1Q84: Reflection on a Story about the Search for the Other

 A Book Review by Stephen Foster, Ph.D. Jungian Analyst


Don’t you just hate it when you finish a really good book?  I found myself drawn so deeply in the world of 1Q84, created by Haruki Murakami, that for a short while I was outside of time.  I was so completely immersed in this rich and engrossing novel, that when it was over I was left feeling both elated at having found a book I could be “in” and flattened that it was over. What was wonderful was that it was full of the possibilities for Jungian interpretations; my mind was set spinning.

Let me first admit that I did not actually read the 1160 pages of the book.  Like everyone these days I have so little time to actually read each word on the page.  These days the fantasy of curling up in front of a crackling fire with a good book is sadly just that: a fantasy.  No, I listened to the book in my car, at the gym, and while walking the dog.  For me, this is also a great way to be in the book, and to experience the world of 1Q84.  But—I digress.

In good Jungian fashion, the book starts with the feminine protagonist descending a ladder from the Tokyo freeway down into this new world; the world of 1Q84.  In this world the masculine and feminine characters are searching for each other, and through parallel process, they are unconsciously searching to unite with their own animus or anima; in this book the contrasexual other that holds creative potential.  In trying to find their connection to each other, in this strange new world, they each grapple with their childhood beginnings, their familial norms and their individuation process.

Synchronicities abound, and are so common in 1Q84 that they are taken for granted.  The mysterious and the unusual events that pulled me into this world are not always explained, but one knows exactly what is going on.  Like theater in the round, it is as if the author has somehow incorporated us into the world as a part of the story.  The stories of each character are interwoven, like braided hair.  Yet the novel is simply written.  One gets the impression that there is an unseen hand guiding the actions of the characters in that world of IQ84. For example, the private detective holds the shadow while the couple searches for each other much like anima and animus figures in the unconscious. When we work with the unconscious, these alternative worlds hold powerful symbols and this book is filled with symbolic content that is open for Jungian interpretation.

It seems that Haruki Murakami was drawn to Jung, (he even mentions him in the book) and he was able to work with the tensions of good and evil within the unconscious to conjure up the story of 1Q84.  For me it was the perfect melding of two of my favorite subjects: science fiction and Jung.


Brothers by Puddi Kullberg, Jungian Analyst

get-attachment     As a lover of the movie The Hours, based on the book of the same name by Michael Cunningham, I was interested to see the review of his new book in the on-line NYT’s Arts section this morning. The headline caught my attention, “Two Brothers in the Icy Grip of Midlife.” Michiko Kakutani reviewed Cunningham’s new book The Snow Queen in which “two brothers yearn for a sense of purpose in midlife.”

Having spent most of yesterday working on a class about individuation, I thought, “Aha, midlife, here is something that might enliven the discussion.” Not to mention that a pivotal ingredient of the novel-named-after-a-fairy-tale involves one of the brother’s having had a numinous experience, a vision of beauty and grander, on a snowy evening in Central Park, kept secret from his sibling. How Jungian can you get? Could I assign a novel for my class or might that be too much reading?”

As I read the review though my mind wandered from individuation to brothers. I couldn’t help but connect it to another current brothers story.  The indie rock band The National is made up of two sets of brothers and the singer/lyricist whose brother is not part of the band. As it turns out though, the non-band brother is now intimately connected to the group via his recent movie Mistaken for Strangers. And the poignant Mistaken for Strangers turns out to be as much about brothers as it is a documentary about The National.

Maybe someday we’ll have a movie of The Snow Queen that is not Frozen. At any rate, if brothers captivate you, I can recommend Mistaken for Strangers and if you love Cunningham, you can look forward to The Snow Queen, the book.

Mistaken (1) 


The Subjective Experience of Time by Deborah Bryon Ph.D.

2012-07-28 20.45.36-2  Time is experienced differently depending upon the subjective psychological state of the person having the experience. The use of language can offer the framework to understand time as a linear, sequential cognitive process that defines the way time is experienced in consensual reality. Whenever we talk about time in this reality, space automatically becomes a factor because it provides context. Non-ordinary reality can only be accessed in preverbal, somatic states because it is non-temporal experience that occurs outside of a time/space continuum. The problem with the experience of non-temporal reality is that it is near impossible to understand conceptually as it is occurring – within the context of ego consciousness.

When we have moved outside of “other world” experience and begin describing it we have returned to ordinary reality – and ego consciousness. Based upon my own experience, nonordinary reality is predominately perceived as a formless, energetic state. I have learned that I can only (partially) assimilate the experience consciously as it is occurring if I have experienced the state before and have already laid done the cognitive neural pathways that can map and organize the experience in ego consciousness. Both shamans and analysts say that the can only help others materialize material (heal) if they understand the experience from “the inside out.”

Psychoanalytic theory (Ogden, 1989) offers rich scaffolding to further develop a conceptual framework to hold undifferentiated experience.  At birth, an experience of being a feeling of pleasure, (i.e. anger, fear, etc.) occurs before the ability to identify having a feeling exists. In this phase, we are our feelings because there is no separation between ourselves and the outer world. I have discovered in working with analysands in these kinds of preverbal states that the analytic session can become a fertile, multi-layered microcosm that holds the opportunity to access nonverbal state experiences – parallel to experiential work in Andean shamanism.       

Whatever we experience as time outside of a “time and space” continuum is an energetic state, without space-defined boundaries. Jung described the unconscious as “an extremely fluid state of affairs: everything of which I know, but which I am not at the moment thinking, everything of which I was one conscious but have now forgotten; everything perceived by my senses, but not noted by my conscious mend, everything which, involuntarily without paying attention to it, I feel, think, remember, want, and do: all future things that are taking shape in me and will sometime come to consciousness: all this is the content of the unconscious. (“The Structure of the Psyche,” CW 8, par.342).


“Integrity and the Pursuit of the Numinous” by Puddi Kullberg


The documentaries Bill Cunningham New York (2010) and Birders: The Central Park Effect (2012) tell the stories of two New Yorkers who epitomize a certain kind of pursuit of the numinous. Bill Cunningham, now in his 80’s, for decades, has taken off on his bicycle each morning (and still does) to photograph New Yorkers for the “Style” section of the New York Times. Starr Saphir, also for decades, has set out most mornings of spring and fall (and still does) to lead birders through Central Park.

For each of them, clearly, their given objects of attention are numinous. And while it’s hard to resist some sort of “plumage” comparison, something much deeper strikes you as you watch these individuals. I was struck by the quality of a certain kind of purity of pursuit, or integrity, that each of them, Bill Cunningham and Starr Saphir exhibits. The Jungian analyst John Beebe has written, in Integrity in Depth (2005), that what individuates is integrity. If you would like an example of this, I highly recommend these two unique documentaries.                         .Birders_ori (1)

Jane Campion and the Anima and Animus By Puddi Kullberg

When I first started reading Jung, I would go through his lengthy descriptions of the anima, and then look, in vain, for what he said about the animus. Inevitably, it was something like, “the animus has a similar function but for women, it is a masculine function.” If you did a word count, there would be at least 200 words on the anima for every 10 words about the animus. In other words, it got short shrift. Never did I feel like the (positive), awe-inspiring functions of “the anima” (soul!) were duplicated in Jung’s cosmology for the animus. How come the men had this essential element and the women had… what? Something that made them opinionated!

In fact, “animus possessed” seemed to be the most damning epithet rather casually flung at women who were in any way feisty. It made me crazy. And the most I heard otherwise, outside of the Collected Works, was that a woman was “supposed” to have an animus who “supported” her. It/he would provide spirit and ability to function in the world. I never liked this conception. I myself have always functioned rather well in the world and it seemed of-a-piece with my nature. Not something some male part of me was promoting or supporting or accomplishing.

Over the years I have kept my own counsel and confined my personal animus explorations to the facts, i.e. psychic facts – male figures who showed up in my dreams.

However, lately I am having a certain regard for Jung’s anima and animus ideas. Have you seen Jane Campion’s film The Piano or her recent TV series The Top of the Lake?

The PianoHolly Hunter goes from the protagonist, Ada, in The Piano to the sage in The Top of the Lake. Elizabeth Moss, as Detective Robin Griffin, takes over as the protagonist in this later Campion creation. At spinning class at the gym – where ideas and inspirations and aha’s come to me (unconscious coming through third function!) – I realized something from Campion’s work that matches my own experience, an anima/animus aha moment.

In The Piano the heroine, Ada, is being saved by the vigorous, sexual, smart, vital, renegade native man (animus), Banes, played by Harvey Keitel. But at a certain point Ada has to decide, as in really decide, make conscious, choose, to be saved. She has accidentally-on-purpose entangled herself in the rope that is attached to her piano which has toppled off the canoe and is inexorably on its way to the bottom of the ocean taking her along with it. At first Ada passively drifts down through the crystalline clear, azure tropical waters, enjoying the beauty. Then Life jolts her. Her survival instinct kicks in. She responds. Her will to live coagulates. She literally starts kicking (kicks-in) with purpose, trying to extricate herself from the rope and the clutches of a watery death. Eventually she succeeds in getting free of the line but the sunlight of the water’s surface is now far distant. She struggles upward and finally she does surface, gasping for breath as she is pulled into the canoe. As all this is going on, she is narrating, a voice-over:

What a chance

What a surprise

My will has chosen life.

Still, it has had me spooked and many others besides.

Top of the LakeSimilarly, in The Top of the Lake, the heroine has to consciously choose her self before she can be authentically related to an other, an animus. Towards the end of the series, Robin is having, it seems, a redeeming relationship with an old/new love, Johnno, played by Thomas M. Wright. But at a certain point, she too, like Ada in The Piano, cannot just let this circumstance allow her to drift off into oblivion. Consequently, Robin forces a confrontation with Johnno that will certainly threaten the new found love. “Did you give them [the rapists] a signal?” That is, “Lo those many years ago, and although you have apologized for not protecting me and I have forgiven you, is there any chance that you were, in fact, colluding [actually and/or psychologically, unconsciously] with the rapists?”

What am I saying? I am saying that there is something that needs to happen within a woman’s psyche, something definitive, where she determines to and chooses herself as the locus of her experience. This is not an ego project nor is it making the ego stronger. As with Ada and Robin, something native to a woman’s psyche needs to coalesce, coagulate, decide, take an action, force the issue, confront – within or without. That moment of assertion of her own being brings her into being as a woman. Her anima is born. From that core, herself as anima, she can now enjoy an equal, reciprocal relationship with the men in her inner and outer life.