Light and Shadow
A Peek into our Unconscious
In the Eye of the Storm
An individual response to the Global Crisis
May 15, 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.
This question, regarding the nature of the unconscious, brings with it the extraordinary intellectual difficulties with which the psychology of the unconscious confronts us. Such difficulties must inevitably arise whenever the mind launches forth boldly into the unknown and invisible. (Jung, 1960b, p. 184)
The railing allows visitors to get onto parts of the hillside where the Buddhists carved out caves from the Black Basaltic rock to enclose statues, inscriptions, etc. The guardrail did two things that I can think of as I walked. One, provided balance support on the climb up or down. Two, it functioned as a blockade to prevent tourists from getting onto more dangerous formations. It allowed a close visit but not full immersion. It let me get familiar with some of the landscape on foot, more visually and then of course there was some the was not visible nor visit able.
When I was a child, I was taught about boundaries and safety in my family. Then as I grew up some of them needed to be changed or taken down and reconstructed for me to have my adult life the way I wanted it. The one construction my family did not teach me about was the unconscious, simply because it was not ever a topic of conversation.
Some of the difficulties I am having with the pandemic is that I’ve been, as Jung says in the opening quote, “launched forth boldly into the unknown and invisible. The pandemic is a concrete example of the conscious/unconscious dynamic. It is familiar in some respects but mostly not experienced in the waking world. The big question is how can I come to know it without being consumed by it? How do I listen to others who have experienced it and know each individual respond in their own way?
A great deal of the United States did not believe the pandemic would cross our boundaries. Somehow, it would bypass us. Other countries were where the problems of pandemics happened, not much here. So, I did not talk about it much. Now, I have been thrown into a great deal of unknown and invisible dynamics along with the rest of the world. It is like a bad dream where my unconscious is communicating a deeper part of my wholeness, I am unfamiliar with.
The pandemic is an opportunity to get a glimpse into our personal and our cultural unconscious. Personally, we may discover both our light and our dark sides that come into focus during the pandemic. We may find that we have the capacity to be altruistic, caring and compassionate and be of Service to others. We may be dismayed to learn that we may be selfish. However, this darkness has the potential to be transformed into its’ light. The selfishness in optimal dose may transform into judicious self-care without hurting others.
Similarly, we may learn to our surprise that our community is full of light as manifested in the courage of our first responders. On the other hand we may learn of the Shadow of our community in terms of the racial, social and cultural divides. While this may perturb some of us, we have the opportunity to transform these fault lines into opportunity for change. To be broken is human. But it is how we mend our brokenness that defines us. We have to restore the light in these dark stains by restoring the Best of the Western and American values of fairness and compassion.
Some Points to Ponder:
How do you engage your unconscious? Or how does it engage you?
What guiderails do you have to help you in that landscape?
How did you learn safety and trust?
When encountering the unknown, what is your response?
What have you learned about your virtuous potentials during the pandemic?
Have you translated these potentials into Service?
What have you learned about your Shadow side during the pandemic?
Do you see the possibilities and interventions to transform these into constructive potentials, e.g. selfishness not legitimate self-care without hurting others?
Have you been a witness to your community’s humane potentials and actions during the pandemic?
How do these virtuous aspects of your community manifest?
Have you experienced the dark side of your community during the pandemic?
What activism can you initiate to transform this darkness into light consistent with your higher personal and cultural values of fairness and compassion?
Photo taken at Kanheri Caves, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
Jung, C. G. (1960b). The structure and dynamics of the psyche. New York: Pantheon Books.
© Ashok Bedi, M.D. and Robert BJ Jakala, PH.D.