Connecting You with Mae Stolte. Our first Jungian event of the year is this Friday! Mae Stolte will be opening our season with a lecture, Living a Symbolic Life: Holding the Tension of Opposites in a Changing World, to welcome our members and their guests. She has kindly responded to the below questions to get us started!
Thank you, Mae.
Why are we fleeing from the Symbolic Life? What is the result of the disappearance of The Symbolic Life? What is the relationship between the Symbolic Life and Shadow?
We live in a very rational, conscious ego-centered world which values knowing and the intellect as a way to feel in control of our worlds, both inner and outer. As you know, Jung defined the symbol as the best possible description of an unknown thing, meaning it includes both the conscious and unconscious aspect. The symbol is a bridge-it is ambivalent, has two sides, both the real and the imaginary, both the rational and non-rational. To live a symbolic life means that we always leave room for that which we cannot or do not know, what is not in our control. It means that we recognize there is more to life than what we can see at any moment in time. But it is human to fear the unknown; not only are we afraid of not knowing intellectually what it holds but it also brings up all the emotions that are associated with the unknown which makes us feel vulnerable. And so we stay with what we are consciously aware of and hold to believing ‘that is all there is’. Reality then becomes concrete, ‘nothing but this’; anything related to the unknown is ‘not real’. We become two-dimensional, lacking in creativity for it is the tension created by the relationship between the conscious and unconscious that results in something new, new possibilities for life. The relationship aspect of the two sides, things or people is part of the dynamic Feminine principle that has been increasingly missing from our consciousness especially collectively but also in our individual lives in our Western world. It has left us with a one-sided conscious aspect of competition, conflict, a goal-driven and mechanistic society always looking for more in the material world. Creative tension is replaced by ‘stress’.
The concept of Shadow speaks to our blind spot, what lies outside of our conscious awareness. Since it is part of the unknown about ourselves and our society in which we live, we resist facing into it. The symbol helps us do that. Sometimes having our shadow side reflected in dream images feels ‘kinder’, easier to tolerate than seeing it in the light of day. The dream symbols can take us down to size gently but not always! Sometimes we are shocked by the images presented to us, unable to believe that is a part of ourselves. Since the symbol is ambivalent, pointing to a greater whole, we need always to reflect on the other side of the image or words. If we dream of a rose, is it telling us about love? sweet fragrance ? or of the thorny and prickly side? Shadow is not always negative though we tend to jump to that conclusion quickly, leaving out the positive aspect of the symbol that also needs to be considered. It is often the ‘other side’ that can help us find a way forward. A symbolic attitude or approach to life helps to keep us aware of our shadow side and to bring us to deeper understanding of, and compassion for, not only ourselves but also others.