not uncommon, right? Early betrayals are really very traumatic and lead to adult life choices that can take us down an often, dark road. It takes hard work….and great moral effort, courage and self honesty to even consider a different path.
Telling the truth is the foundational aspect of therapy or therapeutic work of any kind, returning to childhood voluntarily with a witness, someone who can guide us out of the unconsciousness to participate in being more conscious, even though this process can be very painful, what’s the alternative? Well, in my humble experience and from working with others as a facilitator, counsellor, I can tell you the alternative is not a place you want to put effort into developing, and if we for a moment ask the question what is the purpose of this life? Then getting ourselves straightened out would seem to be the first step to at least finding that purpose, because if we continue to make choices and decisions based on our unconscious mind, the habit mind, this will place us at great risk of never finding this purpose. So, while the contents of the unconscious - the complexes and archetypal images and instinct groups - can and do disturb consciousness and even in some cases lead to serious chronic mental illnesses, the release of the unconscious through undoing repression can also lead to psychological transformation and the affirmation of life. I will give you a personal example.
Then we have an entirely different language, the languages of the Unconscious. This as I have discovered is a key ingredient in really understanding how to decipher seemingly incongruent events in life. But once we become familiar and comfortable with integrating this language, and we find the courage to follow these prompts from our unconscious, it seems to open different pathways and can bring about more integration and a sense of wholeness. Carl Jung has contributed much to this and was originally a student of Freud’s until they parted ways based on disagreements regarding in particular the role of religion and views on the unconscious. Our unconscious reveals itself to us through dreams, pains in our body, illnesses and other symbolic messages and visions, like re-occurring signs in our environment. Let’s look at these a little more closely.
The question you might be asking and a very valid one is well how do I identify the contents of my unconscious? How do I recognise that part of myself? The languages of the unconscious comes to us in different ways. Our unconscious reveals itself to us through dreams, pains in our body, illnesses and other symbolic messages and visions, other people, re-occurring events in our environment. When we allow ourselves to daydream, use active imagination, it really helps to awaken these parts of ourselves that are not transparent. Let’s look at these a little more closely in my next blog.
‘To speak of wilderness is to speak of wholeness.
Human beings came out of that wholeness’.
Gary Snyder, poet and author
There are informative nature based psychological templates that help to navigate this internal terrain. The map I felt drawn to was the astrological birth chart, that blueprint of our cosmic legacy that has been so poorly represented in our culture; we are not very good at providing encouragement for the inner journey of soul. Nor are we very good at paying reverence to knowledge systems that sit too much outside our rationalised ego driven frameworks. And it is these we need so much at this time.
In my studies of the early psychoanalysts, the map was clear: make the unconscious conscious. Now can be a harrowing journey, depicted in many of our stories, fairy tales, sagas, science fiction tales, and frames up this search for oneself. A very simple and well known one is Superman. Growing up on a farm with two loving simple parents, after finding him abandoned, they adopt him and he spent his life helping out on the farm ploughing fields and soon his parents realised his super strength and other powers. They encouraged him to use them for altruistic endeavours, to help his community. Soon, it became time for him to know his real identity, his real parentage and ultimately his destiny. This happened in a very dramatic way, there he was leading the life of a farm boy and then he learnt about how he crashed to earth in a time capsule!! Sound familiar? There are times in life we wake up to our own sense of who we are and what we need to do. Our parents no longer know the answers, or can intuit what we need; for our identity is being forged by something much deeper and greater than just our immediate family and parentage.
What if we viewed our work as a way to make sense of our suffering. Not as a source of suffering. If we truly saw ourselves as able to make a difference in our promise to do just that. When I consider leadership I mean helping someone else be the best version of themselves, in service to making impact in their own unique way. For me at this stage of my life, it's about eldership, not that one has to be an elder to be a leader but it is for me. Eldership is doing what counts now, that will flourish in the future, way after I am gone. And so too is leadership, creating the means for others to flourish, much like being a mentor. It is truly one of the best ways to make meaning out of life. At nearly 65 years of age, I can think of few things that are better than helping someone add to the list of people who aren't putting profit and making money ahead of finding a problem to solve (and there are plenty), finding the means to solve that problem and then keeping their promise to show up, no matter what.
For 20 years I have worked in remote communities in far north western Australia alongside Aboriginal families and organisations, we worked together to maintain and protect an ancient culture. To do this one of the ways I tried out with groups was a participatory planning tool, Stepping Stones. Not knowing if anything will work is well, a mantra in my line of work because that too is a big part of leadership. Ok let's give this a go, we don't know if it will work but we will do our best with the intention to solve a problem.
This tool worked over and over. Again and again. But the prevailing culture hasn't ever taken it up, in the way the people using it have. Which to me is ironical and deeply perplexing, given that it has clearly been something that has solved some problems. There are too many deeply entrenched habits and profoundly repetitive cycles of dominance and substantial amounts of ignorance and incompetence; someone has to be the victim in that story.