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I am not a brave person. I never was one. After connecting the dots at six years old, I grew up with an ubiquitous anxiety of being discovered and ostracized – powerlessness I would have no chance of enduring any storm that blew my way.  In Jungian terms, I lack “Warrior” energy; I have to make do with ‘Magician’ and “Clown”. *  I’ve gone through life (and analysis) learning how to deal with this lack thereof. Despite my constant conscious nurturing of ‘Warrior’, this energy has never thrived. However, ‘Magician’ has taught me tricks to deal with it. The main lesson:

Thinking does not dispel fear, but action does. 

In my office is an Emerson quote framed on my counter:

“Always do what you are afraid to do”

I can instantly identify the feeling of an anxious avoidance when it arises. When this happens, I’ve learned to go directly into it without delay. As I jump into the dark, I remember no matter what I fear, what will happen will not be as bad as I had imagined it, and I will feel good for doing something.  Courage is not the lack of fear, but action in the face of fear.

My life has a catalog of regrets, the result of inactions from fear. Most of life is not major decisions but countless small ones – the devil is in the details. By practicing the small fears, I do better at handling the big ones when they pop up.**  The most enduring regrets in life result from decisions that move you further from the ideal person you want to be.

Research shows the chief regrets in life are what you would imagine:

“I wish I had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”

“I wish I had the courage to express myself.”

“I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.”

“I wish I had left myself be happier”

Now in my late 50s, I tolerate less and less my decisions influenced by fear. I suppose this is my greatest act of courage for which all my inner-archetypes applaud my efforts. ***

I still ‘live in fear’ about being sued, losing all, the fall of civilization, and finding a large hairy spider in the house, but I no longer avoid making decisions that violate my personal values.  I would like to go back in time to tell my 6yo self not to fearful of anything, it all turns out OK enough.  Succumbing to fear is my chief regret, but no more it’s not.

 

*Lily Tomlin was asked once why she went into comedy. She replied: ‘I realized at an early age people were laughing at me so I figured, look, I may as well be funny.”

**Another tip: consider all fears small ones until proven otherwise.

***Except ‘The Martyr’. He’s not at all happy with it.

Philosophy and Psychology have in common the notion of Self-growth as the goal of living. “Man, know thyself” was written over the door at the Oracle at Delphi for folks to see as they came to learn about their fate. Psychotherapy is mostly about looking at what is getting in the way of the patient’s progress in life.  Both have the assumption – perhaps naïf- people actually want to grow.  In my job I’ve learned not everyone wants to grow. In fact this may be the majority; nowadays people want certainty which is detrimental to growth and learning.  Many people are trying merely to survive. Their lives aren’t so much ‘how do I become a better person” but “how the hell to I get through this day?” and repeat again tomorrow.*

I see a specific sort of clientele, so my data is skewed towards the folks not looking for insight or Self-growth but for medication to appease their anxiety or lift their melancholy so they have more strength and stamina to get through the direful situations they are living in/contending with. I try to insert some education about escaping that awful job/relationship/situation; I also try to get them to see growth and survival as not a choice or one or the other. Often this goes over like a lead balloon. I’ve learned lots of my patients aren’t going to grow and to drag them kicking and screaming down The Journey is foolish. They get their meds, they vent/complain about their lot, and back again in three months.

Once in a while (alas not frequent) someone comes in who doesn’t have ‘clinical depression’ but has ‘spiritual depression”.  In psychoanalysis, depression is not a medical condition to suppress like hypertension but a warning sign one’s life is not right. It’s like an engine light coming on in you car.  When this happens one doesn’t ask the mechanic to turn it off, but to lift the bonnet and see what’s wrong inside with the engine. Dynamic depression feels lousy but thems who experience it have been given a prod to do some something about it viz. mend their lives and find what out needs to be done.  My job is to point this out and try to get them going on their path, despite the fears, the uncertainty, and for some the perceived lateness. 

Few recognize this sort of depression and what it is calling them to do, and fewer still are willing to go on the difficult unforeseen Journey.  Psyche has a curios way to ‘encourage one” to do so when you don’t go willingly by creating road blocks in the form of nervous breakdowns or unconscious acting out to lose your status quo. “Finally!” is seems to say when you’ve lost the jobs/spouse/health “It took a lot but perhaps now we can start the real work!”  

Anyone who has ever read a fairy tale or seen an adventure movie knows The Hero does not go alone on their Journey but goes with sidekicks and meets people to help them. My job often serves the role of Friend or Sidekick.  I am honored to be part of anyone’s Journey.  I hope to give assistance even when I cannot show them the Way. 

 

*I would like to figure out in a Venn diagram two circles, one titled “Those who are just trying to survive” and another titled: “Those not interested in growing” to see if there is much overlap. I used to think thems not interested led to thems just trying to survive, but I know now this is not cause and effect per se.

Note – this is a draft of an entry I started writing last summer after I finished reading Neil Gaiman’s “American Gods”.  I thought I would pull it out and finish it.   Spo

The Board of Directors Here at Spo-reflections has mixed feelings about my entries about Jungian psychology. They like the Dungeons & Dragons elements (after all, they are part of that crowd) but the psychobabble elements bores the pants off of them – if they wore any pants at all. We’ve compromised I am allowed an entry on Jungian psychology ‘only once in a while’. And if nobody likes it, they will release the tarasque.

No one knows when Man first invented the gods but it seems it was from the get-go. People need to believe in gods, if only because it is so hard to believe in people. The gods became necessary. They were quite useful to explain things we cannot explain and keep people in check. Ages of thinking this way have imbedded the gods so deep into our collective psyches it has created something what Jung called “The Collective Unconscious”.  Many argue we have better explanations  now of where we came from and what causes thunder* it is time we all stopped investing our time and energy in sky-gods and get on with it. 

While it is good to strip the gods of their blood-thirsty authority they remain important to keep around. Life would be dull without them hanging about in our psyches and stories.  Humans don’t just need fantasy to make life bearable, they need fantasy to be fully alive and human.  We need cucumber trees and three-legged cyclops as much as anything else. To believe in these sort of lies helps us believe in the big ones, like Mercy, Justice, and Hope. You need to believe in things that aren’t true or how else can they become so? 

Last summer I read Mr. Gaiman’s “American Gods” which nicely captures these ideas. In the book the gods who have been imported by immigrants haven’t ‘died’ but are hanging about across America, longing to be wanted again. They need us more than we need them I suppose but we need them all the same. We may not need to pay them homage anymore but the gods need not be forgotten. Rather than sacrificing ourselves to them let’s have them out for a cup of coffee and a chinwag. They enrich our lives; they certainly enrich mine.

Heck if it weren’t for the gods and fantasy figures I’d be out of a blogging job.

 

 

 

*Not Thor. Try to tell as many people as you can in town. 

After a night of uncomfortable dreams of being lost and having no direction I woke to write this. I thought about not publishing it for this was mostly an exercise to settle down the dream work. I decided to post it, as perhaps others might relate.   Spo

I am looking forward to a lavish Halloween dinner (for two) and this Christmas has the pleasure of putting up a tree* with the 13 Yule lads ornaments I received in July as a birthday prize. Apart from these two pleasantries I don’t have anything to look forward to.  This is not good as it translates to stagnation. I have a steady job and weekly mundane tasks to do; there is work to be done. What is lacking are life goals. There is no personal growth happening at the moment.  Not good. 

“Those who have a ‘why’ to live can bear with almost any ‘how’” wrote Mr. Frankl in his memoir “Man’s search for meaning”. He was a prisoner in a Nazi concentration camp; he write he managed to survive be he felt his life had purpose. 

Mr. Dostoyevsky wrote something similar: “The mystery of human existence lies not in just staying alive but in finding something to live for”.

Freudian psychology is overall a gloomy pessimistic psychology ; Jungian psychology has the notion of personal growth leading to Meaning and a Life with sense – if you will do it. Jungians are keen on finding purpose to Life. To live without is sad for those who are unconscious but it is downright tragic for those who are conscious. Inner wholeness and peace comes from an understanding of where one is going.  

At the moment many have no vision of where they are going. Between covid19 and politics Life has a lot of uncertainty. Life has always been and will always be uncertain but in a pandemic or looming loss of civility this axiom is more obvious. Covid19 has us with the tedious task of waiting an uncertain length of time. Meanwhile I need to work on finding something to live for.  I have lost purpose and I need to find some.

 

 

*We did no put up a tree in 2019 as we traveled to Michigan for Mother’s last Christmas. 

As a boy I felt isolated about who and what I was. This led to a rich fantasy life in my play and in my reading. I wanted to escape this world that had no one like me. How I longed to go down the rabbit hole or through the wardrobe to somewhere that at allowed me to be who I was.* This is an archetype in which one longs to be claimed by a tribe that recognizes you as their own – and one far better than the lot you were stuck with up until then. ** The Archetype of The Divine Child has its Shadow side of course. One of its elements is the desire to run away and not face facts. There is no Warrior energy in this: one crawls into a hole with their books and tech-toys to become isolated and alone. The Japanese have a word for this sort: The Hikikomori. 

Ever since my youth I continue to struggle not to let escapism dominate my life and actions. It is a constant challenge. Whenever confronted with bad news or a conflict or injustice (especially when it comes to politics or the world) I want to close the doors and shutters and withdraw into the inner-compartment of my mind where no one has ever entered.

One of my favorite poems is “Stolen Child” by William Yeats. The fairy folk try to lure away a child to join them. One gets the impression what they are offering hands-down beats the dreary life the child has:

Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.

This week synchronicity linked me onto a similar siren song: “Come little children” from the movie “Hocus Pocus”, which is beautifully sung by these two handsomes :The Fox and Hound:

Their rendition captures the weariness of life; leaving would be no loss – although what is being offered doesn’t sound much better:

When I succumb to the siren song of escapism there is little peace in doing so for the other aspects of my Psyche see this as copping-out if not downright cowardice.  Yes, they say, the world sucks and bad things happen but what if Gandhi or Dr. King or Susan B. Anthony took the approach you are choosing?  ‘Turn around!’ they say, ‘Get out and claim your spot (yes you have a right to have one) and do what you can!”

I know my strengths and weaknesses; I know which screws are loose. I was not a brave boy and this (worse luck!) did not improve in time. I don’t so much pray for Strength but draw on the Archetype of King and Warrior and the folks in my life more in touch with these energies than I. They comfort me, they stiffen my spine. There is no Wonderland or Narnia. I am part of the world; I have a right to be here, although this involves battle. These next four years will be the test if I implode or rise to the occasion.

 

 

*Later on in life I heard Dorothy sing “Somewhere over the rainbow”; I thought it was the most spot-on song ever written.

**Harry Potter is an excellent example of this. A unremarkable boy trapped living with an awful family is discovered to be a wizard and an extraordinary one as well.  What child does not long for similar discovery?

The Board of Directors Here at Spo-Reflections has mixed feelings about entries with Jungian Psychology. They like the Dungeons & Dragons elements (after all they belong to that lot) but the psychobabble bores the pants off of them. * I’ve been reflecting upon Forgotten Gods ever since Someone and I heard Mr. Gaiman’s “American Gods”. The gimmick of this TGR (thumping good read) is people from all over the world brought their gods to North America and these divine beings are still mucking about often living in shoddy conditions and holding lackluster jobs. What they have in common is they miss being worshipped. Most of them would be happy with merely being remembered.

History is strewn with countless gods and goddesses nearly all of them forgotten. It’s funny to think of gods as capable of dying but they do; equally funny is the notion new ones get born. Indeed in Mr. Gaiman’s book the old gods are at war with the new gods of The Media and The Internet.

Gods carry archetypal energy. They act like stencils. Mother goddess energy stays the same but shows its form in many ways. This concept is nicely reflected in Mr. Campbell’s seminal book titled “The Hero with a thousand faces”.

The gods need us and we need them. Without their numinous libido Life is colorless. We may delight at smashing the idols as pagan and antiquated but then we create new ones –  we can’t help it. As an aside the current crop of deities is a sorry lot full of safe black/white principals and pushed out Shadow parts (on the horror!). They do not suffice. It is no surprise to the Jungians people seem drawn to returning to more ancient forms of gods with their wild and dark sides to fulfill our psyches.

On a less lofty level the concept of Forgotten Gods strikes a universal chord we want to be remembered. Whether god or human we don’t want to disappear. Truth is the vast majority of mankind is forgotten within a few generations only to be remembered (if at all) as abstract names and dates on tombstones and in genealogy records. Many cultures in the east have a Remembrance Day for honoring and remembering the ancestors (our All Souls Days and Memorial Days don’t do much I fear and Day of the Dead is more a party now than a day of recalling the dead). Even the gods can not stop becoming extinct.

While we are alive it is best to be in touch with god/goddess energy and live life to the fullest always going towards apotheosis so when we die and are forgotten we go knowing we have had a marvelous journey while it lasted.

 

 

*That is if they were wearing any pants. They wear what looks like kilts that have seen better days and no I don’t know what they wear underneath them. Last year as a Yule gift I sent them all some Mack Weldons but who knows if these were actually worn or were they exchanged for matching tiki-glasses that decorated Heorot Johnsons soon afterwards.

 

Cryptid (n): an animal (such as Sasquatch or the Loch Ness Monster) that has been claimed to exist but never proven to exist.

Urs Truly is a big fan of ghoulies and ghosties and things that go bump in the night.  Monsters and mythical beings are aspects of our personal and collective psyches. They carry our fears but they are also jolly good fun.*  Terry Prachett  (no stranger to these sorts) wrote:

“Humans need fantasy to be human, to be the place where the falling angel meets the rising ape.”

Springheel_Jack

The Cryptid currently bouncing about my psyche is a fellow well over feet named Spring-heeled Jack. His story makes for a TGR (thumping good read). As a cross between Jack the Ripper and a demon. He literally sprang about in England in the early 19th century, frightening the citizens and making a splash into our psyches as another example of the archetype The Boogey Man.  I haven’t thought of him since childhood until last week when I phoned Brother #2 and family. They were watching a TV show about “Moth man” a West Virginia cryptid now being exploited like the aliens at Roswell.  I educated Nephew #2 about Mr. S.H. Jack and now he’s hooked on the tale as was his father and I.

Afterwards I went on line to find a photo of Mr. S.H. Jack to send to the nephew. The saying ‘there is everything on the internet” is true.  I stumbled across The Spring-heeled jack coffee company which looks a splendid place chock-full of coffee beans with demonic names. It is a bit of a disappointment to learn Mr. Jack demonic-like wasn’t from the devil but merely being over-caffeinated.  More important than the coffee is the site sells a Spring-heeled Jack T-shirt. Hot puppies! I plan on getting one and jumping about the place frightening the citizens and making no splash into our psyches but being told to pipe down.

IMG_3520

*La Casa de Spo is full up with these sorts of which I have written many times. They jump about the house and the inner compartments of my pumpkin making Life fun-filled and interesting. Someone the rationalist never experiences these things

There is a fantasy series titled “The incarnations of immortality” written by Piers Anthony. He takes the Jungian concept of archetypes and inverts it. Rather than the common man having archetypes within him Mr. Anthony  (clever man!) has the archetypes of Time, Death, Nature, War, and Fate as jobs filled in by ordinary folk. Fate of course is a three man job – no, make that a three woman job rather. These employees come and go while the role of the office stays. I think of this concept whenever encountering a revolving door of in and out staff members.

The last incarnation of The Medical Assistant (#4) quit suddenly to take an ‘opportunity of a lifetime’ job. This left me in a lurch with no word from The Boss what’s to be done. The Desk Receptionist (another archetypal job)  took over as if nothing had ever happened. Today I came to work to drop off finished forms and pick up new ones to encounter a stranger stating she was just hired as for the next incarnation of The Medical Assistant. I forget what her name was/is. It sounded like Lucretia Borgia which I hope is not prophetic. I hope #5 works out and stays awhile.

Someone got a recommendation of a lawyer we could use to write our wills. This woman would be the second one to the incarnation of The Attorney. The first one was so long ago I cannot remember her name. We favor applicants of the female persuasion; it is good to have a strong Warrior Queen type woman for legal matters.

The fellow filling the present post of The Good Doctor incarnation has done so for over a decade and I am pleased as punch he has managed to stick around. I often hear the laments from my own patients their PCPs change of them frequently sometime yearly when insurances change. People come and go so quickly here in Medicine nowadays. Gone are the good old days when your GP and you grew old together eyeing each other wondering which will expire first.

As for Urs Truly I have been The Shrink since 2005 for which my patients are most grateful*. I am an incarnation of the staunchest type well over four feet. Please don’t feed me buns and things.

 

 

*Well most of them anyway. There’s no pleasing some.

“If you were to have three wishes what would they be?”

Everyone fantasizes about this archetypal question. Every society throughout history has a version of the three wishes tale. Some entity or magical object appears to some unfortunate or smarty pants in need of a lesson and grants them three wishes. Sometimes the three wishes workswell (example: Aladdin) most mostly  they do not (example: the monkey’s paw). Usually there is an element of folly and being careful what you wish for. The wishes usually come in sets of three. Carl Jung thought three was unstable state in need of a fourth to create stability.  The motif of the three wishes illustrate his point:

The first wish is usually done thoughtlessly; its results create regret after its consequences of the wish become apparent.

The second wish tries to fix the first wish often making things worse.

The third wish is done with maturation to return things to order or to create a wiser situation. 

The ‘fourth wish’ is the conscious desire to be content with what actually has. 

The Spo-fan who suggested I write on three wishes isn’t asking for a lecture I surmise; she is curious what three wishes I would want.  

Here they are:

#1 – The ability to transport anywhere in an instant. 

Oh the sights I would see and the time I would save with the ability to pop in and out wherever I wish! I could shop for salmon in Seattle and see all the operas throughout the world. Another perk: I can appear and depart like the characters on “Bewitched” thus achieving my childhood fantasy to be Endora or Aunt Clara or Dr. Bombay or one of that crowd.  

#2 – Cure at a touch.

Imagine being able to alleviate pain or stop a child’s leukemia at a touch. Combining #1 with #2 I would pop in/out of places all over the globe to places with little or no access to health care and eliminate disease. 

#3 – What would be the third wish has varied over time. Once upon a time I thought #3 would be

to always find a five dollar bill in my pocket

but if I were to charge even a nominal fee for #2 I’d ne’er lack for money. 

The ability to find lost objects

has come and gone as well. What seems to return over and over is the wish to

Always know the right thing to say.

an you imagine? This would be better than Obi Wan Kanobi using The Force at getting what I want or getting people to behave. Apart from ‘gain’ there would be the exquisite pleasure of having said just what the moment calls for.  Come to think of it I do what I can to heal others and I have the ability to arrange transportation so this wish seems the most precious.

Let’s click our heels three times (mind the three again!) and say there’s no place like home sans l’esprit d’escalier.

IMG_2884

Note: The Board of Directors Here at Spo-Reflections thought this entry funny as it bears no resemblance to what they do.  So they let it by.

The first sentence of this entry has been rewritten so many times I have lost count. Several topics were all trying to get out at once each shouting over the others that theirs is the proper matter upon which to write. It is a good example of “The board meeting’ metaphor I sometimes use to sum up how the mind works via Jungian psychology for my patients. I decided not to pick from the multitude of cacophonous ideas batting about like bats in my belfry but write about the matter in itself. Serves them right for shouting.

Imagine if you will attending a board meeting in which you are the CEO. Your seat is properly at the end of the table from whence you look to your left and to your right to see a long line of attendants all eager to speak up and all of them believing they could do a better job at running the show than you. You the CEO is the Ego. Your conscious self has to take in their input to determine what to do and how to run the business which is Psyche Inc. meaning you. Let’s look at these attendees. These are the complexes each with its own agenda and make up. None of them are ‘good’ or ‘bad’ but a mixture of emotions, memories, and ideas with positive and negative attributes. Here’s an important point: you can not fire them (although at times you wish you could). Your job it to hear all the voices and make a conscious decision while ascertaining none of them get out of hand or worse yet try to push you/Ego out of the executive chair and proclaim THEY are now in charge, the new Ego, the leader of Psyche Inc.*

Let’s use an example. Urs Truly (CEO of Spo Inc.) is sitting with the agenda whether or not to walk Harper. Around the table are the usual always-there members: The Warrior, Mr.Worry nee Anxiety, Mr. Spock (as I call The Thinker), The Clown, and The Martyr. Not always present are a few drop-ins. Today my inner-Auntie Mame showed up as well.**

After hearing the modest proposal to go for a walk Mr. Anxiety immediate jumps up as is his wont in a gummy panic to spew why this is a bad idea, listing the many bad things and worse-case scenarios that could happen. Mr. Spock, quietly waits his turn or talks calmly under the ruckus and weighs the logic of a dog-walk now, later, or not at all. The Clown doesn’t really contribute but makes silly jokes and banter (not helping). The Warrior who sees everything as a battle whether or not there is one starts planning a route stratagem to avoid others least there be a dog fight. Mr. Martyr of course complains why Someone doesn’t do this more often why is always us that has to walk the dog. You can guess what my inner-Auntie-Mame suggests:  it is a marvelous impulsive idea and we should do so at once without another moment thought.

Board members (complexes) are a boisterous bunch sometimes apparent and sometimes so quiet as to be not consciously heard. The latter are actually more dangerous to lead the Ego by the nose or even hoist him out of the CEO chair. In the end Ego has to say “OK guys everyone has spoken I’ve heard your views and I have thought this out. My decision is to go on a walk in twenty minutes after I finish ironing. Don’t question me”. Sometimes the complexes complain or even try to ‘gang up’ on him to change his mind. A healthy Ego responds by affirming their input is valuable (even Mr. Worry’s) but they are not the boss. Ego is.

So goes the mind in all its endeavors. A conscious person has immediate emotional reactions and contradictory thoughts and feelings but he/she will pause and reflect and decide before acting (out). The more aware you are of The Board Members (who and what they are) the better for Psyche Inc.

Go thou and do likewise.  I am off to walk the dog.

mommie-dearest

*By the way this way this is where we get the word ‘shrink’. A psychiatrist’s task (at least the Jungian ones) help the analysand ‘shrink’ bloated complexes to proper manageable sizes so the overwhelmed Ego can get back to running the place.

**Archetypes are universal, but it is up to the individual to give them personal names. The Trickster has as many names throughout human history as there are stars in the sky. My Trickster is presently wearing the name tag “Raven” which fools no one at the board meetings as everyone knows The Trickster despite his many disguises.

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