Jung’s centenary – Guardian article

Posted on June 5, 2011. Filed under: Jung | Tags: |

Jung’s was born June 6, 1861 so not surprising his name is back in the news – tho perhaps surprising that there’s not more. Here’s the first part of a recent article in the Guardian, a useful introduction to the man and his work


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Are mental patients carrying the shadow of their nurses?

Posted on March 21, 2011. Filed under: Ethics, Jung, professions | Tags: , , |

BBC today reports on University of East Anglia research which suggests that mental patients’ reduced life expectancy is attributable to physical attributes like diet, smoking, lack of exercise and high alcohol use – see

Mental health nurses \’set bad example to patients

The research suggests that patients are mirroring nurses’ life styles but apparently with high mortality rates. Can’t help wondering if the patients are somehow paying the price for rejected or denied behaviours in nurses? This would be classic collective shadow dynamics in Jung’s view, or a cultural complex, as Singer and Kimbles (2004) call it.

Will try and get hold of this report and the other recent research into the treatment of the elderly by their ‘carers’. An over-attachment to images of the angelic nurse has a lot to answer for, it seems – for nurses, of course, as well as their patients. And how can they or any other group with such responsibility begin to address the ethical issues raised here, if the reality is invisible?

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Jung @ Cornell (3)

Posted on August 14, 2010. Filed under: Conference reports, Ethics, Jung | Tags: , , |

Plane delayed (the joys of US air travel) so time for reflection at end of  conference:

Surprised by lack of explicit investigation of ethics, given it was a keyword in conference title; only one paper (Bonnelle Strickling) explored relationship between Jung and another body of theory, in that case virtue ethics. Another presenter (Don Moores) referred to links w Jung and Aristotlean eudaimonia in an interesting session on the ecstatic in art and culture. Other aspects of ethics were implicit and focused on object relations or the other. Enjyed a useful workshop on psychological types – much easier to understand from a human than a book – which again implied ethical relations.

– and that’s one of the joys of a conference like this when your understanding is so based in literature: here people are talking about the concepts, phrases and contested interpretations that were hitherto just text – so much more vivid.

Realise that last year I wrote down every word; this year I can absorb and reflect, digesting rather than force feeding.

Fabulous conversations with great people: getting to know people throughtheir books and papers, then another dimension through presentations, then the human emerges over dinner. I remember noting at last year’s  conference in Cardiff that delegates seem to bring their whole self to academic conferences, not just their professional personae. Really pleased t have spent time with Roger Brooke whose work on Jung and phenomenology I knew (though felt out of my depth with) who gave the opening plenary session on post combat trauma. He mentioned a paper on Psyche Self and the World which I found online and will use in thesis – terrifically lucid and helpful. Nice man,too.

Hope to stay in touch with rinda west – felt like the start of a friendship. Love the fact she’s left teaching and taken up landscape gardening; she gave a terrific presentation on the garden in the psyche. And we make each other laugh.

Looking at comments I wrote after the Cardiff conference, this year’s event felt more inward looking, with fewer bridges into different disciplines, though key speakers all brought tremendous richness with them. I like the idea that the JSSS use in their conferences of consecutive rather than parallel sessions, even if it means fewer papers. Would provide more of an unfolding narrative.

Personally, I have  felt encouraged by feedback and advice, have several names whom I could approach for collaboration or other support. May contact them in coming months as I move from PhD to post doc work. Need to get moving on book plans too and work out how to fund the writing process.

Last night closed with dinner dance thing – not quite enough dancing for me, but made it to observatory to see andromeda galaxy and neptune – more adventures in the universe.

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Jung @ Cornell (2)

Posted on August 13, 2010. Filed under: Conference reports, Jung, Papers | Tags: , |

Presented paper yesterday – still digesting interesting feedback. The first presenter, Evangaline Rand, gave a moving and emotional reflection on suffering, her own and WW1 soldiers, tracing an inner and outer journey through images, dreams and paintings. At first thought my offering would seem pale and dull but decided it was just different and gave a confident and fluent paper, speaking to power point slides but with asides and comments which I had earlier  written as notes but which I had no need to consult, making the whole thing flow more easily. What was brilliant was the interested and engaged response of those present, who saw major possibilities in engaging professions with their own shadows. One pointed out the shadow of eros in teaching, the unspoken omnipresent sexual tension (or potential) between teachers and students, which I’d not thought about. Others talked about the  hidden aspects in the therapeutic community (i did cite some eg from analysts on professional ethics).

Another person, Austin Clarkson, hoped I wd be taking this message to boardrooms and exec committees and wondered how that engagement might be managed. I spoke to him later over dinner, and we talked about maybe writing stories about the organisation, its members, its history to see if the shadow could be brought to light that way. Evangaline also very enthused by my work and we talked later – possibility of working together? She’s an experienced analyst so this cd be a good partnership.

Terence Dawson suggested contacting Wellcome to seek funding for post  doc research and I do need to get on with some ideas about taking  these ideas further into the world. Have to deal with not having a Jungian clinical background – treat it as a strength because I can talk to professions from educational and practitioner background, with added Jungian insight. Might even be easier – no hint of a therapeutic approach – just a diagnostic aide with suggestions for institutional integration, if desired.

If David Cumes,who shared about divining the bones and working with the dead yesterday, can take that talk to the medical profession (he described the ‘you’ve got 3 months’ line as a voodoo curse), I can surely talk to professions.

Conversations have all been v helpful. This time I haven’t taken notes  as few of the sessions feed directly into the thesis. Instead have enjoyed absorbing and reflecting on a wide range of presentations, including fabulous paper on Kafka’s metamorphosis, an Auschwitz novel and the dangers of hope.

Also enjoyable meetings – spent 4 hours today walking up and down Ithaca hills with Rinda West, a lovely woman with Jungian, literary and political tastes close to my heart. Got a bit lost, didn’t matter at all.

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Jung and ethics conference @ Cornell

Posted on August 10, 2010. Filed under: Conference reports, Jung | Tags: , |

Arrived v late Sunday night after gruelling 24 hrs of travel. V grateful to shiatsu massage people at La Guardia, where I ended up spending 7 hrs (missed connecting flight during loo break!), who restored flagging body and spirit.

Now in Cornell dorm, wondering if I  can get away with saying ‘I went to cornell’ without mentioning it was only for five days? Conference starts in a couple of hours – interesting line up, with highlights on combat trauma and the collective response, plenty on film studies , esp vampires, lots on the Other. I’m most interested in the political stuff, how ethics is lived collectively and in one paper on jung and virtue theory. Only the latter seems to address how a Jungian ethic might resemble or differ from established approaches. There will also be ‘interactive workshops’ which sound a bit scary, like audience participation.

Quite a full schedule – breakfast meetings and post-supper sessions; last year’s Jungian conference was hard physical work too, but the dancing made up for that. This year, I’m v tired so may skive off to write chapter 9, the PR case study.

I present tomorrow – have finished the slides, now need to rehearse. As these are parallel sessions, don’t expect big  audience, but these events are usually most interesting over meals and coffee. We’ll see….

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getting there

Posted on July 25, 2010. Filed under: Ethics, Jung, main themes, PhD stuff, professions | Tags: , , |

finally feel I am heading towards the final stages of the thesis. Two meetings yesterday with supervisors (staggered for logistical reasons) who are v happy with the chapter I wrote last week on another visit to St Deiniol’s.  Things are coming together….

Chapter 8 brings into play all the themes of the thesis: professional ethics, Jungian ethics and their relation to each other, and begins to sketch what a Jungian approach to professional ethics would actually look like. There was a time writing it when I thought this is where the drums will roll, the velvet curtains will part – and the stage will be empty. But no; this is what I discovered:

  • professions could choose to drop their claims to be ethical and ‘serve society’ – claims which have little substance in reality – this would be an ethical improvement as the charge of hypocrisy could be dropped and the illusion of ethics abandoned. price they’d pay would be loss of  the professional kudos, the social status that is gained in exchange for alleged professional ethics, so more like to face external regulation,
  • OR they could step up to the claim and  actually engage with the complexity and conflict involved in any attempt to live ethically, but particularly challenging in the Jungian approach because it means facing the shadow aspects of the profession, bringing to consciousness the hidden impulses, temptations and abuses that have congregate under the surface of that particular grouping
  • this will require moral leadership, but as Jungian  theory makes clear , the group may actually embody the leaders’ shadow aspects making it v hard for the leaders to see what they are hiding from themselves – a facilitator may be needed; lay members may see the situation more clearly
  • An ethics advisory forum cd provide the space for free debate an the airing of ‘cultural complexes’ – the Other may be a rival profession but could be an internal group, ostracised by gender, race, sexuality or background – or by an occupational sub-grouping (eg broadsheet vs tabloid journalists; foreign vs arts correspondents)
  • There will not be a new code: this is about process rather than right/wrong acts. It will entail living with uncertainty: holding the contradictions; not knowing. This will distress those who expect to be told exactly how to behave and are unwilling/unprepared to take responsibility for their own ethical being – hardly surprising when everyone else is playing the blame game. But I think many already experience this; identifying it may be helpful and welcome
  • the question of whether a separate ethics for professions is necessary is I think answered by suggesting that the base for all professional ethics is human ethics, not an elevated sense of moral superiority. Quite the reverse; it is because certain complexes will have built up in groups and professions that they have a particular responsibility to ensure maximum awareness of the shadow dynamics of their group.
  • have also found tremendous academic richness in juxtaposing Jungian and other ethics, exploring however briefly the points of contact and divergence with Asian ethics, post modern approaches and particularly virtue ethics. No space/time here, but juicy stuff… tbc
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A poem for this work

Posted on June 18, 2010. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , |

I met a luminous poet Dana Littlepage, at St Deiniol’s – a real meeting, heart and soul. I talked about this thesis; she wrote this poem:


She is sweeping the sunlit floor.

Floor splintered with light

where the darkness is not ignored,

where the dust is freed from its corner.

She is sweeping our times,

our yearnings turned into things.

She is sweeping the rooms of the mind,

so the body can find the spirit’s wing.

Though her broom is a hand’s breadth,

it moves to the body’s breath .

She is sweeping the words of our night

so that we might speak with tongues of living light.

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new year, new sources

Posted on December 30, 2009. Filed under: Jung, Reading | Tags: , |

Supposed  to be taking a break as my brain got too mashed to write coherent sentences before xmas – knew it was all going downhill, as if writing with fingers disconnected from thoughts, which had disconnected from feelings… not very much in the spirit of this journey!

But found Christopher Hauke’s book ‘Human Being Human:  culture and the soul’ a wonderful, rejuvenating read, rich in allusion to film and rooted in a Jungian sense of the human condition. Noted particularly his challenge to the marginalisation of intellect by aspects of psychotherapy – yes, glad to reclaim the mind, as long as it isn’t the only source of insight or information about the self or the world. Also referred to the ‘fantasy of wholeness’ which made me think about whether my thesis rests on such a fantasy, or how I might modify this to reflect the difference between the wholeness which I do believe underpins everything and  the partial and limited efforts which most of us are capable of making. Also to become aware of the danger of eliding differences which require attention – a tendency I always opposed in my political animal days; that dreary ‘let’s all be friends’ motif that belongs more fully to pop songs than ethical philosophy.

But underneath that, there is a unity, a coherent energy that can be seen in quantum physics at the subatomic level and in Hubble photos at the macro level and which can also be called divine. Bud Harris (see link to website) is giving a talk about wholeness and Holy longing from a Jungian perspective, which sounds appealing.  I say sounds appealing but am becoming aware of  different flavours of Jungian – those who take a romantic new age approach and those who are asking similar questions about being human and the role  of transcendence but seem more capable of recognising human awkwardness and the trickiness of such endeavours. Hauke reflects the latter group I think – more my cup of tea.

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slow progress

Posted on December 11, 2009. Filed under: Jung | Tags: , |

Just finished another two chapters – basic architecture really, they lack flesh, commentary , narrative, but have collected most of the quotes and set them in order now. Strong sense that there is so much more in my head than on paper – have read so much but some books end up as a quote here or there.

On the positive side I now find re-reading texts illuminating as obscure concepts become more familiar through repeated exposure.

Have noted quite different attitudes to Jung among those writing about him: there are the romantics who tend to use his language and imagery; the skeptics who assert their own distance and refer to ideas that ‘no one in their right mind’ would accept. Seems to reflect an internal split in Jung himself; the part that enters his own dreams, excavating his psyche for images and meaning; and the part that insists on his role as an empirical scientist. The latter role is challenged when  his selection of incontrovertible ‘facts’ includes concepts like archetypes!

Have also been reading about his anti-Semitism, which shocked me two years ago when I first read about it as my impressions had been more favourable until then. I’ve also met people who refuse to admit this possibility. But I respect those writers like Samuels who are practising Jungian analysts and prepared to look into this ‘abyss’. it does seem a non-negotiable aspect of his personality, which raises another point: I can’t think of another leading thinker whose actual person and biography attracts more coverage from examining their ideas. The life of Marx is interesting, for example, but one doesn’t have to come to terms with his personal and political decisions in the same way as seems to be required of those considering Jung’s concepts.

But Jung is awkward around all sociological issues: his focus is the individual and he treats society as oppressively normative, something from which the individual must separate to become him/her self. My thesis tries to blend his approach with a sociological ‘take’ – mm, not sure the two are going to blend as there is a real category split. My aim will be to hold a Jungian-type space in which the focus on the individual ethic can be ‘held’ in the context of social mores.

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finding shadow – talk

Posted on September 22, 2009. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: |

A self-help approach but quite interesting. May use some of these ideas (and similar) in the final section of thesis to suggest practical applications for Jungian ethics.Finding your shadow

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