Learning to love the messiness of myself, the shadowy parts, the complexes, my noisy unconscious, is crucial to my individuation process and is the most effective thing I do for that aim. It means I have to acknowledge the beauty of the thing within exactly as it is in order to accept and love it. Hoffman (2014) wrote, “It is the heart that beauty engages, and in the heart intellect is protected from intellectualism and will is protected from moralism, because beauty gives heart to the intellect so it can become wisdom, and beauty gives heart to the will so that it can become love” (pg.58). It’s not easy, but I can always tell when it’s happened because I can feel the shift. I feel it psychologically and in my body. My gaze softens, my breath deepens my thoughts loosen, and compassion begins to flow. The messiness is still there, but my relationship with it has changed and seeing its beauty allows the wisdom and love Hoffman talks about to aid those parts toward more conscious actualization. I find it relies on seeing past the temporary mask it wears and into its beautiful nature and therefore my own. Acknowledging the beauty, turning toward love, always feels like becoming more myself. Jung says, “the more numerous and the more significant the unconscious contents which are assimilated to the ego, the closer the approximation of the ego to the self, even though this approximation must be a never-ending process” (CW. 9 part 2, para 44). Two things are crucial in that sentence. First, approximation means the ego and the Self become more similar in values but they are not equal to one another. Rather they are true to its Latin root of proximus and very near. The second is the process has no end. If we think we’ve done “it”, we are in danger.
Dylan Hoffman (2014) Becoming Beautiful: The Aesthetics of Individuation, Psychological Perspectives: A Quarterly Journal of Jungian Thought, 57:1, 50-64
Jung, C. G. (1979). The self (R. F. C. Hull, Trans.). In H. Read et al. (Series Eds.), The collected works of C.G. Jung (Vol. 9 pt. 2, 2nd. ed.). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. (Original work published 1959)
Personifying permits us to loosen our tightly held grasp on life. We enter into a relationship with soul instead of an autocracy and this allows us to soften our response to the movements of psyche. Hillman (1992/1975) called the insistence of personal soul alone a “personalistic fallacy” (p.49) where we believe we have ownership of the events of psyche, the symptoms and rumblings. When psyche stops being personal and becomes personified, we become present to the metaphorical nature of it and its expressions. In their book Metaphors We Live By, Lackoff and Johnson (2003/1980) say, “Love is not love without metaphors of magic, attraction, madness, union, nurturance, and so on” (p. 272). What personifying helps us do is notice the metaphors we assume and find the ones psyche desperately needs us to embrace. The archetypal persons of the imaginal aren’t conceptual but experiential, and personifying invites us to the task of experiencing life. Hillman’s (2015/1992) reintroduction of the heart as a sensing and thinking organ, where “events of the heart may be conceived as philosophic” and imaginal, is a personification away from the “personalistic fiction” of Moore (1996, p. 27). Then the matters of heart are mythic and we find “the story we tell when our mouths are shut” (Moore, 1996, p. 24). The sense-experience of soul being lived through us ensouls everything and, as Moore suggests, we can “live in a mythic, animated (imagination-filled) world where everything is sacred, where angels appear unexpectantly and in many guises and where devils make it all interesting and complicated” (p. 27).
Hillman, J. (1992). Revisioning psychology. New York: HarperCollins. (Original work published 1975) Hillman, J. (2015). In McLean M. (Ed.), The thought of the heart and the soul of the world. Thompson, CT: Spring. (Original work published 1992) Lackoff, G., & Johnson, M. (2003). Metaphors we live by. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. (Original work published 1980) Moore, T. (1996). Developing a mythic sensibility. Sphinx. London, England.
Kali was born from the forehead of the Devi Durga, created from the rage of a goddess in danger of abduction and rape. She is fearsome to behold, emaciated and wild eyed with a sky-shaking roar, ready to devour everything. The hubris of Asura Sumbha, and those who aid him, begin a war they lose, along with their heads (Cartwright, 2013). Divine rage currently grips our nation. A rage fueled by the hubris of power and born from the bodies of survivors of sexual assault. Millions of Kali filled the streets of our major cities after the election of a self-confessed perpetrator to the Presidency. Thousands packed the hallways, offices, and elevators of the Senate during the Kavannaugh hearings. Heads have rolled. Heads of studios, industry and politics felt the Kali’s blade descend upon their necks, bewildered by the rise of a nemesis to their long-standing hubris. Kali is only brought relief by the sacrifice Shiva makes by being fully present to her anger, “performing a symbolic mood of death” (Jung, 1964, pg. 112). He represents the necessity of individuation to listen to a victim’s rage without minimizing, justifying, soothing, or naming it something else. Assured of his own ego strength he feels her anger without being overwhelmed, “beyond the reach of emotional entanglements and violent shocks – a consciousness detached from the world” (Jung, 2013, 229). He understands his own ability to harm others with his power and therefore his shadow does not control his actions. Instead the individuated person understands the power in the shadow can be used for good and he “must come to terms with its destructive powers . . . before the ego can triumph” (Jung, 1964, pg. 124). He doesn’t subdue her with shadow power, but instead with his integration. Those same qualities of individuated life act as an impediment to the misuse of power in sexual assault.
Cartwright, M. (2013, June 21). Kali. Ancient History Encyclopedia. Retrieved from https://www.ancient.eu/Kali/ Jung, C. G. (2013). The essential Jung. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Jung, C. G. (1964). Man and his symbols. New York, NY: Dell Publishing.
While the yoga class I was teaching today enjoyed savasana, I was reflecting on how my shadow was the single most influential force to bring me to yoga and meditation. I often experience my shadow bodily, as physical sensation. Ray (2008) says “the totality of the darkness exists in the body in an enfolded state” until consciousness is ready to become aware (pg. 264). The body contains the wisdom, as well as the wound. My recovery from PTSD stalled at one point when I struggled to access the rage that lived within me. While the many other symptoms had subsided through traditional therapeutic methods, the terrible lifelong unexplained physical pain in my hips and legs remained. I had a sense that this was where my rage lived and turned to yoga from, as Ray (2008) points out, “a compelling need to open and free [myself], whatever may be the cost to [my] ego” (pg. 266). Yoga gave me access, without which transformation was impossible. My experience of the shadow tends to move then from the body and into a “symbolic metaphor”, where, Preece (2006) writes, it can be “symbolically expressed” the energy is transformed by the symbols polarities, by its ability to “hold the tension between the light of consciousness and Shadow’s darkness” (pg. 183). I work with the metaphor through bodily movement and creative expression, sometimes imaginal only and other times through writing and art. Through these practices, and the challenging and rewarding experiences of communing with the shadow, my life is enriched and I find myself unable to categorize it as a bad or evil force but the tension between wisdom and ignorance. I’m also unable to live a full life without the information it holds and while I resist it still at times my body always gives me away and sends me to the mat where I can meet my shadow anew.
Preece, R. (2006). The psychology of Buddhist tantra. Ithaca N.Y.: Snow Lion Publications.
Ray, R. A. (2008). Touching enlightenment – finding realization in the body. Sounds True.