Confession

Confession

Secrets or inhibited emotions, analogous to repressed sins that lead to neuroses, must be confessed to enable the patient to regain his wholeness.[1]

As you stand on the threshold of a new year[2] 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.[3]

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.[4] 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.[5]

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[6] 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. [7] 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[8], 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.[9] 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.[10] 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. [11]

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[12], “You are on Earth There’s no cure for that.”[13] 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.[14] 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.[15] 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. [16] 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.[17] 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.”[18] 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.

Stephen.

 

Nigredo: the stage of confession, is now open for student admission

 

 

 

[1] C. G. Jung (1875- 1961), founder of Analytical (typically referred to as ‘Jungian’) Psychology.

[2] 2019, post written at the end of 2018.

[3] 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’.

[4] 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.

[5] James Hillman, (1926- 2011), founder of Archetypal Psychology.

[6] 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.

[7] ‘Problems of Modern Psychotherapy’, Collected Works of C, G. Jung, Vol. 16. 2nd ed., Princeton University Press, 1966.

[8] 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.

[9] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x6tMLAjPVyo&t=1719s

[10] 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.

[11] Hillman, 1992.

[12] Endgame, 1957.

[13] Elon Musk might argue the contrary.

[14] The world as it is experienced by a particular organism.

[15] 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.

[16] 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.

[17] I refer here to the now infamous Clifton Beach demonstrations and ritual animal sacrifice.

[18] Ethos anthropoi daimon.

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Comments (31)

  • Merle Reply

    Thank you Stephen! Your post is really inspirational. I feel prepared to do the same. Perhaps not publicly at first but for myself, I’m just a beginner. Thank you once again and wish your 2019 be full of tastes and colours!

    December 31, 2018 at 13:15
    • Stephen Farah Reply

      Thank you Merle! I honestly don’t think it needs to be public. That said, witnessed confession: be it by a spouse, friend, confidant, therapist or priest, is psychologically significant. A secret we alone know isolates us, a shared secret/confession reconnects us to the community- albeit only heard by a single person.

      Wishing you grace and good fortune for 2019!

      January 1, 2019 at 13:59
  • Stephen Fraser Reply

    Damn…this is good Stephen: heart felt, sincere, honest and entirely vulnerable. Thank you for your courage in expressing it here. I’m actually looking forward to the year ahead with optimism and part of my optimism is tied to having been invited to participate in this Master Class. The last 18 months of Magnum Opus and Anja’s class on projection have been transformative for me..the path is just a little clearer and more illuminated than it was.. but I’ve discovered that the journey is never done…there is always further to go…bring it on.

    December 31, 2018 at 15:06
    • Stephen Farah Reply

      Thank you my friend, that means so much to me. Feedback like this makes the whole endevour worthwhile and meaningful. I very much appreciated your participation in Magnum Opus, and am more than keenly anticipating our work together in the Masterclass. As you rightly say, the work is ongoing. And yet, I feel a sense of progression. Going into 2019, I can honestly say I have never felt more passionate than now about the work we are all doing together.

      My very best and most heartfelt wishes for you going into 2019!

      January 1, 2019 at 14:08
  • Mo Reply

    Thank you. I’m attempting something similar to yourself. A reminder then just at the right time that I am on the right track. All the best with your own endeavours, in 2019 and beyond.

    December 31, 2018 at 18:02
    • Stephen Farah Reply

      Thank you Mo and to you. Do touch base with us and let us know how you get on with this.

      January 1, 2019 at 14:09
  • Suna Reply

    “Whilst I make no pretence at remedying these many failures of spirt and character”…

    Life calls us forward and we all know that it’s not possible to go forward without validating yourself – and often it becomes crucial to recognise a toxic relationship with self.

    January 2, 2019 at 10:38
    • Stephen Farah Reply

      “Validating yourself” – I’m not sure I agree. Maybe the problem is we validate ourselves where such validation is undeserved. Here I appreciate this idea from Jung, “What if I should discover that the poorest of the beggars and the most impudent of offenders are all within me; and that I stand in need of the alms of my own kindness, that I, myself, am the enemy who must be loved — what then?” Speaking for myself at least, this resonates far more than any self congratulatory form of validation. Rather, I would suggest, what we are desperately in need of is meaning, a binding mythology that makes our otherwise prosaic, petty and alienated lives mean something. And that this meaning this mythology is based of something real, not just self-deception which is its own reward – a vacuous existence.

      “it becomes crucial to recognise a toxic relationship with self.” Yes agreed it is and yet so few are able to do this, remaining rather frozen in an infertile and loveless husk of an identity. A sad and yet for many pervasive state of affairs. Still I think we should refrain from judging others, lest we ourselves are judged and found wanting.

      January 2, 2019 at 11:41
  • Peter Ballas Reply

    Dear Stephen,
    I’ve become aware of my shadow over the past 1.5 yrs, and have aspects I’m completely unhappy about and want to deal with, I have been looking for a process to do this and it has found me, Thankyou for sharing, I experience my own dark areas reading through your confession. I’m looking forward to doing Negredo and the Magnum Opus course.

    January 2, 2019 at 10:56
    • Stephen Farah Reply

      Thank you for the comment and kudos for taking this on Peter. It is requires no small amount of courage and moral fortitude. Without it though, we are simply part of the problem. I’m not saying that by doing this we are necessarily part of the solution, that remains to be seen, but it is at least an honest and courageous attempt at cutting through the bullshit the world is drowning in.

      January 2, 2019 at 11:24
  • Heather Reply

    “But I was not without innocence, wonder and a certain love of life. I refer naturally to my pre-pubescent self.” How true this is for so many of us, my eyes welled up reading this sentence and then further on again at your confession. The battle to regain our self worth after the fall from grace. I have been reading Carlos Castenada lately and I love the image of the Warrior, a (man) of power, and striving to accumulate personal power to be able to walk in the way of a sorcerer. It somehow seems to fit.

    January 2, 2019 at 11:25
    • Stephen Farah Reply

      I very much appreciate the metaphor Heather. Quite fitting, as long as one views it as a life long journey. I am also moved by the fact the post touched you in the way it did. Thank you for sharing these thoughts/reactions.

      I wish you a year filled with life, love and grace!

      January 2, 2019 at 12:22
  • inky Reply

    Confession without attitude of contrition? without an attempt at humble action towards restitution?

    The process of making good what one has broken is tried and trusted, and yes, confession is one of the four steps: take any process which allows the truth to be spoken, through an act of vulnerable authenticity, and it will work: admitting with contrite heart that we have failed to live in (our) truth, is confession.

    But the aim of confession is always restitution: for self and other –
    the process is in quarters: a) the revelation of truth, b) in attitude of contrition, and a c) impulse to make good, through generosity in your actions (works, or deeds) in your community. This leads to d) restitution, making good what we have broken.

    We have all broken others, and been broken.

    We will all need to make good ourselves and others we have hurt. Without the attitude, nor claims to plan to take any action, the confession part is only a quarter of the full ritual.
    And yes, we all deserve the full circle. No matter what we have done or has been done to us.

    Here is my confession: my truth was that I am a woman who loves women, and twenty years ago, I told my husband that I could not be true to who I am and stay with him. Rather than be both gay and a cheat, I was honest in my betrayal. Not that it helped him, just me.
    Confession was not enough to avoid the damage, and my walking out of a relationship and all its commitments, even if it was to be true to me, had a cost.

    How did I make good the pain I caused to my husband when I came out as lesbian ? Short answer, I didn’t. At first I didn’t even acknowledge what hurt I caused, that came later.
    After the displaced blame, I have made at least annual attempts at re-establishing contact. Some restitution, I imagined friends. But it was not to be.

    This is the year it stops. Twenty years is enough. My sons are grown men now, 20 and 23, and I am at peace with the damage done by be and to me for the confession of my truth, and the cost of my life lived more authentically.

    I didn’t just want to tell and live authentically in my truth, I wanted to alleviate the damage. Confession is a good start, but an attempt at action is needed (through a contrite attitude) –
    Penance is taking restorative action in the world, restitution, acknowledgment of damage, ritualised in some way in public, brings absolution, the washing away of past wrong, the final step with words, publicly spoken, setting the person free.

    Is your Nigredo course similarly only focused on one part? Words? Theory? Not in my experience.

    Isn’t the wonderful thing about Applied Jung, CAJS, (what you teach, Stephen)
    that we change so radically in both knowledge and in attitude? But the best thing is that this spark of theory and words is APPLIED, and we take daily action in applying the theory to our lived existence; our daily action, in our work, in life and in relationships.
    Thats what I like about it. .

    January 2, 2019 at 14:11
    • Stephen Farah Reply

      Thanks for the comment and thoughts Ingrid. May your 2019 be filled with all you deserve and more.

      I like your Catholic model: confession, contrition, penance and restitution (where possible). And I also agree, confession is only the first step, although here I prefer the Jungian model: confession (nigredo), illumination (albedo), education (citrinitas) and then transformation (rubedo). The problem for me with Christian puritanism is it often tends to reinforce “sin” in psychological terms, repression, neurosis etc. So I would say step 1, confess, sans judgment. Let’s get everything out in the open before we evaluate its virtue or vice.
      You confess to being a lesbian (very un-Catholic of you by the way 🙂 ) I don’t believe you need to be contrite or penitent for that. Simply owning it, as you do is a already a victory. A clear untarnished statement of spirit. That said, agreed it is far from the end of the journey.

      As far as harm you caused, be it intentional or not, agreed there contrition and restitution would not be without value. However that is a matter for your own account, not for society to call you out on. Whatever other vices may pervade our contemporary culture, fortunately our prejudice for sexual normativety (whatever that even is today) is no longer legislated.

      I for one, applaud you for your confession!

      January 2, 2019 at 14:33
  • Savina Reply

    Thank you for your honest confession Stephen. A Happy New Year to you too. Look forward to our next talk at the centre. I am delighted to know that you also realised that its perfectly okay to openly admit that you are “fucking lazy.” I have no problem in admitting that as well! There are many of us who feel the same. After reading what you have written there are a couple of lines that stand out for me. “That is by no means an easy feat. Facing yourself, the shadow, requires moral courage” Something that we are often afraid to admit to ourselves let alone anyone else. But what a freedom when we do; its liberating to say, “so what, I am lazy, and the responsibilities of family etc. do get too much and I would rather just be free, live on an island somewhere with my lover and not have a care in the world”. At this stage of my life I have come to fully accept myself and actually love every aspect of Me. I am able to face and love most of my shadow but there are, of course, parts of it that I don’t love but am able to understand nonetheless. I am also not really concerned with the politics of this country, or any other country for that matter. I do not live in fear but in the moment, and all is well right now. When I acknowledge my shadow and live authentically I am in love with life and myself. How authentically do any of us ever really get to live in this lifetime? Shall ask that question when I cross over, and maybe that’s the only place we can.

    January 2, 2019 at 16:52
    • Stephen Farah Reply

      Thanks for these thoughts Savina. What you say resonates. And, I very much appreciate your sense of equanimity and acceptance of what is, I would be dishonest if I said I share the feeling. I don’t. I am troubled by the world and by myself. That said, I admire your state of my mind and heart.

      Wishing you a wonder-filled 2019 my dear friend.

      January 2, 2019 at 18:08
  • Skip Conover Reply

    Very powerful! How would you relate your “Jungian Model” to the Job Archetype as illuminated by Dr. Edward Edinger: contest-defeat-lamentation-rebirth?

    January 2, 2019 at 16:57
    • Stephen Farah Reply

      Thank you Skip!

      I would compare them as follows: contest (pre-confession), defeat (confession), lamentation (illumination and education) and rebrith (transformation). That said, I think that track slightly different, albeit overlapping, arc’s, the Edinger model is closer to the theological frame, and the Jungian more psychological.

      January 2, 2019 at 18:12
  • Bree Reply

    Thank you for sharing & for the comments in response. I am reflecting deeply as this year begins as well…

    I have indeed discovered “that the poorest of the beggars and the most impudent of offenders are all within me; and that I stand in need of the alms of my own kindness, that I, myself, am the enemy who must be loved…”. For me, this is the very stuff of Shadow work. Furthermore, on my path, this has evolved into an ever-present, emergent awareness of my inner wounds—how they ask for or demand my attention in both subtle and eruptive ways. When I can acknowledge these parts of my self that could drive me, I try to notice them as rapidly as possible, engage those flailing, frightened, exaggerated or deathly quiet parts of me & hopefully release the inner content they reveal artfully, appropriately, authentically, with humility. There is grace for this, at least in my experience. I hope that for everyone, too.

    As for the need for a “cohesive defining mythology”—indeed, one is needed. And yet, for my part, given what I’ve experienced so far in life, I find it conveyed in the best of stories and images that seem to appear & then evaporate. Yet, it is these I have grasped, held & cherished & then expected nothing more than that it is now my work to flesh out that tale in the very best way I possibly can with the spark within me in my small sphere of influence and beingness. For me, this included a gut-wrenching, painful tearing away from a Christian tradition I had been raised in and embraced as work and lifestyle until just over a decade ago. That system is so enculturated that I strongly suggest it does not resemble anything close to what may have been its original form & that perhaps even that was flawed, no disrespect intended, just a reflection from my initial anguish, parsings & musings since. It has ceased to be a vehicle of meaning in many regards in its current versions. Yet, it retains some vestiges of genuine vividness and soul. These I seek…like one who walks willingly, knowingly into an ever-darkening forest to then sit and wait for that creature of light to come out of hiding on its own terms. It is this I am questing in, writing my own poema or icon & hopefully, through my own flaws & foibles, it will hold.

    So, onward, I go, growing back my hands.

    January 2, 2019 at 19:04
    • Marko Reply

      This is without a doubt in my soul the single most relatable comment/confession regarding the depths I have ever witnessed. Who are you?

      January 8, 2019 at 03:52
  • Elza Lorenz Reply

    Thank you. Just that.

    January 2, 2019 at 19:24
  • Hilary Lohrman Reply

    As others have said, thank you, for your courage, honesty, and opening the door to this subject. Very timely personally, as I have spent much of the past year in intense contact with the predator, within and without, and continue to be shown more clearly what lives in the inner room. The room kept dark and locked. I want to see despite knowing it is ugly. Deceit, vanity, inflation, selfishness, hypocrisy, manipulation, infidelity in many forms, as well as brokenness. I particularly appreciated your correspondence between the individual and the society/culture/world. More and more clearly my inner world seems a mirror of external people and events, which operates in both directions. It is uncanny to the point of downright unnerving. But looking away is not an option. Thank you again.

    January 3, 2019 at 05:45
  • Helen Reply

    As I am working through my path for 2019 with an archetypal basis I am inspired by this post to first bear witness to what is before planning what I want for how can my path be aligned to my map when my compass is off center.
    Thank you for this reminder.

    January 3, 2019 at 11:24
  • Alfred Reply

    I came across this at the most perfect time…so incredibly helpful. Thank you very much Stephen!

    January 7, 2019 at 23:43
  • Nicole Reply

    awe such a good read,
    This course has so enriched me.
    Thankyou Stephen, yes i had small cliches where i was like (” this is shit and I’m paying for it “)
    Ultimately I want to be a part of these communities as I know it makes me a better person. Firstly I have had so many men in my life feeling anger and really showing it. In different ways I want to help and be part of the collective solution so I attempt to do these things myself to gain some insight some truthful authentic guidance. I d id receive that in huge lumps.

    XX

    January 8, 2019 at 04:27
  • Divyesh Shah Reply

    Hi Stephen,
    Finally sat down, ensured did not cave into distraction, denial, delusion and derangement (to the best of my ability) , and read your confession (more like Listening with a capital L). I am really moved. I have so many things to say re your list of “shortcomings”, your observation as to the future of S Africa (I was born in Kenya, and when I visit my Dad, I start counting the minutes to when I depart: a combination of many things, but one is the state of the Country, its rampant corruption, imbecility etc. And also the “failure” to love well…
    I identify with you, and really admire your perseverance in your walk into wholeness, and into relief from Neurosis (to the best of your ability at any given stage). I currently doubt whether I have the persistence or resilience to do the same , but if I do not, I have that innate dark feeling of dark despair and futility and impending catastrophe in all accounts of my life which might just take over and I can go into my addiction or worse with a slow death.
    Morbidity indeed. Yet, I have hope here. Always instinctively knew that with Jung, and the angels on earth (ok, ok, too flattering for you guys) who make him accessible, I have a chance to live fully, free of debilitating neorosis (Currently in form of repetitive compulsive ruminative debilitating worry and axiety), and actually shine my light before I die.
    This requires the Shadow coming to the Fore. I have a list of naughty behaviours, but that is superficial. There are darker and more sinister ones different in their levels of intensity lurking in the Soul somewhere, giving rise to my soul sickness, and is the impediment to my being well spiritually, emotionally, mentally and physically.
    I am grateful to you, Anja et al for this course. As for my confession: I have done a similar one as part of a 12 step group (AA), but I think this Jung based inner reflection is not asking for a AA Big book type inventory. I would love to do a confession (which might be rambling) with a Jung based channel…any suggestions?
    Thank you again.

    January 8, 2019 at 05:21
  • S. Reply

    Without truthful particulars any confession lacks.
    Is this an enrollment of sorts, in an endeavor to bring about a following?
    Is it a pretend confession in order to pretend at confession?

    I find you fascinating and certainly powerful but is your confession enough to convince me of any honesty you attempt to put forth?
    I certainly spot you on being “Lazy.”

    Sorry… Not a sycophant but you’ve helped me greatly non-the-less.
    S.

    January 24, 2019 at 11:23
    • Stephen Farah Reply

      All fair questions S. Difficult to argue your points. No doubt I held back in my confession.
      There is a an aspiration here, but if we learn anything from psychoanalysis it is that honesty is elusive. I have an idea to end every year in this fashion. This is a first stab at it. Hopefully it gets better/more real over time. Bear in mind this is a public confession, I am not afforded the hermetic seal of the traditional Confessional. That said, your criticism is taken and fair.

      In which ever way this post did help you (hopefully to go beyond my pretense to real confession) I am pleased.

      January 24, 2019 at 14:20
  • jwfrench89 Reply

    Moving and thoughtful read as always. I was guided to the CAJS site through your Psyche and Cinema series, which is a great joy to watch and ponder the ideas that you bring up relating to the films. Excellent film choice as well!

    A few things on this confession:

    “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.”

    This part spoke very closely to me mostly due to the fact that I tend to have a pessimistic outlook on our current situation. Not just politically, but socially, environmentally and culturally as well. I live in the US and get a front row seat to the free fall of a culture and country that’s been slowly taking place for quite some time now. Some like to believe that it started in 2016, but that’s sadly very untrue. 2016 was the year that these underlying problems took front and center stage. With this perspective one could argue that maybe Trump’s election was a luciferian event in the sense that the light has now been shown on how chaotic things really are.

    The political and social negligence that led up to Trump was smoldering many, many years before his election. The rapid speed at which technology increases has left the culture without any sort of ground to stand on. As you mentioned, generations are left with no myths or containers to be able to live out archetypal energies. Most have no idea what these things are and would laugh if told about them. The narrative is so skewed by an attitude of philosophical materialism and blind technological progress that to even mention the importance of ideas such as symbolical meanings, the world of dreams, the collective unconscious is enough to be seen as insane. Some would say that it’s becoming easier to talk about these things. I’d argue that within the collective it doesn’t appear so..

    These perspectives have infected most institutions to the point where I have lost faith in the institutions and their functions in our culture. Knowing that I have puer-like tendencies, I do feel the urge to want to escape what seems to be a decaying societal structure, but not out of the drive towards perpetual pleasure, but because it seems like it needs to come crashing down. I have an internal battle where I would really like to go the route of studying to be a psychotherapist, but what I see in the institution of higher education is the same thing that I see in the high pillars of the political, economic, and scientific systems: institutions that are not functioning in a way that is working for the society. Instead these things are led by principles such as greed, corruption, and the perpetual need to keep the status quo in charge. This all seems to be the metaphor for what happens in individuation when the ego is faced with a glimpse of the unconscious and the fear of experiencing it causes the ego to retreat back to safety.

    I see so many people that are “activist” minded and really enjoy pointing out how much better things could be without any ideas or vision, but merely some talking point that they got from a late night talk show host or their favorite political commentator. Or, how terrible someone else is for believing something else or having a different opinion. These same individuals never seem to question how these institutions got to be where they are today. One driving cause: The society’s inability to reflect back upon itself and see that it’s what is creating these systems and problems. The shadow goes mostly ignored.

    Your confession is something that most would benefit from since it requires you to actually look at yourself and admit to being human and flawed. You can’t cover it up with political self righteousness, or through positive psychology, or through being the victim. It just takes the courage to accept the thing you hate in the external world.

    Thanks for entries such as this one.

    Best,
    Josh

    February 20, 2019 at 01:30
  • warteeeesa Reply

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    March 4, 2019 at 18:37
  • warteeeesa Reply

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    March 10, 2019 at 03:19

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