Secrets or inhibited emotions, analogous to repressed sins that lead to neuroses, must be confessed to enable the patient to regain his wholeness.
As you stand on the threshold of a new year there exists, at least symbolically, the opportunity for renewal. A renewal of desires and ideals. An opportunity, modest as it may be, to reimagine yourself. To put this in the Jungian lexicon, an opportunity for soul retrieval. A fancy way of saying, a chance to recapture a dream you once dreamt about yourself but have now long forgotten. As is often the case with music, the idea is captured by these lines from Nick Cave’s song Red Right Hand.
On a gathering storm comes
A tall handsome man
In a dusty black coat with
A red right hand.
He’ll wrap you in his arms,
Tell you that you’ve been a good boy
He’ll rekindle all the dreams
It took you a lifetime to destroy
He’ll reach deep into the hole
Heal your shrinking soul.
But there won’t be a single thing that you can do
He’s a god, he’s a man
He’s a ghost, he’s a guru
They’re whispering his name
Through this disappearing land
But hidden in his coat
Is a red right hand.
You don’t have no money?
He’ll get you some
You don’t have no car?
He’ll get you one
You don’t have no self-respect
You feel like an insect
Well don’t you worry buddy
‘Cause here he comes
Through the ghettos and the barrio
And the Bowery and the slum
A shadow is cast wherever he stands
Stacks of green paper in his
Red right hand.
The man with the ‘red right hand’ symbolizes the power of an idea or a fantasy. It is less about the devil than it is about what is left of your capacity to dream a bigger dream for yourself, for those you love, for the world.
That said, in a sense an idea is the devil itself!
An idea is a disruptor of the status quo. It challenges what is with what could be. An idea is the most dangerous of all things. It gave rise to the Atomic Bomb and Penicillin, World War II and Human Rights, to technology in both its capacities to liberate and redeem a certain blunt and primitive reality and in its capacity to tyrannise the human spirit and squash the experience of soul. An idea is a dangerous thing in your hands. It could lead you to the promised land or it could break what is left intact of your heart. Break what has not already been bled out of it by the prosaic and brutal world we are forced to endure and try to make sense of, whilst clinging to the notion of the nobility of life. Forewarned is forearmed. An idea or fantasy can break your heart. But what is the alternative, not to dream, to hope, to aspire? Surely not. For then we are already dead.
Structures are not inherently good or bad, they can be either or a mix of both. Jung had it that archetypes are bivalent with the capacities for both construction and destruction, life and death. Parenting, education, psychotherapy or religion in its myriad forms, annihilates us when it seeks to instill the normative as the highest value. When its ideological agenda is to maintain the status quo at the cost of your soul. In contrast, when it liberates you and encourages honest self-expression, encourages you to find your own way through the woods, aware of the inherent risks in such an endeavor, it serves that which is most noble and attractive in the human being. Namely, your uniqueness, your individuality, that which makes you you and differentiates you from the nameless, faceless statistical average. When depth psychology does this, imperfect as such an endeavor no doubt is, it is both a science and an art worth believing in. A project worth being invested in.
Armed with these admittedly sobering reflections, but hopefully no less committed to the project of our respective individuation, how best should we proceed?
Ritual and thresholds, rites of passage, enrich us, where reductionism, as the word suggests, reduces and diminishes us. No opportunity for renewal should ever be spurned. Take this gift of the new year as a chance for some self-reflection and recalibration if necessary. But and this is a significant injunction, let us do it without reinforcing the tyrannising super-ego that insists we move ever-forward to still greater achievements. If that is your heart’s most ardent desire, so be it. But let us not be achievers merely because that is what the world demands of us. Let us not build still more and more ticky tacky houses, achievers so we may be every more productive members of the social conveyor belt, ever more adept consumers conforming to the ever more impossible liberal capitalist nightmare. Rather, let us, in the tradition of Jung and one of his most gifted interpreters James Hillman, recognise that,
soul enters only via symptoms, via outcast phenomena like the imagination of artists or alchemy or “primitives,” or of course, disguised as psychopathology. That’s what Jung meant when he said the Gods have become diseases: the only way back for them in a Christian world is via the outcast […] As long as you’re going to create a castle, the psyche can only come in as an invader.
In order to give life to our soul the tyransing despot, our ego identity, has to be displaced. An act of inner revolution is called for. Any system of psychology or any other therapy for that matter, that reinforces your existing prejudices has failed you. Revolution, or even more modestly, evolution requires a shift in attitude. A paradigm shift, if you will. The despotic tyrant – none other than your “sweet self”- must be put to flight or if he lingers, then like the Jacobins did, let us decapitate him!
It is on this point – how might we best approach such a threshold, such an opportunity for renewal and recommitment to ourselves and that which we value, without falling victim to the dictates of the ego – that psychoanalysis comes into its own and is able to offer counsel. To this question, Jung identifies four distinct and chronological stages of transformation: confession, illumination, education and transformation.  His inspiration for these stages, comes, in part, from the four stages of transmutation in the antiquarian practice of alchemy: Nigredo (the blackening, the dark night of the soul, the journey into the unconscious), Albedo (illumination, the breaking of dawn, consciousness), Citrinitas (growth, maturation, relationality) and Rubedo (ripening, fruition, transformation). Our signature programme teaching Applied Jungian Psychology, Magnum Opus, is designed using this structure and framework.
The first stage is the stage of Nigredo or confession. It is this idea that the first stage of any transformational journey, I.e. any individuating arc, is confession or catharsis. We first need to come to terms with what is as honestly and courageously as possible. That is the first critical step, without which anything else we do, any other steps we take, in one form or another perpetuate the existing paradigm/problem. And, it is precisely this I want to both advocate and practice as we stand at the threshold of a new year. That is by no means an easy feat. Facing yourself, in Jungian terminology: the shadow, requires moral courage.
A recent interview with the visionary Israeli historian, Yuval Noah Harari, speaks to this point. In the interview Harari makes the point that typically people suffer a significant misconception about any type of focused self-reflection. People generally idealise this process, imagining they will discover all types of wondrous things about themselves, only obscured by the constant noise and data overload of contemporary culture. On the contrary, Harari points out, the process can be quite brutal. Deconstructing the fictions that sustain our identity is a psychological and spiritual challenge and can be intensely uncomfortable. A little like emerging from a cocoon of bullshit you have woven around yourself to displace/soften/hide away from reality. However, as he goes onto to emphasise, the value of going through such a process cannot be overstated. These fictions are sustained at a high price both for us and those we interact with, because they perpetuate inauthentic, dishonest and ultimately unsustainable myths.
Context for the confession
With this in mind, and in the spirit of physician heal thyself(!), my confession.
Before I get into the meat of it, some contextualisation is in order. I have been teaching Applied Jungian Psychology for about a decade now. During the last year I have become acutely aware of the social character of psyche or psychology, if you prefer. Once again, I refer to Hillman on this on this point.
My practice tells me I can no longer distinguish clearly between neurosis of self and neurosis of world, psychopathology of self and psychopathology of world. Moreover, it tells me that to place neurosis and psychopathology solely in personal reality is a delusional repression of what is actually, realistically, being experienced […] Psychoanalysis has to get out of the consulting room and analyze all kinds of things. You have to see that the buildings are anorexic, you have to see that the language is schizogenic, that “normalcy” is manic, and medicine and business are paranoid. 
Another way of saying this is that the psyche is permeable. It should not be thought of as confined to the boundaries of your person. We live in the world and the world lives in us, we are not discreet entities, hermetically sealed from the social and psychic environment in which we exist. In a not insignificant way, Jung’s idea of the collective unconscious illustrates just this. We are simultaneously and dichotomously, both collective and individual. My troubles are the worlds troubles, and vice versa. The anxiety, sadness, absence of hope or mythical life you experience is because you live in this world. As Beckett said, “You are on Earth There’s no cure for that.” Whilst I don’t share Beckett’s pessimism, other wise I would hardly be bothering with this post, I think it speaks to the idea that we live in a psychic and symbolic world or Umwelt. Our individual psychologies and the collective psyche are interwoven strands.
I trust that helps to contextualise my own confession, which follows.
Many years ago, longer than I care to remember, my late godfather, George Farah, once said, “I’m glad I’m not long for the world. The world has gone mad and it’s only going to get worse.” He was always an astute man, possibly one of the most astute I have ever known. And, in this observation, perspicacious. I won’t go into my reasoning on this because it would be too much for this brief post. Suffice to say, I believe we live in a shattered world. Jung spoke of an apocalyptic time some fifty years after his death. Whilst the term ‘apocalyptic’ brings up visions of a catastrophic Armageddon, the like of which we have seen in many a Hollywood blockbuster, that is a crude and narrow interpretation and whilst always a possibility i.e. a global cataclysm of existential proportions can also be viewed metaphorically. We do live now post apocalypse.  You probably already know this, even if you haven’t named it. We all do. Let’s be frank, the future ain’t what it used to be. We are largely lost in a world teetering on disaster. We are a people without a cohesive defining mythology.
Religion is a relic.
Human rights a perennial victim of geographical, economic and political expediency.
Capitalism and its greatest beneficiary liberal-democracy is in freefall.
Our biosphere is eroding faster than Trump’s hairline is receding. And unlike him, we don’t have a toupee to replace it, unless you fancy a relocation to Mars.
I’m not even going to get into the reality shattering implications of the looming technological singularity.
I live in a country fraught with political, social and racial tension. We are a people balancing on a political and social knife edge. The day I wrote this a short article saw a yet another incident of racialised political action. The kind of incident that could easily set the country alight. The law of averages dictates a country can only endure so many close calls, before a close call becomes a bloody revolution. I live in a country which has been unable to free itself from the yoke of the past, from the myth and entrenched hatred and injustice of apartheid, from racism, from economic inequality, from the shadow of personal greed and nepotism by the few at the expense of the many. A country that I love as deeply any patriot can ever love the land of his birth. But that I recognise is in critical condition and the prognosis of recovery ever more dubious.
I would talk about “my community”, except, I don’t have one.
In terms of my family, or those I used to call “my family”, it has been a difficult time. A challenging few years. In the spirit of – discretion is the better part of valour, and the sanity of retaining some boundary of personal discretion, I must necessarily restrict my comments here. What I can do though is share an experience of existential anguish that I experienced a few years ago that proved prophetic. Maybe six or seven years ago, I experienced an acute sense of anxiety around the temporal and transient nature of what I referred to as my family. I was with the people I loved most deeply and passionately in the entire world, knowing full well that a day would come when that family unit would no longer exist. I developed a fantasy which involved me sitting with my then wife and children on the ground, in a circle, simply holding hands. Not saying anything, but just acknowledging the love and connection we shared. I never enacted that fantasy – I could never quite figure out how to initiate it. And today, that family unit no longer exits. All of us casualties of the wreck that was our family being derailed and left trying to make sense of our lives and identity outside of its container.
Finally, in the spirt of any confession, I come to my sweet and oh so innocent self.
Yes, I come to myself, my dear and only friends. A challenge to be sure.
I recall a time when I was still an innocent. Goddamn, it was a long time ago! To be sure, like all of us, I was no doubt born in original sin as the biblical characterisation of human nature has it. Meaning, I didn’t arrive on earth wearing a halo. But I was not without innocence, wonder and a certain love of life. I refer naturally to my pre-pubescent self. I have an image of a four-year-old me in a photo wearing an oversized yellow-beige type knitted jersey. I am sitting in something that looks like a nursery, the sun is shining through the window onto me, giving me a radiance of sorts. And, for some reason, I have an awful lot of camphor cream on my hands. Yes, there was something there…that was a while ago though. Since then it has been a slippery slope.
My litany of sins too vast, multiple and heinous (not to mention, probably dreadfully boring from your perspective) to list. I could tell you about the backsliding. I could make mention of the crimes. I could talk of the women -oh Lord there were fine women! I could let you know about the acts of violence. I could advise you of my betrayals, dishonesties, duplicities and broken promises. I could tell you about my failures, of which there have been many. But, I won’t do that I’ll save those for the ever receptive, patient and penitent pages of my many journals.
Rather let me confess only my greatest sins.
My failure to love deeply enough.
My failure to always be a man of honour.
My failure to give a goddam.
My failure to act with nobility of spirt and rather to be dwarfed by smallminded, parsimony.
More recently, my failure to keep my vocation and the reason for my existence ever before me as my North Star. My failure to serve my students as they rightfully should be served and honour my teachers as they deserve to be honoured.
I am a cowardly, small minded, and fucking lazy individual. I am given to greed, expedient with my morals and play fast and loose with the most precious of resources, life and time: both mine and the worlds.
I could say sorry, but what purpose would it serve. I could set myself to rehabilitating my character and ameliorating my many follies. But if you were hoping for that, you’ll be disappointed. That Christian commitment to be a better man, would be better found in a post about positive psychology or one of its many offshoots. This isn’t that. Anyway, who would I be kidding.
As Heraclitus said, “A man’s character is his fate.” What I have confessed is both my fate and my character. If I have learned anything in twenty years of studying the psyche, it is that fate and character are not distinct.
Furthermore, like you, I live in a world, country, community, family and psyche that if not my own design, is at some level well deserved.
That my dear friends is the end of my 2018 confession. Whilst I make no pretence at remedying these many failures of spirt and character, I feel in some small way unburdened by having shared them with you. I go into 2019, ever so slightly more lucid and possibly even more conscious for having made my confession. I am ready to face the new year with a certain resolve and even, dare I say, moral courage not present before I composed this post.
At the risk of hubris, I suggest this is what the world is desperately in need of right now. An honest confession of personal and collective iniquity as a medicament to the perennial and overwhelming onslaught of bullshit we are drowning in. Let us do what little we can in the service of truth. Every single small act of truth is testament to that which is most noble and redemptive in our humanity.
If you would take some inspiration from this post, consider doing the same, or at least something similar. Whilst I do not encourage you to be as cavalier as me, and publish your confession in the public domain, consider a more discreet but hopefully no less cathartic form of confession. At worst a journal entry, but better shared with a trusted confidant or if you have the luxury a therapist.
With that I bid you au revoir and 2018 adieu.
 C. G. Jung (1875- 1961), founder of Analytical (typically referred to as ‘Jungian’) Psychology.
 2019, post written at the end of 2018.
 And, for my money, no school of depth psychology does this more honestly or effectively then Jungian psychology and that is the reason that after all these years I am still willing to wear the label ‘Jungian’.
 Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes made of ticky tacky,
Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes all the same.
There’s a green one and a pink one
And a blue one and a yellow one,
And they’re all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same.”
- Malvina Reynolds, Little Boxes, 1962.
 James Hillman, (1926- 2011), founder of Archetypal Psychology.
 I use the masculine pronoun here intentionally to denote the stereotypical form of patriarchal oppression, albeit with the full recognition that oppression today is closer to the mythical Hydra. We can no longer identify a single source because it is plural only the method of oppression.
 ‘Problems of Modern Psychotherapy’, Collected Works of C, G. Jung, Vol. 16. 2nd ed., Princeton University Press, 1966.
 Israeli historian and a tenured professor in the Department of History at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Author of the international bestsellers Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow, and 21 Lessons for the 21st Century.
 Harari’s image and model for this, being a Buddhist, is a retreat, but the principle applies, irrespective of the form of focussed self-reflection.
 Hillman, 1992.
 Endgame, 1957.
 Elon Musk might argue the contrary.
 The world as it is experienced by a particular organism.
 As reported by Marie Louise von Franz. Fifty years after Jung’s death was 2011. I presented a paper titled Apocalyptic Premonitions: a post-Jungian perspective, at the IAJS conference a the University of London that year.
 Whilst it is difficult to give a date to the apocalypse which in the case of the gradual erosion of liberal democracy has crept up on us, if I had to pick a date I would say 11 September 2001.
 I refer here to the now infamous Clifton Beach demonstrations and ritual animal sacrifice.
 Ethos anthropoi daimon.