A warm and heartfelt welcome back Kristina. We are so glad to have you here with your incredibly deep and profound essay that offers a depth of wisdom so important yet so difficult to apprehend and intergrate in the face of such evil that is being inflicted on Ukraine, and the inspiring bravery of their people. The intimidation, brutality, and threats of total annihilation against helpless civilians attempting to flee is so reminiscent of another time we once again recognize this familiar face long forgotten who has returned once more in the form of Vladimir Putin who seeks to grandize his cause of a return to “Mother Russia” under the veiled cloak of self-righteousness. How can one in modern times attempt such things is for many of us beyond reasoning; yet you remind us, the world and human existence is not suppose to measure up to one’s expectations, but accepted for what it is and to bring forth from the depth of our being our ability to address it.
Your articulation in how to do this is almost beyond words within the insight it brings, yet you offer a wisdom that’s needed so much as we attempt to forgive ourselves as well as our enemies if we can but only understand that they are the other side of the duality in which we all exist. Stephen asked that I share a quote from a prior discussion last week with Bradley Olson regarding his essay: “The King Who Saved Himself from Being Saved” which I will leave below:
Loving your enemy as yourself” doesn’t necessarily mean accepting evil; but understanding it’s the other side of the duality that lives in all of us. It’s a war and you have to choose a side, but you do it with discrimination within the choices you make.”
But to me it is the theme of “compassion” for ourselves as well as our enemies you mention that helps to heal our deep woundedness, and allows us to move forward as we seek a deeper and more profound understanding of why this is necessary.
As you quote from Joseph Campbell in “Pathways to Bliss” on page 103:
To expect too much compassion from yourself might be a little destructive of your own existence. Even so, at least make a try, and this goes not only for individuals but also for life itself. It’s so easy. It’s a fashionable idiocy of youth to say the world has not come up to your expectations. ‘What? I was coming, and this is all they could prepare for me?’ Throw it out. Have compassion for the world and those in it. Not only political life but all life stinks, and you must embrace that with compassion.”
And indeed it would be ridiculous to expect life to measure up to our expectations because as the symbol of the “Ouroboros”; (the serpent that eats itself); informs us, all life is a continuing manifestation of both terror and wonder by it’s requirements of participation in the realization and rapture of engagement of being alive. We accept life for what it is and participate in the game; the Grand Opera that hurts, but we do so with love and the understanding that if we capitulate to the negative dark side that lies within us we deny ourselves the privilege of being human, (so easy to say, yet so very difficult to do, but try we must). A very steep hill to climb without question, and one many of us may have severe problems in doing so.
From your essay:
All human beings have challenges, meet obstacles, suffer betrayals, humiliations, and disappointments. These we are obliged to bear. Self-compassion also means encompassing such things because in the wider embrace of compassion, everything gets to be included. But many of us fail to develop a gentle rapport with ourselves. Too often we’re a tiger to our own gazelle. In this we can become a danger to ourselves, forgetting that together we are all on the same team: the team of humanity. In this sense, humanity is one collective “we” and it operates across various levels of human awareness. Or, put in a more poetic way, an aspect of divinity exists in all our friends, enemies, interactions… and within us, residing at the seat of our soul.
For the sacred is truly in everything. We bear an archetypal human divinity within us, although it can sometimes feel barely emergent. It’s what I sense Campbell is getting at here by discussing participatory companionship.”
Which I think addresses this overview understanding eloquently but succinctly. (But I have a “caveat”); which Joseph mentions somewhere; (I can’t remember the exact reference location but I believe is quoted in Diane Osbon’s A Joseph Campbell Companion; which states: “If you see a snake about to bite someone you kill it. You are not saying no to serpents, but no to the that particular situation.” And here is where the distinctions of judgement may reside on how we can justify how we deal with the horrors of Putin’s behavior if we are to “save the world”: (so to speak); on how we are to handle this horrible ordeal he is putting everyone through. Joseph said we participate in this game and we must pick a side; but as you remind us we must not lose our humanity in doing so.
As Stephen pinpoints our dilemma of how do we get to this mental and emotional place in how we deal with this nightmare you address these concerns here:
‘Where am I a totalitarian? Maybe it’s in my all-or-nothing/black-and-white thinking? Where am I controlling? Where am I manipulative and coercive hoping for appeasement? Where am I greedy and power hungry, wanting more than is necessary? Which hungry ghosts can’t I satiate, no matter how hard I try? Where am I an isolationist and not open to alternative views? To which situations and people do I lack empathy?’
But let’s also ask ourselves, ‘Where is the spirit of the Ukrainian people in me? The courage, the bravery, the resistance in the face of overwhelming odds? Where is my grittiness? My selflessness? Where do I show powerful conviction in my beliefs? Where do I support the greater good? Where do I not just uphold my values, but actually live them in the trenches? How do I foster a spirit of camaraderie and boost morale? How do I display hope when a situation feels hopeless?’
Other than what we can practically do besides financially support the recommended aid groups or donate in other ways, we can also put our psyches to work. Say you have a stressful meeting coming up with an adversary, tell yourself that you will dedicate your composure to be in solidarity with the Ukrainian people. Or if you find yourself often disassociating, commit to living the next 24 hours in as much as presence as you can, in honour of those Ukrainian people fleeing who need to focus on bare-bones survival. When you tweet #StandwithUkraine, what are you also standing with and for in your own local community? With honour, dedication, reverence and gratitude we have the potential to transform the wastelands of the human experience.”
(So, I guess my concern has to do with:” how do we stop this horror from continuing without falling prey to our more base instincts of recrimination; yet at the same time still do what is necessary to stop this insane nightmare from continuing?”)
I hope my description is not too convoluted, for these subjects can often get tangled up in concepts that are like: “a dog chasing it’s tail”. But before I wind this up I just want to say how deeply moved we all are at the truly heroic spirit that continues to inspire everyone who feels so helpless at what their people are having to go through, and that our hearts are with them and go out to all who are having to endure this unbelievable insanity. Again it is so wonderful to have you with us.
Since no one has had a chance to respond I’m going to add an (addendum) that came to me last night in my dreams that perhaps the answer to my (caveat) might be that of the “Transcendent Function”. Here is a definition from Daryl Sharp’s Lexicon that may be of help explaining this concept for those who may not be familiar with the term:
Transcendent function. A psychic function that arises from the tension between consciousness and the unconscious and supports their union. (See also opposites and tertium non datur.)
‘When there is full parity of the opposites, attested by the ego’s absolute participation in both, this necessarily leads to a suspension of the will, for the will can no longer operate when every motive has an equally strong countermotive. Since life cannot tolerate a standstill, a damming up of vital energy results, and this would lead to an insupportable condition did not the tension of opposites produce a new, uniting function that transcends them. This function arises quite naturally from the regression of libido caused by the blockage.'[Ibid., par. 824.]
‘The tendencies of the conscious and the unconscious are the two factors that together make up the transcendent function. It is called transcendent’ because it makes the transition from one attitude to another organically possible.[The Transcendent Function,” CW 8, par. 145.]
In a conflict situation, or a state of depression for which there is no apparent reason, the development of the transcendent function depends on becoming aware of unconscious material. This is most readily available in dreams, but because they are so difficult to understand Jung considered the method of active imagination-giving “form” to dreams, fantasies, etc.–to be more useful.
‘Once the unconscious content has been given form and the meaning of the formulation is understood, the question arises as to how the ego will relate to this position, and how the ego and the unconscious are to come to terms. This is the second and more important stage of the procedure, the bringing together of opposites for the production of a third: the transcendent function. At this stage it is no longer the unconscious that takes the lead, but the ego.’ [Ibid., par. 181.]
This process requires an ego that can maintain its standpoint in face of the counterposition of the unconscious. Both are of equal value. The confrontation between the two generates a tension charged with energy and creates a living, third essence.
‘From the activity of the unconscious there now emerges a new content, constellated by thesis and antithesis in equal measure and standing in a compensatory relation to both. It thus forms the middle ground on which the opposites can be united. If, for instance, we conceive the opposition to be sensuality versus spirituality, then the mediatory content born out of the unconscious provides a welcome means of expression for the spiritual thesis, because of its rich spiritual associations, and also for the sensual antithesis, because of its sensuous imagery. The ego, however, torn between thesis and antithesis, finds in the middle ground its own counterpart, its sole and unique means of expression, and it eagerly seizes on this in order to be delivered from its division.’ [“Definitions,” CW 6, par. 825.]
The transcendent function is essentially an aspect of the self-regulation of the psyche. It typically manifests symbolically and is experienced as a new attitude toward oneself and life.
‘If the mediatory product remains intact, it forms the raw material for a process not of dissolution but of construction, in which thesis and antithesis both play their part. In this way it becomes a new content that governs the whole attitude, putting an end to the division and forcing the energy of the opposites into a common channel. The standstill is overcome, and life can flow on with renewed power towards new goals.'[Ibid., par. 827.]”
(This symbolic reference reminds me of the “Wounded Healer” archetype which perhaps the “snake bite” suffered by the individual might be the (symbolic connection) required to bring about the insight needed to resolve the dilemma. (Again, from Daryl Sharp’s Lexicon.):
Wounded Healer. An archetypal dynamic that may be constellated in an analytic relationship. This term derives from the legend of Asclepius, a Greek doctor who in recognition of his own wounds established a sanctuary at Epidaurus where others could be healed of theirs.
Those seeking to be cured went through a process called incubation. First, they had a cleansing bath, thought to have a purifying effect on the soul as well as the body. Uncontaminated by the body, the soul was free to commune with the gods. After preliminary sacrificial offerings, the incubants lay on a couch and went to sleep. If they were lucky, they had a healing dream; if they were luckier, a snake came in the night and bit them.
The wounded healer archetype can be schematized by a variation of the diagram used by Jung to illustrate the lines of communication in a relationship.[See “The Psychology of the Transference,” The Practice of Psychother-apy, CW 16, par. 422
[Unfortunately, there is a drawing from his text that illustrates this transitional “transference” process but would not copy over to this format. Sharp continues]:
According to this paradigm, the analyst’s wounds, although presumed to be relatively conscious after a lengthy personal analysis, live a shadowy existence. They can always be reconstellated in particular situations, and especially when working with someone whose wounds are similar. (They are the basis for countertransference reactions in analysis.)
Meanwhile, the wounded analysand’s inner healer is in the shadow but potentially available. The analysand’s wounds activate those of the analyst. The analyst reacts, identifies what is happening and in one way or another, consciously or unconsciously, passes this awareness back to the analysand.
In this model, the unconscious relationship between analyst and analysand is quite as important, in terms of the healing process, as what is consciously communicated. There are two other significant implications:
1) Healing can take place only if the analyst has an ongoing relationship with the unconscious. Otherwise, he or she may identify with the healer archetype, a common form of inflation.
2) Depth psychology is a dangerous profession, since the analyst is forever prone to being infected by the other’s wounds-or having his or her wounds reopened.
‘No analysis is capable of banishing all unconsciousness forever. The analyst must go on learning endlessly, and never forget that each new case brings new problems to light and thus gives rise to unconscious assumptions that have never before been constellated. We could say, without too much exaggeration, that a good half of every treatment that probes at all deeply consists in the doctor’s examining himself, for only what he can put right in himself can he hope to put right in the patient. It is no loss, either, if he feels that the patient is hitting him, or even scoring off him: it is his own hurt that gives the measure of his power to heal. This, and nothing else, is the meaning of the Greek myth of the wounded physician.’ [“Fundamental Questions of Psychotherapy,” ibid. para. 239.]”
Although this term is often referred to in analysis concerning the idea of “Transference”; to me it’s application if seen as “compassion” would seem to fit one of the ideas we are addressing which is that of human interconnection. Perhaps with this understanding in mind what we might call: “the wound that heals” could also be seen to be a symbolic reference to at least part of what you were saying about “forgiveness of both ourselves, (and the “other” that resides within us); as well as the people we might want to reject. Although these ideas may or may not fit with what you originally had in mind, I will definitely be looking forward to your thoughts on this additional content as well. Again, all the best to you and the inspiring Ukrainian countrymen as you facing this horrible nightmare, and hopefully it will end as soon as possible. Namaste
(One last point concerning some corrections with my text that needed to made. I feel so fortunate to have the assistance of Stephen’s moderator “Superpowers” for I made several large errors that have now been corrected in case you read my post earlier. My apologies for this. I just don’t know what we would do here without him.)