On Wisdom

This space has lain silent, though it continues to speak with the archives of posts. Blogging was useful to me as a discipline of creating something weekly and putting it in front of an audience, of believing in my words and my process of exploration enough to make it available to anyone with an Internet connection. How many people clicked on the posts mattered less, though some posts were surprisingly popular and I continue to be pleased with how often my Jungian Beyoncé writings continue to get clicks. This past year, however, I felt less passion about blogging.

Ouranos, photo by Antigone059

When I think about the Internet, I think it is in some ways a venue to observe our collective consciousness. One can read one’s Facebook feed and see the “trends” of thought and conversation, the dialogues that seem fixed, the outraged responses and the outraged responses to the outraged responses. I associate this with the astrological meaning of the planet Uranus, with its associations with community, intellectual debate, and revolutionary thinking. Astrological Neptune is association with the ocean, the spiritual realms, dreams, illusions, and in my view the collective unconscious. In Greek myth, Ouranos is castrated by Kronos (Saturn), and his phallus thrown into the ocean (Neptune), which results in the birth of Aphrodite (Venus).

My interpretation is that the potency of our airy, conscious discourse is lost when we are unable to sink into the oceanic depths and connect with the unconscious influences there. Love makes possible, and is made possible by, the joining of our rational and irrational minds. And here I’m lost in airy analysis when I’m trying to say that I become weary by the constant dialogue and analysis made possible by the Internet. It’s exciting and feels important, it spurs anger and the desire to write and communicate, and at the same time it can be lacking in depth. We are at a point where it is possible for an event to happen in the world and less than two hours later have five different opinion pieces about why the event happened and what it means about us as people. There is not time for deep reflection and integration in which we can say something truly original, something that would truly move our conscious conversation forward. Instead we are reacting to each other based on the assumptions we already have.

Therapy is like that. I’ve come to notice that “analysis” often happens too early and ends up being a rehash of assumptions we’ve already made, the assumptions that created the situation. “I’m feeling uncomfortable. It’s because I don’t like my job.” That has some truth, and yet that does not move us toward anything. We learn nothing new about the discomfort and we get no insight into what might change that would make the work experience better. What helps move forward is to sit with our discomfort, to try to listen in a new way, to notice the stories we always tell and acknowledge that maybe they’re not the entire truth. Maybe these assumptions are dried leaves of our mind that need to be shed so that we can lay bare and fallow for a time, being with that emptiness and not-knowing, to make space for something truly new to grow from within us.

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I’ve written all of this and noticed that I titled the post “On Wisdom,” because I thought to say more about the oddness of the rhetorical box I’ve created for myself with this blog. I’ve enjoyed writing about therapeutic process and trying to communicate psychological insights in ways that are fresh, accessible, yet challenging to pop psychological assumptions that I think are unhelpful. At the same time I’ve not appreciated how this platform and that approach necessarily narrows the scope and loses nuance. What I have learned as a therapist is that every person needs to hear something different, even if their problems look superficially the same. We are all on a unique trajectory of growth and have unique histories that shape that growth. One person needs to hear, “You are not your symptoms. It is time to live the life you want even if it doesn’t feel right.” Another person needs to hear, “What you are experiencing is not your fault. You have an illness that is out of your control.” For both of these people, one message would be liberating while the other message would be a cage.

Or, in other words, there is a story about a Buddhist master and a student. The student comes to the master to complain. “Your advice is contradictory. You tell me to do one thing one day, and the opposite the next.”

The master nods. “Imagine that you are standing at one side of a bridge that has no rails, and you are helping a blind person to walk across it. When the person veers too far to the edge on the right, you yell, ‘Go left!’ When the person veers too far to the left, you yell, ‘Go right!'”

My intellectual focus on opposites, polarities, and dualism is in this spirit. My hope is to help people find their own Middle Way, which necessitates recognizing and accepting the opposites within us. This is so simple to write but in practice there is not a set of consistent, reliable codes to follow. Yet writing blog posts, I struggle to represent that, as often the topic of a blog post is “How to go right when you’re veering too far to the left,” which may be terribly bad advice for the people veering too far to the right. I could become more complex, but then my blog posts would be like this one, approaching 1,000 words, and thus unlikely to be read or shared by people on their lunch breaks.

All of this to say: I have ended my practice of weekly blogging for now, and have returned to writing longer essays and fiction to encourage me to reflect more deeply, research more, and think more critically about what I want to say.