As you continue your soul work you will eventually discover the repeated patterns of thought, feelings and sensations what Jack Kornfield called the “Insistent Visitors.” In this video/audio blog post I take you through four basic principles for dealing with these difficult and repeating problems.
The four principles are: Expand the Field of Awareness, Come to a Full Awareness of the Feelings, Discover what is Asking for Acceptance, and Open through the Center.
A common exercise life coaches assign is journaling. And the common response is UGHHH! I think that’s because we instantly recall the diary from junior high school we used to record our secret feelings about the guy we had a crush on and the girlfriend we hate for stealing him away from us. This is the same diary that our younger brother found and read at the dinner table embarrassing us in front of our parents.
However, journaling is not a diary of what we did for the day. From a Jungian perspective the point of journaling is not so much about what we say, as it is about how we say it. Journaling in Depth is a practice of calling our ego into relationship with our soul, a practice that is as important as exercise and meditation on the journey of individuation.
The critical skill for journaling is asking questions. In fact, journaling is really a practice of inquiry. Once I start journaling I find soul slipping in, which it must do to get past the rigidity of ego, with brilliant questions and insights. Ego wants the answers now so it can file it into unconscious standard operating procedures. In contrast, soul strives for wholeness so it will ask questions that compensate for the one-sidedness of ego.
For instance, let’s say you are writing about why you erupted in rage when your boyfriend forgot to pick up lemons on the way home. As you describe the event your thoughts start spinning all these stories about him and perhaps you get angry all over again. That’s okay, but that is not the point of journaling. At some point I hope soul slips in a question about you and your rage.
The point of Journaling in Depth is not to reinforce ego’s war with your boyfriend. It is to question your unconscious automatic patterns of thoughts and behaviors giving you a chance to withdraw your projections, own your shadow, and learn to consciously choose appropriate responses.
Ego is always looking for data to reinforce its beliefs. And I promise you any time you erupt emotionally out of proportion to the event [rage about lemons? come on!] a projection from your shadow needs to be withdrawn from your boyfriend.
The place to start in this example is the stories that got spun about why your boyfriend forgot the lemons. He never listens to me, I have to do everything all the time, he forgot on purpose to embarrass me, etc. [Another clue to discovering a projection is when you use extreme language like always and never.]
The questions to ask yourself are: Is that true? What is the evidence to support your claims? Are there alternative reasons he forgot the lemons? To find wholeness you must be able to see the events and stories you spin in your mind from every side.
If the point of meditation is to build awareness in the moment and to rid the mind of worries and phantom dialogues with others, then journaling can be a meditative process. For me that’s exactly what it is, a meditation; it helps me get rid of what I call the “monkey mind,” a mind completely lost in thought, by bringing the monkey into relationship with the soul.
If “monkey mind” is a left brain affair and meditation is a right brain affair, then journaling as a meditation process can be a way to tame your anxiety and integrate the left and right hemispheres of your brain which helps in healing depression.
In conclusion, I recommend handwriting your journal. Why? Because it helps you slow down and really BE in the process, and it involves the body — where Wisdom resides. Finally, please be sure to hide it so your brother won’t read it at the dinner table and embarrass you in front of your boyfriend.
Often when we sit down to read we engage our “thinking mind” gathering tidbits of knowledge like we do fruit at the market. Tossing them in the basket of our mind we continue through the chapters perhaps thinking, “I already know this; tell me something I don’t know.” While this kind of reading serves most uses it does not lead to wisdom.
“Reading with Soul in Mind” engages all of you in the process of reading. It is a slow and disciplined process of engaging with the text like you would that ideal peach in the market. You pick it up and squeeze it ever so softly twirling it in your hand admiring its peachy color wondering if it had been bruised. Next you lift it towards your nose and sniff hoping to whiff that ever so sweet peachy smell. And if it passes this final test your mouth is watering in desire for this unique soured-covered sweetness to glide down your throat.
Now, I am not suggesting we eat the text. However, I am suggesting we engage our mind, heart, body and soul in the process of digesting the text. So, how do you do this?
First, hold the text in your hands as if you are holding a sacred object (or a peach). Let your hands feel it; and let it feel you. You can sniff it if you want to but I doubt it will make your mouth water. Most importantly prepare your mind, heart and body to be in a place of wonder and openness to gifts of knowledge before you.
Secondly, read sitting at a desk with your favorite writing instruments, a dictionary and journal nearby. Read slowly and deliberately making sure each word is understood looking up the words you do not understand immediately. Also, reading slow allows the ear to bounce along with the rhythm of the text. I like to breathe in through my nose and read out loud the sentences that inspire me letting the words vibrate through my entire body as if I was chanting a Hindu mantra.
Thirdly, check in with your body often. Does your heart and chest feel open or closed, relaxed or tense? Does the perimeter of your body feel hard like a melon or soft like a peach? Is your mind in a state of judgment or in wonderment?
Fourthly, underline whatever inspires you, touches you, and challenges you. Joseph Campbell once wrote, “Underlining is my meditation.”
Fifthly and most importantly, stop to inquire when you misread something, when you feel an emotion arising and especially when you find yourself confused or distracted. This is soul trying to interrupt the linear flow of reading with wisdom for your self realization.
Finally, go back to where soul interrupted and begin the inquiry process.
- If it was something you read then ask, “what is it about what I just read that stirs me?”
- If it was an emotion then ask, “What is this emotion? What color is this emotion? How does it feel? What is this emotion attached to?”
- If you find yourself confused or distracted then ask, “What am I resisting? What am I denying? Where have I closed down and why?”
Journal, draw or tape record your questions and the spontaneously arising answers. Continue to inquire into each image, concept, body sensation or emotion that arises. It is critical to stay in inquiry mode as long as you can, hopefully exhausting your mind’s habit of shutting soul out of the co-creative process of self-realization.
By taking the time to read with soul in mind as suggested here the focus moves from tossing the fruits of knowledge into your mind basket to focusing on what your soul deems nutritional for your journey towards wholeness.
How to recognize a midlife crisis?
- You have the desire to start over.
- Your marriage is stale.
- Your career is less than adequate.
- Your life seems rudderless.
- You feel more impulsive than ever.
- You just bought a brand new red convertible.
The midlife crisis has less to do with the passage of time than it has to do with psychological experience. That is, the ego achievements of the first half of life have been accomplished: you have a wife/husband, children, pets, home, career, car, Ipad, etc. But what you don’t have is happiness. It is at this specific moment in your life that you begin to wonder about your legacy – what impact will you have on the world?
The midlife crisis is a wakeup call sent from your alienated soul. The first half of life is the domain of ego. Childhood patterns developed to protect the ego unconsciously run your life. Up until now you have been living what I would call a societal egoic life. The rules and roles that run your life, unconsciously, are not your own. To say to someone — you are a chip off the old block — is very true. Until you consciously choose the values, roles, and rules you will live by, you are simply a chip off the old societal block. Who you think you are is what Jung called the persona, the mask you show the world. Midlife is the time to emerge as a unique individual soul.
It could be said that acting out the midlife crisis — having the affair, changing careers, buying the red convertible — is a defense against the reality of death. Said differently, the existential task of midlife is to make sense of your life before you die. This means a transfer of power from the unconscious ego, to the conscious soul. Death is a reality that is easy to deny in the first part of life, but cannot be denied in the second part of life, although there are huge industries — plastic surgery for one — built around helping you continue to deny death. That aside, death creeps in with every wrinkle, every gray hair, the flabby belly, the hormonal changes, and aging children.
So what is the cure for the midlife crisis?
The consciousness I am referring to is a state of being. It is not your identity (social persona); it is not your ego-consciousness; it is not your shadow (the part of your self you deny and repress). It is your ever-present self-awareness. Ego is focused on objects, obsessed with the past and the future, and leary of the present moment. Soul, on the other hand, is eternally present, alive and moving towards wholeness — its evolutionary purpose. Ego speaks in language; Soul speaks in symbols. Ego’s purpose is to protect the self from harm, and propagate the species. Soul’s purpose is to create, to love and move towards wholeness.
Jung outlined several steps in the project of one’s soul journey, a process he named individuation. They are:
- Encounter with the Shadow
- Encounter with your Soul-Image
- Encounter with your God-Image
- Emergence of the Self
I will talk more about these stages of individuation in another post. For now here is James Hollis, the author of The Middle Passage, identifying the end of the midlife crisis:
We know we have survived the midlife crisis when we no longer cling to who we were, no longer seek fame or fortune or the appearance of youth. The sense of life as a slow taking away, the inexorable exeperience of irreplaceable loss, is transformed by relinguishing the old ego attachments and affirming one’s deepening descent into the mystery. (Hollis, 1993, p. 113)
I’ve been meditating on Ken Wilber’s four quadrants and Jung’s model of psyche for years unable to reconcile the two, that is, until this morning when it occurred to me that I needed to separate Jung’s model of psyche into the inside and outside perspective of the upper left quadrant, the subjective quadrant (See Figure 1). The inside of the subjective accords with Jung’s idea of the soul, timeless and present. The outside of the subjective accords with the ego, embodied in time and space.
The core of the problem in reconciling the two models is that Jung’s model is topographical, a representation of the landscape of psyche at any point in time. Whereas, Wilber’s model is progressive, a representation of psyche in stages of development. The majority of Jung’s work dealt with bringing the ego into relationship with the self, or soul. So it makes good sense to break his model into two parts, one relating to the ego and the other relating to the soul or self.
Typically Jung’s model of the psyche is shown stacked with the lowest level being the collective unconscious and the highest level being consciousness. However, when I break Jung’s model into two parts it not only accords with Wilber’s work it begins to align with the bilobed brain (See Figure 2). The left hemisphere of the brain relates more to ego and the right hemisphere relates more to the soul.
In making this adjustment we see Jung’s concepts of persona and shadow as creations of a developing ego. Both of which are components of Jung’s personal unconscious. On the right side we see Jung’s concepts of Self and Anima/Animus as components of the collective unconscious in relations to the soul.
Why is it important to make these distinctions? Besides integrating Wilber’s great body of work with Jung’s, there is value in understanding the developmental stages of Jung’s concepts. What I mean to say is there are aspects of persona and shadow that relate directly to ego at specific stages of development. The persona we showed in 2nd grade is not the same persona we show as an adult. This applies to the shadow as well. In fact, all three concepts — ego, persona and shadow — relate to material world. Whereas, the three components of the collective unconscious — soul, Anima/Animus, and Self — relate to the spiritual world. The spiritual world is eternal in space where soul ascends states of consciousness to the highest step, the nondual. On the other hand, ego , trapped in the material world, is left to evolve in time through various levels of development.
Making these connections between the two models of psyche helps to reconcile Wilber’s idea of enlightenment and Jung’s idea of individuation. For Wilber enlightenment occurs for those who have mastered the highest level of development at this time and mastered the highest state of consciousness, the nondual. For Jung individuation occurs when one has mastered the personal unconscious and has ascended through the layers of the collective unconscious to the Self. There is an important distinction between the two. For Wilber enlightenment is I AM GOD. For Jung individuation is I AM IN RELATIONSHIP TO GOD. This is where Wilber’s idea of the 1st person and 2nd person perspective of God helps situate the two. Behind both the material world collapses.
In the last essay entitled “Psychotherapists or the Clergy” of Modern Man in Search of a Soul, Jung wrote that Freud’s theory of sexuality and Adler’s theory of power are “hostile to spiritual values, being, …, psychology without the psyche” (1933, p. 228). His claim is that the psychology built on the medical model focuses on psychopathology following the experimental findings of neurology which gives little to no credence to the reality of psyche in its own domain. Instead they reduce everything to biology — chemical processes and hormones.
As a depth psychologist my training, education and experience is in “psyche.” I am not trained in psychopathology. To be licensed as a psychologist you must know the manual of psychopathology — Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) – now in its fourth revision. Depth Psychology is for adults without mental illness, and I do not work with people with severe mental illnesses.
“All creativeness in the realm of the spirit as well as every psychic advance of man arises from a state of mental suffering, and it is spiritual stagnation, psychic sterility, which causes this state” (1933, p. 225).
He observed over the many decades of practicing psychiatry a common origin of neurosis – spiritual emptiness.
Jung was the first to require his analysts to be analyzed before they could become analysts themselves. He asked,
“How can I help these persons if I am myself a fugitive, and perhaps also suffer from the morbus sacer [holy disease] of a neurosis” (1933, p. 236)?
Interestingly there are no requirements stated, other than what is required by the accredited doctoral psychology school one attended, about the number of hours one needs to have undergone in psychotherapy or psychoanalysis. My school, Pacifica Graduate Institute, required 50 hours. I have participated in over 5,000 hours of psychodynamic analysis, a much more intense and deep psychotherapeutic treatment.
The question I am left with, also the point, albeit subtle, Jung made in his essay, is — are licensed psychologists trained to heal neurosis? If they are trained and tested in psychopathology how does this lead to healing? Doesn’t one have to be trained in healing to be a healer? Shouldn’t one be healed themselves to be deemed a “healer?” Perhaps this is why psychiatrists are mainly pushing pills these days. I believe it is nearly impossible for licensed psychologists to heal neuroses if they have not learned about “psyche.” Perhaps this is why most of their treatment modalities, i.e. cognitive behavioral therapy and skill building, never really touch the depths of your soul, the originator of neuroses.
All ye with weary hearts and neurotic symptoms are welcome to my consulting room. Let it be known, I will not diagnosis you with a psychological illness; I will, however, tend your soul.