The following is an excerpt from our new book, Living Your Unlived Life.
There is a deep fear in our culture that if we stop or even slow down someone else will catch us, they might even pass us in the rat race of life. The saying “24/7” is used today as shorthand in advertising and increasingly in conversations to indicate around-the-clock commitment. “This deodorant will protect you 24/7,” or, “I’m on the job 24/7/365.” This is the collective thought. It does not allow for stopping, for standing still.
When I can, I like to go swimming at the local YMCA. I am a regular there and many people know me. Not long ago one of the lifeguards saw me coming. Her manager told her that I wrote books, so she approached me looking for an inspirational quote to write on the blackboard for the people who were exercising. I thought for a moment, and a proverb from the Upanishads came to mind: “By standing still we overtake those who are running.” The teenager heard me out, thought for a moment and then replied, “No way!” She walked to the blackboard and instead wrote: “Go, go, go!”
We live in a “go, go, go” society. It is increasingly difficult to find a moment of repose. At the airport television monitors flash the news at you from every corner. In stores and restaurants music and flashing visual displays bombard the senses.
Although it is hard for us to slow down, the synthesis of life’s tensions and contradictions requires a quiet place. Continuous doing generally flips more energy into the complications that already exist in our lives. For example, when couples are having trouble with their marriage, often the first solution is, “Let’s go on a holiday. We will take a vacation, and then we will feel better.” Well, a modern vacation generally involves expending more energy, traveling long distances, doing things from morning to night and spending money. That doesn’t help. It most likely will send the oppositions that trouble you farther apart. How often do trips like this result in conflict?
Anyone in the second half of life must find ways to, in the felicitous phrase of Jung, “decently go unconscious.”
We all require relief from the tension and burdens of ordinary consciousness, and it is natural to seek altered states. To decently go unconscious means purposefully stopping the constant, droning buzz of information that floods the mind – but not by blotting out consciousness through excessive and soulless work, eating, drugs, shopping, sex, television, or other compulsive and repetitious behaviors. We all need a daily exercise to assist us in shifting from a state of doing to a state of being.
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
The following is an excerpt from our new book, Living Your Unlived Life.
Running counter to an experimental approach to life, the human ego does its best to assimilate reality to existing mental structures. It seeks safety and predictability.
You may be familiar with the ancient story of Procrustes and his special bed. In Greek the name Procrustes means "he who stretches,” and this character is said to have kept a house by the side of the road where he offered hospitality to passing strangers, who were invited in for a pleasant meal and a night's rest in his bed. Procrustes described it as having the unique property that its length exactly matched whoever lay down upon it. What Procrustes didn't volunteer was the method by which this "one-size-fits-all" was achieved, namely as soon as the guest lay down Procrustes went to work upon him, stretching him on the rack if he was too short for the bed and chopping off his legs if he was too tall.
When dominated too much by an ego-driven agenda, we can become like Procrustes, cutting off experiences that do not fit our rigid, pre-conceived ideas or stretching them to fit our conditioned patterns for organizing experience (also known as schemas or complexes).
Posted by ruhljohnson at 1:33 PM
In the Christian tradition we are told only those who “become as little children” can enter the kingdom of heaven. In psychological terms this means that we will not experience the numinous and the holy without a childlike, lighthearted quality in our efforts.
Posted by ruhljohnson at 1:30 PM
In working with, or on, or for, or through the self, we as healers have many opportunities to hear the cultural suffering in individual suffering. We are called to see connections between the personal and the collective.
Each culture constitutes a social reality and a “self” that it takes for granted and considers universal. Our culture creates a myth of the self as private and personal. In fact, individual psychotherapy may be the apogee in the development of individualism that began during the romantic era. For us , the individual is the center of society, not the family or the clan.
Robert Bellah, in his work, Habits of the Heart, has written that psychotherapy that does not take into account the social and political realities of the collective can be analogous to the retreat to the suburbs, reinforcing the illusion that any of us can be separate from the larger community in which we live. Are there alternatives to seeing the self in this manner? Cross cultural experiences tell us that there are.
Dr. Jung wrote that the goal of psychic development cannot be just personal growth, but must contribute to furthering the collective evolution of the psyche.
Martin Buber, the Hasidic scholar best known for his distinction between “I and It” versus “I and Thou” relationships, says that an “it” is an object that is manipulated and related to as something that exists only to serve the observer. Many of our modern encounters unfortunately are “I and It” relationships. Buber felt that in each of us there is a yearning to be fully met by the other, and he suggested that the sacred comes to us in meetings with one another, not in isolated visions. Every encounter invites a response, Buber said, and we must learn to be more open and sensitive listeners as well as look for the divine potential in our interactions with the collective.
Psyche is calling you forth from this life you have accumulated. The dream of the earth sees you and has a task for you.
Posted by ruhljohnson at 1:16 PM
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
The following quote is from Al Gore,
One of the newest of the great universalist religions, Baha'i, founded in 1863 in Persia, warns us not only to properly regard the relationship between humankind and nature but also the one between civilization and the environment. "We cannot segregate the human heart from the environment outside us and say that once one of these is reformed everything will be improved. Man is organic with the world. His inner life molds the environment and is itself deeply affected by it. The one acts upon the other and every abiding change in the life of man is the result of these mutual reactions." And from the Baha'i sacred writings comes this: "Civilization, so often vaunted by the learned exponents of arts and sciences will, if allowed to overleap the bounds of moderation, bring great evil upon men." (Earth In The Balance, pp. 261-262)
Posted by ruhljohnson at 9:07 PM
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
A recent joke has it that God had just created Adam. Poor man, blinking with the first light of day, wonders what has struck him; he gets his eyes focused, and God says to him, "I have two things to tell you to prepare you for the world ahead of you. One is good, the other bad. Now, which one are you going to have first?"
Adam says, "Lets hear the good one first."
God says, "OK. It's really good. I've given you a brain, a consciousness, which is incredibly productive and creative.
"You just won't believe, I couldn't tell you in advance, what wonderful things are going to come out of that brain of yours. It's going to take generations and generations to pour out all of the creativity which is genetically built into your head. I'm also giving you a penis capable of unbelievable creativity and generation. You just can't conceive of how much creativity that penis of yours is capable of. It will take eons of time to search out all its creations. It is a never ending fountain of creativity."
So Adam sits for a while and says, "OK, what's the bad news?"
God says, "The bad news, is that you can never use them both at the same time."
Within the joke is an essential truth about how difficult it is for men to access the dimensions of their creativity.
Posted by ruhljohnson at 4:48 PM
Monday, July 9, 2007
The following is a variation on a story once told by the Hasidic scholar Martin Buber.
Isaac grew up in small provincial town of Krakow. He lived with his godfather, an old man in his seventies who had a wooden leg. The two lived in poverty, so it was very striking one night when Isaac had a dream of treasure. The next morning he couldn’t remember all the details, other than he was finding a great treasure in this dream. Not so modern as we, Isaac did not dismiss a dream as the result of indigestion. Still, he didn’t know what to make of this dream, so he went to his godfather, Yekel, and inquired. Yekel told him, “It is the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.”
Isaac thought about this as he did his chores and fed the animals, cleaned the hearth, and cooked the soup over the fire.
The next night he had the dream again, and this time it was more urgent and specific. “Go to capital city and there you will find a great treasure. Go now.” When he awoke Isaac was very excited, as he could distinctly remember the very words in his dream.
On the third night, Isaac had the dream again. A voice came to him in the dream and said he must go immediately to the capital city of Prague and dig under the bridge that leads to the king’s palace, and there he would find a treasure beyond price.
Isaac may have been slow, but he was not foolish. He set his affairs in order, obtained the blessing of his godfather, and set off for Prague.
When he arrived in the capital city, Isaac asked direction to the king’s palace. But when he got there, he found it guarded by soldiers. He paced back and forth, not knowing what to do. The captain of the guards looked especially angry and mean.
Isaac was overcome by exhaustion, and he fell asleep.
The next morning when he awoke there was a new captain of the guards, and this one looked like a friendly fellow. He saw Isaac pacing nervously, and so the captain inquired: “Can I help you? Are you waiting for someone or looking for something?”
Isaac’s story came pouring out. He told the captain that he lived in Krakow, and of his three dreams, and how they informed him that he must go to the capital city, and that there he would find a great treasure.
When Isaac had finished, the guard began laughing at this country bumpkin. “So, to please a dream, poor fellow, you wore out your shoes coming all this way? Why if I believed in such nonsense I myself would have had to travel all the way to Krakow in search of a treasure. I remember a dream I had some time ago, as though it occurred last night. I too had a dream of treasure, but it was to be found under the hearth of some person named Isaac, who lives in the house of Yekel. What foolishness! Can you imagine my traveling to Krakow where dozens of men are named Isaac and dozens more named Yekel -- knocking on doors in search of some magic hearth?”
He had a good laugh and walked off to share the story with the other guards.
Isaac bowed politely, and set off for home. And when he arrived there he dug under the hearth of his own home, the very place and circumstances of his life. And it is told that indeed he found a great treasure there.
To celebrate and honor this great dream, Isaac built a house of prayer.
Posted by ruhljohnson at 5:06 PM
I am deeply convinced that the transcendent is present in human life: it allures man and acts in human existence. I have known the depth and power of the sub-conscious and the subterranean, but I have also known the other and greater deep which is transcendence.
Posted by ruhljohnson at 2:46 PM
Friday, July 6, 2007
To help get on the path to greater contentment, instead of approaching life as a series of contradictions that must be fought, you can embrace what happens in your life fatefully. This implies taking the ego and investing it somewhere. If your power and freedom are invested fatefully - this will save you from some of the constant anxiety of our age. To remove this anxiety you need only say yes to what is. So simple, but not easily accomplished.
The neurotic structure of our time, the inability to accept wholeness, persists in splitting reality into a series of dualities even as we try to think our way out of it.
There’s a wonderful story set in medieval times in which a man sees a laborer walking by with a wheel barrow and asks what he is doing. “Can’t you see, I’m pushing a wheelbarrow,” the laborer replies. Another man comes by doing the same thing and he too is asked: “What are you doing.” He replies, “Can’t you see, I’m building Chartres Cathedral.” The same activity, but very different levels of awareness. The second man has invested his work fatefully – connected to a greater purpose – and thereby rendered his life meaningful.
It’s never a matter of what you are doing in life that is most important; rather, it’s a question of what consciousness you are bringing to the activity. Whether you are pushing a wheelbarrow or heading a corporation is really not the point. Who is doing it and what consciousness is brought forth?
Posted by ruhljohnson at 12:43 PM
Something like twenty years ago I went for a walk along the very flat beach just north of Pondicherry (which is one hundred miles south of Madras on the East coast of India). I don’t remember initiating that walk, but it brought a remarkable friend and adventure which still warms my life. A young man, Babu, greeted me in excellent English as I walked through his village.
Babu had just been injured in one leg, which finished his fishing activity (the occupation of everybody in that long line of villages). In a long conversation I agreed to finance Babu and his family by a monthly allowance of cash from my USA account. Soon after this Babu asked me if he could earn his allowance by setting up a school in his village - named Kottakkupam - which had no school of any kind within miles of the village.
I began Sunday morning visits to the village and my learning of ancient Indian customs. Nothing has changed in that village for at least a thousand years - except the use of nylon instead of coconut fiber hand woven into fishing line. Their primitive boats are adzed out of coconut logs, their nets are made of coconut fiber. There is no electricity in the village, no plumbing, no paving, food is fish and coconuts.
Sunday visits at first were with Babu and wife; the children were too afraid of the white giant to risk a meeting. Slowly the boys got used to me and met me every Sunday morning as I rode into the village in my rickshaw. I brought gifts for everybody and Sunday became a holiday time for all of us. It took several years before any of the girls would risk being seen by so distant a visitor.
In time Babu set up a small school, with sand floor, palm fiber walls and roof, and soon there were 75 students, some from neighboring villages, none of which had any formal education. After returning to America, I sent money every month to keep Babu and his family and to support the school. Early along one of his letters asked for advice for a problem with the school: many students fainted from hunger soon after arriving in the morning. With some funds from me, Babu soon set up a breakfast for the students before teaching began.
My Sunday morning visits to the village are some of the happiest memories I have. I would get out of my rickshaw and be fairly carried to the village where we set up a kind of ceremonial court with tea for me while my gifts were distributed to the children. The children had learned to organize a set of requests to me - a cricket bat and balls for the two teams that had been organized, pencils, paper, awards to students, a demonstration to show their fishing techniques.
Much later I was taken into their private ceremonies of consulting the Gods for whatever concerned the adult villagers. One teenage boy was their oracle and intermediary with the Gods. It was very risky to bring a heathen (me) into such a ceremony but I listened with great interest. Saravanan, the oracle boy, stuffed his mouth full of neem leaves which set him into a trance for his consulting the Gods. The first try at this with me present almost failed as the Gods made severe complaint that there was a heathen present who did not have the rudimentary courtesy of sitting cross legged on the floor. Saravanan explained that the heathen had an injured knee (I have an artificial leg as the result of a childhood accident) and could not sit properly. The Gods understood and gave a dispensation to the rude one. The conversation went on concerning the spiritual problems of the village - all of this in Tamil language with Babu translating for me.
I was part of each Sunday morning conversation with the Gods until Saravanan made some indiscretion and was banished from speech with the Gods. Later another teenager gained the power of intermediary and carried on the custom. Strange: Neem leaves are now being sold as herbs in America and England.
Getting money to Babu is difficult. Mail to the village is often stolen or lost. But I found a safe way of transferring money to Babu through a Swiss friend who lives in the Sri Aurobindo Ashram. Each month I send this friend a registered check, which has never failed to arrive safely. He cashes the check and distributes the money in rupees to Babu and upward of thirty other handicapped or destitute Indians that I consider my Indian family.
In December of 2004, an undersea earthquake measuring 9.3 on the Earthquake Magnitude scale occurred 100 miles off the western coast of Sumatra, Indonesia. It was the second largest earthquake in recorded history and generated massive tsunamis, which caused widespread devastation when they hit land, leaving an estimated 230,000 people dead in countries around the Indian Ocean. A week after the great tsunami of 2004 hit news came that the stretch of coastline between Pondicherry and Madras had been practically destroyed! I was frantic to get news, but no one I knew in that part of the world was functioning. Finally Babu got access to an Email system and sent me news that they had built a breakwater in front of the village using some of the money I had sent previously and, though much of the village was destroyed, no one had been killed or injured.
The village and the school continue.
Posted by ruhljohnson at 9:43 AM
Thursday, July 5, 2007
Reynolds Price, a true artist, describes the Golden World experience in his latest book, Letter To A Man in the Fire: Does God Exist and Does He Care? I attach a relevant excerpt in hopes that seekers find their way to this eloquent work. (You may purchase it by clicking on the book title in one of our earlier posts in June, Books We are Reading and Recommend. To see earlier posts, just click the small arrow next to "June" under Blog Archive in the box to the right. Entries are organized by month)
"Those moments, which recurred at unpredictable and widely spaced intervals till some thirteen years ago, still seem to me undeniable manifestations of the Creator's benign, or patiently watchful, interest in particular stretches of my life, though perhaps not all of it. And each of the moments - never lasting for more than seconds but seeming, in retrospect, hours long - has taken the form of sudden and entirely unsought breakings-in upon my consciousness of a demonstration that all of visible and invisible nature (myself included) is a single reality, a single thought from a central mind...
"There've been no shows of light, no gleaming illusory messengers, almost no words; and the music that underlies each moment is silent but felt in every cell like a grander pulse beneath my own. Always simultaneously, I've been assured that this reality is launched on a history that's immensely longer than any life span I can hope to have and that it's designed to end in some form of transformation...
"Still, the experiences were as real as any carwreck. They've proved overwhelming in their unanswerability, and their power has meant that I've literally never had to make the touted 'leap of faith' into sudden belief...
"The scarcity of what I've called personal openings is one of the reasons I've taken them seriously. If they'd come with any frequency, I'd suspect myself of brain damage or unconscious fraud - or a sancity that is patently unavailable to me...
"I'm always shocked to be reminded how many people choose, quite early in their lives, to begin their deaths - and death is by no means always a mere cessation of heart and brain activity. Anyone who's taught college, as I have for four decades, well knows that a number of people choose lifelong mental and spiritual death in late adolescence if not sooner, the curse of surrender to the backwash of time and the all but irreparable friction of trifling or too demanding human interactions..."
Posted by ruhljohnson at 12:15 PM
Wednesday, July 4, 2007
The following excerpt is from our book, Contentment: A Way to True Happiness:
In Shakespeare's greatest tragedy, King Lear, (which has remarkable relevance to our world situation today) as the story draws to a climax the old king is reunited with his one loyal daughter, Cordelia. Both are in exile, the kingdom is in chaos, and the destructive, unconscious forces are competing for power and leaving a trail of wreckage. The armies of the two greedy and untrue offspring, Goneril and Regan, are about to overtake the camp of Lear and Cordelia. Facing certain capture, Lear makes a wonderful speech.
"Come, Let's away to prison," he says. "We two alone will sing like birds in the cage. / When thou dost ask me blessing, I'll kneel down / And ask of thee forgiveness. So we'll live, / And pray, and sing, and tell old tales, and laugh / At gilded butterflies, and hear poor rogues / Talk of court news. and we'll talk with them too. / Who loses and who wins; who's in, who's out; / And take upon us the mystery of things, / As if we were God's spies; and we'll wear out, / In a walled prison, packs and sects of great ones / That ebb and flow by the moon."
This is poetic language saying that he now understands the walled prison of his court and sees with a new clarity and depth of vision the pettiness and intrigues that have fueled his discontent with life.
This is what each of us must learn to do - to sit in the nonsense of our court with its daily upsets, disappointments, and changes. Court news is all the stuff that fills the morning newspaper: who loses and who wins, who's in and who's out. It all passes like clouds in the sky, and with hardly any more lasting relevance.
"We'll live and pray, and sing, and tell old tales, and laugh at gilded butterflies," the king says. That which has once worn Lear down and made him angry and tired now produces laughter.
Lear comes to understand that the stuff of the court (when perceived from a Greater consciousness) is about as substantial as the ebbing and flowing of the moon. He accepts the imperfections of the world as part of the play of God. Lear sees it all - the joys and the sorrows, the victories and the defeats - and he can laugh, the merriment of insight, not the derision of bitterness. An enlightened person can participate in the daily frustrations and absurdities of the world while simultanously understanding them as divine play. And so contentment is found within ordinary experience, not apart from the life that is given. But we must (at least in moments of heighened awareness) view life "as if we are God's spies," and thereby take upon us "the mystery of things."
Posted by ruhljohnson at 8:24 AM
Monday, July 2, 2007
Honesty is such a complicated subject. Too little and one is a colorless wimp; too much and one is leaving a trail of wreckage behind him. So it comes down to a fine sensitivity for each occasion for what is appropriate. I worry a lot about this and am never quite sure if I have overdone or underdone an exchange with a friend.
I believe in as much honesty as one can bear. Honesty is close kin to reality and has a divine quality about it. But it is a sharp knife to be used with caution. I expect any reality is of that nature.
Two people prosper if the degree of honesty is correct between them. But that implies that both will follow the necessary laws. The first person must not bring more voltage to the exchange than the second can bear. No one could take total honesty and survive this world. Our world requires persona and courtesy, both of which impinge on honesty. The second person must agree not to be wounded or carry guilt from the first person's gift of honesty.
The cost of directness (precious to me!) is some risk of hurt feelings. One of the gifts you can give to someone is not to be wounded by anything he or she says or does. That supports the freedom to be as real and honest as we can bear.
From a broader point of view honesty is a recent addition to the human faculties. So- called "primitive" and simple people have little honesty in their natures; they rely mostly on instinctive and archaic faculties. Small children live from a "dream" world where archaic facts override what we call reality. Or one might speak of two worlds of reality - an "inner" one, more akin to dream than "outer" reality, an outer one relying on objective fact. But is outer reality more real than the inner one?
In the evolution of culture we gain the ability to differentiate outer reality from inner. We can observe whether something was a dream or objective fact. But this is a recent faculty in the evolutionary scheme and is a fragile one. Primitive or early people rely more on the inner reality and their cultures allow for this fact.
Example: My Indian friend, Amba Shankar, once took me to his village in remote India, Halasangi, where no white person had ever visited before, and he initiated me into old India. One day he took me to a great mango tree and kept me there all day. We picnicked, meditated, told stories and had a happy Indian day. One of the stories was that there was about an old Yogi, hundreds of years old, who lived in this vicinity. One day Amba's father had been meditating under this great mango tree, the old Yogi had come to take the father on his three-day initiation journey, where he tested him, tortured him, frightened him, and then gave the father his enlightenment.
I was thrilled with this story and had profound thoughts under the great mango tree that had been (mythologically speaking to my Western mind) the scene of so sublime an event. Months later, back in Pondicherry, a thousand miles away, I had an active imagination calling on the great mango tree as scene; the old Yogi came for me (in my imagination, remember), took me on my initiation journey, tortured me, tested, me, frightened me out of my wits, etc. and then gave me his blessings. I found my friend Amba the next day and told him - careful to explain this was in my room in Pondicherry and an imaginative journey - what had happened. Amba was delighted and was in great excitement.
" I knew the old Yogi would come for you! That is why I made you spend all day under the great mango tree. I knew he would come for you!"
"Amba", I relied, "All this happened in my room in imagination right here in Pondicherry."
"No matter, he came for you and gave you your enlightenment".
"Amba! You don't understand, this was yesterday right here in Pondicherry!" I replied.
"No matter, the old Yogi came for you just as I had intended!" It was at that moment that I understood, for the first time in depth, that India (old, traditional India, still found in the villages) functions on a reality quite different from our own. It is absolutely essential to know this of India and its teachings if one is to understand their "reality" and "real" statements.
The inner reality is rich, instructive and absolutely essential for the health of an individual. But it is chaos when it comes to the "practical" world of business or outer reality. So, is it possible to say that honesty (in our outer sense) is a recent addition to evolution and must be carefully differentiated from the age-old "inner" reality that old India still treasures?
I observe that modern societies all over the world are growing exhausted with the strain of "outer" reality and are losing their hold on the disciplined faculty of honesty. As we lose respect for inner reality and try to base our whole lives on outer reality we lose energy and increasingly lose our hold on "outer" reality and what we call honesty.
In raising children, one should nurture the "inner" reality - dreams, fantasy, drawings, play - to make sure this aspect of their experience remains strong. Outer reality, honesty, objectivity, the cool scientific mentality that is the jewel of our recent civilization, should be introduced only as the inner reality is strong enough to sustain it. And even mature adults must make certain that their inner reality is sufficiently nourished to bear the heavy weight of outer reality. Honesty is a power only recently added to the human faculties and is understandably fragile.
Posted by ruhljohnson at 5:32 PM
How many thousand times have I worried in my life without cause? I remember the story of the old farmer who was dying with his family around his bed: he was reminiscing about his life and commented, "I sure had a heap of trouble in my life; course most of it never happened."
Posted by ruhljohnson at 5:25 PM
Sunday, July 1, 2007
In childhood we all have heroes who we worship because they carry some of our unlived capacities (inner gold). These may be athletes or celebrities, but often they take the form of someone immediately in our lives. For a ten-year-old boy or girl, a twelve-year-old who lives down the street is often looked up to as a hero. The ten-year-old wants to imitate the older child. He walks like him, or she wears clothes just like her older model. We all know the power of fashion, and especially how fashion runs through a neighborhood of adolescent kids. The style of shoes, the type of haircut, all those things you’ve got to have. Just yesterday an older neighbor boy started kicking things round the living room as though he was at soccer practice, and my (Jerry's) 10-year-old son without a word unconsciously began imitating him. He wants to be cool, to be accepted by the older boy. This is a form of hero worship. When young we need projections to pull us into life, and we see our potentials in others and then attempt to take them in.
Two years later, when the ten-year-old is twelve, he or she has become the characteristics that once were projected onto the twelve year old. These potentials have been assimilated and realized. Now he (or she) hero-worships a fourteen-year-old and has a new ladder to climb.
I remember vividly my own early hero-worshipping. It was so strong. Albert Schweitzer was a great hero of mine (Robert's), chiefly as a musician and a humanitarian. I listened to his recordings. I read his ideas about reforming recitals of J.S. Bach, suggesting that Bach’s works should be performed slowly and deliberately with great ornamentation and attention to detail. I fairly devoured everything about Albert Schweitzer. Then along came this powerful dream in which I actually ate him. In my dream I bit into Schweitzer’s flesh and then devoured him like a cannibal. This was such a shocking dream that I was embarrassed to even share it. When I told an early mentor about this dream, he patiently explained, “Don’t be disturbed. This means you are going to have to be an Albert Schweitzer, in some form. All heroes need externalizing. These are potentials in you that are becoming ripe for development.” My life went on to become a pale imitation of Albert Schweitzer’s, and that’s the power and strength I subsequently gained. At this time I was learning to assimilate my own potential greatness, represented by Dr. Schweitzer.
Eventually I was able to claim my own unrealized potentials, my inner gold, rather than always projecting them upon a hero, a mentor, or a partner. Schweitzer was a wonderful musician who played Bach in a thrilling manner and published an influential book about building pipe organs. I learned to build harpsichords and became an amateur musician, though I played mostly for friends and family. Schweitzer was a medical missionary in Africa, a great humanitarian. Inspired by his example, I have done my best to pursue my own inner work and share my findings with others. For nineteen years I spent my winters in India, attempting to synthesize the best of two very different cultures.
Posted by ruhljohnson at 10:14 AM
As a parent you can keep your children safe by guarding their sense of intrinsic worth.
(Readers Note: We generally use the singular narrator throughout this blog, in references such as “my” clients or to personal experiences. Examples are taken from the lives and therapy practices of both Robert Johnson and Jerry Ruhl. Just as in our books, to facilitate understanding, our ideas and stories often are combined. At times we will identify personal experiences. This particular story is Robert's.)
The things my parents reinforced in me were not always my things. My mother was a highly energetic person, she would complain that there were only 18 hours of work in the day. I recall getting a reward and going up on a stage to accept it, and afterwards my mother said, “You didn’t limp much.” That sounds quite cold, and it was. Her animus (driven, rational and linear masculine qualities) liked to shoot feeling things down, as they made her uncomfortable. Over time this lack of feeling relatedness nearly cost me our relationship; to survive as my authentic self I had to exclude her, and to that extent I must confess that throughout my life I have excluded anyone who tried to mother me.
A validation keeps your child basically safe. Praise the things that they are. This is the difference between love and judgment.
Of course, you have to keep them safe physically. You must teach them courtesy, the rules of our culture, and the standards of success in our society. However, you must also keep the essence of the child safe by relating to his or her inner being. Each of your children must be told they are worthy in their own way. I once had a client whose personality was deeply hurt because as a youth her father would commonly introduce his two children to people by saying: "This is my Fullbright son and my half bright daughter." (The Fulbright Scholars program rewards academic achievement). Her father thought this was funny. Even as an adult, this poor woman was desperately hungry for compliments.
My mother was good at extraverted sensation, she saved my life by getting me through the hospital system when, as a boy, I was hit by a car. But she starved me in terms of providing the feeling that I required. She was very one-sided in her development, and feeling was underdeveloped (my inherent feeling nature was fed from my grandmother, and later by god-parents and mentors). Thus I learned to differentiate feeling from thinking and from sensation at a young age - long before I knew of Jung's theory of psychological types.
So often our children are not hurt by what happens in life so much as what is unacknowledged. I am amazingly untouched by pain that remained conscious, such as my leg being crushed. I was more wounded by the missing feeling capacity in my immediate family.
When allowed to be what they are, people are amazingly resilient. It is when they are instructed into being what they are not that life becomes troublesome for people. My mother would say she was paying me a compliment by noticing my limp over my pride in winning an award. Stating that I don’t limp much in another context, that might be good, but saying it when she did spoiled the feeling of the reward I was being given; it was insensitive.
Jung told a story that one day his mother walked into the study where he was working and said, “Carl, does any of this really mean anything?” He couldn’t work for several days. This is the power of the mother complex.
I had a patient once who had six kids, and one girl was a "problem child." I told her to take that girl off somewhere each day. She was starving for attention in a house with six kids. We can starve in our feeling function even in the midst of other people.
To help with where children are hurt, praise is the best medicine.
As soon as something is made conscious and palpable it can be worked with and can begin to heal. If you can get someone to blubber through their tears and say how hurt they really are, that is the beginning of the cure.
A first generation son of an Italian family came to me, he was a professor of psychology, though he didn’t know a thing about true psychology (care of the soul - the root psyche means soul). He taught statistics, and had fashioned himself into the thinking, academic world. He was considering marriage to a dreary cold, professor who was his intellectual equal, though he had also dated a lively Italian girl who was from his old neighborhood that he wanted very much to escape.
Our therapy work was going nowhere and one day I said, “I don’t think I have anything for you.” He kept coming though. One day I had an intuition: “I am going to sell you an idea today. You are the king’s son. It was all I could think of to do. So each day when I saw him I greeted the king’s son. After a month of this I couldn’t hold up the energy anymore. I said goodbye to him. He stood at the door and said, “You didn’t call me the king’s son.” He wrote to me sometime later. He had become head of the psychology department at a prestigious university, he married the Italian girl and had several kids.
He sent me a quote from Shakespeare, “Were I to say how happy I am, it would not be adequate.” He just needed some validation. I didn’t know what else to do for him, but that was apparently enough to get him going in life.
In American society people can nearly die emotionally of subterfuge. Covering up a wound leads to blood poisoning. If it is exposed, then it has a chance to heal. In the old Testament it is written that if you know the name of something you can heal it, that means not just giving it a label, but being conscious of it. People say what you don’t know won’t hurt you, but, in fact, it is what you do know that won’t hurt you. Facts, experiences and events that you don’t know can fester and produce terrible illness. This is the burden of unlived life.
Posted by ruhljohnson at 8:27 AM