I’ve been teaching a Philosophy and Sexuality course the past 6 weeks at a local University. I blogged about this early on, sharing my trepidation, excitement, and shock at this unforeseen opportunity.
Thus far, fingers crossed, it’s been an incredibly rich, rewarding, and educational experience. For me. I can’t speak for my students. Although several of them have professed to loving the course. Mainly I think they dig having the time and space to talk about things like polyamorous relationships, the roles men and assume around sex (individually and socially), love addiction, and desire. A number of students have also opened up to me and to the class about their own personal struggles with relevant issues. Such as infidelity, ending relationships, HIV, mental illness, and domestic abuse. I feel blessed to be in this role.
I also love it because it provides me the time and space to read and watch material I find riveting. For example, I spent two hours yesterday watching PBS documentaries about the life and work of Sigmund Freud. Awesome stuff. I think we pay far too little attention to the private lives of public scholars…what I learned about Freud’s experience as a human being greatly contributes to my understanding of him as guru of modern psychoanalysis. I like stories.
Along with the dirt on Siggie, I watched a couple of interviews with Carl Jung. For those who don’t know, Jung jumped on Freud’s bandwagon for a time, buying wholesale his theories of the unconscious mind. However, after several years, Jung began to challenge Freudian law and Freud no longer wanted to play in the same sandbox. We are all so freaking human.
Anyway, I’ve been chewing on some of Jung’s material for the past 24 hours. Specifically, his belief that we all go through a process he calls “individuation.” Individuation is the path we all take to our own private, individual destinies; the journey through which we form as “whole selves;” a merging of the conscious and the unconscious. You might also call this integration.
Jung believes that most of us get “stuck” sometime and somewhere before completion of individuation. For all sorts of reasons. An unwillingness to take a look at one’s dark side (and we all have them). Terrible external circumstances. Pathologies. Hindrances. This is when the mental/psychological/emotional (and maybe spiritual?) bubbles rise and, if we are lucky, we hit the therapist.
Other than the Dalai Lama, Deepak Chopra, and Pema Chodron (and a handful of other enlightened and loving people), I don’t know many I’d describe as individuated. There are just a ton of obstacles. But I can’t speak to that really. And I am no expert in psychoanalysis, Jungian theory, or anything, really. Other than my own experience that is.
For me, I see all of the things Jung addresses as potential individuation stoppers in my life. Terrible external circumstances– the deaths of my parents before I reached the age of 30. Hindrances– growing up in an alcoholic family system where I failed to properly attach to my mother and lived in fear of my father’s disapproval. Pathologies galore! Severe introversion leading to social anxiety. Garden-variety anxiety. Situational depression. Clinical depression. Seasonal Affective Disorder. Addiction.
How about an unwillingness to look at my dark side? For sure. I think this is a common human limitation and one that alcoholics and addicts are particularly comfortable with. It’s not my fault. My life sucks because everyone hates me and there’s no God. Or if there is a God, he/she/it is punishing me because I am so uniquely afflicted and special. Something like that. It is terrifying and horrific to look at our own faults, our defects. But living in that fear is stunting, claustrophobic, and deadening. Nothing thrives in that place of unwillingness.
So this is where my head is at today. With Carl Gustav Jung and Individuation. I wonder, will I ever become a fully integrated person? Will I ever have a grasp on my inner, complete self? It’s something to shoot for, anyway. I suspect that moving along the path of individuation is a whole lot less painful than staying stopped. It’s probably something like living in emotional sobriety.
Peace and love to all.