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

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

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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) 

 

Creative Instinct and Individuation by Nora Swan-Foster, Art Therapist and Jungian Analyst

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Nora Swan-Foster © 2011

The Swiss Jungian Analyst Elizabeth Ruf said the following in her lecture on “Patterns of Sacrifice and Initiation”:

“The creative challenge of our time is to take our own path of individuation under our feet because if we do not no one will do it for us and we will be forever undone. To live one’s own life is to take these first steps of creativity.”

Jung declared creativity one of the five instincts. When our daily life lacks the space to consciously attend to our creative instinct, we wither and dry out. We feel brittle, breakable, and often times more vulnerable. We may wonder why we are melancholic.  Without the creative instinct having a channel of expression, our daily life loses its purposefulness.

Finding our way back into relationship with our creativity looks different to everyone, yet it is essential nourishment for our soul.  Sometimes the path is through cooking or cleaning, arranging some flowers or taking the dead leaves off our houseplants. Other times we come home to ourselves through using art materials, singing in the shower, recording our dreams, or listening to music. Nature is a constant reflection of our creative instinct. When we are in nature, we see ourselves in constant flux and transformation.

As winter approaches, rituals that honor the movement of the creative instinct fertilize our soul and honor the transformations that have occurred in our life or that are yet unknown to us. Sacrifices most certainly will need to be made; we may feel utterly alone in the darkest hours, but when we release and offer sacrifices we make investments to our soul and fertilize our individuation journey. Each day we are asked to find time to maintain the quiet readiness for the next movement in life. The movement becomes known when we take up our individuation path with the steps of creativity as if they were our first steps in life.

 

 

 

 

 

Exile and Individuation by Stephen Foster, Ph.D.

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 In general, it is the process of forming and specializing the individual nature; in particular, it is the development of the psychological individual as a differentiated being from the general collective psychology. Individuation, therefore, is a process of differentiation, having for its goal the development of the individual personality.   

C.G. Jung, C.W., Vol. 6, para 757

 There are times when I feel like an exile in my own land, not just because I am an immigrant, but also because the individuation process can be a lonely, isolated and difficult road to travel.  The tension between following a collective group, or cutting away to pursue one’s own interests and one own heart creates a strong internal “pulling apart” in the psyche.  Jung said that this tension creates the flow of psychic energy; pulling energy out of the unconscious to fuel new creative acts.  If we are conscious, or courageous and can hold this tension for enough time, Jung reassures us that the transcendent function will be fired up, like a capacitor, ready to discharge a symbol.  When this symbol is encountered by the ego, it will lead to greater consciousness and an expansion of the psyche.  However, it is easy to forget the body in this process.  The tension I have describe is contained within our physical form, and we react to the tension as we might respond to any “complex[1],” with sweaty palms, tingles in our body, a cloudy mind and a churning stomach.

These bodily feelings are also present when we are excited or stimulated by something new. Psychologically, leaving the collective evokes fear, and powerful feelings of rejection and alienation.  But it is also the seed or precursor to something new and wonderful.  Edward Edinger[2] cites William James[3], who describes this place of alienation as a forerunner to “numinous experience.”  What Jung might call a numinous experience of the Self: a transcendent or transpersonal experience.  This all sounds very grandiose, but in simple words, making a move away from the collective, and treading one’s own path is fueled by energy from the unconscious, which supports us and provides the energy and inspiration to become an individual, even in the face of criticism and rejection from those in positions of power within the collective.

Often, others misunderstand one’s choices and actions that lead to a new path, especially if they are entrenched within a collective system, hold positions of authority or are invested with power (by self or others).  One often has to endure a hurtful backlash from one’s choices to take a new path.  The key point here is that when one makes the choice to go in a different direction, “the road less traveled” as describe by Frost[4], one is actually not treading a new path alone, but following the unseen new ways created by so many others before.  Like Jung, you may feel compelled to listen to your unconscious, to take a new direction in your life, and to become a more individuated human being.  Like the Hermit card in the Tarot, you may feel alone and alienated; yet the Tarot deck leads to the World card, and Jungian work assures us that these steps away from collective psychology lead us to become more of who we were meant to be.



[1]           Jung defined a complex as an autonomous feeling tone collection of images.

[2]           Edward Edinger, Ego and Archetype, Shambhala Press, Boston, page 52

[3]           William James, Varieties of Religious Experience, Random House, NY, page 150

[4]           The Road Not Taken, Mountain Interval, Robert Frost, 1920

Flooding, riverbeds and Archetypes By Stephen Foster, Jungian Analyst

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Archetypes are like riverbeds which dry up when the water deserts them, but which it can find again at any time. An archetype is like an old watercourse along which the water of life has flowed for centuries, digging a deep channel for itself. The longer it has flowed in this channel the more likely it is that sooner or later the water will return to its old bed.

CW 10: Civilization in Transition. P. 395

One month after the event, it is impossible to have lived in Boulder, or the small mountain communities near us, and not have been emotionally and, in some devastating cases, physically moved by the flooding that occurred on September 12 through 14, 2103.  We have been touched personally, we know those who have been touched, and in some cases know those who have been “wiped out” by the water and the mud that flooded out of the hills, after we received one year’s worth of rain (18.5 inches) in a few days.

It quickly became apparent, that we had experienced an event with traumatic consequences.  When one hears, “we were lucky, we only had three feet of mud in our basement, and we didn’t loose our house,” it actually says more about the friends who were left homeless.  For those affected there are so many “hard parts” to the destruction.  It is not just the lost material property (house, car, furniture), although these losses are hard enough, there is the loss of stored precious memories, stored photographs (births, weddings, anniversaries), yearbooks, and more.  And the smell of antediluvian basement mold in one’s beloved treasures is unforgettable.

Emotional flooding during and after powerful events parallels Jung’s observation on Archetypes; our own emotional riverbeds fill in ways we have not known, yet they somehow feel familiar to us.  Our emotions flow in rivers; tears fill our eyes welling up like groundwater from beneath the surface.  When it is too much for us, they flow over the banks of our fragile containing ego consciousness, and we dissolve. When the energy is too much for the ego it is overwhelmed and lost in the flood. Yet, Archetypes have no value, except that assigned by the ego, and there is another side to flooding.  When psychic energy flows through psychic channels, we can also feel the energy enliven those unseen aspects of our world.

The Archetype of flooding is as old as civilization itself. In Egypt it was the source of renewal, and sustained life in the desert.  The god of the event was Hapi, and one image of Hapi is two figures holding a common strand of wheat, representing the uniting of Upper and Lower Egypt.  For those of us who are not required to rebuild our lives, the experience has challenged us to reexamine what has value, what is important in our lives, and to reconsider our relationship with the small mountain towns and people who were grievously impacted.  In the midst of material losses there is an opportunity for reorientation and renewal.  By eliminating the unimportant we may all return to one of the deepest and most important Archetypes of human existence that unites upper and lower, and that can heal so much: relationship.