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 beneficial—until 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.