This post is formatted to reflect an original journal entry.


A cozily dreary Saturday. Sitting on the floor cushion in my office, where I do all of my writing, listening to Lindsey Buckingham. (Did I mention “I’m So Afraid” was the inspiration for the guitar solo portion of Seven Road? Or that I touched his guitar during a recent performance? I will forever have stars in my eyes.) Still immersing myself in Jung, May. But after meditating for awhile this afternoon, decided to change things up and flip back to Maslow’s The Farther Reaches of Human Nature. It beckoned, you might say. Reading Jung’s The Red Book, a record of his confrontations with his own unconscious, is like being sucked into a wild dream. I have a hard time putting it down, though I’ve decided the text is best read slowly and in snippets.

Still mulling over the significance of myth. Positing myth as a forward-looking, malleable-type construct helps me feel better about it. Easier to see possibility. Also, understanding myth as simply a narrative pattern—the stories we live by but don’t see—makes the literature buff in me dizzy with glee. Maybe this is a significant point of fusion between the arts and sciences that I hadn’t tapped into. It also makes me want to delve into my own psyche looking for stories. But, isn’t this what writers do, anyway? And isn’t this what Jung says poets, especially, do—channel the unconscious as we write? That the stream of words, phrases, and images that arrive in our minds are teeming with an inner wisdom? That by virtue of our creativity we are afforded access to another dimension, to the wisdom of the ages? I should have read Jung sooner. I would have answered so many of my own questions. 

A thought on linking Jung and Maslow on the basis of the “real self.” (Also makes me think of psychoanalyst, Karen Horney, who I read extensively as a student. And highly recommend.) Came across an impactful description of the “outer-directed” person this afternoon:

The experientially empty person, lacking these directives from within these voices of the real self, must turn to outer cues for guidance, for instance, eating when the clock tells him to, rather than obeying his appetites (he has none). He guides himself by clocks, rules, calendars, schedules, agendas, and by hints and cues from other people. – A. H. Maslow

Those who are blind to their inner impulses, desires, and directives. Also reminds me of Horney’s concept of the “tyranny of the shoulds,” which is every bit as self-explanatory as it sounds. I see myself in this description. I see past selves who stuck to strict diets, workout schedules, fashion, etiquette, etc.—and those practices were useful, even beneficialuntil they weren’t. And I realized that balance was far more sustainable in the long-term and more important to me than my success or failure at living according to a paradigm. Because living itself seemed more important. Maybe the real difference was the emergence of my inner voice, though. The one that says, For God’s sake, enough is enough. And rigidity began to feel a lot more like punishment. Which is when I started combining my habits in ways that made me happy. More aesthetically pleasing to myself. But all this happens slowly, over a lengthy period of time.

Another thought: I still do this in some areas of my life. And I hate it. When I recognize it. But it’s more discreet now. When I do or say something because I think it’s expected/easier/more socially acceptable/will satisfy those who are important to me. And I dare say, that more often than not, I do recognize these behaviors. Because they’re always accompanied by a pang, a twinge, a voice of protest, however quiet. Is this the key to it? The whole purpose of Jung’s inner work was to find the sources of these matters (and then some, of course). The nature of his true self and to give it form. Perhaps it is essential that I allow the artist in me to create my future. Maslow was convinced that nurturing creativity opened pathways to this kind of authentic, holistic-type functioning. Being ourselves with our whole selves, completely, in all that we say and do. 

In the spirit of experimentation, I have decided to test this hypothesis by identifying three areas of my life that could benefit from a more holistic, inner-directed approach. One that demands I rely solely on my inner urgings—and am honest about them—even if that means taking some risks and having some uncomfortable conversations. I’ll let you know how I fare. But most importantly if I notice any appreciable changes in myself. I sense this exercise will require a little bit of bravery on my part. Courage, as the existentialists would call it. I will report back when I am more certain.

18 thoughts on “Faux

  1. I love this sentence: “Perhaps it is essential that I allow the artist in me to create my future.” As I read, I felt as if I were witnessing your own inner experimentation. I also felt as if I were an invisible observer of your own inner therapy session, which please take as a compliment, because it is definitely meant as one. It’s as if you were discovering your own ways of working on yourself and then expressing it in words.

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    1. Thank you. I do take it as a compliment, as my self-experimentation is akin to an inner therapy session, I suppose. In fact, I wrote that sentence during such a session this afternoon, while I was reflecting on all the concepts and practices I’ve been reading about and devising methods for experimenting with them in real life. I sense that you can understand and perhaps even empathize with these processes and the motivations behind posts like this one. I appreciate the encouraging feedback. It means a lot!

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  2. You’re very welcome. I relate to your self-experimentation in ways I can’t express in words. Self-experimentation has been a fundamental part of my life since the mid 1990s, when I discovered psychology, therapy, and Jung, and my own imagination. As long as we are willing to search for and discover things in our inner lives, we will never stop learning about ourselves, and I keep seeing proof of that in your writing.

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    1. That’s very kind of you to say. Outside of this blog, I don’t know anyone who engages in this kind of self-experimentation/discovery, and it is wonderful to meet someone who understands its struggles and merits first-hand. I first realized in the mid-2000s that I could apply principles I learned in the classroom to myself successfully. I did some sort of rudimentary “behavior replacement” on myself in order to quit smoking and start exercising more. It worked, of course, but more than anything, recognizing that I had the capacity for that kind of control was deeply satisfying. Karen Horney wrote about that kind of confidence-building in her book, Self-Analysis. She was a major influence on my inner work and experimentation. You are right when you say we never stop learning about ourselves this way. I can’t actually imagine a life without inner exploration. Thank you for the sharing. And for introducing me to Jung in a way that is proving to be very impactful.

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    1. Thank you for everything you write. I also don’t know anyone else who engages in their inner life in this way, and I feel as if we are kindred spirits. I quit smoking the day I turned 30 (I never allowed myself to smoke more than two or three cigarettes a day, and when I reached four, I decided it was time to stop; I also smoked a pipe, which I enjoyed much more), and I realized I didn’t need a morning cigarette and coffee to help me think. Exercise then became even more important to me. I hope you continue to enjoy reading Jung. My godmother is a Jungian analyst, but I didn’t meet her as an adult until I had already discovered Jung. Sometimes life feels like one big discovery, and I am very grateful for these experiences I can have with you discovering things in this way.

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      1. Oh, I also feel we are kindred spirits. It takes willpower not to smoke more than 4 cigarettes a day. I got up to a pack per day in my early/mid-twenties and tried to quit cold turkey. It didn’t work. I thought if I could make it through my morning coffee and the workday without smoking and then go directly to the gym after work, I could drastically cut back. So I did. I also did some kind of physical activity whenever I got the urge to smoke (go for a walk, do a few pushups…whatever circumstances would allow, hence the “behavior replacement” part). After awhile, I didn’t want to smoke at all in the evenings because it was interfering with my workouts. So I just stopped. Now I will, on special occasions (maybe twice a year), smoke a cigar, which I enjoy, though the smell of cigarette smoke–and even the thought of a cigarette–I find most intolerable. How interesting that there are parallels in our stories! It’s cool that your godmother is an analyst. And I, too, am grateful for these experiences. With smoking and other such overtly bad habits, it is easy to identify the need for correction. But, as we work to become more in tune to our inner urgings, it seems the issues that need fine tuning are more difficult to identify. More insidious, discreet. This is the hardest part for me. Once I see it, I have confidence in my ability to correct it. But I have to see it–really see it–in myself first. This is also why I like reading Freud, Jung, Rank, Horney, et al. The way they engaged in their inner lives. The spirit of adventure and experimentation. That’s the soul of the whole enterprise. Thank you so much for the insight and for sharing in this process with me. It means more than you know!

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  3. Thank you very much, and when you mention Karen Horney, I see myself reading her book, Self-Analysis, in the mid 1990s. I am going to return to that book. And although I haven’t had one in a few years, I also enjoy an occasional cigar. I like these sentences of yours very much: “The way they engaged in their inner lives. The spirit of adventure and experimentation.”

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  4. Reading the recent posts, it still seems as if you had already tapped into so many things I was thinking about/wondering about/curious about, etc…myths, “shoulds”, psychedielia, Jung’s writings, Horney’s writings… Amazing! 🙂

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    1. And it’s incredible what good and insightful–albeit strange–combinations these ideas make 🙂 Also, the two posts that follow this one, “Kind of Woman” and “Of the Sacred Feminine” (though the titles may not suggest it), follow up on this discussion in ways that I think you may find interesting. “Repetitions” and “Iris” too.

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      1. I’m on to those real soon. As I scroll up to the more recent posts, I shade my eyes to “pass over” any poems I see for right now – because I know if I get caught up in a new poem, I will be a loooong time on that journey, and I want to catch up on the other readings first. 🙂

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      2. Haha ok, take your time. I felt the need to mention those that follow because I see “Faux” as being somewhat pivotal–but then I couldn’t remember exactly what I wrote in which post, so I just listed them all, as they all seem to indicate different parts of a progression…or something like that 🙂


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