Confession: secundus

Confession: secundus

As explained in my last post The Psychological Practice of Confession I have committed to an annual public confession. My first such confession was made at the end of last year (2018)[1]. This is my second annual confession. I won’t restate the reasoning behind these confessions here, which would be redundant given my prior post. However, there are a few issues I want to emphasise prior to the confession.

This is done both for the purposes of providing an example of confession to students commencing on the Nigredo Programme and as an act of personal catharsis. Although I choose to confess publicly in this fashion, I don’t suggest it to the reader. Your choice of master confessor (who hears your confession) and the forum and space in which you confess is as important as the confession itself. I do not recommend wholesale, unconsidered confession, which can as easily cause harm to you and to those you confess to as do any good. This is an act of profound honesty and vulnerability and it is essential that it is done in a safe, contained, confidential and held space, to someone able to hear your confession with compassion and wisdom.

I won’t speak here of my own reasons, beyond what I have already stated, for doing this publicly. Not because these are secret, but simply because they would be too much of a digression from the focus of this post, my actual confession.

One last, not unimportant, point to tackle before the confession is this, how do I expect you the reader to read and react to this post. Typically, this is not something I focus on in my writing, I write as I choose to, and you naturally respond in the same fashion. However, I would be dishonest if I did not confess that it strikes me there may be something disingenuous in this act of confession. I am selling an idea: individuation. And not just any path to individuation, but one in which I have crafted much of the architecture.[2] I believe in this regard that the relative neophyte encountering the Centre and our programmes may have a reasonable expectation and motivation for doing them, which is an improved quality of life! Why else, after all, would one embark on such a practice, if its ultimate destination is not a better life?

If that is indeed your expectation, which I can only assume it is, reading this might give you pause. My life right now and for the last few years is not a pretty one. I am not saying it has not included moments of euphoric joy, even ecstasy, and sublime beauty, on the contrary, it has. But simultaneously there has been much suffering to the point of anguish and no shortage of ugliness. It is these, the pain, suffering, duplicity and anguish my confession will focus on. These are the grist in the mill of confession as a practice, this is confession after all not poetry. In that sense, at least prima facie, these confessions hardly constitute an ideal poster advert for the practice of individuation. However, my faith here is that honestly outweighs any act of inauthentic idealization. And that, those truly drawn to this work, have an innate understanding that it is not individuation per se, but the human condition itself that contains suffering. Consciousness, meaning and individuation are the practice of making sense of, mythologizing and ultimately finding meaning in the experience of our humanity. They do not offer an escape from the human condition, if anything they draw us deeper into it.

With that said, let me proceed to the purpose of this post, my confession.

Confession

I live in a country that is deeply polarized. These polarizations include the typical economic divide between the haves and have-nots that divide people all over the world. Money is so deeply ingrained in our collective psyche and symbolically significant that to some degree I think the adage of it being the source of all evil, is not without truth. I was reminded of this a few years ago, when my two sons, then both prepubescent, firmly agreed – itself unusual that they should agree on anything, they wished to return to a time in the world before money was invented.[3] My late teacher, de Chatillon Coque, or simply “The Duke” as we referred to him, was fond of saying money is to the outer world, what memory is to the inner, and without access to both forms of currency individuation would remain elusive. I have come to think the new “primal scene” – classically in Freudian psychoanalysis, realizing your parents have sex, is no longer sexual but monetary! It is the first time you get a sense of your parent’s bank balance and how this impacts your sense of self and social standing.

Without getting into an ideological debate about it, whatever your personal view of capitalism may be, what is axiomatic is that relative wealth is a divisive issue. No more so than in South Africa, where social status is inextricably linked to material wealth.  In a country with wide scale unemployment, homelessness and poverty, contrasted with obscene wealth in the hands of a few, an emergent class of nouveau riche and those still enjoying the benefits of historical racial privilege, this is a problem. When governmental corruption and incompetence, an eroding national infrastructure and a socio-political narrative that remains stuck in laying the blame for the countries problems on the fast shrinking enclave of whites left in the country, are added into the mix, polarization, factionalism and racism becomes the rhetoric of universal destruction.

It was within this social milieu that I recently spent a weekend away with a friend of mine, who happens to be black.[4] This was an unusual event for me, both because I have very few friends and among those, even fewer black friends. These few days together were cause for celebration, for at risk of indulging in the very thing I will shortly decry, in my limited experience, my black friends are more real, down-to-earth, genuine and warmer than white people typically are. In my not inconsiderable experience, most white people in this country are assholes. Into which class I must regrettably, firmly locate myself. Nevertheless it is not the virtues of either whites or blacks that I wish to here extol, but how I shamed myself in the course of the inevitably politicized rhetoric of our interaction, as occurs with every cross-racial interaction in this country, or if not every, certainly a good portion of them.

In this instance, during our time together, my friend, who will remain unnamed, indulged in various instances of unsubtle white shaming rhetoric. To be honest, I didn’t really take exception to that. I think an inability to laugh at oneself, even to the point of enduring caricature, is cause for suspicion. Here I think we need to stand against the oppressiveness of political correctness and not treat either ourselves or others as sacred cows. However, equally frankly, let me state I did not return the jocularity for fear of causing offence. The more painful issue though was not that as much as my inability or lack of willingness, or a bit of both, to speak out when the topic of local and national politics inevitably came up. Here, my friend in certainly not atypical fashion, indulged in the politics of blame. Blame the white guy that is, in case that wasn’t obvious. My impression, and I could be wrong, but all the same, is this sort of displacing responsibility for the catastrophic failures of the majority black government, over the last quarter century, on historical white privilege, apartheid, colonialism et al. is de rigueur among the contemporary black youth and intelligentsia in South Africa.

The obvious problem with this is not so much that whites are not to blame for many of the country’s ills, no doubt they were and continue to be, although obviously to lesser extent today. It is rather that an attitude of finger pointing, is designed, consciously or unconsciously, to displace personal responsibility. It is the oldest psychoanalytic and ideological tool in the book. If we locate the enemy out there and focus our criticism on him, we can divert our gaze from our own folly. This attitude as history teaches us, rarely produces any constructive long-term solutions. It merely acts as a kind of ideological anti-depressant, I’m not so bad, if only I wasn’t married to/sharing a home/or in this case, country, with this bastard. It doesn’t actually solve anything.[5] It merely keeps the subject ensconced in the myth of it-is-not-I-who-is-responsible-but-the-other-who-is-not-me.

The other problem with this scapegoating is it is little fun, not too put too fine a point on it, to be the scapegoat. Some of this blame, is no doubt, legitimate and fairly laid at our (white) doorstep, more I think, than most white people are willing to concede. But much of it is also in service of an ill-conceived ideology of displacement and obfuscation of the true socio-economic and political challenges the country faces: poor governance, nepotism, corruption, incompetence, greed, a culture of violence, lack of foresight and absence of ubuntu[6]. This leads to an ever-shrinking enclave of whiteness, moving ever closer to the ocean with a close eye to any available points of departure. It would not be going too far to say there are moments when as a white person, I genuinely fear an outbreak of genocidal violence. It is an anxiety inducing state of existence. Against this, I find in myself a perverse sense of patriotism that in my heart of hearts vilifies those who have abandoned this beautiful country.

My confession is this, given every opportunity to speak out and express these views to my friend, a reasonably close friend, someone well educated and with no lack of perspicuity, in the most congenial of possible environments and interactions, I failed to express an alternate view to this chronically constipated mythologem of white-blame. It is not that I am so naïve as to think this would change my interlocutor’s perspective and open his eyes to “The Truth”. It is rather more modestly that it is essential we all speak the, or at least our, truth. Not to, is to be deservedly trodden underfoot of those ignorant of our truth for our failure to express it. [7]

Why did I not speak out, you may reasonably ask?

Truthfully, I don’t know. I can speculate though.

For one, I am a poor rhetorician. This is a consequence of years of holding myself above muddying my immaculate conceptual apparatus through engaging in discourse with the plebeians. I have spent a lifetime in aloof silent judgment of the utterances of my peers in social settings. Typically leaving social gatherings unnurtured and frustrated from my lack of willingness to engage in the messy provisional and often absurd discussions one encounters in such settings. In addition to a lifetime of solitary frustration and solipsistic inflation, it has consequently left me effectively dumb. When I do finally open my mouth to speak, instead of the sublime utterances of the oracle, I always took myself to be, an untrained ineloquent imbecile painfully tries to articulate a few coherent thoughts. Tragically it turns out not to be like the fine wine I took it to be, maturing every year in its corked bottle into an ever finer vintage. On the contrary, speaking, it turns out, is a skill that like any other does not improve from disuse.

I am apathetic. Like many who can trace their ancestry back to the Mediterranean, I suffer the folly of “mañana, mañana…”, never seeking to do today, what is better left until tomorrow. My disposition is that God will provide anything provident fate overlooks.  The virtue of action and hard work evident in the Anglo-Saxon soul is in woefully short supply in mine.

To some degree the above reasons, whilst not untrue, obfuscate the deeper and more painful reason, I am a coward. Well, on even further reflection[8]…. I guess I would have to say I am both lazy and a coward, and these two vices facilitate each other. Nevertheless, it is my cowardice I want to speak of here. [9]

To put it in simple terms, I am scared to speak out. I am afraid that should I speak out about the corruption, poor governance, greed and collapse of that once great bastion of South African hope: the ANC, pervasive anti-white sentiment and racism – and here frankly, I don’t give a fuck if you tell me its not racism, because it is, I will be vilified. I literally fear for the safety of myself and my family. To be clear, not because I am a public voice, I’m not[10],  but I am white (or whitish anyway, with a goodish smear of olive 😊) and I have no plans to make a break for distant shores in the near future. So I survive – not thrive mind you, but survive, by keeping my head down and not kicking up a fuss, definitely not by alienating the few black friends I do have, who no doubt will rescue me from the pyre should that fateful day arrive.

Were I to ever leave this country, mine would be the loudest voice lambasting the mess South Africa has been allowed to descend into. You see from the safety of distance, were I, for example, to be gifted with a green card to Trump’s dystopian but fully walled version of the American nightmare, I think I would find my voice. But over here, amid the maelstrom, it strikes me that circumspection is the better part of valor. Or at least that is the shit I tell myself to cover up my cowardice.

Lest my strategic and nauseating disposition of turning my coat to the wind is not yet fully illuminated, let me add some colour into the mix, so as not to paint too one sided and white a picture. This ironic and implacable poker face of mine not only remains undisturbed in the face of white vilification. Equally, I should add, in the not too distant past, finding myself at the home of a relative whose friends referred to black people with a disparaging term, not the K word, but a neologism of similar ilk, I said nothing. Not a peep, not even a raised eyebrow. I was content to sit quietly and sip my beer waiting with eager anticipation for the fillets to come off the braai (barbeque). Admittedly these were by reputation fillets of rare distinction, but was my soul a tradable commodity? (Is it, I might ask?) And for the price of a meal and the hope of a return invite? You wouldn’t think so, would you? But alas, apparently it is, and for a relatively low price, at least, measured on a cosmic scale.

Alas, I must confess, without exception, I choose expediency over principle. I am willing to prostitute myself for thirty pieces of silver every time.

An unfortunate state of affairs to be sure. And if my personal pathology is in any way indicative of the national one, short term expediency and comfort over long term principles and values, it possibly affords some insight into why our national psyche is in the state it is.  A sad betrayal of the blood shed by true South African patriots for the ideal of a democratic, non-racist, non-sexist nation that could and for a moment was a global exemplar.

Balance of the 2019 confession  

It would seem, in line with my Machiavellian nature, I have tarried too long on this single issue and left little time for other more personal and painful issues that should be confessed for this confession to be complete. However, at this point I do not wish to indulge on your generous time and attention overmuch. I intend to be brief with what follows, nevertheless, needs must and let me say a little about the balance of my year.  

As I mentioned in the introduction, the last few years of my life have not been easy. About five years ago my life, humble as it may have been, had reached a zenith of sorts. It was the fruit of about fifteen years of concerted effort in a single direction. I had achieved a degree of comfort, security, independence, family, community, love and even meaning. And so, I did what any self-respecting red-blooded man of middle age does, I separated from my wife of two decades and took up with a younger woman.

Bliss, you might think, naturally ensued. Well yes, there have been moments, but quite unexpectedly, a few challenges as well!

For one, in falling in love with this angel, this sublime muse of Dionysian delight and Apollonian insight, this gorgeous goddess, I had set the bar maybe a few notches higher than I was able or had the right to reach. Keeping up with her over the last few years, has not always been easy.  
Simultaneously, my ex-wife, in the face of what so often leads to acrimony, displayed a grace, nobility of spirit and generosity of heart, for which I am and will forever be deeply indebted and am no doubt unworthy.

Despite these two paragons of feminine virtue, each in her own way, offering me love, compassion, kindness and selflessness, through this challenging time, I can attest that divorce and abandoning one’s family is not for the faint hearted. I can attest to a fair degree of consequent suffering, at least in my own case.  My experience has been a little like these sublime prose of pathos from Jonathan Safran Foer.

He awoke each morning with the desire to do right, to be a good and meaningful person, to be, as simple as it sounded and as impossible as it actually was, happy. And during the course of each day his heart would descend from his chest into his stomach. By early afternoon he was overcome by the feeling that nothing was right, or nothing was right for him, and by the desire to be alone. By evening he was fulfilled: alone in the magnitude of his grief, alone in his aimless guilt, alone even in his loneliness. I am not sad, he would repeat to himself over and over, I am not sad. As if he might one day convince himself. Or fool himself. Or convince others–the only thing worse than being sad is for others to know that you are sad. I am not sad. I am not sad. Because his life had unlimited potential for happiness, insofar as it was an empty white room. He would fall asleep with his heart at the foot of his bed, like some domesticated animal that was no part of him at all. And each morning he would wake with it again in the cupboard of his rib cage, having become a little heavier, a little weaker, but still pumping. And by the mid-afternoon he was again overcome with the desire to be somewhere else, someone else, someone else somewhere else. I am not sad.”[11]

I am I confess both Catholic and of Lebanese descent, meaning I have an unusual capacity for suffering and self-pity. My family surname ‘Farah’ literally translates as “joy”. I have been given to wonder on more than one occasion whether this name designation was a sincere evaluation of my paternal family’s disposition, which frequently tends to the morbid, or something more ironic in intention. On my mother’s side- from the robust stock but profoundly melancholic nation the Afrikaners, things are little better. There are three generations of suicides- the last three generations that is, I’m not sure about those that came before that: my maternal grandfather, my aunt – my mom’s youngest sister, and, last year, my brother. My nephew too, has confessed to me that on more than one occasion, as a child, I kid you not, as a fucking child (!), he seriously considered taking his own life.

This brings me to possibly my greatest single confession of last year: as mentioned, I lost my younger brother, Michael. He committed suicide on the 4th of June last year after losing an extended battle with chronic anxiety, depression and substance abuse. [12] He was my only surviving family member; I lost my parents about a decade or so ago. I loved the man, I loved him as much as it is possible to love another human being and losing him has broken my heart. I am angry at him for the way he left us, but also appreciate that his pathology had reached a point of no return.

Whilst it would be untrue to say I wasn’t a good brother, I was or at least grew into one, I was possibly not the brother he needed. Somehow my presence in his life not only did not aid him, but in some sense undid him. I’m not sure why exactly. I could be wrong about this, maybe it is inflated of me to take responsibility for his fate, but if I am to be completely candid that is the sense I get. Worse than that, I was a pretty crappy older brother, when we were kids. We grew up in adverse circumstances, not the most adverse to be sure, but not ideal. Both our parents, God rest their respective souls, were alcoholics. And in that milieu of intermittent trauma and chronic anxiety, an older brother that gave a good goddamn would have served him well. Alas that was not me – selfish was my creed, in both thought and deed.

Once, and I’ll never forget this as long as I live, I had my older cousin Jodee, who I always looked up to, over at our childhood home. And, for some reason I can no longer recall, I had organised breakfast. I’m not sure where my parents were on the day. Anyway, as we sat around the table eating our modest fare -cereal or some such, Michael asked for a second helping. I either ignored him or made some brusque remark as I often would, finding him mostly a nuisance in the presence of my older peers. He repeated his request in some earnest, saying something to the effect of, “please Stephen, I am hungry, can I have some more food?” Now this was a kid of maybe seven or eight at the time. I was either pubescent or just pre-pubescent, the older by six years. Our home situation wasn’t great, and it was to me he turned hoping for some civility, some care and if I could fucking squeeze some out of my stony heart, some brotherly love.

I’ll never forget my reply. Firstly, I laughed at him, and then jocularly, replied, “You’re still hungry hey? What do you think this is, the Salvation Army?”, i.e. get your own fucking food! Delighted as I was with my razor-sharp wit I returned to gabbing with my cousin and friends and to the avaricious consumption of my own meal.

There are only a few moments in my life that I feel real shame for. This is one of those.

Last year, whilst Michael was in a local rehab, his counselor called me in to have a joint session with him. It was obviously uncomfortable, and my conscience was troubled by what might be raised in the session. As it turns out nothing of significance was, and the counselor was not perhaps yet all that adept at reaching beyond the usual textbook drivel. It was something of a non-event. Nevertheless, there was moment, an opportunity for some redemption by confessing and apologising for what a shitty older brother I was when he most needed me. I mumbled something vague and incoherent but failed to seize the moment and come clean about this and apologise as was right to. I didn’t. I missed my chance and although things were already very bad by that point, who knows what my honesty may have done.

I hope if you take something away from this confession, besides the  inspiration to tackle your own confession – which I hope you will, it is a reminder not to miss the chance to speak up and share with others your most deeply held and heartfelt beliefs and feelings.

Speak your truth!

Carpe diem, my brothers and sisters, carpe fucking diem!

There is a lot of other shit that happened last year and the preceding years that I need to confess. This is not the place for it though, I have imposed upoun your grace and generosity of attention already overmuch.

I humbly thank you for hearing my confession and am in your debt for doing so.

Very respectfully yours,

Stephen Anthony Farah.

Nigredo 2020 is now open for registration!


[1] Official public confession that is, naturally as anyone who writes will tell you, everything you write is a confession of one form or another.

[2] I am the head of learning for the Centre for Applied Jungian Studies.

[3] Some years later, my younger son Teague, malleable to the reality principle, is now a firmly committed capitalist and is planning his future economic conquests.

[4] As opposed to “white”, rather than “African”. All of us living permanently in this country are, by definition, Africans. 

[5] The Nats (the previous regime) did this to limited effect during the hight of apartheid, by setting up “die Rooi Gevaar” – the Red Danger, i.e. the communists, as the source of all local unrest.

[6] “Zulu pronunciation: [ùɓúntʼù]) is a Nguni Bantu term meaning “humanity.” It is often translated as “I am because we are,” or “humanity towards others,” but is often used in a more philosophical sense to mean “the belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity.”

In Southern Africa, it has come to be used as a contested term for a kind of humanist philosophy, ethic, or ideology, also known as Ubuntuism propagated in the Africanisation (transition to majority rule) process of these countries during the 1980s and 1990s.

Since the transition to democracy in South Africa with the Nelson Mandela presidency in 1994, the term has become more widely known outside of Southern Africa, notably popularised to English-language readers through the ubuntu theology of Desmond Tutu.Tutu was the chairman of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), and many have argued that ubuntu was a formative influence on the TRC.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ubuntu_philosophy

[7] In line with, in my opinion, Jordan Peterson’s most inspiring monologue For the record I am no fan, but this short monologue was exceptionally good and deserves credit and citation. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kkiv10F3THI

[8] I went out to water my garden and check on the swimming pool pump, after writing the previous sentence, so had some time tor reflect. This is itself a confession, because I have little idea of whether watering the garden with municipal water is permitted at this time. We have strict water usage restrictions in place after suffering a terrible drought in the region two years ago, although we (The Western Cape) have made some recovery, restrictions remain in place.

[9] Read more, Living Courageously: a guide for the coward https://appliedjung.com/living-courageously/

[10] Trust me if you’re reading this post, have read to this point this point, read the footnote(!), and happen to be South African, you’re in very small percentile!

[11] Jonathan Safran Foer, Everything Is Illuminated

[12] https://appliedjung.com/michael/

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Comments (44)

  • Deborah A Trivin Reply

    Hey Stephan, that is all a very moving confession. I feel you there. Thank you, Sir, for such a sincere share.

    January 6, 2020 at 16:49
    • Stephen Farah Reply

      And, thank you for your kind words and reception of it Deborah.

      January 6, 2020 at 21:01
  • Beate Reply

    Hi Stephen! As to the white-black issue, I would like to comment because I have, over the Christmas holidays done some personal work in that field, too. Thus, I would like to recommend some reading: Firstly, James Baldwin who is an African American writer exploring race relations from the black perspective in the US in the 1960s in his book ‘Nobody knows my name’. (Check Wikipedia). His insights are so deep – and so relevant for SA today – that we can safely call him an ‘honorable Jungian’. Secondly, Judith Herman ‘Trauma and Recovery’ (available on the Internet); her trauma analysis is so comprehensive and knowledgeable that I would call her the ‘June Singer of trauma analysis’. We need to understand that we as white people have a historic legacy that cannot be explained away looking at the last 25 years or so. I understood that trauma runs deep and is passed on from generation to generation… and finds expression today among others in the rage that we see all around us, especially in the young men. I also find that the deeper I dig within myself the more constructive (and honest) I am able to discuss these issues with my black friends.

    January 8, 2020 at 12:53
    • Stephen Farah Reply

      Thank for these thoughts Beate. I have been a fan of James Baldwin’s writing for many years and often reference him in my own teaching. I agree we live in a society with profound historical trauma and you’re right these things are not healed in a single generation. That said, I think we need to get on with the business of healing and not perpetuating further trauma.

      January 8, 2020 at 14:29
    • mesoulgarden Reply

      Thank you for your suggestions, Beate

      January 10, 2020 at 00:54
  • Savina Redpath Reply

    Didn’t get to finish reading it Stephen, it was just too painful. Your English is way above me and probably for most!! You are very brave to be so honest about your cowardly self, something that most of us would not admit. I personally will not make any confession about my dark side as it is something that I have been able to integrate and accept at this stage of my life and I am quite content with who I am. Maybe when you get to my age you will make the same transition 😅 I accept what’s going on in our country, yes it’s certainly not all good but it is what it is and if we white people were really that concerned we would all take action rather than remain apathetic and just complain. The easy option is to leave for those that can but I realize that at this stage of my life I really have no option and I personally don’t think the worst either. I don’t believe that I can run away from destiny and the truth is that I live in the moment and don’t live with fear. I don’t live behind electric fencing, anyone can jump over my wall and I don’t have dogs that will alert me to some impending danger. I am a free spirit, live joyously and I am very happy. The sun shines, I am in love with myself, with life and in return I am rewarded with Love and good health. What more do I need, I have given up trying to control the outcome to certain situations that I have no control of. C’est la Vie. And lastly don’t be so hard on yourself, you are great just as you are and for those like myself who’s English is not so good you could write more simply 🙏❤️

    January 8, 2020 at 18:05
    • Stephen Farah Reply

      Savina no one ever accused me of saying simply, what could be spoken in more sesquipedalian terms. 🙂 I very much appreciate your comment and thoughts. I respect your courageous attitude and that you hold your head high and approach life with a full heart, notwithstanding our social challenges. It is true I am still very much in process in terms of integrating my shadow. I am committed to the Jungian journey of individuation and have been for some time now. I believe it is something that will continue for the rest of my life. I see it more in terms of a practice than destination. Finally with respect to your comment about destiny, my favorite thought on destiny comes from Nathan Algren in The Last Samurai.

      Katsumoto: You believe a man can change his destiny?
      Nathan Algren: l think a man does what he can until his destiny is revealed to him.

      January 9, 2020 at 09:53
  • Hilary Stoddart Reply

    Thank you for your confession. And I did read to the end and all the footnotes. Smile!

    January 9, 2020 at 08:35
    • Stephen Farah Reply

      Thank you Hilary, I’m seriously impressed! Let me guess, you were one of those kids at school who actually did her homework! 🙂

      January 9, 2020 at 12:43
      • Karen Sparks Reply

        I read the post and right to the end as well. Yes. Lol. I usually did all my homework but what I want to add is that I read this now out of pure interest. I did homework out of a different space!!! Your honesty is encouraging as I step into a New Year and Nigredo. Thank you for being an example

        January 9, 2020 at 23:49
        • Stephen Farah Reply

          Welcome to the Nigredo programme Karen! I wish is that it will be a profoundly transformational process for you.

          All the best to you for this new decade!

          January 16, 2020 at 10:25
  • Juliet Smith Reply

    Thank you Stephen for modeling individuation through your confession. This is so helpful, encouraging and thought provoking. Juliet

    January 9, 2020 at 11:43
    • Stephen Farah Reply

      Thank you so much Juliet, I really appreciate the feedback and am very pleased you found the post worthwhile.

      January 9, 2020 at 12:42
  • Kobus Meyburgh Reply

    Thank you Stephen. Your confession is having a great impact on me and I appreciate your courage, vulnerability, and example. Onwards we go, a gradual awakening, a restful sigh.

    January 9, 2020 at 11:46
    • Stephen Farah Reply

      Thank you Kobus. And let me take this opportunity to wish you a conscious, meaningful and individuating new decade. If you can indulge some mirth, your comment about “onward we go”, makes me think of one of my favorite film lines, spoken by Buzz Lightyear (from Toy Story). His very limited phraseology, includes the wonderful line, “to infinity and beyond,” which I have now adapted as: to individuation and beyond! 🙂

      January 9, 2020 at 12:41
  • Annie Parry Reply

    Stephen Farah,
    I write my response with an intuition/ understanding from your writing that you haven’t really exposed vulnerability in this confession., and that it is more of a teaching aid, hence I am being direct with views, and not attuning as I would if you were a client.

    I am interested in the proclamation of cowardice as a justification of maintaining an ‘unjust’ status quo.

    I’m not interested in a debate to agree definition of injustice as in the context I have constructed it’s usually intrinsic in the belief system of the one using the ‘I am a coward’ approach.

    This particular approach/confession, it seems to me is an attempt to swing around the view (of listener or reader) to seeing the self confessed coward in a compassionate light; thereby reducing the attention from the subject at the centre of the event, condition or ongoing process against which the awareness of ‘’I am a coward “ has stood out!

    After the awareness and confession/proclamation of the feeling of cowardice ie impulse and maybe habit of always preserving self image/safety of reputation etc at whatever cost to others, a pause is the useful, desirable or even essential.

    Unless there reflection, self- witnessing, or similar practise, no change in behaviour occurs and insight brings no transformation ~ then this proclamation is an insult to those whose suffering could be alleviated by your welcoming of shadow material, and summoning and invoking courage and solidarity- (feeling fear perhaps) but choosing to stand with rather than separate.

    I find it repugnant. It is heard by me as having a ring of bravado ‘“look at me .. how wonderful I am for being so brave and vulnerable and claiming and showing my ugly cowardice”

    It is because included in your purpose, is a supposed teaching model of ‘confession’ that I write.

    Your self confessed propensity to self pity and enjoyment of psychological suffering, is manifest in this writing as you know.

    Psychological guilt does not have substance and therefore has no redemptive/healing potency.
    It’s just one of the frantic survival attempts that the ego has in its repertoire.
    Sincere examination of consciousness brings an alchemic change of heart essential for the development of compassion and the courage to be and express the nature of our shared being/ness.

    I’m using eclectic language from several decades of practise. I hope the meaning of my words reaches you enough for a conversation rather than analysis and play sword fencing 🙏🏻

    January 9, 2020 at 13:32
    • Stephen Farah Reply

      Annie, thank you for your thoughts and even more than that for your directness to the point of bluntness. I find this kind of honestly salutary and redemptive and would insist upoun nothing less, especially if you were my psychotherapist!
      I will split my response into what I agree with outright first and then offer some alternatives on your thoughts, which I think lend themselves to alternate interpretations.

      You say,
      “I am interested in the proclamation of cowardice as a justification of maintaining an ‘unjust’ status quo.”
      “I find it repugnant. It is heard by me as having a ring of bravado ‘“look at me .. how wonderful I am for being so brave and vulnerable and claiming and showing my ugly cowardice”
      “Your self-confessed propensity to self-pity and enjoyment of psychological suffering, is manifest in this writing as you know.”

      To the above I can only say I wholeheartedly agree and well said. As I read you, you are making the critique that the confession is self-serving, exhibitionistic and in these regards perpetuates and kind of undercurrent of narcissism. To this I must agree. These elements are present in the confession. However, I would offer that whilst these criticisms are definitely not invalid, they maybe suffer from being a little one-sided, and fail to recognise the confessional in its more redemptive aspects.
      The above said, you are not off the mark.

      Where I would offer some alternative interpretations is to the following comments:
      You say, “Unless there reflection, self- witnessing, or similar practice, no change in behaviour occurs and insight brings no transformation”
      What on earth is confession if not an act of “self-witnessing” and “reflection”?

      You say, “~ then this proclamation is an insult to those whose suffering could be alleviated by your welcoming of shadow material, and summoning and invoking courage and solidarity- (feeling fear perhaps) but choosing to stand with rather than separate.”

      To this please imagine me responding with a laconic grin.
      You no not whereof you speak. You seek to offend, but I will not take offense. You do not know me nor my journey, what I have endured nor whom I have stood with in solidarity. This “criticism” if that is what it is, if you’ll forgive my saying so, but seeing as we are speaking plainly, is hubris, unreflective and ignorant.

      Finally, to your comment “Psychological guilt does not have substance and therefore has no redemptive/healing potency.”
      I’m surprised to hear something so off the mark from a psychotherapist! Psychological guilt has no substance – really? Then what pray tell is the value of psychotherapy? Why not deny the substance of the entire psyche and be done with it?

      Beyond these few minor differences though we are in agreement and I thank you again for your comment and thoughts.

      January 9, 2020 at 17:03
      • Randy J Hillier Reply

        Dear Stephen,
        Because of being off work this week, I had the luxury of being able to spend a lot of time on the Application, and reading and reviewing comments on your Confession. What strikes me as a depth-oriented psychotherapist who has been in full-time practice for forty years, is that we listen to confessions all day long from our patients often disguised by a multitude of defenses. If one truly leans In and listens in to the confessor, in the telling of story there is both a blessing and curse for the listener. The art and true skill of an attuned recipient speaks to how to hold the confessional material, both validating it so it continues to breathe and grow and also recognizing the pruning process that might help the confessor see more clearly. In relationship how one offers feedback is essential to the confession’s experience in life itself.
        Randy Hillier

        January 17, 2020 at 22:14
        • Stephen Farah Reply

          Hi Randy thank you, both for these comments, which resonate, and for hearing my confession with wisdom and compassion. You clearly bring a depth of experience and sensitivity developed through your vocation and the countless confessions you have no doubt heard and held. It is an honour to have you join us on the Magnum Opus programme and I very much look forward to working with you.

          January 18, 2020 at 08:38
        • Victoria Hill Reply

          Thank you for these insights Randy J Hillier. Although not directed at me per se, they resonate strongly, and I believe I will be a better listener as a result. “The art and true skill of an attuned recipient speaks to how to hold the confessional material, both validating it so it continues to breathe and grow and also recognizing the pruning process that might help the confessor see more clearly.” Sadly, I have often been inclined to rush in with the shears, thereby silencing or at least cutting short the full value of the confession to the confessor. Perhaps, in the form of gentle questioning, I shall now take up a pair of secateurs instead, or, more blessedly, simply shut up and listen.

          January 24, 2020 at 12:22
    • mesoulgarden Reply

      What Annie said and I will add that I found it distractingly and self serving.
      I am deeply interested in the Nigredo particularly the Confession component and so looked forward to reading yours to help guide and inspire me to go deeper than I have gone before.
      This felt manipulative and almost political.
      I don’t think it was helpful to understanding the power and process of making Confession.
      I’m not a therapist I’m a Womyn who seeks to understand myself in ever deepening ways so although my language may not demonstrate professionalism it does reveal my heart.

      January 10, 2020 at 20:26
      • Stephen Farah Reply

        Noted and thank you for your thoughts ‘mesoulgarden’. I hope you can find your own way into the practice that is cathartic and facilitates your individuation journey.

        January 11, 2020 at 09:59
  • Louise Krog Reply

    the rawness in this naked confession is beautiful to me. my soul hungers for this level of honesty and reading it was like drinking cold water after a long dessert walk. vulnerability remain beautiful….thank you. I salute you!

    January 9, 2020 at 13:42
    • Stephen Farah Reply

      Thank you so much Louise. What a fantastic metaphor. I am deeply moved.

      January 9, 2020 at 16:22
  • Ann Thompson Reply

    I read through to the end plus the footnotes plus the comments and your responses, and I did do my homework as a student. 🙃
    Your confession moved me deeply. Thank you for your honesty. I read your first email about confession back in December and decided to use confession as the theme of my year-end letter to friends and family. My honesty prompted some amazingly honest responses and I am grateful to you for modeling this way of delving one layer (or maybe 2 or 3 layers) deeper into our shared communication.
    I did the Nigredo course last year and loved that challenging process. At 83 I am still walking on the curvy, rocky, sometimes joyful, sometimes treacherous path to individuation. It is a blast!

    January 9, 2020 at 14:17
    • Stephen Farah Reply

      Ann your comment has touched me deeply. I am more than pleased to hear the post in December was an inspiration to you and love what you did with it. It is truly inspirational to see someone like yourself of mature age, still so deeply committed to working on themselves. Your description of “the path” resonates.

      I bow deeply to you and am humbled in your presence.

      I want to share that, in symphony with your comment, Jung as an octogenarian said of himself ( I paraphrase), “I am greater mystery to myself now than I have ever been before.”

      January 9, 2020 at 16:20
  • Jayni Roxton-Wiggill Reply

    Stephen, hello. Baring one’s soul is an act of courage in itself. Wishing you well – and may 2020 be golden.

    January 9, 2020 at 15:18
    • Stephen Farah Reply

      Thank you Jayni. And wishing you a decade filled with connection, relatedness, meaning and the numinous.

      January 9, 2020 at 16:09
  • Deborah Bedford-Strohm Reply

    Dear Stephen, reading through your post, footnotes and replies I was formulating in my head that I read it all and not only did my homework but did it willingly and on my own. THEN I found Ann’s response ( one before last) almost the exact wording and guess what: she is my mother! I had to laugh at that. I guess we were both reading your post at the same time. Now that I would call mini ubuntu.
    And I fully appreciate your honest discussion of “race”, which has been a constant part of my wanderings since childhood. As I grew up in the Anglosaxon world: Ta-nehisi Coates’ essays approach James Baldwin’s in their eloquence. But I am guessing you know that already…

    January 9, 2020 at 16:51
    • Stephen Farah Reply

      Deborah that is nothing short of extraordinary! Jung might term that a synchronicity as well. No, I am not familiar with Ta-nehisi Coates thank you for the reference and I will definitely take a look look at his work. In the Jungian field the person to read in this regard is Fanny Brewster. I had the privilege of meeting her in person in 2017 and can say frankly that she is a visionary.

      Her latest book is African Americans and Jungian Psychology: Leaving the Shadows

      January 9, 2020 at 18:32
  • Dr. James Buccigross Reply

    I was very touched by your very moving post, Stephen. My condolences on all of your losses via suicide, as it’s been said, suicide doesn’t end the pain, it just gets passed to someone else. I lost a close cousin to suicide many years back & you replay so much in your mind when a tragedy like that happens.

    Your poignant comments regarding South Africa, too, were thought-provoking, as my former assistant in Bermuda, Wendy Spengler, was from Durbin, and she had shared some of the same sentiments & recounted many stories of the social upheaval in the land. Before leaving South Africa, she worked with victims of torture that took place during those dark times of apartheid. Wendy passed away after a battle with breast cancer in 2009, and she left an empty space that only happens with the closest of friends & I found myself thinking of her, and how your own words would have resonated with her.

    You were able to communicate some very powerful emotions overall, along with your insightful thoughts, and you have to be commended for sharing such deeply personal material & I thank you for that.

    January 9, 2020 at 20:39
    • Stephen Farah Reply

      James thank you in turn, I am indebted to you for this feedback and sharing your thoughts. I am particularly struck by the truth of your comment regarding suicide not ending pain by rather passing it on – the truth of which I can attest to. My sympathies about the loss of your cousin.

      Wishing you well going into this new year and decade.

      January 11, 2020 at 11:39
  • Isabel Reply

    What an opening for the first confession of the decade. Very well and bravely put. I could relate to both, cowardice and laziness, to use your words. I am becoming a dangerous ESTJ though… Afraid to lose my INFP soul in the process…

    January 9, 2020 at 22:14
    • Stephen Farah Reply

      Thank you Isabel. I like your description of your individuation process – “dangerous” resonates. 🙂 I look forward to working with you on the next stage of Magnum Opus.

      January 11, 2020 at 11:41
  • Mick Reply

    Love, respect and gratitude to you once again, Stephen.

    Mick D

    January 10, 2020 at 17:40
    • Stephen Farah Reply

      Mick hearing your voice always brings a smile to my face. We share a sense of sympathy with respect to much I think. I hope you are well my friend and I wish you a year and decade filled with all you desire.

      January 11, 2020 at 11:44
  • Elaine Walker Reply

    Stephen, I read to the end but then, I am not South African. After 14 apartheid years in Johannesburg I left, half a lifetime ago.
    Your reflections, confessions, depressions, touch me deeply.
    Nigredo was tough. Confessions are tough. And, I am reminded of the most stunningly freeing aspect of Nigredo, when I realised that the archetypes (I now view them as aspects of me) have their own destinies and are not of my choosing. Reading your words felt like viewing a stretch of landscape with gloriously lush lawns, sharp thorny rose bushes, carnivourous plants, clear rushing streams and quicksand. And several aspects of Stephen picking a precarious way through, towards the coast.
    May you travel safely and be guided by the ever present light of wisdom.

    January 11, 2020 at 20:26
    • Stephen Farah Reply

      Thank you Elaine, for your honesty and courage. I appreciate the metaphor of a garden, it something I think I can work with imaginatively. I never realised you are an ex – South African. Thank you for receiving my confession so graciously and your blessing.

      January 11, 2020 at 22:10
  • Lavinia Schlebusch Reply

    Dear Stephen, I read your confession, the footnotes and all the replies, and I did NOT do my homework; I was at an art school, homework was for the nerds, we preferred to get our hands dirty and paint.
    As I read it, I recalled a webinar Caroline Myss did on her book, The Anatomy of the Spirit. The book deals with the parallels between the Christian Sacraments, the Sefirot of the Jewish Kaballah and the Hindu Chakras.
    Confession, if spoken deals with the voice, The fifth chakra, Location: the throat. The fifth chakra resonates to the numerous emotional and mental struggles involved in learning the nature of the power of choice. The choice to speak or not speak up, about anything.
    The book talks of the sacrament of Confession being aligned to the fifth chakra, which is accountable for the way we use our will power. That we should ask for guidance before every decision. And that the essence of the fifth chakra is faith. The spiritual test inherent in our lives is to discover whether we have faith in fear or in the Divine: “Not my will but Yours.”.
    Maybe the cowardice you speak of is not cowardice at all but a lack of faith (in the Divine.)
    Faith in God, in Spirit, and in the Divine process that what is unfolding has a rhyme and reason. Maybe the individuation process needs more Spirit, more Spirituality and more faith to make it more bearable and more numinous.
    I think our old teacher whom we shared, Martin de Chatillon Coque, or His Grace, as I knew him, might just agree.

    January 12, 2020 at 20:10
    • Stephen Farah Reply

      Hi Lavinia, I’m no fan of Caroline Myss and, among my many faults, I don’t include a lack faith or a relationship to the Divine. That said, I appreciate your taking the time to read my confession (including the footnotes 🙂 ) and sharing your thoughts. I wish you dear friend a conscious, meaningful and individuating new decade.

      January 15, 2020 at 09:35
  • Gila Reply

    Hello Stephen,
    I am a lazy reader.
    But, I read your post to the last full stop.
    I love your writing even if there are words I do not understand.
    It reflects your descriptive and poetic ability.
    And you.
    I have known you as my teacher.
    I respected you but never loved you.
    Reading ,feeling your confession touched my heart.
    and now I love you.
    Thank you for your depth of self inquiry, your courage to be vulnerable,
    sharing your suffering ,rage, your love, your honesty.
    Your loyalty/ frustration about our beautiful and challenging country.
    We are all different. We are all the same
    I salute you

    January 15, 2020 at 23:55
    • Stephen Farah Reply

      Gila I am deeply touched by your comment. Whilst I would be a very poor teacher if my teaching was designed to illicit or provoke love in my students, I have to simultaneously confess, reading these words and your expression of love is profoundly meaningful to me.

      Whilst we are speaking honestly and openly, let me confess something else. Your tenure as a student in the school happend to coincide with a a number of “high-profile” (whatever the hell that means) Capetonian women being in the various classes and programmes, in which you participated. I recall your rather forthright manner of asking questions and engaging with the material disturbed some of them or so it was reported me. In retrospect, I think it was simply the fact that you had the faculty to engage with the material that disturbed them.

      Anyway, long story short, with the benefit of a good few years hindsight, I can say this. Of that entire group, you’re the only one I often think of fondly and miss. Not that I would accuse you of being “nice”, but at least you’re fucking real. Whereas memories of some of the encounters from that time were fortunately rinsed from my soul after a good shower.

      Live well and prosper my dear friend.

      January 16, 2020 at 09:54
  • Victoria Reply

    Thank you for this Stephen. Much of what you shared resonated deeply with me and I will be thinking/feeling into these subjects further – I believe I actually felt things jump around a bit in my personal Johari’s window!
    ❤️🙏🏻🙂
    All the very best to you for the decade ahead.

    January 24, 2020 at 13:09
    • Stephen Farah Reply

      I’m glad it resonated for you Victoria and all the very best to you for this new decade.

      January 24, 2020 at 14:05

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