The Creative Instinct
Survival and Creation instincts
In the Eye of the Storm
An individual response to the Global Crisis
May 24, 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.
Art is a kind of innate drive that seizes a human being and makes him its instrument. The artist is not a person endowed with free will who seeks his own ends, but one who allows art to realize its purposes through him. (Jung, 1966, p. 101)
The carvings are more descriptive of a clan’s alignment with the ancestors than a surname. The figures provide a visual representation of values and characteristics of those who live around them. As I stand in front of them, they resonate directly to my heart. My brain does not seem involved, even though technically it is as it signals my senses to view the totems. There is wisdom without words, a knowing without labels, an exchange without external movement. I was “Aw” struck by their size and the spirit of what they portray. In an odd way, I felt like I am their projection. There is an imposing presence about them. It seems like they stand still and watch as I hold my breath in amazement of their radiance.
The totem artist is directed by tribal history and symbols as the pillar is carved. When I watch it being done, the feeling is like a person conducting a spiritual service, very present and focused, yet somehow much more than just the person they are. They are carried by something more than desire of accomplishment. They seem directed by an invisible but tangible tradition.
There have been times during the pandemic that I have been under its direction. I feel as though my survival instinct keeps me safe. My species tradition of survival helps me follow the guidelines, yet I have energy that wants to be used. I have had to find ways of expression, connection, and movement that lets me live my life under these conditions.
During time of crisis and trauma, two instincts are activated in our consciousness. These are diametrically opposite. The first instinct is the SURVIVAL INSTINCT. Its only goal is our personal survival. It is mediated via our Reptilian Brain or Autonomic Nervous System. It is our oldest brain from our prehuman history, from our reptilian ancestors. It activates the Stress Response and the Flight, Fright, Flee and Freeze responses as relevant to our environmental threats. Each one of us will mobilize some combination of these stress responses. Once our Survival is assured to a greater of lesser degree to our Neocortical brain’s assessment, the second response for each one of us is the Creative Instinct. This is medicated by our Limbic or Archetypal Nervous system located in our Temporal Lobe. It carries our two million years old ancestral memory(Stevens, 2005) and also our Spiritual Function. So, the Creative Instinct also has a Spiritual Core, since the Creation comes from the Source – the Spirit, the Brahman Awareness. It dips into this flow of the Universe, the UNUS MUNDUS, the world soul, the Collective Consciousness and activates a Creation of a unique New Consciousness that is Outside of the Box paradigm to attend to the crisis and trauma confronting us. It may show up in our Creative Drive: either in a creative activity, process or activity.
This Creative Instinct derived from our Spiritual Core is unique to each one of us. Carl Jung would make stone carvings or draw Mandalas during his inner trauma as depicted in his Red Book(Jung & Shamdasani, 2009) published posthumously and almost 100 years after he composed it. Mahatma Gandhi came up with new creation when dealing with British occupation, colonization and brutalization of Indians. This was symbolized in four fundamental principles that Mahatma Gandhi taught: Truth (Satya), non-violence (ahimsa), welfare of all (Sarvodaya) and peaceful protest (satyagraha). He also came up with a Mandala symbol in form of the Spinning Wheel. Another version of his spinning wheel, the Ashok Chakra now adorns Indian National Flag.
Each one of us has access to the activation of this creative instinct in the time of crisis and trauma. Some of us , particularly the Old Souls, however create not just for ourselves but become a channel for the Collective Unconscious to convey the Spirit of the Depths relevant to the Crisis of the current time. This is the activation of the Spiritual Consciousness to guide the Collective and the Community using the Artist or Poet as its medium. Individuals like Wassily Kandinsky, the Russian artist in his famous work Reciprocal Accord, 1942 symbolizes this phenomenon. Goethe’s Faust is another example Goethe in his masterpiece Faust communicated the contemporary theme of Materialism and its murder of the Holy man Philemon and his wife Baucus in quest for material gain. It also outlined the prescription for our ills in terms of return to the principles of charity and Service as a way out of our Karmic tangle. Carl Jung saw this significance of Goethe’s prescription for our times.(Jung & Jaffé, 1963)
Like anyone who is capable of some introspection, I had early taken it for granted that the split in my personality was my own purely personal affair and responsibility.
Faust, to be sure, had made the problem somewhat easier for me by confessing, “Two souls, alas, are housed within my breast”; but he had thrown no light on the cause of this dichotomy. His insight seemed, in a sense, directed straight at me.
In the days when I first read Faust, I could not remotely guess the extent to which Goethe’s strange heroic myth was a collective experience and that it prophetically anticipated the fate of the Germans. Therefore I felt personally implicated, and when Faust, in his hubris and self-inflation, caused the murder of Philemon and Baucis, I felt guilty, quite as if I myself in the past had helped commit the murder of the two old people. This strange idea alarmed me, and I regarded it as my responsibility to atone for this crime, or to prevent its repetition
Jung had the following inscription at his Bollingen Tower -(Jung & Jaffé, 1983)
Philemonis Sacrum Fausti Poenitentia
(Shrine of Philemon-Repentance of Faust)
Some Points to Ponder:
- How has the pandemic directed your life?
- How has the pandemic changed your life in a positive way?
- What part of you during this time would you like to deepen before going out into the world?
- Consider writing a story that starts with “Once upon a time, a virus……”
- How has the Survival Instinct manifested for you in response to the pandemic?
- How has the Creative Instinct manifest in you in context of the pandemic?
- Does your Creative Instinct manifest as an Artistic creation, an image, an activity, a poetry?
- Does this Creative activity guide you in a unique way of responding to the pandemic?
- Does your Creative activity have a personal or a community impact?
Photo taken in Ketchikan, Alaska
Jung, C. G. (1966). The spirit in man, art, and literature. London,: Routledge & K. Paul.
Jung, C. G., & Jaffé, A. (1963). Memories, dreams, reflections. London: Collins and Routledge & Kegan Paul, page 234
Jung, C. G., & Jaffé, A. (1983). C.G. Jung, word and image (Vol. XCVII, 2). Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, page 188
Jung, C. G., & Shamdasani, S. (2009). The red book = Liber novus (1st ed.). New York: W.W. Norton & Co.
Stevens, A. (2005). The Two-Million-Year-Old Self, (Carolyn and Ernest Fay Series in Analytical Psychology). Texas A&M: University Press.
© Ashok Bedi, M.D. and Robert BJ Jakala, PH.D.