I’m doing hard work. I want to give myself credit for that.
- Seeing myself as less than who I believed myself to be.
- Working not to let the pain get in the way, too much. Working to breathe into my “new reality,” to accept it with as much grace as possible.
- Working to find language, consistent with my upbringing,
to understand what is happening,
and to understand how I knew something was true even before I guessed the power of that truth.
Writing here helps with the last point. As I orient toward you, dear reader, helpful words and concepts assemble themselves in anticipation of expression.
(I read Paul Bishop’s JUNG’S ANSWER TO JOB: A COMMENTARY. Stunning, for me. It’s too soon to try to talk about it.)
Now I’m reading Carl Jung’s MEMORIES, DREAMS, REFLECTIONS. I’m excerpting here two stories, relevant to my thinking.
Jung, a young psychiatrist in the early 1900s, encountered two women , at different times, who told him about how they had killed people.
I am not, nor was Jung, focusing on the shocking fact of the murders. Our focus is on the effect of these killings on the unconscious inner life.
A lady came to my office. She refused to give her name, said it did not matter, since she wished to have only one consultation. It was apparent that she belonged to the upper levels of society. She had been a doctor, she said. What she had to communicate to me was a confession; some twenty years ago she had committed a murder out of jealousy. She had poisoned her best friend because she wanted to marry the friend’s husband. She had thought that if the murder was not discovered, it would not disturb her. She wanted to marry the husband, and the simplest way was to eliminate her friend. Moral considerations were of no importance to her, she thought.
The consequences? She had in fact married the man, but he died soon afterward, relatively young. During the following years a number of strange things happened. The daughter of this marriage endeavored to get away from her as soon as she was grown up. She married young and vanished from view, drew farther and farther away, and ultimately the mother lost all contact with her.
This lady was a passionate horsewoman and owned several riding horses of which she was extremely fond. One day she discovered that the horses were beginning to grow nervous under her. Even her favorite shied and threw her. Finally she had to give up riding. Thereafter she clung to her dogs. She owned an unusually beautiful wolfhound to which she was greatly attached. As chance would have it, this very dog was stricken with paralysis. With that her cup was full; she felt that she was morally done for. She had to confess, and for this purpose she came to me.
p. 122 & 123, Vintage paperback edition
I take this very seriously. When we perform what we unconsciously understand as act against the greater good, it lives in us, contaminates us, breaks up our harmonious relationship with the larger world –Gaia– and can be sensed, especially by our animal friends.
I believe this is a Truth. A truth about the interconnectedness of all beings and all acts of those beings. In earlier Judeo-Christian times these reverses in this woman’s life would be described as “God’s punishment.” I am not comfortable with this way of understanding the situation: God, external to us, watching, and punishing bad behavior. But I think the culture that evolved this “God-will-punish-story” to explain observed events was observing real events.
In my own life, I am struggling with a similar sense that things are out of joint. Not that I have committed a murder. I affirm no awareness that I have been involved in such a thing, but none-the-less I feel contaminated, blocked in my hopes for my life. I’m guessing I’m blocked by something I do recognize –“oh that,”– but have not been willing to accept as having the gravity it deserves (in my inner life).
I affirm, that this
is a gift from a higher order of reality. George Fox talked about it in his letter to Lady Claypool.
The other “murder” was by a young woman, married in error, not to her lover, who allowed her children of that marriage to drink water she knew was not safe. One died. No one, including the patient, understood the connection between the daughter’s death and this woman’s institutionalization with a diagnosis of
…schizophrenia, or ‘dementia praecox,’ in the phrase of those days. The prognosis: poor.
After outlining the situation as he had come to understand it, Jung continues:
I told her everything I had discovered… To accuse a person point-blank of murder is no small matter. And it was tragic for the patient to have to listen to it and accept it. But the result was that in two weeks it proved possible to discharge her, and she was never again institutionalized.
Why are these stories important to me at this time in my life? I see in them something I know I need to learn, to re-cognize, that I cannot yet bear to accept.
OK, so here’s a third story from Jung (who was a Christian, although far from orthodox).
A young woman appeared. She was Jewish, daughter of a wealthy banker, pretty, chic, and highly intelligent.
The girl had been suffering for years from a severe anxiety neurosis
I asked her…about her grandfather. For a brief moment she closed her eyes, and I realized at once that here lay the heart of the problem. … He had been a rabbi and had belonged to a Jewish sect. … I pursued my questioning. “If he was a rabbi, was he by any chance a zaddik?” [A saintly leader of a Hasidic community.] “Yes,” she replied, “it is said that he was a kind of saint and also possessed second sight. But that is all nonsense. There is no such thing!”
I explained to her “Now I am going to tell you something that you may not be able to accept. Your grandfather was a zaddik. Your father became an apostate to the Jewish faith. He betrayed the secret and turned his back on God. And you have your neurosis because the fear of God has got into you.” That struck her like a bolt of lightning.
[That night Jung had the second of two dreams about her.]
I told this dream to her, and in a week the neurosis had vanished. The dream had showed me that she was not just a superficial little girl, but that beneath the surface were the makings of a saint. She had no mythological ideas, and therefore the most essential feature of her nature could find no way to express itself. All her conscious activity was directed toward flirtation, clothes, and sex, because she knew of nothing else. She knew only the intellect and lived a meaningless life. In reality she was a child of God whose destiny was to fulfill His secret will. I had to awaken mythological and religious ideas in her, for she belonged to that class of human beings of whom spiritual activity is demanded. Thus her life took on a meaning, and no trace of the neurosis was left.
I am afraid of what lies ahead of me. I have some reason to hope that it will be an opening into a larger spiritual life, but my emotional experience is of dread and avoidance.
Writing here helps me stay true to the path I am on. My community provides me with both a context and a “reason” for continuing the work.