According to Murray Stein in Map of the Soul, and thus of course Carl Jung, human beings often have a tendency to revert to psychological types. This won’t come as a surprise to most of you – we all know lots of different people who have a certain type of character and often repeat the same behaviours and patterns. Stein explains how a person born with a tendency to assume an introverted attitude to the world, demonstrating such traits as shyness as a child, will be drawn towards solitary pursuits as an adult, such as reading and studying. Now, this doesn’t mean one can’t enjoy more extroverted pursuits if they fit this type of personality – it’s just how they tend to be more likely to behave. With this in mind, I found it interesting in Stein’s book how Jung saw false typologies as a cause of discomfort for many people.
“His dad is a great athlete – he loves sport; why doesn’t his son? What’s wrong with him?” “She’s not a very maternal person – she can’t cook and she doesn’t seem to be interested in babies at all; yet her sisters are all great mums. I wonder what’s wrong with her?” “His dad is a doctor, a really intelligent guy, yet his son doesn’t seem interested at all in schoolwork – all he wants to do is play football with his mates. What’s wrong with him?” Apologies if these examples are a bit lame – but I expect you get my point. We can’t expect young people to be something they’re not. We need to throw off the shackles of expectation.
Jung suggests that if the introverted person is forced to assume extrovert roles, it can cause them great discomfort and psychological stress. We are typological beings – if we try to conform to the expectations of others all the time and deny our true nature, it can only lead to psychological woe. We need to banish these false typologies and realise it’s okay to be who we are. Stein says that if we work together, and value and appreciate all types of people, we have the basis for “creative pluralism” in familial and cultural life. Or, in the contemporary parlance of this ‘hashtag no filter generation’ – you be you, hun x.
This was one of my favourite ideas encountered in reading Map of the Soul – the notion that we have these complexes deep within our psyche that are activated by other personalities. Complexes are patterns of emotions, memories and wishes, often produced by trauma. For example, someone who has had a limb amputated might bear the psychological scars of the event and its associations long after the physical wounds have healed. The traumatic event creates an emotionally charged memory image, according to Stein, and becomes associated with an archetypal image; together these freeze into a more or less permanent structure. And this complex – this great well of psychic energy – is in the depths of the psyche waiting to be activated – or constellated.
Jung explains how these psychic contents gather together and prepare for action. “She knows how to press my buttons.” “He knows how to get under my skin.” As Stein puts it: “After you have known someone for a while, you know where some of their buttons are and either avoid these tender areas or go out of your way to touch them.” I think we all know what Stein is talking about here. Sometimes we just can’t resist constellating complexes in those closest to us. We really are dicks, aren’t we?! Stein explains how one can be in the “grip of a demon” when a complex is constellated; it activates a “force stronger than one’s will”. We feel helpless, Stein says.
We act on an inner compulsion – an intrapsychic force has been called into action by this constellating situation. And our dreams are made of these unconscious images. Jung reveals that complexes are the “architects of dreams” – these patterns and repetitions, which create a network in the psyche tied to great energy. Stein gives the example of moral complexes, and the way we deny our true feelings in order to “get along”. Perhaps there is something positive and helpful we can take from this area of thought – maybe the next time you are on the verge of constellating a complex in your partner, family member of friend, recall this blog and do all you can to swerve it. We know it sends them into a spin; it makes them unhappy, act irrationally or emotionally – and not in a good way. Try to avoid constellating those complexes in others whenever you can.
Unconscious and Genuinity
Anyone who has read my previous work is likely to have come across my own philosophy – specifically my ideas on something I call Genuinity. For those of who you are new to my blogs or in need of a ‘top-up’, I see Genuinity as our inner voice – a childish, feminine essence which is our true nature; responsible for our compassionate, loving, nurturing instincts. I believe this primordial Genuinity is present in all beings, but some are less able than others to actually tap into it. And when I was reading Map of the Soul, I started thinking about the way my notion of Genuinity is actually linked heavily to the unconscious. In fact, I would suggest that Genuinity is an unconscious driving force for us and thus just as much a part of our psyche as archetypes, complexes and unconscious images, symbols and other contents; it is a part of our soul.
I’m sure it would never have made Jung’s map, as it’s not something that can be proven by any kind of scientific methodology. But I see it every day in the way human beings demonstrate kindness, compassion, bravery and love. When I write lyrics for songs (and quite a lot of songs over the years), I tend to just let the words and feelings come out; I really don’t think about them too much. I often have a theme that I wish to write about, but after that I kind of loosely scribe the first thoughts that come into my head and attempt to join them up in some kind of concerted direction. Perhaps this is unconscious steering at work? The same thing actually happened when I came up with the term Genuinity.
I remember tossing the idea around some time ago and the term just seemed to fall out of the metaphorical sky and into my psyche – it wasn’t until later that I realised I had actually created a portmanteau from Genuine and Entity. I had previously found all this quite strange – until I read Stein’s book, of course. Now I am convinced that my unconscious, and perhaps my Genuinity, were operating in the background of my psyche. Perhaps the loving and compassionate instincts that we demonstrate are as much a part of the unconscious as they are accessible to ego-consciousness. Genuinity is both conscious and unconscious. Not all of the unconscious is Shadow content – there is also a well of loving and compassionate instincts deep within us (I have previously expressed how my ideas on Genuinity were inspired by Freud’s Eros). Genuinity is simply a part of the unconscious we don’t need to reconcile or come to terms with; it is something we should be proud of and wear as a badge of honour.
I haven’t read Faust by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, but this will be the second time I reference it in recent blogs – so I’m guessing I probably should! It was originally a tragic legend about a man who makes a pact with the devil; he sells his soul in return for unlimited knowledge and worldly pleasures. Faust later reworked it to make the protagonist a disillusioned intellectual yearning for all the pleasure and knowledge one can ever hope to experience – this of course doesn’t end well; as one would expect with a tale about the tragedy of human Individuation. And let’s face it, we’ve all been tempted by the Faustian dilemma before – the attraction of a “deal with the devil” is alluring in various forms.
Now, ignoring one’s moral compass, abandoning personal values or ceding spiritual importance for material or worldly benefit is an understandable temptation. And the pitfalls are obvious – it’s called a tragedy because the bargainer always ends up on the losing side; whatever we get for selling our metaphorical soul is usually never worth the hassle. Money, fame, notoriety and power are ultimately vacuous and superficial pursuits. Give me love, family, friendship and meaningful relationships every time. As I have discussed in many previous blogs, these are the things with true value in life. That being said – as regular Being & Niceness blog readers will also know, I (like BTS and Hitman B!) am a big believer in retaining our sense of Dionysian spirit.
Whether that means sympathy for the devil, dancing with the devil or running with the devil, it’s actually better the devil you know. Because we’ve all got a bit Jekyll and Hyde within us. We actually need to dip into those Shadowy contents every now and again. Dionysus is as much a part of our soul as Apollo is – reason and rationality and order are good for us. But so is a touch of chaos, frivolity, adventure and pleasure. Can we be adventurous, sexually devious and a little destructive sometimes without ruining the lives of others? It’s tricky to know where to draw the line – but we do need to embrace our Shadow and let off a little steam every now and again.
The true Faustian dilemma is how to get the best of both worlds. If you’re able to achieve that kind of psychic unity, you’ll be well on your way to Jungian Wholeness. So get drunk every now and then. Dance like a mad gorilla. Eat so much chocolate that you feel sick. Do some kinky shit in the bedroom with your partner. Write something edgy. Bare your soul. Tap into your dark inner core. Go on the most terrifying rollercoaster you can find. Jump out of a plane. Or just do something which scares the shit out of you, gets your heart racing but also makes you feel alive. If we shun the Shadow, life is proper, says Stein, but terribly incomplete. Life in the Faust lane can be good for you – just don’t drink and drive, yeah?
Persona and Bad Faith
I realise I’ve already waffled on more than I hoped I would, so I’ll keep these final four thoughts nice and short. Stein illuminates Jung’s original ideas on Persona quite beautifully in Map of the Soul – in terms of it being this mask that we all wear to function in society. The Persona is a presented image of the person, and as a result is not the ‘real whole’. And this very human kind of mimicry, this plurality of personalities, this accepting and playing roles rather than living our own uniqueness, reminds me of the Bad Faith of Jean-Paul Sartre’s existentialism. The mask that we wear to adapt to cultural life and meet societal demands is akin to the waiter who acts in Sartrean Bad Faith; it is like we are deceiving ourselves. We are not being honest about our true nature. Sartre basically explains how a waiter acts like a waiter – they fulfil the behavioural and functional expectations of a waiter rather than actually act as they wish to; as they truly are.
Under pressure from societal demands and expectations, we deny our existential freedom and refuse the choice and responsibility that contingent existence has granted us. We forgo our innate freedom and act inauthentically. We all possess the capacity for uniqueness, according to Jung and Stein, yet it’s often easier to cope with the demands of Others by acting in Bad Faith – or adopting a Persona which meets those demands and expectations. And the safety and comfort of the Others is tantalisingly tempting – the Kierkegaardian crowd, Nietzschean herd or Heideggerian public. Which brings us on to my next thought…
Line of Duty and falling prey
This inauthentic idea of being, which started with Kierkegaard’s philosophy and developed through the likes of Heidegger and Sartre, got me to thinking about the Shadow archetype; this dark well in our collective unconscious. I was intrigued by the way that darkness often consumes characters in (often) the best TV shows and films. The term falling prey is Heidegger’s, but the sentiment behind it has been explicated by various philosophers throughout the history of the discipline in the West. Existential freedom can be dizzying, stifling or just plain terrifying. Having to make big decisions can be hard. Taking responsibility for one’s actions can be fraught with psychological complications. Sometimes it’s just easier to pass the buck; often it’s easier to blend into the crowd and let the public make your decisions for you.
I have found Stephen Graham’s character in the latest series (five) of smash hit BBC One show Line of Duty quite interesting recently (when I wrote this in April). He is an undercover police officer who has infiltrated an organised crime group (OCG). To become a trusted member of the organisation, he has continually had to dip into his Shadow side; engaging in a series of criminal acts which have even seen some fellow officers murdered. As his descent into the underbelly of organised crime deepens, so too does his connection to his Shadow contents. And this Persona that he adopts, the mask he wears, to ensure he meets the expectations of the OCG, begins to blur with what he insists is his true nature; a morally correct officer who is trying to take down the big cheese – the person at the top of chain.
The football hooligan film ID is another good example of this theme – where a seemingly morally upstanding policeman loses their sense of identity as the Persona they adopt drags out so much of their Shadowy contents that they soon don’t recognise themselves as they once were. I guess that the lesson to learn is that, while Jung insists we must unite our unconscious and conscious sides to achieve Wholeness, we must be wary of accepting too much of the pleasure, power and animalistic fulfilment it promises. Or we might just get sucked in too far to escape its dark clutches.
Stranger Things and the unconscious
I don’t know whether it was intentional or not, but the Upside Down in Netflix show Stranger Things seems to me to be an amazing representation of the Shadow side of our psyche. I could obviously do a quick Google search to find out for sure, but I’d rather not. Please feel free to let me know if the Duffer brothers have spoken about this subject, but for the time being I’ll just ignorantly assume it was merely accidental; or maybe not – because as Jung suggests with his Synchronicity theory, perhaps there are no accidents when it comes to the psyche. More on that later. For now, let me just finish the thought that the Upside Down in Stranger Things is a marvellously adept representation of the unconscious.
This dark, hidden underbelly – a whole world that is seemingly inaccessible to the ego and the Persona and the social world of others that operates in secret, yet has a profound affect on the superficial above-world. It is mirror-like and reflective, but in that Dorian Grey kind of sense – a distorted representation of what is presented on the surface; those unwanted, repressed thoughts, memories, images and instincts that the ego had no choice but to reject. And this incompatible Shadowy darkness is filled with monsters, demons and uncanny sentiments. Sometimes these monsters break through and cause disruptions in the ‘surface world’ where reason and rationality reign supreme. Order meets chaos. Keeping up appearances comes face to face with the ugly truth. The Upside Down is real – it’s there within all of us. Can we really come to terms with it to achieve that Jungian Wholeness? Stranger things have happened…
The bruised ego and Count Fuckula
I’d just like to end this post with some final ego-based thoughts. I recently released a four-track EP with my band Sutra. You can listen to it here if you like. After sending it to a few bloggers via SubmitHub, I was basically told by several that they thought the music was okay, but that my vocals weren’t all that. Now, to be honest, I’m acutely aware that I’m not the world’s best singer – it’s why I had my much more talented sister take over as lead vocalist for a previous band. But needs must with Sutra – we do it for pleasure and it just makes sense for me to fulfil that role in our circumstances.
Anyway, even though I was in no way surprised by the criticism, or even disagreed with it, I couldn’t help feeling my ego had been bruised a bit. And so I sought refuge on Twitter from the BTS Army, who always say nice things about my singing and blogging and whatnot. I really do appreciate that kindness – but I also believe that I shouldn’t have to go looking for approval on Twitter. I need to be better at coping with these kind of setbacks; I need to work on adapting my psyche to face the negative energy of rejection. Because, you see, I don’t want to have a relationship where I simply use others to prop me up when I’m low – I want a reciprocal union based on shared values and interests.
Perhaps I’m being a bit hard on myself. But I’m just wary of mimicking Ricky Gervais’ Andy Millman character in Extras, and the way he behaves when his ego is bruised. There are a small group of fans that love his sitcom (which is basically terrible) – the group includes a hilarious oddball called Count Fuckula. Millman initially shuns the ‘weirdo’ collective, but after suffering shame and embarrassment from the people he wishes to impress (basically the jocks) over his awful sitcom (which has been made into a lowest common denominator sham of his original idea), Millman seeks refuge in the comforting bosom of his ‘fans’ (the small clan of outsiders/freaks he originally wanted nothing to do with). I think we all do this a bit when we experience a bruising of the ego; try to find some solace and comfort wherever we can get it.
And that’s understandable. I just don’t want that to become a prominent part of my relationship with the Army – or anyone else for that matter. I’ve met too many kind, funny and inspirational characters for that relationship to be undermined by me ‘using it’ in the wrong manner. So, thanks guys for always being kind to me when I needed it – and sorry if I’ve ever not given as much as I’ve got. I really appreciate those friendships. And I hope you’ve enjoyed reading these Map of the Soul blogs. It’s okay to let your friends and family pick you up when you’re down – just remember that kindness is a two-way street.