Saturday, June 26, 2021

Authenticity and Agency in the Largest Context

     “I sat on the bank, holding the stone, and tried to list to myself the motions that were at that moment acting upon it: the Earth’s 700-miles-per-hour spin around its axis, its 67,000-miles-per-hour orbit about the sun, its slow precessional straightening tilt within inertial space, and, containing all of that, the galaxy’s own inestimable movement outward in the deep night of space.”
     Thomas Lowe Fleischner “The Way of Natural History”

     "The first half of life is preoccupied with adaptation, fitting in, learning roles and expectations. These often necessary compromises with the world around us seem to offer protection, acceptance by others, and anxiety management. But over the years, they also become imprisoning structures, reflexive responses, conditioned compliances. Accordingly, in the second half of life, we are challenged to recover our personal authority. Regaining personal, rather than acquired, authority is difficult and becomes a continuing life’s work, so powerful and repetitive are the received instructions and scripts. Personal authority requires sifting through the immense traffic that courses through our minds every moment. Which voices are those from my culture? Which from my family of origin? Which from my soul? And then we must mobilize courage to act upon what is true. While that sounds simple in the abstract, in practice, it is difficult because it requires us to move into less familiar regions of choice and consequence. Even when the old ‘authorities’ are constrictive, they remain attractive because they are so often enhanced through repetition. Stepping into a larger frame, through dreamwork helps us move into a more authentic life, from the ineluctable consequences of fate to the possibilities of destiny. Tilting that balance is the responsibility of consciousness and the gift of depth psychology.

     Journaling, active imagination, and dreamwork are all forms of paying attention: listening to the psyche as it manifests and realizing that some intelligence is there that transcends ordinary ego intelligence. Something seeks to connect with us, something that represents, if you will, the wisdom of nature. This idea does not necessarily fit into the informed intelligence of our culture with which we must deal every day, but it is something that is larger than this time and place. It is willing, in some way, to risk its investment in us. How dare we, then, not undertake a journey to that which is seeking its expression through us? When we do this, it may be a humbling process, but I think it gives a profound sense of personal purpose, depth, and dignity to our journey that no amount of outer accomplishments or recognition by the world can ever equal; it gives that inner conviction that we are living our journey as honestly and as faithfully as we can. All of us, I believe, are invited to that journey and are always equipped by nature for it. And we can thank depth psychology, and specifically the work of Jung, for giving us some of these tools with which to address it. When we do, we will find that the wisdom of the ancients is once again present to each of us.

     The human psyche, differentiated as mind, body, spirit, and soul, is a self-regulating system. You are not governing your parasympathetic nervous system right now, but some agency within you clearly is. We all forget the wonder of this self-regulating system, take it for granted, and abuse it.
Something in us always knows what is right for us and is undertaking measures to bring that confluence of will and nature about, even as it may be oppressed by the burdens and incursions of the outer world or opposed by our behaviors or treatment plans. The psyche is also compensatory: in daily life, complex-driven choices move us to one side or the other, while other energies seek to bring us back in line, back to our centering systems.

     We are equipped for the journey. We possess the resilience of our ancestors who clung to this spinning orb, tumbling through measureless space, and we survive … rich for all that has accumulated on our journey."
      James Hollis. “Living Between Worlds. Finding Personal Resilience in Changing Times.” Sounds True, 2020.


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