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I read a lot of articles these days about burn-out and exhaustion. In the social outlets and in the medical journals these conditions are apparently rampant made worse by the consequence of covid 19. We are burning the candle at three ends. My Jungian-trained mind goes to balance, so it is not surprising I’ve been thinking a lot about “Jordon” lately.

Jordon was an analysand of mine when I was in private practice in Evanston in the early 90s. He was a man in his 70s, I recall, sent in for head-shrinking by his wife on the grounds ‘something wasn’t right with him’. Jordon was a recent retiree after decades of being the president or CEO of some sort of business.  He and his wife were quite active in fund raisers, board members, social clubs, and at their church. Now that he was retired he didn’t want to do any of these things. What he wanted to do was ‘bum around’. He was quite happy – nay, content – doing nothing more than reading books or literally going fishing without any goal of catching fish.  His wife was appalled. Mrs. Jordon wanted himto do all the usual things and more since he had more time to do them. Obviously he must be depressed, as if he was ‘right’ he would want to do all these things as she thought was ‘right’. They had a lifelong propensity to go on holidays in which she had them running around day and night when all he wanted to do was sit on the beach with a book.

Jordon and I worked on how he could find ways to reconcile his desires with hers – short of a divorce or separate vacations. I was fired in the end for not getting him better viz. not getting him to want to be busy. Rumor has it after we ended she took him on a three week-long cruise to Antartica with three other couples (none he could stand) with daily rosters full up with lecture series and yoga classes and canasta.  

I have christened the complex to be constantly on the go and doing the ‘right’ things “The Jordon Complex’. Mr. and Mrs. Jordon could have been seen as extreme cases of introversion vs. extroversion but I think there was more than ‘where did they go to recharge themselves’. Mrs. Jordon (at least how she was portrayed to me) had a lot of ‘should’ statements to her, and vanity too – what would the neighbors think or her/them to know Jordon was bumming around when his peers were running boards and charity drives? Oh the embarrassment.

‘Being busy’ is the new bent status symbol but it wasn’t always this so. Before the 20th century the rich and important boasted their worth through a life of indolence. In the 21st century it is through how g-d busy we are. We can’t just do a simple stroll in the park but must be listening to a lecture or audiobook while tracking our steps for cardiovascular health. Maybe you are old enough to remember weekends and vacations used to be  times of ‘doing nothing’, taking a rest, to recharge you batteries for the work week.

Please don’t think I am above and beyond this. I must consciously mind the habit and cultural influence to be constantly doing things. I am working on my inner-Jordon to let him go fish or read a book or whatever he wants – or doesn’t want – to do. I want to say to others when they asks me: ‘what did you do on your vacation?” or “How was your weekend?” to say ‘oh nothing really, it was non-eventful”.  The Mrs. Jordons has been running the itinerary for far too long now and it is costing us our energy and our souls. 

I thought I would write some essays on how to have a better life. I am doing this primarily to organize my thoughts on the topic.  If Spo-fans find it interesting and/or instructive so be it. Most of you are intelligent types, well over four feet, not really needing this sort of thing I suppose, but maybe a few wanderers will drop by and pick up a stone to put in their pocket on their Journey and be better for it.

An interviewer was talking to C.G. Jung about his psychological theories. As Jung disclosed his ideas, the interviews apparently became annoyed at what he was hearing to the point of saying to Herr Doctor that in his opinion, Jungian psychology was just common sense in wrapped in shrink-talk.  Jung reportedly laughed heartily and replied something along the line if a psychology didn’t have common sense at its core, what good was it? 

I do not subscribe much to the notion of ‘Imposter syndrome’ [1] but I get tickles of this throughout my workday as I give out ‘common sense’ advice that is received as Sage Wisdom.  Mind! Many folks are missing ‘common sense” and are in sore need of hearing some. [2] and it is my job to try to set them straight.  Here are some of my favorites:

Give up your need to be liked.

Stop multi-tasking.

Let go of your desire for perfection.

Give up toxic people.

Stop saying ‘yes’ to things that don’t support your goals or do you harm.

Give up your need to control everything.

Mostly I try to get folks to give up unhealthy lifestyles (more on this next time).

It still amazes me whenever I tell one of these chestnuts to someone they have a numinous reaction as if struck by divine revelation. Glad to help.  Most of the time people ‘know this already’ as their loved ones have been telling them this sort of stuff for some time. As some old shrink said, intellectual insight cures ignorance, not neurosis. My job is more often about how to translate insight into action, and what gets in the way.

My analytical professors are going to roll over in their graves with what I am about to write.  Most of the time finding the unconscious event from your past that correlates to the present problem ion order to free up symptoms is often waste of time. This sort of insight-oriented analysis is like an exquisite wrench in my psychiatric toolbox: very useful at times but most of what I do is tighten or loosen screws. Even when you connect the dots that your fear of rejection stems from the time when you were six years old and mother didn’t give you enough brownies because you came home from school one day with muddy clothes does NOT translate into action. [3]  

When there is an avalanche in your backyard, rather than trying to figure out which stone caused it, focus on what you need to do to remove the mess.  

Back to Jung for a moment. His psychology is more about ‘going forward’ than the classic Freudian approach of ‘looking to the past”, which is why being a Jungian is more practical despite all its Dungeons & Dragons components. [4] Most of mental illness stems from or is made worse by dysfunctional actions and choices. Common sense can help, and sometimes a lot, thank goodness.

[1] Jungians already have such in their lexicon; it is called ‘The Personae’. The Personae is what we present to the world. It is part of our psychology, but it is not Ego, The Ego is ‘who we really are”.  Please do not confuse the two. People (especially the menfolk) get wrapped up as what we are is who we are. Bad idea, that.

[2] I shouldn’t be perturbed by this. After all, the lack of common sense keeps me gainfully employed. Hohoho.

[3] I have a vague memory of a comedian doing a sketch in which she plays a new-age type therapist who cures everyone in their first appointment (much to her dismay) when she tells them what childhood matter is causing their problem. They light up and their trouble instantly melts away, and they skidoo.

[4] And it’s more fun.

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.

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