Thoughts from the Black Swan Seminar…

The seminar on Friday (still available for viewing) was an extraordinary opportunity for several people to come together, both on line and in person in Asheville.   There was so much to discuss with the Black Swan. It felt like the more we uncovered the more expansive the material became.  I was struck by the energy in the room and also the feel from the internet participants because we were participating in something global.   There was a sense of community around this glorious film. Michael De Meritt’s contribution was fascinating for his perspective on film-making which I think added a different dimension in contrast with the Jungian perspective.  We discussed Nina’s dark journey as the nigredo in the seminar.  This journey is our journey.  We discussed Nina’s addiction to perfection, her neurotic symptoms as aesthetic component of the emergence of Nina’s shadow life, her black swan nature. We discussed the making of the film, the contributing ideas from other films, novels and of course the Tchaikovsky’s ballet, Swan Lake.  We moved deeper then into the underlying mythologies of Demeter and Persephone.  I encouraged the participants to see the HBO film Mildred Pierce, directed by Todd Haynes as a companion film to Black Swan. This film is a remake of a film with Joan Crawford and was more loyal to the book than the latter.   The fusion of mother, played by Kate Winslet, & her daughter is the common factor between Black Swan and Mildred Pierce but the latter is a film told more from the perspective of the mother, while Black Swan clearly moved our sympathies to the daughter.  Finally we discussed alchemy and the images from alchemy as being most consistent with dream images.  Jung believed alchemy provided an uncontaminated view of the collective unconscious. We compared Nina’s transformation to that of Jung himself reflected in his writings in the Red Book. One of the questions of the participants on line was around the idea of Nina’s scratching and woundedness as depicting the narcissistic wound.  We would expect, as Nina emerges from this early narcissistic phase characterized by over identification with the mother, a wounding would appear as manifested by the wounds Nina seems to be self inflicting.  This is one way to view Nina’s wounding.  Another way is to see the wounds as containing the emergence of her instinctual nature as the black swan.  I am reminded of the David Cronenberg film, The Fly, another film in the horror genre (Black Swan does some cross over into this genre) in which a scientist who is unbalanced in the direction of being too scientific, too rational, performs an experiment on himself in which his nature is merged with that of a fly and over time the fly nature (instinctual nature) begins to emerge in similar fashion to Nina.  It begins with a scratch on his back made by his lover in the midst of passionate lovemaking. Soon black insect hairs start to emerge from the wound. Over time his fly nature completely takes over his human nature and destroys him. The Black Swan continues to instruct us and the seminar was a wonderful opportunity to bring these ideas together in a live forum.  I want to thank those who participated and to remind them to let us know what worked and what didn’t so we can prepare for an even better film seminar next time.  And if you have interest in a particular film for future discussion, please let us know.  Thank you. -Daniel Ross Our seminar on the Black Swan will remain available for viewing through October 1st, 2011. Registration is still available.  Click here to Register.

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The Alchemy of the Black Swan: Nina’s Magnum Opus

Len’s posting last week about the film the Black Swan addresses not only an aspect of the protagonist’s nature, the pursuit of perfection, but it also reflect’s our society’s addiction to perfection. We not only want perfection, we want a shortcut to get there. Over the last few months postings on this blog regarding the Black Swan reveal many different aspects of the film that have touched many people.  Here are a few of the comments: Cynthia commented “Throughout the whole movie we are never sure what is “real”, there is a constant weaving of images from Nina’s internal and external worlds. Nina was under the spell of her mother’s unlived life and needed to breakaway and begin her own life process.”   Constance Myslek-McFadden commented: “To me, the movie was one of the most brilliant, beautiful, psychologically and emotionally accurate and evocative movies I’ve ever seen. I loved it!”   David Pressault commented: I found that the years of training in an aesthetic that is so far removed from the natural tendencies of the body often results in one loosing some basic connection to certain instincts. In a sense, the connection to our body as the animal part of us, so often is lost in ballet training. We will be discussing the Black Swan from many perspectives on Friday. I welcome your thoughts and ideas about what you would like to discuss as there is so much archetypal material from which to draw.  I will be incorporating more of the fascinating and intelligent comments posted on our two blog postings on this film.  The commenters provided varied backgrounds in therapy as well as dance and brought a  richness to the discussion that was brilliant and provocative.  I look forward to that same liveliness and level of participation at Friday’s seminar. If nothing else the Black Swan got us to discuss how a film like this can move us.  The reactions of many to this film were often extreme. Some really loved it and some were repulsed by it, but I did not hear anyone say it was boring or average. We are also fortunate to have a second presenter, Michael DeMeritt, join us.  Michael has been a producer, writer & director on numerous film and television projects over the last 20 years. He is a member of the Director’s Guild of America and has served as assistant director on such well known series as LA Law, Star Trek: Voyager and Star Trek: Enterprise. He has won numerous awards including an Emmy recognition certificate for special effects and currently resides in Los Angeles.  Michael will be adding another dimension to the film analysis, namely an inside perspective on film making. Why has there been so much written about this film?  Why does it provoke such polar and polarizing reactions?  Why do some of us love this film and why do so many of us hate it?  Let’s find out.  Let’s dive into the archetypal themes of the dark feminine, twinship, the shadow and anima/animus. Let’s look into the film from an alchemical perspective to understand the nature of transformation and finally let’s compare this film to Jung’s real life confrontation with the unconscious as described in the Red Book. I look forward to Friday and I hope you can join us. – Dan Ross (Seminar Presenter) [Click here for Registration Page on Upcoming Seminar]

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Black Swan and Being a “Good Enough Therapist”

I am watching more films, reading more film reviews, and using my 3-D glasses (2-D plus Depth Psychology) in anticipation of the August 26, 2011 conference Transformation of the Black Swan (register at http://ashevillejungcenter.org/upcoming-events/black-swann/bsregistration/ ). I started reading the latest issue of Spring: A Journal of Archetype and Culture with the film reviews in the back. The entire issue that is devoted to Home and the Wanderer.  It is an extraordinary compilation that you will not regret owning. As an exercise, I began reading Spring from back to front.  I don’t just mean that I started with the last item in the table of contents, which I did.  I started with the last sentence of each article and proceeded to the next to the last sentence, then the one before that and so on and so on until I reached the first sentence in the review.  Those familiar with Martin Amis’s Time’s Arrow will appreciate the intriguing Alice in Wonderland results that ensued.  I began with Dr. Glen Slater’s review of The King’s Speech. Reading it from back to front, I was moved from pure, distilled insights to the first sentence that could double as a movie tagline “The King’s Speech is the story of how a stuttering monarch-in-the-making faces his fears and ascends to the British throne to rally the empire at the start of World War II.” . Dr. Terry Waddell’s review of Black Swan was next.  This review was as compelling when I read it back to front when I subsequently read it in the customary direction.  The experience reminded me of watching two violinists playing Mozart’s Table Duets.  Waddell’s film review was the catalyst I needed to finish watching the Black Swan. (I had been unsuccessful twice before).  The following excerpt begins with the last sentence of Waddell’s review and reverses time’s arrow. “It is already here for us to find in the confusion of being.  Nothing is really missing.  There is no illusive someone or something out there that needs to be grasped in order to feel unbroken.  and her’s what I found to be thrust of Black Swan.  Reaching out to others as if they can provide a more adequate identity – and by extension a sense of wholeness – exacts a damaging toll.  Nina is even more incapable of disciplining the archetypal challenges that arise to shift her into the next gear of maturity.  That certain artistic (and dare I add educational) institutions thrive on this message is destructive.  That we are often socially coerced into perpetual want is unfortunate.  If mindfully living in self-appreciation carries with it a feeling of sufficiency, I’m all for that but striving for an illusive state of perfect inner/outer alignment implies that we lack, we are inadequate, we will never be enough. Life is a relentlessly messy process.  We are too, necessarily unique, complex, and fragmented to ver realistically imagine ourselves as complete.  This obsessive search for wholeness, as perfection or the individuated state, potentially leads to the antithesis of this goal.” The line between concepts like self-improvement and the neurotic pursuit of perfection grows indistinct these days.  A frequent sight across the United States are cars with bumper stickers proclaiming “My son (daughter) is an honor student at _______ Elementary School”.  Vacuous and excessive praise poured upon unsuspecting children by well intentioned parents does not achieve the desired goal of building self esteem.  However, it does invite two insidious results.  It robs youngsters of the vitally important experience of working hard on a sustained basis to attain a reward.  And another malevolent effect is that such messages inculcate, at an early age, the idea that our worth correlates with our nearness to perfection. Waddell interprets the Black Swan through a lens of the relentless pursuit of perfection.  Marion Woodman’s Addiction to Perfection comes to mind and Waddell quotes her in his review.  Waddell asserts that the project of unending self-betterment will never be enough. The film review made the film more approachable and I began to recognize Nina’s struggle with certain universal themes. My first impressions of Black Swan was that this film was a dark tale about the world of dance, sexual exploitation, and a descent into madness with a bit of gratuitous sex thrown in.  But with Waddell’s help, I finished watching the movie. I watched Nina becoming lost in the boundary between a story portrayed and a story lived.  Now the peril of perfection declared itself.  Seeking to embody both the white swan and the black swan proved too much.  This conjunctio, taken to excess, leads to Nina’s self-destruction.  The performer cannot allow a character they portray to establish a permanent residence in the psyche.  That “All the world’s stage. And all men and women merely players” serves to remind us that there are roles and there are actors who play these roles.  We do well to keep them distinct. Waddell suggests that “This obsessive search for wholeness, as perfection or the individuated state, potentially leads to the antithesis of this goal”.  It is easy to succumb to the demon of endless self-betterment, individuation, and wholeness.  But like Nina, that may be a path leading to perdition.  It may be that we serve best when we put aside the inclination to do our “best” work with our clients and embrace the possibility that good enough therapy, like good enough mothering, may be more helpful than unleashing the destructive power of our own pursuit of perfection as therapists. I am still struggling with Black Swan. I hope the conference on August 26 illuminates something about my revulsion to this movie.  Meanwhile, Waddell’s film review along with Daniel Ross’s review on this blog site at (  http://ashevillejungcenter.org/2011/02/black-swan/ ) provided a needed foundation for me persevere and finish watching Black Swan. There is still time to register for the August 26th seminar http://ashevillejungcenter.org/upcoming-events/black-swann/bsregistration/ .  While you are doing that consider purchasing a copy of the current issue of Spring: A Journal of Archetype and Culture at ( http://www.springjournalandbooks.com/cgi-bin/ecommerce/ac/agora.cgi?ppinc=1a&product=Spring_Journal_Subscriptions ). Len Cruz

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Red Riding Hood: A New Twist

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

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True Grit- The Archetypal Realm of the Old West

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.

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Helen Mirren’s Prospera & Lessons on Crafting the Persona

Helen Miren’s portrayal of Prospera in The Tempest was recently featured in the Life & Arts section of the Financial Times (http://tinyurl.com/48tx2pg).  The film adaptation by Julie Taymor gender-bends the roles and Mirren delivers Prospero’s famous line: “Our revels now are ended.  These our actors, As I foretold you, were all spirits and Are melted into air, into thin air…”. No doubt Helen Mirren’s Prospera injected something quite different into Shakespeare’s character and it was Mirren’s idea to flip the genders.  So what has this to do with Jung’s concept of persona? In Jung’s Map of the Soul: An Introduction Murray Stein discussion of shadow and persona makes these two rich, complicated contents of psyche approachable.  He likens shadow and persona to twins that “… are usually more or less opposites of one another…”  Persona is a complex that “… possesses considerable autonomy and is not under the full control of the ego.  Once in role, the actor rattles off his or her lines willy-nilly and often without much consciousness”.  But Mirren took a traditionally male role and breathed her own special, evocative spirit into Prospero and it became Prospera. In this liminal domain, where actors impose a higher than usual degree of intentionality, where there is a descent into a well crafted character, we may gain insights about individuation as it relates to the persona. According to Dr. Stein “The persona makes casual social interaction go more easily…”  Jung acknowledges that while we are not all “multiple personalities” we do show “traces of character splitting” (Jung, Coll Wks., Vol.6, par.799.).   There is some fluidity to the degree of identification the ego has with different roles it plays.  Stein notes that role identification is “…  generally motivated by ambition and social aspiration”.  It seems that the ego does not deliberately chose to identify with a particular persona but this is where Helen Mirren’s portrayal of Prospera informs us of a new possibility. Dr.  Stein notes that there a two pitfalls that can occur in the development of the persona, over-identification that involves undue adaptation to the social world and the failure to pay enough attention to the external object world thereby becoming too involved with the inner world.  He goes on to point out that with age, new personas appear.  But this suggests a passive process. Perhaps that is all we can hope for, that our persona might keep pace with the changing demands of life, our own aging process, and the changing demands of society.  But  if Helen Mirren can shed new light on Prospero, then I have hope of injecting new life into the character of Len. Persona is a complex and therefore, easy to relegate to the domains governed by unconscious forces.  But let me attempt to illuminate persona with conscious intention.  The actor must strike a balance between her own personality and the portrayal of the character she plays.  We may use a similar approach to work upon our persona.  Beyond the passive appearance of the persona lies our capacity to craft the persona like actors do.  Such an enterprise may promote the process of individuation. What I am proposing is reminiscent of the effort by ego-psychologists to extend classical psychoanalytic theory.  We can endeavor, through conscious, intentional effort, to fashion a persona informed by other analytic work. On March 31, 2011, Dr. Murray Stein will present “Caring for the Soul: An Introduction to Jungian Psychotherapy for Patients & Therapists”.  For more information http://ashevillejungcenter.org/upcoming-events/ .  Whether or not you expect to attend the conference you will find Dr. Stein’s book, Jung’s Map of the Soul: An Introduction a valuable resource for understanding Jung’s extensive body of writings.  In the introduction to the book, Dr. Stein quotes one of my favorite authors (therefore the dual translation): “You could timidly explore the coasts of Africa to the south, but going west there was nothing except fear, the unknown, not “our sea” but the Sea of Mystery, Mare Ignotum.” Carlos Fuentes  The Buried Mirror “Se podía explorar tímidamente las costas de África hacia el sur, pero hacia el oeste no había nada más que miedo, no «nuestro mar» sino el Mar de Misterio, Mare Ignotum.” Carlos Fuentes  El espejo enterrado Se  encuentra la primera parte del libro “El Mapa del Alma Según Jung” INVITATION Please share your comments and insights about the idea of intentional crafting the persona in the manner of an actor. Len Cruz, MD

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Black Swan – A Film’s Descent into Darkness

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.

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Rafael López-Pedraza: in Memoriam

Rafael López-Pedraza: in Memoriam (adapted from http://tiny.cc/a3pub ) On January 10, 2011, Rafael López-Pedraza passed away in Caracas, at the age of 90 years.  He was one of the most original Jungian analysts of our time. His books are replete with emergent images that contain a constant invitation to recreate the scope of psychology and psyche. His body of work formed, next to Adolf Guggenbühl-Craig and James Hillman, the outpost of a method of understanding the human soul that has been described by some, as its own school within the Jungian tradition. He was born in Santa Clara, Cuba and immigrated to Zürich in 1962 where he remained until 1974.  He did is psychoanalytic training at the C. G. Jung Institute of Zürich and he was an analysand of James Hillman. His books have been translated into English and they include:
  • 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
He is one of those authors who will continue to be discovered, recognized, and eventually deeply appreciated by an enlarging public. Len Cruz, MD

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Fall Conference in New Mexico: “Civilization in Transition”

“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**

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Home and Archetype: A Review of “At Home in the World”

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.

At Home in the World

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 House of Jung

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. Invitation 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
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