The snow is falling on the deserted field of my life, and my hopes, which roam far, are afraid of becoming frozen or lost.
– Federico García Lorca
We all contain possibilities and diversities unknown to others. Yet, how do we listen to the voices with receptivity to their collective pain? According to Jungian analytical psychology we need an open attitude to those in the shadows.
This approach examines the innate longing to belong, working against personal and collective polarization by bridging differences. And, it requires thoughtful reflection and response. By having such an attitude to culture, time and history, both personal and collective, we can tap into the past and institute changes in the present for a more fulfilling future.
The images and motifs or what Jung called the collective unconscious are a vast cultural array available for connections and freeing us from alienation with its hauntings and tragedies. Here we find the social bonds and human instincts like love, fear, sex, wisdom, and even good and evil for sustenance and meaning. “This widened consciousness…brings the individual into absolute, binding, and indissoluble communion with the world at large” (Jung, 1966 para. 275).
Our existence is fundamentally interpersonal. Human beings are not isolated, free-floating objects, but subjects existing in perpetual, multiple, shifting relationships. Life is defined by these myriad interactions – by the push and pull of inter-subjectivity as well as the overt and covert social contracts. Through them we realize our incompleteness and vulnerability. However, we seem to no longer know what to do with those who knock at our door. We have repudiated the idea we owe something to others and have acquired a debt.
Instead, there is a climate of self and other, separation and exclusion leaving some belonging and many with longing. The inequality arising from population redistribution has turned into negation and isolation of others often deemed as the enemy. Rather than windows for relationship, too often the face of the stranger evokes fear and distrust of the unknown. Many people are left, lost and grieving.
The psychological issues of unity and diversity, monism and pluralism have historical roots passing from generation to generation in an unending spiral. While we have an ethical obligation to others, inside and out, there remains uncertainty and ambivalence, circumventing justice and depreciating the diversity of the psyche.
Meanwhile, the illusion we are all the same feeds the fantasy a group can achieve a seamlessly secure and harmonious existence. This dangerous fiction implies purity and agreement predicated on the annihilation of differences. Regarding people with lives of equal worth recognizes the humanity of others and curiosity about the world beyond our familiar zones. Once we lose the desire to understand—to be surprised, to listen and bear witness—we lose our humanity. At the crux are the psychological tasks for linking the known and unknown, conscious and unconscious and balancing the tension between.
How do we make space to know others and remain receptive to the unexpected encounters for a transformative spirit to emerge? If we think about it, we are continually invited to engage in thoughtful dialogue with these relationships, their iterations and uniqueness, both personally and culturally. And, the conversation puts us in a direction towards deeper inclusion, reflection and healing.
Our psyches are intermingled, and our lives are interwoven on personal and cultural levels with those from other lands. The opposites and unknown parts enhance life’s beauty by acknowledging their differences. Being receptive to other cultural and psychological perspectives is part of resolving conflicts, both inner and outer, as adopting a single perspective is dull and limiting. The failure to integrate leads to collapse of the inter-relationships between cultures and within the individual.
The engagement with others gives voice to our many selves for reconciliation and higher consciousness. Our living-on demands inclusion rather than foreclosure on whoever is different. This requires the capacity to gather together the multiple personal and collective threads in the co-construction of belonging.
“Relationship to the self is at once relationship to our fellow man, and no one can be related to the latter until he is related to himself” (Jung, 1966, par. 445).
Susan E. Schwartz, PhD, Jungian analyst and clinical psychologist, is a member of the International Association of Analytical Psychology. She has taught in numerous Jungian programs and presented at conferences, workshops and lectures in the USA and many other countries.More Posts by Susan Schwartz