Survive restrictions the Jungian way
I speak everyday to people who are coming to terms with the long term consequences of having to restrict their access to relationships, travel, activities and work in ways they are now beginning to find deeply distressing. Keeping a positive attitude under these circumstances is becoming a primary focus of our psyche, in addition to the existing emotional challenges we already have to cope with.
To keep this into context, I hardly need to state that we are in the middle of a global pandemic and the catastrophic loss of life weighs heavy on all our hearts. Also, it should be pointed out, this death toll sits on top of the equally horrific numbers of people across the world who are dying daily from famine, disease and war - while all the time our planet continues to heat up as a result of climate change.
We are social beings, and in normal times we are able to balance our concern for those in greater need with activities that help to distract us and keep us in a positive frame of mind - so we can keep stress at a manageable level. It is becoming increasingly difficult to find a point of mental equilibrium when our senses are not only being deprived of their normal positive stimuli, but are also bombarded with seemingly negative challenges.
I have found myself in this exact situation many times over the last twelve months and while I continue to wait for the solutions to unfold I recently asked the power of Unconditional Love to show me how I can help myself through this stressful time and continue to be a positive encouragement to others in the same predicament.
The answer came as I was writing my new online course* based on my book The Secret of The Alchemist - which expands on how we can all unlock the inner power of our gifts to reach our own true destiny and to the benefit of those around us.
I was reading the research into the human psyche by Carl Jung, professor of Analytical Psychology and longtime student of alchemy, where he says this:
“The fundamental mistake regarding the nature of the unconscious is probably this: it is commonly supposed that its contents have only one meaning and are marked with an unalterable plus or minus sign. In my humble opinion, this view is too naïve. The psyche is a self-regulating system that maintains its equilibrium just as the body does. Every process that goes too far immediately and inevitably calls forth compensations, and without these, there would be neither a normal metabolism nor a normal psyche. In this sense, we can take the theory of compensation as a basic law of psychic behavior. (Carl Jung, Collected Works 1934, 101)
We are amazing beings and Jung says we can assume the human psyche has an inbuilt capacity to try and maintain a state of equilibrium when under duress. In other words, we already have within us a ‘psychic thermostat’ that kicks in when things get too hot. I instantly found this thought encouraging and decided to explore what I can do to facilitate that process of equilibrium rather than resist it.
Again Jung has an answer and he called it the Four Functions:
He originally conceived a model in which four cognitive functions combine to form different psychological types. He proposed that the functions formed a hierarchy within our psyche - the most developed function is "dominant", with the others carrying out "auxiliary" and "inferior" functions. The four basic functions were thinking, feeling, intuition, and sensation.
In other words, some people favour thoughts (logic and reason) to order their lives while others prefer to follow their feelings (fear, comfort, danger, joy etc.). Others experience the world through their senses (experiences, pleasure, sight, sound, taste, touch) while others use their intuition to determine the true dynamics at work around them.
The important point to stress here is, whichever function is dominant or inferior, we don’t need to be ‘stuck’ with that psychological type for the rest of our lives. This is merely an aid to self understanding; a further tool of self-awareness, to assess ourselves, so we can help ourselves to reach a more balanced psychological place.
The person, according to Jung, who has reached a point of equilibrium between the four functions, so that no one is in greater dominance or is significantly inferior, but all are used in harmony with the others to suit the situation, is the person who has reached a state of mature balance; that is what he called Individuation.
What I realised as I studied this further, is that like most people, I depend on my Senses to provide me with a host of distractions and entertainment to stop me from being too focussed on my feelings and thoughts. When those positive sensations are taken away, it is easy for me to find my thoughts and emotions becoming more dominant and not always helpful. Boredom, loss of purpose, negativity, helplessness and many other unhelpful thoughts and feelings can take a stronger position and put my psyche off balance.
So what is the answer to this conundrum? I discovered a technique that I have employed that you may find helpful to redress your inner balance. It can be summed up by what Jung called ‘active imagination’.
I discovered I have this amazing inner power of my conscious imagination and the activity of dreams in my unconscious at my disposal. For example have you been experiencing more vivid dreams since you have been in a restricted situation? Do you find yourself fantasising about activities you normally engage in such as holidays, travel, places you visit away from home?
Jung identified these imaginative thoughts as mostly useful and a way for the psyche to compensate for a restriction of our senses. My next thought was: what if I actively encourage my imagination and its role in my psyche to not only compensate for the loss of normal external stimuli, but use this time to increase its power to manifest positive outcomes in my life and the world around me?
What if I develop an active imagination as an ongoing tool to assist me in creating new and wonderful experiences now and in the future that I had never imagined before? Then I realised this is exactly what the ancient alchemists practised in their Great Work of turning lead into gold.
I can use this time of seemingly endless restrictions to expand the horizons of my imagination and bring positivity and life-giving benefits to my life and the world around me.
I can see this time of restrictions and an opportunity to develop my imaginative skills and offer equilibrium to a world that needs my contribution. I used to think of fantasising as a delusional and dangerous activity - but now I see it as a normal function of the psyche and if I approach it with my feet firmly planted in reality - I have a new and powerful force at my disposal. I’m looking forward to living out my dreams of hope and joy in the days ahead.
Happy dreaming everyone!
* Colm Holland will be opening his online School of Alchemy Transformation from early February 2021. To request more information please use this contact form.