History in a Bottle

Let the ship step outside of the bottle and sail the sea of an emerging human civilization

In the Eye of the Storm

An individual response to the Global Crisis

ISSN 1939-3407

June 11th,

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.

The bottle is an artificial human product and thus signifies the intellectual purposefulness and artificiality of the procedure, whose obvious aim is to isolate the spirit from the surrounding medium. (Jung, 1967, p. 197)

When I was a child, I had relatives who were building ships in a bottle. I was intrigued and astounded at the diligence and dedication it took to complete them. The ships were essentially preserved. The exhibit above reminded me of things in childhood I had forgotten about. Little did I know it would also have huge impact years later in a contemporary way.

The bottle on display outside the museum is metaphorically related to both the pandemic and the protests for racial and social justice. I see both issues as the ship inside the bottle. The bottle represents the forces that keep things the same. I can see what is inside, but I cannot make changes to it. There are places on the bottle where what is inside is noticeably clear and other places where I cannot see the inside due to reflection. The protective layer of the bottle keeps things out as well as it keeps things in. The whole system is bigger than anyone on the scene. It has elements of contemporary and historical application.

Ship and time in a bottle look magnificent. It is a piece of art. It has nostalgia, history, glory for one of the protagonists in the drama. But life is about the REST OF THE STORY! What is the price tag of history? Taj Mahal looks enchanting; but what was the plight of the builder who built it and the tax payers who paid for it. Every great war victory is achieved at the cost of blood and sacrifice of the warriors who often had little input in the decisions regarding the war. America is a great, strong and prosperous nation, but what was the price tag for those who laid the foundations of our success?

So how do we deal with the dilemma of the time in a bottle? This is no different that many patients’ wounds that therapists and psychiatrists like me have the privilege to treat. Most of us are caught in this magnificent bottle, imprisoned by the nostalgia of our histories and tragedies, complexes and character structures, life narratives we have constructed to make meaning out of our Miseries. But if are to grow and claim our full potentials as individuals, as a society, as a nation as an evolving civilization, we must break the shackles of the past and old dysfunctional complexes, attitudes and step into the call of this moment. Life cannot be lived in the past or dreaming about the future: it begins in the PRESENT. Only in the present can we rewrite the history and carve out a Destiny aligned with the Will of the Universe and our highest values and better Angels. Then we will get the tailwinds of the Universe. We look for God’s footsteps in our past and guidance in the future while God is tapping on our shoulders in the NOW.

The moment calls for creating a new ship; not caught in a bottle but sailing the seas of life and call of our destiny as an emerging human civilization which has learned from its history but not imprisoned by its’ past.

Some Points to Ponder:

  1. What aspects of history have you preserved?
  2. What is the purpose of the isolation?
  3. What are you keeping out?
  4. Do you have principles you learned in early life that need updating?
  5. How current are you medical or social beliefs?
  6. Do the current issues feel bigger than you (like people in the photo)?
  7. How do you keep a proper perspective?
  8. Do you look at your past with nostalgia or with regret?
  9. Do you yearn for a magnificent future?
  10. How aligned you are to the present moment in your personal and communal life?

Photo taken at the Royal Museum, Greenwich, England.

Jung, C. G. (1967). Alchemical studies. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.

© Ashok Bedi, M.D. and Robert BJ Jakala, PH. D