In the Rear-View Mirror

Live in the Past or learn from it?

In the Eye of the Storm

An individual response to the Global Crisis

ISSN 1939-3407

May 6, 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.

Between the conscious and the unconscious there is a kind of “uncertainty relationship,” because the observer is inseparable from the observed and always disturbs it by the act of observation. In other words, exact observation of the unconscious prejudices observation of the conscious and vice versa. (Jung & Hull, 1959/1968, p. 226)

There are times when reflection interferes with being fully present in the moment. The image shows how the rear-view mirror focus point interferes with the view of the road ahead. There are camera adjustments which will remedy that, but it takes some experimentation, and a willingness to get it right. My photos, like life, have an uncertainty about them. The challenge is to translate what I see/experience into a digital representation of it.

In this time of Covid-19, there are so many components to pay attention to. The personal, collective, social, political, financial, medical, and spiritual aspects collide, repel, and influence each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Sometimes, when uncertain, it is best to slow down and reduce the speed at which the mind is traveling. Sometimes it means “take a breath and the moment” to be. Be in the moment. Be in the breath. Let silence and stillness guide you to more of yourself and your Self.

In the journey of life, we must occasionally peek at the rear-view mirror. This is essential if the road ahead needs us to swerve about because of an obstacle ahead. This is a delicate maneuver: if you don’t peek back, we may endanger us and others if they were overtaking us. If we compulsively look back, then we will be distracted from optimally navigating the road ahead. It is question of intention and proportion. If the intention is to check in the rear view to get the data to safely move forward than it is helpful and this too must be done briefly and timely. Then the focus must be on the road ahead.

This simple paradigm has profound implications in how we navigate the path of our life. Those who look back may get caught in the drama of the past as defense against the present and avoid the challenges that lie ahead. In my clinical work, many an individual are prisoners in the trauma and the tragedies of the past and may get paralyzed to the extent that they cannot attend to the challenges and the opportunities of the present and claim the promise of the future. Therapy may become an echo chamber to their past rather than an incubator for the future. Past is to learn from, not to live in. For optimal physical, mental and spiritual health, we must primarily focus on the present moment with eye of the path ahead, only peeking back for any information we may need for a strategy to make the journey ahead.

In contemporary psychoanalysis, these are two divergent approaches. One school focuses on the past problems and once understood and untangled, they assume that present and future is optimized and will take care of itself. The other school to which I subscribe, the focus in only look at the past in as much as is necessary to optimize the present and engage the future. If there is an unlived dream or potential from the past, we may revisit it to explore if those ambitions and aspirations still hold any energy for us. In which case, we must attend to them. But the primary focus is the live fully in the moment with an eye to our future emergence. This is called the Teleological approach. This fulfills our soul’s program. An Acorn does not wish to go back to the tree it came from but rather find soil to nurture the optimal conditions to become a magnificent Oak tree. Each one of us is a seed on its way to blossom into a tree with fruits and flowers and shades for self, others and the world around us. It is our spiritual drive to become the best version of ourselves. Jung calls this our Wholeness Instinct towards individuation. (Jung, 1969), para 289

The child is born out of the womb of the unconscious, begotten out of the depths of human nature, or rather out of the living nature herself. It is a personification of vital forces quite outside the limited range of our conscious mind; of ways and possibilities of which are one-sided conscious mind knows nothing; wholeness which embraces the very depths of nature. It represents the strongest, the most ineluctable urge in every being, namely the urge to realize itself.

Hindus speculate on the nature of the Soul- Atman, which corresponds to the smaller than the small yet bigger than the big motif. As an individual phenomenon, the Soul is “smaller than small”: as the equivalent of the cosmos, it is “bigger than the big”.

Each one of us may feel insignificant to deal with the power of the pandemic. But each one of us is a fractal, a mini clone of the entire Universe. In Hindu scriptures it is said –

Tat Tvam Asi – That art thou (Chandogya Upanishad 6 8.7)

While we may feel small and insignificant, each one us is a child of the Universe, an extension of the Brahman consciousness. We carry the full endowment of the history and the potential of human civilization. We have the archetypal tailwinds of the gods supporting us. If our will is aligned with the divine will for us, we get the full support of the Universe. It is so aptly crystallized in the Lord’s prayer –

your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Matthew 6:10

In the pandemic, we must not forget that we are not alone. We have the support of the timeless wisdom and infinite energy of the Universe in every one of the 30 trillion cells in our body. We are the DNA of the Universe. When we are aligned with the will of the Universe, this energy becomes available to us. Let us Fare Forward in this crisis with this sense of empowerment, getting inner guidance through contemplation, self-reflection and decoding our soul’s instructions for us (dreams and synchronistic events) as to our role in the bigger picture. Once we are aligned with the Will of the Universe, we become a part of the Solution rather than become the Problem!

Some Points to Ponder:

  1. How do you choose your focus point?
  2. What influences your ability to focus?
  3. How are you informed from the unconscious (collective or personal)?
  4. What will you do today that creates a memory for the future?
  5. Have you been able to discern your individual role in this pandemic in terms of taking care of yourself, your family and your community?
  6. Do you feel you are a part of the Solution or are contributing to the problems in the pandemic that we face?
  7. Do you feel the support of the Universe in dealing with the crisis?
  8. Do you ponder on the past problems in your own life, your community and your leaders that contributed to the crisis or do you learn from these problems and lean forward in devising a strategy of survival and mastery?

Photo taken Gujarat, India

Jung, C. G. (1969). The archetypes and the collective unconscious, Volume 9 – Part 1 (2d ed. Vol. 1). Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, para 289

Jung, C. G., & Hull, R. F. C. (1959/1968). Aion : researches into the phenomenology of the self (2nd ed.). Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.

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