A client with a sexual abuse history brought the novelized version of “Red Riding Hood” to a session recently and asked if I might furnish a depth psychological interpretation of the fairytale. What emerged helped the process of her working through the childhood trauma and yielded an interesting interpretation of this story. I asked my client to recount the fairytale. Her version of the Little Red Riding Hood is in italics below.
Little Red Riding Hood’s mother sends her on an errand to her grandmother’s. On her way, Red Riding Hood meets the wolf who asks her where she is going.
I interjected with the following. Red Riding Hood’s mother must surely have known about the dangers that await a girl in the forest. There are masculine predators, with phallic shaped snouts. Despite that knowledge, mother sends the innocent feminine to run an errand in place of herself.
The wolf runs ahead and reaches the grandmother’s house. He eats the grandmother or maybe he locks her in a cupboard and then gets into the grandmother’s clothes, climbs into the grandmother’s bed, and waits for Red Riding Hood.
The menacing wolf, symbol of the predatory masculine, will devour whatever is before him, whether it be the innocent feminine or an older, more seasoned matriarch. No feminine character in this fairytale is safe from predation.
Red Riding Hood arrives at the grandmother’s house. And when she sees the wolf in her grandmother’s bed she says, “Grandma, what big eyes you have.” The wolf says. “The better to see you with.”
How often does the innocent feminine instructed not to trust what she sees for herself but instead is told what she sees by the wolf with the phallic snout.
Then Red Riding Hood asks, “Grandma, what big ears you have!” and the wolf answers “The better to hear you with.” and then asks her to come closer.
Once again, the innocent feminine is instructed not to trust her own perceptions, including what she hears. And the wolf draws her closer when he encourages the innocent feminine from trusting her own perceptions.
Finally, the Red Riding Hood asks “Grandma, what a big mouth you have.” and then with that, the wolf seizes Red Riding Hood and tries to eat her. Then Red Riding Hood gets away and picks up an ax and kills the wolf and frees her grandmother.
When the wolf tries to devour the innocent feminine she is no longer able to deny the danger nor can she deny what she knows. She faces the challenge when she realizes just how much danger surrounds her.
At this point, I mentioned to the client that there were some versions of the fairytale that involve a woodsman, a benign masculine, who slays the wolf and frees the grandmother. This led us to explore the differences between the traditional version involving a woodsman and the version she retold. In her story, the innocent feminine is equipped to make her escape and slay the wolf on her own not unlike the journey of her therapy.
Are you suggesting that every fairytale has a darker side to it?
One last thing, I mentioned was the fact that Red Riding Hood was clothed in red. I believe this reflected the pervasive tendency to dress the innocent feminine in the sinful colors traditionally associated with the fallen woman, the harlot, the temptress, the slut. Such words evoke powerful sentiment and even more so when assigned to the innocent feminine. It is not simply that Red Riding Hood is sent by her mother to slaughter; it is also that by dressing her in red, guilt, sin, and lust are imputed to her. BUT WAIT! This is a child, the innocent feminine who naively does her mother’s bidding. And mother should have anticipated the dangers of the phallic masculine and been willing to protect the child.
Here are the ageless features that install this fairytale so powerfully in the Western psyche. We have an innocent child who shall be blamed for enticing the predator. There is a mother who either fails to protect her daughter (perhaps she too was once sent into the arms of the sinister, predatory masculine) or knowingly offers her daughter up as a sacrifice to avoid having her own encounter with the predatory masculine. And finally, the innocent feminine is stigmatized by the red riding hood like Hester Prynne was branded with a Scarlet Letter.
Perhaps this exploration of Little Red Riding Hood is wrong and this is simply an interpretation colored by my client’s personal history. Perhaps it is born of my client’s ability to use this story to further resolve her trauma. But since that session I have been afraid to ask myself the same question my client posed to me
Does every fairytale have a darker side to it?
What I answered that afternoon sufficed, “Every fairytale has a deeper side.”
NOTE: I have read the synopsis of the recently released movie, “Red Riding Hood” posted on IMDB at http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1486185/synopsis I have not seen the movie. But something tells me it will be a dangerous masculine figure.
Len Cruz, MD
The story of Rooster Cogburn and Mattie Ross must run deeply in the American psyche for there to be two films made from the book by Charles Portis. This latest version by the Coen Brothers is very loyal to the book and the changes they made are interesting to ponder as we will do later. My first lingering imagery from the movie is the final dramatic scene in which Rooster rides Mattie’s horse, Blackie, to death and nearly himself to save her life. The brutality that was required to get that done needs special mention. Rooster rides the horse at a gallop for hours and when it slows he takes out a knife and uses it to spur the horse on for many more miles until the horse’s “heart bursts” and Rooster is forced to shoot the animal out of compassion. This is a man who is willing to be brutal to get what he wants or do what he thinks is right and in this case he wants Mattie to live. In the book Rooster does not shoot the horse and it is suggested the horse dies from being pushed too far. The imagery of killing the horse raises the level of brutality a little higher and helps to define Cogburn’s character. We also feel on a very deep level that the killing of Mattie’s horse somehow marked her transition to womanhood. It was something Mattie could not have done herself; it was not yet part of her nature as she tried to stop Rooster from committing the act. This brutality is a key part of the story.
From the beginning Mattie’s choices led her on this pathway into the realm of brutality. Of the three marshals offered her for service to go after Tom Chaney, her father’s killer, she chooses the most brutal of the three, the one most likely to get the job done. She wanted nothing to do with being civil or righteous or gentlewomanly, she wanted brutality and if necessary lawlessness. If we look at the father we could see how Mattie would take up this path. Her father was a gentle man and was kind to the man who killed him. He did not have an eye for the brutal nature that Tom Chaney had so did not see this betrayal coming. This weakness in character led to his downfall but also was passed onto his daughter who was determined not to make the same mistake in judgment of character. In fact she had quite an eye for the side of human nature that was able and willing to take advantage of a 14 year old girl and she was ever vigilant about its possibility. But she was not prepared for the darkness and extreme brutality characteristic of the world she was entering when she hired Rooster Cogburn. He became her father from the depths of the underworld, someone who was no stranger to this rough and unforgiving western territory, someone who will become her guide and protector, someone with one good left eye suggesting his awareness of the dark unconscious realm. One eye also suggests a godlike status as the Cyclops were all immortal.
Jung addresses the problem of unlived life in the parents and the propensity for the child to feel compelled to complete that unlived life. For Frank Ross it was that part of his character that did not see a Tom Chaney when he was right in front of him. When we reviewed the Black Swan (see blog Black Swan- Film’s Descent into Darkness) we discussed the unlived life of the Nina’s mother which became for Nina her life’s mission to live out for her mother including success as a ballerina in fulfilling the role of the White Swan in Swan Lake. Jung says the unlived life returns to us as dead parts of ourselves to which we are compelled to listen. If we do not listen, if those parts of ourselves do not reach our consciousness it will wreak havoc on our lives. Mattie finds from her chosen father in Cogburn what she could not get from her biological father.
Let us address Mattie’s lost arm. Mattie’s fall into the cave came immediately after her killing of Tom Chaney and is a wonderful image of the fall into the unconscious. The snakes lie in a dead man’s belly, hibernating. The snakes represent death and life. They contain the venom and the cure, the poison and the remedy, the pharmakon. That which Mattie needs to complete her life has a price. Marie Louise Von Franz often said there is a cost to consciousness. In that fall she confronts the snakes lying in the belly of a man with a knife. She reaches for the knife to release herself from the vines on which she is caught. This is both her moral dilemma entrapping her as well as the tension between the realm of civilization and the brutality of nature. This is the archetypal realm of the old west. This brutality, this prima materia, this chaos has gripped her and she must break herself free and it is Cogburn that frees her. Cogburn has experience in this realm and has himself escaped the grips of dark aspects of human nature and must show her how. The one eye not only elevates him to god status (the Cyclops were all gods) we also understand that he has a different vision than the rest of us. This vision of man’s darker nature cost him his right eye. This sacrifice is parallel to Mattie’s sacrifice of her arm.
Let us look into Cogburn’s character at this point. His name suggests he has been wounded by the mechanized world that is emerging at this time in history. Wounded very deeply and we suspect it is in his feeling function. Robert Johnson suggests that there is a cost to western culture in its mechanical short cuts around nature and that cost is in the experience of the feeling function. We are a culture overly dependent on thinking function. We can understand this because with all our science we are still in shock and disbelief when a young man walks into a school with a gun and opens fire on his fellow students and teachers. The most disturbing aspect is we didn’t see it coming; we didn’t have an eye for this aspect of this young man’s nature. This is also the nature in Tom Chaney Mattie’s father did not see. Perhaps saving Mattie was redemptive for losing his son and perhaps Mattie allowed Cogburn to reconnect with this feeling side that is loving and fatherly. Saving her was saving him. This is a little different ending than the archetypal cowboy riding off with his male sidekick into the sunset suggesting escape from the mother realm. This is about a man willing to confront himself on a much deeper level and a girl needing him to do so for her own individuation.
At the end of the movie Mattie demonstrates her respect and gratitude for Cogburn by visiting his gravesite and we see her as a proud woman who has made her own way in the world despite only one arm. The part of her nature honed from her experience with Cogburn provided her with the strength to grow despite the loss of her father. With her knowledge she becomes a teacher as we would expect but she never marries. Perhaps this is another cost of consciousness given the time in which she lived or she did not need to be married to define who she was; she had fully realized her life’s potential.
I would be remiss to not point out that this is the third film we have analyzed involving the individuation of a young girl into womanhood. Nina, in the Black Swan had no rescuer and we suspect succumbed to the archetypal realm wholly but embraced her unlived life with rapture and we suspect her absent father contributes to her lack of rescuer. Ree in Winter’s Bone, also a young girl seeking her father, has as much grit as Mattie and again demonstrates the need for an archetypal father that makes up for the biological father. For Ree it is her uncle Teardrop who guides her into the brutal world of methamphetamine production, violence, secrecy in the backwoods of the Ozarks. Ree recovers her unlived life symbolized by recovery of her father’s hands and his softer, musical nature. Perhaps the emergence of these movies suggests a collective need to balance our overly focused thinking function with exploring the development of the feeling function and its needs. It is quite interesting that the movies suggest the needs of connection to the feeling function lie somewhere in the realm of nature’s brutality (quite paradoxical)and perhaps our drive to keep our brutal nature in shadow rather than incorporating it into our consciousness compels us to act it out on those we are least likely to understand.
Coburn’s redemption is in saving Mattie and perhaps it is our imagined redemption as well.
Please note – the following is an in depth film analysis and reveals film plot…
I could anticipate the reactions of fellow moviegoers to The Black Swan as I walked out of the theater. Those who were vocal about it thought it preposterous and laughable. I found it to be a wonderful depiction of a young woman integrating her shadow and ultimately being destroyed by it within a psychologically intense battle ground of the theatre of the ballet. The external manifestations of Nina’s delusions, hallucinations were violent and disturbing but I believe to be a perfect mirror into the inner violence, drama, that this type of person might experience in real life. So one has to step back from the imagery and not take it too literally to appreciate the psychology of the film. Is this woman in need of therapy? Of course, but pathologizing her problem will only distance her struggle from our own. And is not some of the world’s greatest art drawn from this very beautiful and brutal mosaic.
The Black Swan is directed by Darren Aronofsky who also directed Requiem for a Dream and Pi, both of which explored the darker aspects of human nature. He continues that journey with The Black Swan but in this film the beauty of the ballet is contrasted with the stark brutal realities of the day to day rituals of the ballerina.
We are confronted immediately with a world of bodily destruction from the daily exercise routines to the purging required to maintain a cachectic frame. In an interview by George Stephanopolous Natalie Portman chides a reviewer who called a ballerina “fat” in a production of the Nutcracker (retrieved from http://www.blogher.com/fat-ballerinas-black-swan-diet-dont-let-tiimes-set-tone) reheating the controversy behind the shadow realm of this beautiful art form. We have the tension of the opposites in the form of the extreme discipline of one’s body and the need for control and its opposite the need to abandon the ego and lose one self. The character of Nina embodies this tension and the risk of going to far in abandoning the ego. But before we discuss the end we must go to the beginning.
The story of swan lake must be appreciated as this is the psychological backdrop of the film. Odette is a beautiful woman by night and by day a white swan, the result of a spell placed on her by the evil sorcerer Von Rothbart. The only way to lift the spell is by her falling in love with a prince. Prince Seigfried out hunting one evening witnesses the beautiful swan queen who is a swan wearing a crown and her transformation from swan to woman and falls in love with her and they spend the night together. The next day she becomes a swan again and he plans to marry her but the sorcerer anticipates this and brings his daughter Odile to meet him making her look like Odette. The prince marries her thinking it is Odette and Odette discovers the betrayal and returns to the lake. The prince discovers what he has done and goes to Odette and asks for forgiveness which she gives him but it is too late. The spell can now never be broken and she decides death is her only escape. In some versions the prince follows Odette to her death by drowning in the lake and in other versions she acts alone.
The ballet Swan Lake becomes for Nina the perfect vas hermeticum within which she will be transformed. Being a swan half the time and a beautiful woman the other half, Nina (Odette) is under a spell cast by the evil sorcerer (Von Rothbart) who originally turned her into a swan. In order for Odette to be freed from the spell (become a whole person) she must fall in love with a prince (Seigfried). Nina’s mother is the sorcerer who keeps Nina in the mother realm (swan realm). One is reminded of Rapunzel and the sorceress who keeps Rapunzel in the tower until the prince comes to rescue her. Nina’s desire for ballet is the mechanism to work through this enchantment and disengage from this realm and from her mother in the process. Seigfried is the Director who, in his desire for a perfect ballet, tries to push Nina into herself to explore her shadow which is her sexuality, her ambitiousness, her jealousy, anger, rage, all of which is represented by Lilly (Odile) (sounds similar).
The name Nina means “little girl” in Spanish and the meaning beind the name Lilly as the Black Swan, I suspect, it is taken from Odile the name for the Black Swan in the fairy tale and Lilly rhymes with Odile (short i and long e). Also it is the familiar form of Lillith the first woman who rejected Adam because she would not submit to a man. Lillith was considered evil because she was uninhibited and unrestrained so she was banished (to shadow). This is a perfect description of Lilly who is all that Nina is not. It is not surprising that Nina fantasizes making love with Lilly. Nina as a little girl can only grow up when she is able to confront her shadow. Her death is the price we pay when we give ourselves over to the archetypal completely without maintaining hold on the totality of our personality and its roots in the outer world.
I love the fact that the movie begins with the emergence of this “other” that resembles Nina but is in the shadows. Nina sees her in glances at the train station, in the mirror, and it is Nina being pursued by her shadow from the very beginning. So the shadow is her and Lilly interposed and this is done visually throughout the movie. As this shadow self emerges it is sexual, confident, enraged at her mother, jealous, ruthless, and all what Nina is not. The stealing of Beth’s (the old ballerina who Nina has replaced) possessions is very interesting. She wanted to be perfect and the stealing of these things, a nail file, and lipstick were a ritualization of acquiring the perfection that she saw in Beth.
On a psychological level the scratching at her self was like cutting which is a way to ward of anxiety and more symbolically a way to get at the self lying beneath the surface only taking it to a literal extreme. It is also a way to feel as though one is regaining control over one’s self, just as bolemia and anorexia are similar attempts to hold on to control. But the Director (therapist) is encouraging Nina to let go. This is not something she will accomplish by controlling herself but only by letting go of herself.
So the Director, as the hero, must pull Nina out of the mother realm (the tower) and away from the literal mother. Nina (Odette) must die so the merging of the black swan and white swan can create the transcendent third. The integration of the shadow must result in the death of the ego, the old self, the staus quo. When Nina offers her final words that she is now perfect she has gone from one extreme to another. To be perfect she would need to be the Black Swan and she becomes so. The risk in integration of the shadow is one can be consumed by it and overidentify with it and become psychotic. So Nina goes from one Swan to another but remains a swan, inflated, disconnected from the outer world, relationships, and in the end dies.
We may also see Nina as the puella capitvated by this archetype. As a swan she is in the realm of sublimatio flying high in the sky. The swan is connected to the sky and to water As a woman she is shackled to a brutal discipline The swan is connected to the sky and the water (unconscious) but in order for Nina to become a whole person she must come down to earth (coagulatio). The tension between these two realms will create a third called circulatio, the merging of these two realms. “It ascends to the heavens and descends to the earth and receives the power of above and below. Then you will have the glory of the whole world. Therefore all darkness will flee from you” (Edinger). But she is overtaken by the darkness; darkness did not flee her. She was unable to keep the two realms in tension, the swan realm and the human realm. When she fell to earth it was as a wounded swan as if she had been shot by Seigfried from the very beginning.
It is a perfect image at the very end of the ballet and the movie in which Nina falls to the earth-her swan nature must become personalized, so she can become a person she is intended to be. Flying high above the earth she was ambitious and fantasy-bound so the fall on stage was both the death of the puella, the swan nature, the death of Nina and the integration of the black swan Lilly, who she killed psychologically. In the audience we see the mother who seems to need Nina to complete this transformation, as much as she resisted it in life and perhaps a transformation her mother was never able to complete. We do inherit our parents’ shadow content and Nina seems to sacrifice herself for this transformation.
- Hermes and His Children (Hermes y Sus Hijos)
- Anselm Kiefer: The Psychology of “After the Catastrophe” (Anselm Kiefer: la psicología de ‘Después de la Catástrofe’)
- Dionysus in Exile (Dionisos en Exilio)
- Cultural Anxiety (Ansiedad Cultural)
- Eros and Psyche (Eros y Pique)
- Sobre héroes y poetas
- Artemisa e Hipólito: mito y tragedia
“Where there is no vision, the people perish.” – Proverbs
Civilization in Transition:
Jungian Presence in Creative World Change.Carl Jung foresaw a change in world order that he believed was a “spiritual transformation” in civilization. Aware of both its dangers and positive potential, he spoke of it in Civilization in Transition, part of which is paraphrased as follows: Humankind’s process of spiritual transformation cannot be hurried by rational process; but it is within our reach to change those who influence others. Those with insight into their own actions and access to the unconscious involuntarily influence their environment, not by persuading or teaching, but through an effect that pre-industrial peoples call “mana,” an influence on the unconscious of others… (CW X, para 583) The Foundation for International Training will meet in November for penetrating dialog about changes we face in the 21st century. We invite you to join us as we explore what these changes mean and the influence the Jungian community might have in promoting growth rather than destruction, hope rather than despair. In our world divided, there is a fractious split between old religious concepts and newer, more individual spiritual understandings. Brash greed of giant corporations is juxtaposed against a movement toward greater respect for earth’s people and resources. East and West battle for dominance. Distrust of leaders causes confusion, rage. Vitriolic rhetoric spills over into violent action. What major forms of individual and collective identity will solidify if human beings continue to split the world with rigid assignments of good and evil, insist on finding the enemy in otherness, and demand simple answers to complex problems? If it is who we are, not what we say, that effects lasting change, we must consider deeply who we are, who we are becoming, and what our role is in the collective. Dr. Jung’s insistence on the need for introspective awareness does not mean living entirely in isolated contemplation. He himself wrote, lectured, composed long, thoughtful letters, and risked his reputation as a scholar and scientist in exploring unpopular topics and challenging collective assumptions. Our conference will explore what is asked of us as we move into an unprecedented era of rapid travel and instant communication of information and misinformation. Ahead are opportunities for greater accord and understanding, and also dark emotions of fear, despair, suspicion and discord. The Foundation for International Training is a non-profit corporation dedicated to the support of concentrated studies in Analytical Psychology. Directors: John Desteian, Murray Stein, Stefan Boethius, Nancy Qualls-Corbett, Wynette Barton, Judith Harris, Paul Brutsche, John Hill, Penelope Yungblut and Dariane Pictet. **CLICK HERE FOR A BROCHURE AND REGISTRATION DETAILS** THE PROGRAM: A blessing by a member of the Santa Clara Pueblo will be followed by speakers, short videos, panel discussions, break-out discussions, and a few surprises. Nancy Qualls-Corbett, Jungian Analyst from Birmingham, Alabama, author of The Sacred Prostitute: Eternal Aspect of the Feminine, will speak on the healing role of feminine consciousness. Jacqueline Hairston will share rare insights about the sustaining, healing qualities of America’s Black musical tradition. Combining classical Julliard training with her knowledge of Negro spirituals and gospel music, Jacqui has composed and arranged music for Kathleen Battle, Robert Sims, William Warfield, and Sweet Honey and the Rock. Her new CD is Spiritual Roots + Classical Fruits: A Healing Harvest. David Barton will address “Titanism” (the tendency to dominate/ destroy the natural world) that comes from literalism rather than symbolic thinking and clashes with care of the soul. David is former publisher of The Salt Journal and guest editor for Spring Journal. Zurich Analyst Bernard Sartorius, long-time student of Marie-Louise von Franz, will discuss his recent travels in working with the polarities of Islam and the Western world. Conference moderator is Wynette Barton, Jungian Analyst from Austin. We await final confirmation (depending on schedule) from Governor Bill Richardson, former U.S. Congressman, U.N. Ambassador, New Mexico Governor, and world peacemaker; and other knowledgeable contributors. DATE: Sunday, Nov. 6, 2011, beginning 4:00 PM. through Wednesday, Nov. 9, ending 1:00 PM. LOCATION: Ojo Caliente, New Mexico, known for centuries to American Indians for its healing mineral waters, is a two-hour scenic drive from Albuquerque. (Travel details will be sent to registrants.) WEATHER: Early November is usually sunny and brisk. Sweaters needed. CONTINUING EDUCATION: 8 hours credit for mental health workers. RESERVATIONS: Reservations should arrive by March 10, 2011. Later registrations accepted if space is available. (Special room rate is available for those wishing to stay after the conference.) See photos of Ojo Caliente at http://www.ojospa.com **CLICK HERE FOR A BROCHURE AND REGISTRATION DETAILS**
When John Hill performed the role of Father Victor White in The Jung-White Letters, he seemed possessed by the spirit of the man. In John Hill’s recent publication, At Home in the World: Sounds and Symmetries of Belonging, leaves me wondering if he has now been possessed by an entire cloud of witnesses comprised of Irish poets spanning centuries. There is a lyrical quality that pervades the book and the publisher, Spring Journal Books, has done a marvelous job with the layout, cover design, the references, and every detail of the book. Perhaps John Hill pulled his inspiration from a Fairy fort but the result is magical.
As the February 4th conference Architecture of the Soul: The Inner & Outer Structures of C G Jung, (with Murray Stein & Andreas Jung) approaches, this is a timely read. Hill’s scholarship is systematic and rigorous, but the book is replete with powerful and evocative language. Hill gently weaves into the text many others who have shaped and influenced him like Paul Ricouer, Ernst Cassirer, along with one of my favorite fiction writers, Jhumpa Lahiri. The thesis of his book may appear self-evident but I could not have imagined the depth and breadth of material I found in this book.
John Hill has been practicing Jungian Psychoanalysis for forty years and it shows. He has been devoted to matters of the spirit even longer. The reader will enjoy the subtle, perceptive way Hill incorporates clinical material from client’s dreams and narratives. It is refreshing to encounter a writer who also lays himself bare to the reader without crossing the line into self-indulgence that can easily become a spectacle. This is an analyst who comprehends that self-disclosure, even within the pages of a book, can be a powerful tool. And I suspect he also understands that self-disclosure can also be unwieldy. Therapists do well to stay alert for moments when self-disclosure serves their own unmet needs for mirroring and affirmation since they may easy remained it is for their client’s benefit.
Modernity has ushered in unprecedented opportunities for homeowners to furnish their dwellings in cohesive, well designed styles that may sold as an entire package. Some furniture retailers make it easy to avoid making mistake by standardizing entire groupings of furnishings. IKEA is not unique in its ability to commoditize home furnishings and to impart a sense to its customers that a unique look can be achieved on a budget. The sheer volume and global reach of an IKEA testifies to the inclination to make a home unique through elements that are in fact standardized. Such a home, according to Hill may be at risk of being left “…. without a soul.”
In contrast, we will have the opportunity on February 4th to participate in a conference whose outer, visible subject is
The Home of C. G. Jung. After reading Hill’s, At Home in the World: Sounds and Symmetries of Belonging, I suspect the upcoming conference presented through Asheville Jung Center will end up being about our own magnum opus, our home. We each approach this differently, just as we each approach the magnum opus of our individuation differently. For some, the reliance on a standard assortment of furnishings provides a personal space that avoid too much personal disclosure but also impedes personal discovery. For others, the home provides a platform of self-expression. There are homes I have entered where I could sense the disconnection between the soul of its inhabitants and the structure itself. There are limitless permutations for combining the inner dimensions of our being and the outer structure of our home. And according to John Hill, “When a home becomes a mere product, dissociated from one’s own personal and collective history, it is probably in danger of losing its soul.” (pg11)
Some individuals delight in assembling elements into a home. They strive for that ineluctable symmetry between the inner call of the soul and the outer manifestation of their home. When we speak of homemaking as a function of managing the household we miss the much deeper connection between the demands of keeping things going in a family and the making of a home. Hill notes, “We live in a world that offers us two different ways of seeing it — one functional and the other symbolic.” (pg47) It seems there as many different modus operandi for fashioning a home as there are styles of composition, materials and technique for the artist.
Good teachers like John Hill convey complex subjects in clearly understandable ways. The five or six pages on transference provide a good illustration and despite their conciseness Hill does not sacrifice the rich, evocative quality of his prose.
Images alone do not necessarily address key psychological issues or cross the great divide between Thou and I … (pg112)
Often in the deep constellations of transference and countertransference, the client finds the opportunities to relive much of the past. … The analyst must realize that he cannot indulge in the fantasy of providing a home for all those who need one. (pg113)
I live on the hyphen as a Cuban-American. My soul has one foot firmly planted in the United States of America where I was born while the other foot, the one possessed of dreams of return to an island I have never known, has nowhere to step. Countless others share my experience of life on the hyphen. The nations that bookend their hyphen do not separate us nearly as much as the hyphen unites us. We who are hyphenated are a diaspora in our own right. We are caught between two homes the one we left and the one where we dwell. But we are all likely to find ourselves somewhere along the continuum of a home we have known, a home we know now, and a home that awaits us.
Salmon Rushdie writes that, “Exile is a dream of a glorious return.” Like Odysseus, we may find ourselves in a seemingly endless pursuit of a return home. John Hill reveals to us some of the personal details of his own life away from his native Ireland without being mawkish. At Home in the World would be wonderful preparation for the upcoming conference Architecture of the Soul: The Inner & Outer Structures of CG Jung, (with Murray Stein & Andreas Jung). It will also be a great resource for anyone interested in the psychological implications and underpinnings of home from a Jungian perspective.
John Hill gave a gifted performance of Father Victor White in The Jung White Letters that moved me to examine the chords that resonated through Jung’s relationship with Sigmund Freud and later Father White. It also deeply moved me to consider what chords resonate through my relationships with men in my life. Now At Home in the World has moved me to examine from a fresh perspective my relationship to place. It has stirred a renewed interest in exploring the spaces and structures, past, present, and future that are called home in my life. Hill’s last paragraph reads like a closing hymn in prose and here he reveals a dream that arrived as he brought the book to completion.
… All at once the dream flashed across my mind, and I “knew” what it was trying to say.
…The house was my book on home. The brickwork symbolized the thoughts and ideas of others who had influenced me, and contributed to its making. The rough-hewn stones indicated that the work was connected with my identity.
… I have built the house from the materials of the earth. It is a house that contains, but it is also open to the world and to the spirit. Hopefully it can be an object of delight and contemplation, not just for me, but also for all who have crossed its threshold, so that you, dear reader, may appreciate your own home in new and creative ways.
Take a moment to consider the word “home”. Let your imagination run free and let yourself be transported to homes you have occupied, homes you have wished to occupy, homes you have left, homes you have awaiting you in the future. Consider what home means in your interior life and notice where the interior experience or awareness of home is in sync with the structure you call home and where the two seem out of sync. Please consider posting a comment about “home” so that we might open the doors and let one another peak in.
Len Cruz, MD