Sunday, September 1, 2013

Earthy descendent self vs. the ego

Underground me working on granite canal in the early 1980s

James Hillman, renowned archetypal psychologist, says we are often introduced to our calling – our destiny – at an early age.  For me, I think it happened when I first read Socrates and Plato at the age of 15; my whole psyche suddenly burst open, flowering with ideas and theories about the nature of reality. But as I wrote in my diary at that time, I was mightily conflicted – split right down the middle - by my attraction to an apparent opposite, John Wayne.

With hard work over the last 50 plus years, I thought I had done a decent job of reconciling my split personality by attempting to merge the best parts of John Wayne (being honest, straight-forward, a man of action) with the best parts of Socrates (being in love with ideas and theories about what it means to be human and still, at the same time, be a person of conviction) and, finally, working to harness these combined qualities to help others.

But the psyche does not thrive on consistency and naive truths.

I was reminded of that last week when I was visited by an unusual dream. In the dream I was still a stonemason, my old profession.  I had two employees: one person underground, who was working to build a solid foundation to support the above ground stonewall – the visible part – which was being built by the other worker. The superstructure worker was taking the lead but not in a good way: He was working too fast and unpredictably, weaving new sections of wall this way and that, making it impossible for underground worker to keep up and build a strong and enduring foundation for the wall above.

The superstructure worker was hogging all the credit while the underground worker fumed, becoming increasing frustrated and resentful. It became clear to me in my dream that one part of my operation was pitting itself against the other to the detriment of both of them – and, ultimately, me.

Things had to change: I sat them both down and told them that I was issuing new ground rules, starting immediately: Rather than paying each of them for the individual work they did, I was going to wait and pay each of them equal amounts but only after the job was completed and judged to be excellent.

I’ve yet to come to terms with this dream.  

I intend to follow the suggestion emailed to me by my Jungian analyst: To use active imagination to "dialogue between my new 2 parts." I suspect that I will find that "underground me" is rightfully pissed off at  "above ground me," (i.e. my ego), for thinking he is too big, for getting ahead of himself, for insisting on directing the show when he doesn't know what he is doing because he is ungrounded, airy, just skimming along the surface, incapable of acknowledging "underground man's momentous contribution, starting, so to speak,  "from the ground up."

More about this in a future blog.  In the meantime, any comments or interpretations would be welcome.

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