The Actor and the Witness

Dynamics of Discernment

In the Eye of the Storm

An individual response to the Global Crisis

ISSN 1939-3407

May 14, 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.

The persona is a complicated system of relations between the individual consciousness and society, fittingly enough a kind of mask, designed on the one hand to make a definite impression upon others, and, on the other, to conceal the true nature of the individual. (Jung, 1956, p. 192)

I imagine the mind of the surfer to be preoccupied with keeping a sense of balance on the board as it moves along with the force of a wave. The immediate need of alignment with the oceanic energy is dominant. If he wants to wear the “mask” of a successful surfer, focus is on the present and his experience of having done this before.

How this looks to the other man in the water is probably not even in his awareness. I imagine the observer anticipates and hopes success. He not only sees how to do it but also feels joy when the surfer fully stands and rides the wave in (which happens). Unless of course, his sense of competition leads him to believe he knows a better way to do it.

In this moment, the only thing I know is one man is surfing, and one is watching. I can make up all kinds of attributes about the rest of their lives but those are a product of my imagination and projection. Surfing, like most of life, is about doing for oneself and being observed. Being witnessed congruent to our mask can be very satisfying. Some of life is about being a witness. The view of the other is dependent on attitude, supportive or critical. Each person is the image holds their place in the community of surfers.

Another facet of this image is there is an Actor and there is a Witness. An actor is only truly an actor if there is a witness. Without a witness the acting loses resonance, mirroring and a sense of validation. In the pandemic, we are all actors and witnesses to each other. But this also creates a complication. Are we performing for the Witness or do our actions have their own agency and integrity? Is the witness a spectator or a soul guide? Who is the true witness in drama of life and the realm of integrity? In the pandemic as in any crisis in life, each one of us must make a choice. Are we performing for the spectators and witnesses or are we marching to another drummer? Without this clarity, our integrity is compromised.

I have long pondered on this dilemma and have come up with a provisional formulation to resolve this riddle. Here it goes. When we have to make choices from a set of options in a given situation or crisis, the following algorithm is helpful.

  1. First define the problem
  2. Find a contemplative space and present the problem to the Universe or the God of your understanding
  3. In my personal and clinical experience, there is always a response: an initial prescription within 48 hours and a detailed response within 7 days. It may come in form of a dream, synchronistic event, an inspiration or a fantasy.
  4. Usually this Universe’s response offers us a menu of options. Now is a time of personal discernment; narrow down the options from A, B, C and D to say in your case A and C.
  5. If you still cannot decide, then you may consult your therapist, sponsor, friend or trusted adviser.

If you follow this algorithm of Discernment, we establish a spiritual integrity of our choice rather than perform to the audience. Let the Universe be your guide and mirror rather than another human being, who under the best of circumstances can only be a DISTORTED MIRROR.

Often people complain that they did not get a response from the Universe. On closer examination of these situations, I have found that the real problem is that the seeker did not like the answer they got. Following the dynamics of the Faustian Bargain(Goethe von, 1998) I have found that

The Devil gifts us what we WANT

But God blesses us with what we NEED.

It takes courage to sacrifice what we Want the embrace what we Need to do in a given predicament. MAY THE SOURCE BE WITH YOU!

Some Points to Ponder:

  1. During the pandemic, what aspect of your persona (mask) are you wearing most often?
  2. How you have been witnessed? Favorable or unfavorable results?
  3. Are you doing what the world expects? Is the congruent to who you are?
  4. Which person do you identify with most in the photo? What does the reveal and/or conceal about your true nature?
  5. What do you need for your true nature to be seen?
  6. In the pandemic are you focused on being an Actor or a Witness?
  7. As an Actor, do you feel influenced by the Witness to Perform?
  8. How do you maintain the integrity of your response without catering to the judgement of the Witness?
  9. When you seek guidance from the Universe or the God of your understanding, do you recognize the prescriptions you receive?
  10. Are these prescriptions from the Universe consistent with what you Want?
  11. When this guidance from Universe is at variance from what you Want to do in a given situation, how do you act?
  12. Do you follow the path of what you Want or are you able to factor in what guidance you get from the Universe?

Photo taken in Hawaii

Goethe von, J. W. (1998). Faust: A Tragedy (Norton Critical Editions) (Second Edition ed.). New York, London.: W. W. Norton & Company.

Jung, C. G. (1956). Two essays on analytical psychology: Meridian Books.

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