For those following this, the next chapter analysis is up.
It’s kind of like being psychoanalysed via one of my books; albeit the book that I probably feel most sense of pride and achievement about. Check it out.
For those following this, the next chapter analysis is up.
It’s kind of like being psychoanalysed via one of my books; albeit the book that I probably feel most sense of pride and achievement about. Check it out.
Sometimes our dreams offer a lot more than mere rehashing of a day’s events, and give us valuable clues to what is going on deep in our unconscious. The following dream may well be of interest:
I dreamed I had gone to an expensive and swish sort of hotel for some sort of conference. One of the first things I managed to do was lose the key to my room; one of those, “I’m sure I put it in my handbag” moments of frantic rummaging around, until it seemed unimportant so I went through to the main conference room. It was like the vast dining rooms you see in Oxford and Cambridge colleges and it was filled with tables laid out with all sorts of wares for writing, from marvellous machines, exquisite journals and notebooks, pens of a thousand thousand kinds from the usual Bic biros to fabulously expensive Mont Blancs, and quills and dipping pens of many types. I knew I had come to find the most exclusive inks in the world, also the most expensive, but as I searched table after table, it became clear I was too late and they’d sold out. I found a sheet of creamy white paper, the kind that is made by pulping cloth, and looks rather like parchment, and a quill pen, and started trying to write, but no matter how many times I dipped my pen in the ink, the page remained resolutely blank because the ink was not the magic ink I’d come to find.
Regular readers of this blog will know (and perhaps share) my obsession and love for stationery, and may well be familiar with my long struggle to overcome something that is generally referred to as Writer’s Block (but before anyone starts kindly suggesting exercises or websites or, God forbid, apps, the term is used very loosely and it’s something deeper and darker than what the term is usually applied to).
The dream speaks of my fear that I have somehow arrived too late at the table, despite the fact that as I went round table after table looking for the ink, I was almost the only person present. In terms of the writing/publishing industry, I wasn’t first at the feast but I jumped in reasonably early in the day, with the first (paperback only) edition of Strangers and Pilgrims being published early in 2010, and the first (and flawed) Kindle edition about a year or so later. But the magic of those early days is gone, heaven only knows where, if it ever truly existed at all. With it has gone my confidence of creating anything worthy of the fine paper I tried to write upon in my dream.
Anyway, I’m going to keep on trying. Confidence is a thing easy enough to fake; I’ve been doing it my entire life. I’ve always said that in certain ways the I that is conscious is not the writer of the stories, but the unconscious I is the real creatrix. When I draw upon the deep, dark, hidden levels, that’s when the stories start to flow, dipping into my own veins to use the inner ink.
What I did on my holidays
It’s that time of year. If you have kids, they may well be scrambling to write up a report of the same name as this article, or complete whatever project they were asked to do. You may be getting ready for the new school year yourself, as parent, teacher, teaching assistant or other related jobs.
I decided to take August off, stepping back from blogging weekly, because I felt it was time to cut myself some slack. I’ve been fighting off some very dark moods and the effort of writing a blog post every week was becoming a big deal.
So what have I been doing this summer?
Reading, for a start. I’ve worked my way through several books by Jungian writer Robert A Johnson. They’re excellent books, deceptively short but packed with condensed, intense but eminently readable information. I’ve also read through several books by Dennis Wheatley and enjoyed them; I was warned by an uncle never to read them but having read them, I can’t see why they were seen as so disturbing. I’ve read a good number of books by Dion Fortune; some I am still working my way through. I’m a person who can have twenty books on the go, and pick up and put down as they take my fancy. Of mainstream authors, I read the most recent by Joanne Harris, Peaches for M. le Curé (good but a tad predictable and somehow lacking in verve), the first of the Cormoran Strike books by J.K. Rowling (enjoyable but oddly dated; I admire her but I really think the success of this book is entirely due to her name and not the actual story). I read Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the end of the Lane with huge enjoyment, and J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye with puzzlement and some sadness. I read two books by Graham Masterton, set among the garda of Ireland, and while they were compelling, they were also absurd, ridiculous and gratuitously horrible. Poetry, I read Yeats’s The Wind that Shakes the Reeds and reminded myself why I always loved his work.
Among the independent authors I’ve read this summer, I read Mary Grand’s Free to be Tegan ( gentle, intuitive and a very interesting exploration of leaving a cult), Mari Howard’s Baby, Baby, an intelligent, well written and intriguing novel, exploring the ethics of fertility and the effects on ordinary people. I’ve also read a work in progress by Karl Mercer, an absurdist pastiche of Sherlock Holmes that made me laugh out loud a few times.
As well as reading, I’ve done a certain amount of painting, and active imagination work. In terms of writing, I’ve done dribs and drabs, as well as some poetry. I’ve got three works in progress than trickle along, as well as one that basically got shelved a couple of years ago. I have gone back to doing long-hand first drafts, because I’ve found it impossible to allow myself just to write and let the story reveal itself if I use a computer. There is so much internal pressure to produce perfection on the first draft that I don’t find I can write at all. Long-hand means I can let it come out, and edit later when it gets put onto a document. It’s hard for me to remember that when I had my spell of intense productivity about ten years ago, each story had already been through a process of creation many times over in my head and in my unconscious before it ever made it onto a page. They were never true first drafts.
We were meant to be going away a few times in August but the friends we were going to visit came down with a nasty virus, and then, our beloved guinea pig Tiko became ill, and after a week of hoping and nursing, he died in my arms last Monday. We were devastated. He was such a character, and is hugely missed. We’re on the look-out now for a local rescue centre or individual, needing to rehome guinea pigs.
Other thing I’ve been doing is the final frustrating and maddening edits and tweaks to the collection of essays from this blog, entitled Depression and the Art of Tightrope Walking. The paperback is out now and the kindle version will follow shortly. I have a launch party on Facebook on the 4th of September so come along and join the fun here: https://www.facebook.com/events/354508034737778/ I’ve chosen not to do a lot of the running around authors seem to do for new books, like a blog tour or similar. I’ve grown aware that with the ocean of books and the phalanxes of authors out there, there’s just so much noise and shouting louder and longer is just a waste of energy, not to mention that it becomes obnoxious when authors are constantly in your face. I’ll be posting here about the new book and perhaps in a few places as well, but if you read it and find it worthwhile, I’d hope that it might be that you would review it and talk about it to your circle of friends and family. I’ve put a lot of myself into it and I believe that it’s a book that is needed. It’s not a self-help book and it doesn’t offer easy solutions, but I think it asks questions that need asking.
Other things I have done this summer have been sitting out in the garden and just taking the time to watch the flowers grow and the insects do their work. That’s been a great joy, just to BE, and be in a place I feel at home and safe. I’ve read, painted, written and done my colouring seated at the patio table on the area that might loosely be termed crazy paving (not so much crazy as downright psychotic) and it’s been a blessing to have that space. While I was teaching, summer school meant that I never got to enjoy the lazy days and sunny afternoons as I was always on the go and rushing. When we moved here, the first two summers I was still too unwell physically to enjoy it. This third summer has been a time of reflection and contemplation.
Anyway, September tip-toes in and I wish you all the very best for the mellow days of autumn that are on their way.
“From the Four Corners of the Earth”~ Jung’s words on avoiding our souls
As you may know, I’ve been reading my way through the works of Jung that I can afford or obtain. It’s a slow thing, because I do not wish to rush the experience. I take time over each page, and sometimes I stay with it for quite a long while. Things sometimes leap off the page at me and I make a note or put in a little page marker.
The other night, the following struck me from The Earth Has a Soul (a collection of his writings on Nature, technology and modern life)
“People will do anything, no matter how absurd, in order to avoid facing their own souls. They will practice Indian yoga and all its exercises, observe a strict regimen of diet, learn theosophy by heart, or mechanically repeat mystic texts from the literature of the whole world – all because they cannot get on with themselves and have not the slightest faith that anything useful could ever come out of their souls. Thus the soul has gradually been turned into a Nazareth from which nothing good can come. Therefore let us fetch it from the four corners of the earth- the more far-fetched and bizarre it is the better!” (Carl Gustav Jung Complete Works 12, para 126)
Now all of the things he describes are excellent things, and beneficial disciplines in and of themselves. But used as a means of evading and avoiding the soul-work we are called to do, they’re little different from losing yourself in drugs, drink or a myriad of other activities people indulge in to keep from the moment when they must face their own soul.
I’d like to share one of my own poems as a coda to this section from Jung’s works. I’ve spent a lot of my life on the edges and even the very fringes of all manner of philosophies and faiths and among the seekers of this western world, there is a powerful emphasis on wisdom coming from somewhere other than home. Like Jesus being treated shabbily in his own home town, most prophets and prophecies are seldom honoured initially in their places of origin.
My kind of wisdom
Just because my kind of wisdom
Doesn’t wear buckskin,
Isn’t hung with feathers,
Isn’t decorated with crystals
And isn’t inscribed with runes and sigils,
It doesn’t mean it isn’t real.
Just because my kind of wisdom
Doesn’t require mastering
An arcane language,
Or a degree in theology,
It doesn’t mean it isn’t deep.
Just because my kind of wisdom
Doesn’t ask me to stand
On one leg for years,
Beat myself with whips,
And starve myself half to death,
It doesn’t mean it hasn’t cost.
Homespun, home-grown, homemade:
You know, from somewhere far off,
It might look as exotic as yours.
“A puff of wind swept away in the storm”
“The West has unfortunately not yet awakened to the fact that our appeal to idealism and reason and other desirable virtues, delivered with so much enthusiasm, is mere sound and fury. It is a puff of wind swept away in the storm of religious faith, however twisted that faith may appear to us. We are faced, not with a situation that can be overcome by rational or moral arguments, but with an unleashing of emotional forces and ideas engendered by the spirit of the times, and these, as we know from experience, are not much influenced by rational reflection and still less by moral exhortation.” Carl Gustav Jung, The Undiscovered Self (1957)
In this quote from The Undiscovered Self, Jung was writing about Marxism and Communism. Anyone who lived through or grew up during the Cold War as I did will remember the constant tensions that rippled through the whole of society in the West. These are tensions that are renewed and given new and horrible life in each generation. Events in Paris last week have rocked the entire world. I have no answers. Humankind needs to reach a maturity of spirit before we destroy each other utterly.
Notes from the Red Book ~ part two ( for part one, see here: https://zenandtheartoftightropewalking.wordpress.com/2013/04/01/notes-from-jungs-the-red-book-part-one/
A few mornings ago I woke from a vivid dream that felt significant and puzzling because it was about someone who died a full five years before I was even born: Carl Gustav Jung. In the dream I was asked to do daily visits to the man himself, to give him reflexology (I used to work as a reflexologist) during what was to be his last illness. The place where he was living was a big, old school that was no longer in use as a school for children and the sign at the entrance to the drive had been obscured by the growth of climbers so I didn’t see the name of the place. The sign was a heavy duty block of ornately carved stone but the plants had scrambled all over it, obscuring the lettering. I went into the study where he was sitting waiting for me and I wanted to refresh my memory of what I’d discovered on my first visit (I think this was my second visit) I’d been making lots of notes but when I looked at them, they were all written in the old high German script that was almost dying out when I was a teenager visiting Germany (the old folks still used it but otherwise it was gone from normal life) and the notebook also had some wonderful visionary paintings in it, all done in miniature. I realised I had written and drawn it all but could not make out much of my notes. I have some German but am far from fluent and reading it even in normal modern script is something I struggle with. The odd word popped out because it was in English, like *meridian*. I sat down and I could hear Jung speaking to me, but though it was in English, I didn’t seem to be able to understand, but even so, I gathered that day he didn’t want me to work on his feet but just to sit there and listen. He had such a kind, gentle but passionate voice that I became very still as I tried to understand what was being told to me. He was dressed in the kind of tweed suit that I’d more associate with Tolkien, but it had an unEnglish quality to it that is hard to explain.
I shared the gist of the dream on Facebook and I had some exceptionally perceptive feedback from wise friends, and I did some thinking. Last year I was given my copy of the readers’ edition of the Red Book and after reading a certain way into the text, I stopped. This was around the time when my concentration was becoming compromised and my memory and cognition had become very fuzzy.
So, given that the text and the pictures in the dream clearly were reminders of The Red Book (and also of my own little Grail diary that I have been writing and painting in) I decided to start reading again. My copy bristles with stick in post it notes, and I made notes as I went along. In the Liber Secundus (Second Book) I came across Jung’s conversation with a figure he calls The Red One (who may or may not be the devil) and was struck by Jung’s comment at the end of this passage:
“This I learned in the Mysterium: to take seriously every unknown wanderer who personally inhabits the inner world, since they are real because they are effectual.”
I read on through the passage entitled The Castle in the Forest, where a strange storybook encounter takes place and where Jung debates the nature of fairy-tales and the relationship between outer adventures and inner adventures.
I’d like to transcribe some of the final section after the adventure of the castle has been recounted, because it resonated with me:
“If you remain within arbitrarily and artificially created boundaries, you will walk as between two high walls: you do not see the immensity of the world. But if you break down the walls that confine your view, and if the immensity and its endless uncertainty inspire you with fear, then the ancient sleeper awakens in you, whose messenger is the white bird (the soul). Then you need the message of the old tamer of chaos. There in the whirl of chaos dwells eternal wonder. Your world begins to become wonderful. Man belongs not to an ordered world, he also belongs in the wonder world of his soul. Consequently you must make your ordered world horrible, so that you are put off by being too much outside yourself.
Your soul is in great need, because drought weights in its world. If you look outside yourselves, you see the far-off forests and mountains, and above them your vision climbs to the realms of the stars. And if you look into yourselves, you will see on the other hand the nearby as far-off and infinite, since the world of the inner is as infinite as the world of the outer. Just as you become a part of the manifold essence of the inner world through your soul. The inner world is truly infinite, in no way poorer than the outer one. Man lives in two worlds. A fool lives here or there, but never here and there.”
In the last few months, I have seen a restoration of my inner world that had felt stripped bare and left flat and empty of all life. Dreams have begun to flow, hesitantly at times but Jung’s words remind me that figures who appear to me in dreams and in waking dreams of imagination are real and that they do not appear by simple chance. The continued and unsolved issues of health that have left me still in significant pain and weakness have curtailed my exploration of the exterior world; trips I had hoped to make have again been put on hold until the source of the weakness and pain has been located. Yet to be reminded that if my body becomes frail, I can still access the infinite and very real worlds of the inner, of what Jung calls the Mysterium, is a huge boost. I spent years exploring ways of accessing this realm for myself and the demands of the outer life meant that I used those methods less and less. But that knowledge and experience remain, a little dusty maybe, but still valid and still vital.
I’ll end with some more words that have popped off the page for me. My feeling of stagnation, of no progress have irked me and caused me much pain and frustration so reading these words may help you as they are helping me:
To be that which you are is the bath of rebirth. In the depths, being is not an unconditional persistence but an endlessly slow growth. You think you are standing still like swamp water, but slowly you flow into the sea that covers the earth’s greatest deeps, and is so vast that firm land seems only an island imbedded (sic) in the womb of an immeasurable sea.
As a drop in the ocean you take part in the current, ebb and flow. You swell slowly on the land and slowly sink back again in interminably slow breaths. You wander vast distances in blurred currents and wash up on strange shores, not knowing how you got there. You mount the billows of huge storms and are swept back into the depths. And you do not know how this happens to you. You had thought that your movement came from you and that it needed your decisions and efforts, so that you could get going and make progress. But with every conceivable effort you would never have achieved that movement and reached those areas to which the sea and the great wind of the world brought you.”
“I am on a quest…” ~ dreams of the Grail
Jung referred to dreams as being “the royal road to the unconscious,” and any seeker of their inner truth does well to pay attention to their dreams. My good friend Jean Raffa has written extensively in all three of her books (all highly recommended here) of the value of dreams and dream analysis. I keep an intermittent dream journal and have done for many years, though I sabotage myself quite often by choosing not to record dreams because I sometimes let myself believe the view held by many that dreams are just valueless doodlings the mind does when left to run idly by, and that they have no deep inner message. This is completely at variance to my core belief and experience that in dreaming we come closer at times to the true nature of reality than we do when awake. I’ve had precognitive dreams galore that make me certain that time is not linear; I’ve had powerful lucid dreams that help me believe that consciousness is not random or purposeless. Yet still I tend to think, “No, that’s just silly. How can dreams be THAT important?” Every time I read someone commenting that dreams are only of interest to the dreamer and suggesting that the sharing of dreams is foolish, this only goes to back up this internal struggle I have with the value of my own dreaming.
The other problem with dreams is that you need to be able to sleep to have them and here, due to several issues having a catastrophic effect on my sleep patterns, I’m fighting to sleep more than two consecutive hours. I probably tot up six or so hours but all broken up and it’s been relatively rare for me to have anything more than fragmentary, jumbled dreams that come in evanescent snatches.
The other morning I slept in a few extra hours after morning wakening and I dreamed. Yet when I woke, I was at first too dismissive of the dream to want to write it all down. I felt both the content and the imagery was embarrassingly childish and immature. Yet after a few minutes I realised that that was probably a clue in itself to its value. Often the deepest messages are couched in terms and language that hark back to early childhood.
The dream had a long preamble, which I’m not going to share here, because while it has a message, it’s not essential to the whole thing. Within the dream-scape scenario I was at once seeking something and being pursued at the same time. I descended a wide, modern spiral stair case that was littered with debris like old clothes and cardboard boxes that were empty and battered, as if I were going to a basement. I was looking for a way out and I felt as if I should not be there; I would be in serious trouble if found. There was another person with me but I was unable to see who he was, but I knew it was a he. We found a door, that led into the exterior world but when we looked out, it led into a graveyard, overgrown and seemingly abandoned to weeds and tall grasses. It was also guarded at the perimeter wall by a witch with a broomstick. This was not our way out, so we crept back inside. We were now in a corridor which seemed to be mostly filled with stored items in boxes and in piles. My companion wanted us to hide under blankets so we would not be seen, and we did so. But as this occurred, a group of people came up behind us in the corridor.
Now the witch with the broomstick was the first player in this dream that had me recoiling as being childish, but the new arrivals were even more so. Straight out of a fairy tale picture book, wearing old fashioned clothes, these ladies resembled Flora, Fauna and Merryweather of the Disney version of Sleeping Beauty. I had the impression there were ten of them, all wearing similar clothes completed with fine white aprons and bonnets, and for all their comical appearance, they carried an air of power, because I could not hide from them and stood up.
I was interrogated, kindly but firmly, by these beings. They seemed ridiculous and yet I was in awe of them and unable to just dismiss them and walk away.
What was I doing there, they asked.
I thought, frantically, to find an explanation that might satisfy them, and one that would somehow raise me to being their equal in power.
“I am a royal princess and I am seeking to escape,” I said.
The one closest to me, who seemed their leader, shook her head.
“Oh no dear,” she said. “That won’t do at all. You seem like a commoner to us.”
I thought again and realised that I had to tell the truth, though I did not know till I spoke what it was.
“I am on a quest,” I said. “I am seeking to become royal.”
“Then we CAN help you,” said the leader, beaming at me, and before the dream faded I had a dim impression that they all carried gift boxes of some sort.
Now, I woke feeling initially that this carried messages of great power for me, yet within moments I was keen to dismiss it as being silly. Though I wanted to avoid writing it down, I resisted that and wrote up a brief account of it before it faded entirely. Bits and pieces came back to me later too. And the last few days I have spent considering the dream and what it might mean.
Those of you who have read Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code will know that he used the words San Graal (Holy Grail) and put them together to make Sangraal,(royal blood) and the concept of the quest for the Holy Grail became that for the blood line of Christ. I’ve long said that I am on a quest, a Grail quest, and yet I do not know what I am really looking for. Not a cup, nor yet a descendent of the bloodline of Christ, but rather certain eternal truths that these things can stand as metaphors for.
I wanted to reject this dream for its childish components and yet I can see that this has its origins in my earliest consciousness, and my seeking after this “grail” is almost as old as I am.
Me and my Shadow ~ living with the unseen
I’ve been pussyfooting around doing any real shadow work because I’m really not sure where to start. All the reading I’ve done suggests that there is no one path to integrating the shadow, but rather many. There is no one size fits all method, no programme to follow. So instead I’ve been exploring metaphors and bits and pieces of myself and getting a slow view of what lies beneath.
The thing about shadows, real or metaphysical, is that they’re not visible until there’s a very bright light. Diffuse light produces no shadows, generally. And we’ve had very little sunshine for a long while so I can’t remember when I last saw my actual shadow. But shining a bright light into the soul is pretty uncomfortable so I’ve resisted doing that on purpose.
Those who are sceptical about the effects of the shadow on a person would perhaps be asking, well, if you can’t see or notice the shadow much, then it can’t really be having much effect, can it?
I’m going to reply to that with something from my own life that has emerged in the last week. Some months ago I went to our GP with various symptoms that were causing me a great deal of pain and problems. Because my medical records are peppered with depression and anxiety, his instant response was to ascribe these symptoms to that. I refused to accept this and eventually he agreed to refer me to a specialist. By the time the appointment came round, I was very nervous and worried. I made up my mind that should I not receive respect and empathy, this would be the last time I would agree to see a medical practitioner outside of emergencies.
Someone somewhere was listening to my pain. It turns out I have a congenital condition that has been present my whole life, causing a whole raft of issues, but in recent years, the damage to my body is showing up more and more. There is permanent damage already. I’m being referred for more tests and also for more help, in terms of various gadgets and gizmos that may help to prevent further damage and that will hopefully make life more comfortable. I’ll have to learn to readjust the way I do certain things, and instead of being stoical, actually saying no to the things that will increase the damage.
This has been present since birth. Some has been visible but has only been seen as “That’s a bit odd!” and over my lifetime, NOT knowing it was there has meant I’ve not known to avoid certain activities. That unacknowledged condition has meant that damage in small and large increments has gone on and on. Some of it is visible now, but another person can’t see the pain or the internal damage that underlies it.
I suspect the Shadow is like this. Present in every human, it remains unseen, working away inside, and the damage it can do while it remains unrecognised is unimaginable. But bring it out where it can be seen, shine a spotlight on it, examine and explore it, and who knows? The Shadow may prove to be helpful and not harmful, as long as you know it’s there and work with it, not against it.
Notes from Jung’s The Red Book (part one)
As a birthday gift this year my husband gave me a copy of Jung’s The Red Book, a reader’s edition as the facsimile is very large and very expensive. I’m not especially visually orientated so the absence of pictures isn’t something that bothers me. (I do intend to get a copy of the complete book one day when I can justify to myself spending £150 on one book). I’ve long wanted to read this rather mysterious book, which was only made public in 2009, long after the death of Carl Gustav Jung in 1961. It’s hard to say what lured me most, the mystery or the possible clues to an inward journey. I’ve long held Jung to be something of a personal hero, for his work in realms few have dared to explore, and there is something that draws me to such work myself. Of course, his descent into the world of archetypes was backed by decades of study and thought, and mine is quite different. I’m no hero either. But I do believe that there is something that I must seek within my own unconscious, that it holds the key to my soul.
Anyway, I began reading and have decided to share some of it as I read. Things that resonate with me and things that have leapt off the page as being worth considering more closely. This first essay is prompted by a passage in the introduction:
“In 1922, Jung wrote a paper on, “The relation of analytical psychology to poetic art works.” He differentiated two types of work: the first, which sprang entirely from the author’s intention and the second, which seized the author. Examples of such symbolic works were the second part of Goethe’s Faustus and Nietzsche’s Zarathustra. He held that these works stemmed from the collective unconscious. In such instances, the creative process consisted in the unconscious activation of an archetypal image. The archetypes released in us a voice that was stronger than our own:
“Whoever speaks in primordial images speaks with a thousand voices; he enthrals and overpowers…he transmutes our personal destiny into the destiny of mankind, and evokes in us all those beneficent forces than ever and anon have enabled humankind to find a refuse from every peril and to outlive the longest night.
The artist who produced such works educated the spirit of the age and compensated for the one-sidedness of the present.” ~ The Red Book, C.G.Jung (introduction by Sonu Shamdasani)
Among writers one of the most entertaining of the memes that appear is the apparent irreconcilable differences between the Plotter and the Pantser. A Plotter will have worked out the entire plot, have folders of character background information, of research, often even chapter plans before ever starting to write the story. A Pantser writes by the seat of their pants, making it up as they go, and are often as surprised as the reader where a story ends up. I’ve seen a number of massive arguments going on in social media between proponents of both strategies, and have been baffled by them. There seems to be a sense of moral outrage that someone else uses a radically different strategy to produce a story.
Plotters claim that Pantsers are somehow lazy and disorganised, and are at the mercy of their own imaginations. Pantsers claim that Plotters take the joy out of storytelling, by being so meticulous and having so little spontaneity. It’s a conflict that’s unlikely to ever end.
I’m not going to come out entirely as either. I do write without much conscious planning, I admit this but I have begun to recognise that any book I have written was already mostly formed before I ever began to write it. A few have emerged fully formed, grabbing me by the scruff of the neck and making me write at breakneck speed. The Bet is one such. But every work is in there somewhere, fermenting, roiling and boiling away in a process of alchemy that I cannot control but can only be scribe to. I know there are writers who get very annoyed about other writers who feel as if they are more like archaeologists uncovering a pre-existing text, translating it perhaps or merely cleaning off the dust of millennia. I have seen arguments presented that this attitude denigrates the hard work and effort involved in inventing and crafting a story from scratch. I have no answer to that. I am one who is seized by the work, and I cannot either change or deny that. I have no control over what emerges from the unconscious, either mine or a collective one. I’d like to believe that I write in a voice that is stronger than my own personal one, that I channel something larger and more mysterious than stories. But nor do I deny that those who meticulously plan their work may also be subject to such a seizing either. Just as each of us reacts differently to life because of our own unique psychological make up, so too do we react differently to the promptings of the unconscious.
In essence I consider myself open to being seized, to become an oracle for something that needs to speak through me. It’s not a comfortable place to be. The process of being seized is akin to ecstasy, of loss of self and of being subsumed by something greater than the simple self. When it is done, there is a sense of being a shell, or being abandoned. There is a need to be willing to go where it takes you, of letting go of the reins. I have studied literature, I have read widely and I know ingredients make for a good story, yet none of this is ever deployed consciously when the voice of the unconscious seizes control. There is also the forlorn feeling when it is over that one may never again experience such a thing or produce such a work alone.
There is also trepidation because while it can seize, there can be prolonged hiatuses where it withdraws seemingly in the very middle of dictating a story (so to speak) leaving you high and dry. I can only speculate about why this happens. There are forces at work that are beyond my own reckoning. One can get a way through a work and then have it falter, the words drying to a dribble, then to nothing. I’m still unsure what to do when this happens, whether to keep on by dint of determination and invention or whether to retreat, withdraw and allow the flow to resume when the time is right. If my ponderings are correct, then for me it is time to take stock, go into the cave and become still, become ready and wait for the seizing to return.
The Evolution of my Animus ~ how he grows and changes as I do
During a conversation on Twitter with Marc Nash I made a throwaway comment about having hero/animus issues. What I’d meant was how the hero (or if you prefer ‘main character’) of one of my novels reflected my own animus. If you are not familiar with the concept of animus/anima then do have a bit of a read. I’m not a psychotherapist and I’m just a writer so those with more wisdom than I on this subject will need to bear with me, without yelling at me that I’ve got it wrong.
Wikipedia, that first port of call for information has this to say about what the anima/animus actually is/are:
“ The anima and animus are described by Jung as elements of his theory of the collective unconscious, a domain of the unconscious that transcends the personal psyche. In the unconscious of the male, this archetype finds expression as a feminine inner personality: anima; equivalently, in the unconscious of the female it is expressed as a masculine inner personality: animus.
The anima and animus can be identified as the totality of the unconscious feminine psychological qualities that a male possesses or the masculine ones possessed by the female, respectively. It is an archetype of the collective unconscious and not an aggregate of father or mother, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles or teachers, though these aspects of the personal unconscious can influence the person for good or ill.”
Much of my life I have found I am a poor fit for being terribly feminine. I climbed trees and made boats and roamed the countryside pretending to be an astronaut. But when I wasn’t being a tom-boy, I wrote. My first novel was written when I was ten years old. I’ll tell you a little more about that shortly.
Jung, whose work on the anima and animus is really worth dipping into, explained that neither is static and is something with develops and changes as the person grows. I’m only going to focus on the animus here as for my sins, I am a woman.
Jung stated that there are four parallel levels of animus development in a female.
The animus “first appears as a personification of mere physical power – for instance as an athletic champion or muscle man, such as ‘the fictional jungle hero Tarzan‘”.
In the next phase, the animus “possesses initiative and the capacity for planned action…the romantic man – the 19th century British poet Shelley; or the man of action – America’s Ernest Hemingway, war hero, hunter, etc.”
In the third phase “the animus becomes the word, often appearing as a professor or clergyman…the bearer of the word –Lloyd George, the great political orator”
“Finally, in his fourth manifestation, the animus is the incarnation of meaning. On this highest level he becomes (like the anima) a mediator of…spiritual profundity”.Jung noted that “in mythology, this aspect of the animus appears as Hermes, messenger of the gods; in dreams he is a helpful guide.” Like Sophia this is the highest level of mediation between the unconscious and conscious mind.
My first novel had an astronaut as the hero. At the time I was fascinated by science fiction and read avidly pretty much everything the library held in the genre. I read things that were so beyond suitable (rest assured, though, parents, much of it went over my head and I only understood a lot later if I reread things) and some fiction written for kids. I was amused greatly recently by an advertising campaign for Lynx deodorant where macho archetypes such as life guards and fire fighters were ‘trumped’ by an astronaut, and if this is to be believed then the astronaut is the ultimate champion or muscle man!
By the next novel, the hero had become a detective. I was completely (and irrevocably) in love with Sherlock Holmes and once I had devoured all the novels and short stories, I branched out into detective fiction of all kinds. For me, the detective was the ultimate romantic man. I stayed writing the detective/adventure genre for all of my teens, only venturing into other areas in my later teens when I became increasingly interested in the paranormal and what you might term the mysteries of life.
The hero of my novel written in my mid twenties was a lost soul, really, betwixt and between the romantic man of earlier but never quite evolving into the ‘word’ that Jung describes. He carried no great message either for me or for any readers at the time. My own descent into depression and apathy at this time following a rejection of a second novel that had reached committee stage at one of the big publishers, meant that I ceased to write.
But the processes beneath it all carry on like an underground river which seeped into the foundations and causes an eventual collapse of my resolve never to write again. A story, and an evolved hero took over my life, almost ten years ago now and if I look too closely at the time, I quake at the implications of it. I won’t talk about the story as such because that is another thing altogether. But I’d like to talk about the hero.
He’s not me, obviously. He’s himself. I’ve often wondered if he exists somewhere out there; in my psyche he’s so complete I think I know him better than I know myself. So the lines can become blurred. He’s the kind of person who makes an impact on others, usually despite not wanting to; he’d rather hide away and not mix with people. There’s events in his life he’s managed to wall over, remove from his everyday consciousness so that he doesn’t get ripped apart by them all the time. He’s intuitive but also quite reluctant to trust that sense of ‘knowing’ that he gets, often over-riding it to try to deal with things logically, rationally. His father is the kind of man who holds up logic, reason, good sense, as things to aspire to, to live your life by, and Antony desperately wants to please his father, to emulate him. Antony’s the quiet, shy clever kid in the corner that got picked on till he turned on his attacker and flattened him; but the bullies had to get in one final beating just to hammer the message home: you’ll never really beat us. He’s wary of people because he’s had too many so far who’ve let him down.
Events bring him to crisis point and beyond it into a free-fall where all he’d once held as certain, sacred, have become unanchored in his new reality. Having lost all his certainties he is faced with starting again, of setting out on a journey to find the self he’d lost or buried long ago. That’s where the third stage of animus expression kicks in. He’s faced with the need to speak, to bring back the truths and to voice them, to release the toxic secrets of his life and be free.
To aid him in this quest, another representation of my animus emerges. Father Peter is the wise old man so many people have said to me they’d love to meet and spend time with. He’s the guide to Antony’s dark journey, and he’s the ‘mediator of…spiritual profundity’. He doesn’t make it easy for his young protégée but he fulfils a role that has long been lacking in the lad’s life: someone who can listen to him, with intelligence and wisdom and discernment. The Bet has two further novels that follow it, as yet unpublished, but the journey Antony takes becomes deeper and darker in each one. For him realising that there is no final resolution for his trials is a tough one, because he’s so very scarred and damaged, yet his ability to keep going even when the journey becomes subterranean is what I hope may inspire others who come to read it. You see, as I have said before, if life is a journey, then any short-cut is a death trap. We all grow and evolve and change during our lives; attempts to remain still usually result in being swept away on the tide of life itself.