A crisis is a portal to hidden potentials
In the Eye of the Storm
An individual response to the Global Crisis
May 27, 2020
Ashok Bedi, M.D., Jungian Psychoanalyst
Robert BJ Jakala PH.D., Jungian Psychotherapist
In a storm, the safest place is in the eye of the storm. My colleague BJ and I will share our daily reflections on this centering process from an Analytical perspective, sharing from the repertoire of our personal and professional experience. BJ is a psychologist and a photographer and will pick an image of the day that catches him in this collective crisis. I will amplify it from a Jungian Analytical perspective. We hope that this may offer you a baby step on the path to your own unique response to this chaos.
Our psychology takes account of the cultural as well as the natural man, and accordingly its explanations must keep both points of view in mind, the spiritual and the biological. (Jung, Read, Fordham, & Adler, 1953, p. 86)
When I saw this man playing, I thought how unusual it was to transfer a tool for cutting wood into a musical instrument. Its sounds were determined by the arch of the steel and the movement of the bow. In my imagination, I wondered how he got to be a street musician. Something in his spirit led him to it. He did not follow traditional paths of generating income, but he did follow and share his passion.
This frozen moment shows how his body is creating the sound with the saw and bow. He looks as though the surroundings have evaporated as he plays the tune. It seems like a deep meditation. His spirit is creating and following inner guidance while playing. He seems to be living out what Jung brought to psychology when he included cultural and spiritual with the biological.
The pandemic has offered time for me to listen to that inner whisper, the one that is often silenced with the external demands. It has given opportunities to explore long forgotten or under-utilized talents/knowledge. It has provided some space to cultivate more of who I am.
In our daily life, we live out of our limited potential. We live out the tip of the iceberg; the rest of us is submerged into the unconscious, waiting to germinate and blossom into consciousness. However, something in our Ego needs to breakdown to make room for the soil of our psyche to germinate the unlived potentials of our soul.
Usually, this unlived creative potential stays dormant until a crisis or trauma culls or breakdowns the soil of our Persona and Ego consciousness. This “Culling” the “Terrain” of consciousness is the root for the word, “CULTURE”, i.e. to Cull the Terrain of existing consciousness. This makes room for the seeds of the unconscious an opportunity to take roots in the soil to grow.
In times of crisis and trauma, we are also primed for new Creation of consciousness. When Jung was traumatized by his breakup with Sigmund Freud, over their differences on Freud’s insistence that only repressed Sexuality is the cause of Neurosis. Jung proposed that it is our repressed creative and spiritual drive that is just as significant as repressed sexuality. When they broke up, Jung went into a deep depression, a “Dark Night of the Soul”. This era in his life from 1913 through 1920 is well chronicled in his posthumously published diary – the Red Book – Liber Novus(Jung & Shamdasani, 2009). One significant aspect of his Inner Journey is the blossoming of Images and beautiful and meaningful Mandalas he drew to depict as sort of Serial X-Rays of this Soul’s emergence. In this journey, he moved through various stages and made the Journey from his Hero Archetype or personal myth to the Archetype of the Anchorite, the Wise Old Man, the Guru, Rishi, Mentor in the image of the Mythical figure of Philemon. Philemon and his wife Baucis were pious and always welcoming the strangers. Here is the story of the couple
Philemon and Baucis, in Greek mythology, a pious Phrygian couple who hospitably received Zeus and Hermes when their richer neighbors turned away the two gods, who were disguised as wayfarers. As a reward, they were saved from a flood that drowned the rest of the country; their cottage was turned into a temple, and at their own request they became priest and priestess of it. Long after, they were granted their wish to die at the same moment, being turned into trees. Among literary sources the story is found only in Book VIII of Ovid’s Metamorphoses, but it reflects folktale motifs found in many cultures.
Philemon became Jung’s soul image and his guiding myth for the rest of his life. Its emphasis was on Service as a Path the Soul.
In the pandemic crisis, each one of us will experience this CULLING process of our existing consciousness, adaptation, life priorities, life-style, personal myth; it will pave the way for the creation of new consciousness, new life-patterns, guiding myths and engagement of our hidden strengths and potentials. While we may feel the stress of the pandemic, it is also an opportunity to claim our hidden creative and altruistic potentials. A teleologic Mantra for this moment is CARPE DIEM. This is a challenging moment in time. Each one of us must decide how we want History to remember our response to it.
This is my favorite quote from Bhagwat Gita that captures the Right attitude in a global crisis
A man who relinquishes attachment
And dedicates actions to the infinite spirit
Is not stained by evil,
Like a lotus lead unstained by water
Bhagwat Gita, Chapter 5, para 10
Some Points to Ponder:
What talent or skill do you have that would like more of your time?
How can you carry it forward as we slowly proceed?
What connections have you made that you want to keep?
How do culture, spirit, and biology influence how you show yourself to the world?
During this pandemic, what has changed about your life-priorities and goals?
What new skills and potentials have you claimed in this moment?
How has the pandemic reconfigured your personal myth?
If there is one word your grandchildren would use to define your response to the pandemic, what word that be?
Photo taken in Seattle, Washington.
Jung, C. G., Read, H., Fordham, M., & Adler, G. (1953). The Development of Personality. New York: Princeton University Press.
Jung, C. G., & Shamdasani, S. (2009). The red book = Liber novus (1st ed.). New York: W.W. Norton & Co.
© Ashok Bedi, M.D. and Robert BJ Jakala, PH.D.