Monday, 12 August 2013

Carl Jung, Anima and Animus, Twin Flames, Soul Mates and other rambling nonsense...

I'm not a Jungian.  I'm not even a Freudian these days.  If I were going to be anything, then I guess I would be a Bowlbyan, but that word looks ridiculously silly and actually reflects beautifully the weirdness of defining ourselves as mere followers of someone else's beliefs. 

What I am, what I genuinely am, is a JAVian (JAV being my initials).  There is only one of this form of JAVian in the universe and there will only ever be one.  As close as people get to me in this life, as much as people in the future might (for some bizarre reason) want to study and analyse me and my thinking, none of them could ever comprehend the world as I do, because they haven't had the unique set of experiences I have, which led me to formulate my understandings as they exist.  And of course, as time passes, so I am exposed to new experiences and my understanding of the world gets modified, year after year, day after day, hour after hour.  My very existence is fluid, constantly changing, and yet all the people I have been in the past, helpless baby, frustrated toddler, confused adolescent, ecstatic lover, jealous lover, joyous parent, concerned parent... all those versions of me, exist to some degree, within this person I am today, right now.  And naturally, there are still yet more versions of me to come:  proud grandmother, dying invalid, decomposing skin and bones.

And so, we are all of us, individuals and yet, within that aloneness we are joined.

But to go back to Jung, I am in no way qualified to critique his incredible theories, because I've not had enough formal training and confess I never did reach the end of "The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious" (I kept falling asleep) though I am deeply fascinated by the concept of the Anima and Animus - that aspect within our psyche, which is basically the opposite gender personality, the male within me, which I seem to unconsciously seek in life and perhaps am destined never to find out there, because he exists already within me.  Let me try and find a passage of Jung which isn't too incomprehensible to elaborate on this:

Every man carries within him the eternal image of woman, not the image of this or that particular woman, but a definite feminine image. This image is fundamentally unconscious, an hereditary factor of primordial origin engraved in the living organic system of the man, an imprint or "archetype" of all the ancestral experiences of the female, a deposit, as it were, of all the impressions ever made by woman-in short, an inherited system of psychic adaptation. Even if no women existed, it would still be possible, at any given time, to deduce from this unconscious image exactly how a woman would have to be constituted psychically. The same is true of the woman: she too has her inborn image of man.

While I can follow this explanation, even that starts to give me a headache...

But this all then gets me thinking about something slightly different, that whole Twin Flames idea, which is so lovely isn't it, where people believe their lover is their true other half, as if they were almost conceived from the same egg and sperm, some say they're two halves of the same soul, which somehow got separated and the ultimate joy is finding them again, in this life and reuniting.  Who could not love that idea. But yet, there exists a cynicism in me when I hear people say "my lover is absolutely my twin flame, we are so perfect for one another, we are beyond soul mates, this person is my true, ultimate other half," for I find myself sitting there, thinking, "I'll give you five years!" which is horrid really, but because as individual human beings, personalities, we are constantly changing, I'm not sure how one person, who you meet in one moment of eternity, can be the exact replica of you, forever. 

But look, I am a romantic at heart, I get teased mercilessly for it, :-)  so there are aspects of that concept I like, the comfort the idea gives, that we can all find blissful contentment with another person, of course I love that idea, but a more realistic understanding, for me personally, would be the idea that we can have a number of soul mates, at various times in our lives maybe, or even soul mates who we connect with so deeply profoundly in different ways.  For instance, as a child, I had an uncle who completely doted on me, until I was about ten years old (he got married!  I was devastated!!  His wife was lovely though, and recognised I think that we were close) but I have vivid memories of being six or seven years old, and him just being so lovely and so funny and so kind, and thinking in a particular moment "you are just so wonderful, I am just so lucky to have you".  This man was very much my father figure, and I am quite sure all the men I have ever dated, I held up to this ridiculously high standard, and of course none of them were ever going to be able to love me as my dear uncle did - and the failing was mine in expecting that they could.  But as with any father figure, that relationship could never be replicated in a romantic one, because a father figure is very much the nurturer, the carer, they give you the safe space to experiment with life, to learn new skills, their role is to look after you, not to experiment with you.  That relationship is in no way mutually reciprocal, which a romantic relationship needs to be, lovers experimenting together, and there have to be times where you are the adult, and you are the nurturant parent, you can't just be the child all the time in a romantic relationship.  So that is one form of soul mate I feel I've had, and one explanation perhaps why all my relationships have ultimately failed.  (I suppose the trick here is, to have the insight to adapt and not to remain stuck in old ways of being and thinking, which experience has shown, don't work for me.)

And there have been times when a lover did feel like some sort of soul mate, not so much the relationships which lasted only a few months, for that's not usually long enough to build up the level of trust required in order to genuinely feel that sense of being so blissfully in tune with another human being, and you do probably both have to feel that, though of course one person can be in denial and lack the courage to acknowledge how they really feel.  That is not to say you can't meet people and feel an instant chemistry, obviously that happens sometimes, and the power of the attraction you feel for someone can be quite scary, particularly if they are out of bounds for some reason, they're married perhaps or it's a work colleague which has all the potential to end in disaster, or they're maybe much older than you or much younger, or even something like, they're gay and you're not - though that example would indicate it's you who's being slightly deluded, but should not be completely dismissed because I think we fall in love with minds, with personalities on the deepest level, and certainly as we get older I think the physical is somewhat secondary, for obvious reasons.  But relationships, the long lasting ones, as well as the flings, have a sad habit of not working out, though I would not say those feelings of being so connected were not real; with hindsight we can often see that something was destined to fail, though it all felt very real at the time, for the person we were then.

And I can feel a deep, soul mate type connection a women who has experienced many of the things I've lived through, because we have an understanding, appreciation and admiration of one another's courage and dignity and compassion say,  and at times I even feel a soul mate like connection with my own children, because of the powerful experiences we have been through together, some very happy, some very challenging.  And I suppose it's about whether those challenging experiences (in all the different roles we assume, as parent and child, and with your lovers and partners, with your own parents, with friends and colleagues) ultimately make the two of you closer, and more protective of one another, or drive you apart and alienate you from each other.

I'm wanting to write about Carl Jung, but keep going off on a tangent - that will tell us something about something!  As much as I love Jung's view of human beings existing in a very broad and deeply complex, connected sense, where Freud was much happier to put us all in little boxes, violent, angry and isolated from one another, Jung's theories are so saturated with jargon, I find them almost impossible to follow, and I am by no means a stupid women, I can grasp Klein's Object Relations Theory with comparative ease! 

Was it Albert Einstein or Johan Cruyff who said, if you can't explain something in simple terms, then you don't really understand it well enough?  Well, anyway, I think this is an issue.  Academics can sometimes hide behind jargon, almost as a defence.  If we can't crack the code, then how are we to challenge them, and certainly how are ordinary people with no specialised training empowered to challenge these great thinkers, if we don't have a clue really what they're on about.  Not because the concepts are too difficult for us, but because the words and phrases to explain aspects of the theory seem designed to be prohibitively confusing and just plain weird.  When you look at Freud's work, particularly his theory of psychosexual development with frequently recurring words and themes like "phallic stage", "anal stage", "oral stage" - I'm sure in Freud's time, these words were not used openly in polite conversation, and still now, we are often mindful about how we discuss Freud's theories.  Freud does appear to have been fixated on sex, it was a very repressed period in history of course, but it is documented that he even psychoanalysed his own daughter's sexual fantasies.  To us today, that would seem highly inappropriate and I think a lot of his work, which is important and fascinating and valid, is discredited because of this obsession with sex.  Certainly psychotherapists in the 1970s, appeared to be taking this fixation with sex to a new and disgraceful level, with one study in America revealing that seven out of ten therapists admitted to having sex with clients, such was the power they wielded over their patients it seems, and as those things became exposed, so psychotherapy fell out of favour with the public.  But again I digress!

I suppose, what I want to say is, I think in order for the human species to move on, we are going to have to all learn a lot, lot more about the human mind, for we still know very little about the complexities happening within it, and these impressive theories, dreamt up over decades by academics, are just that, theories, none of this is really able to be proved or disproved.  But while psychologists and others, continue to hide behind these complicated, strange, technical terms, how are we to really advance the understanding of the general population, allowing us all to live happier, more harmonious, fulfilling lives?

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