He: Understanding Masculine Psychology by Robert A. Johnson. Quotes and comments

The story begins with the Fisher King has been wounded and all the animals and plants in the kingdom and those surrounding it mourning and weeping. Then, a boy who is of so little consequence that he has no name, but called Parsifal comes. Parsifal, as a fool, will redeem the health of the Fisher King. In Biblical terms, only the innocent can enter the gates of Heaven. Parsifal wants to become a knight so he starts his quest. With several rounds of success, he enters the Fisher King Castle. A godfather has once told Pascifel to ask the question ‘Whom does the Grail serve?’ What would knighthood be worth if it were not for this noble end? However, Parsifal suffers from his mother complex and can not be the independent young man and cannot open his mouth to ask such question.

Parsifal leaves the Castle without the Grail because he forgets to ask such an important question. The young man cannot understand the power of the femininity until he meets Blanche Fleur, and develops a correct relationship with his inner woman.

Parsifal carries on with his heroic quest until one day he is greeted by an old man. This old man is the Hermit, a sage, gives him advice and critiques on his ego. But he also turns gentle and shows him the shortcut to the Grail castle.

This time, Parsifal remembers to ask the right question as his mother complex is resolved. And the Grail serves the Grail King. Rejoicing, the Grail King is now healed and in peace, joy and serenity.

The Mother Complex

There are six basic relaitonships a man bears to the feminine world. All six are useful to him and each has its own nobility. It is only the contamination of one with another that makes difficulty. These difficulties are central to a man’s passage through life. The six feminine elements are as below:

  • His human mother

The actual woman who was his mother, she with all her idiosyncrasies, individual characteristics, and uniqueness

  • His mother complex (the interior mother within one’s mind)

This resides entirely inside the man himself. This is his regressive capacity which would like to return to a dependency on his mother and be a child again. This is a man’s wish to fail, his defeatist capacity, his subterranean fascination with death or accident, his demand to be taken care of. This is pure poison in a man’s psychology.

  • His mother archetype. (the collective idea)

If the mother complex is pure poison, the mother archetype is pure gold. It is the feminine half of God, the cornucopia of the universe, mother nature, the bounty which is freely poured out to us without fail. We could not live for a minute without the bounty of the mother archetype. It is always reliable, nourishing, sustaining.

  • His fair maiden (your own personalised anima)

This is the feminine component in every man’s psychic structure and is the interior companion or inspirer of his life. It is Blanche Fleur. It is she who gives meaning and colour to one’s life. Dr. Jung calls it the anima.

  • His wife or partner

The flesh and blood human being who shares his life journey with.

  • Sophia

This is the Goddess of Wisdom, the feminine half of God, the Shekinah in Jewish mysticism. It comes as a shock to a man to discover that Wisdom is feminine, but all mythologies have portrayed it so.

Achievement and the Ugly Damsel

There is some strange correlation between the achievement of a man and the power of the Hideous Damsel in his life. The greater the height, the greater his capacity for suffering and humiliation seems: the amount of fame and adulation one gets in the outer world seems to determine the sense of failure and meaninglessness he will find at the hands of the Hideous Damsel. One would guess that accomplishment would be the surest protection against meaninglessness, but this is not so. It is the accomplished man who is most capable of asking unanswerable questions about his worth and the meaning of his life.

The Hermit Within

These few people, born hermits (highly introverted souls), must remain in the forest (symbolically speaking) in solitude, storing up energy so that they may serve mankind when their quality is crucial and of the highest value.  There are few Red knight victories for these persons and they know little of the laurel leaves of victory. Such people receive very little encouragement or reinforcement these days and they often have a lonely and solitary life to lead. But a day comes when their genius is absolutely necessary to make a transition to another stage of life. But a day comes when their genius is absolutely necessary to make a transition to another stage of life– for themselves or for someone in their environment. Just to know of this validity is a safeguard for such a person. Please be good to your own hermit quality or the born hermit in your circle of friends. If you have a born hermit as a son, don’t push him into Red Knight experiences but let him find his own forest way.

Who does the Grail serve?

I am searching for happiness, which is to say that I want the Grail to serve me. We ask this great cornucopia of nature, this great feminine outpouring of all the material of the world- the air, the sea, the animals, the oil, the forests, and the productivity of the world– we ask that it should serve us. But no sooner is the question asked than the answer comes reverberating through the Grail castle halls–the Grail serves the Grail King.

Translated, this means that life serves what a Christian would call God, Jung calls the Self, or and we call by the many terms we have devised to indicate that which is greater than ourselves.

Another language, less poetic but perhaps easier, is available. Dr. Jung speaks of the life process as being the relocation of the center of gravity of the personality from the ego to the Self. He sees this as the life work of a man and the center of meaning for all human endeavour. When Parsifal learns that he is no longer the center of the universe– not even his own little kingdom–he is free of his alienation and the Grail is no longer barred from him. Though he may come and go from the Grail castle during the rest of his life, now he will never be alien to it again.

One detail in the story is worth special observation: Parsifal need only ask the question; he does not have to answer it. Although it is the duty of the ego to ask a well-formulated question, he is not required to answer it. To ask well is virtually to answer.

Happiness

Rejoicing bursts forth in the Grail castle; the Grail is brought forth, it gives its food to everyone, including the now-healed Fisher King, and there are perfect peace, joy and well-being. Such a dilemma! If you ask the Grail to give you happiness, that demand precludes happiness. But if you serve the Grail and the Grail King properly, you will find what happens and happiness are the same thing. A play on words becomes the definition of enlightenment.

Grail:

Your goals and ambitions, the desires you have. Something eternal and beautiful.

Grail King:

The higher self, or the Self (the Grail King is sad and wounded, and then when Parsifal asked the right question, he rejoiced, and now heal-ed.) When your goals and ambitions align with your higher self, you will find happiness.

Parsifal:

the soul, going through the quest under the flow of the unconscious.

The energy moves from the consciousness to the unconsciousness when one is vulnerable and hurt. He goes through a lot of fights to get to the place where he is called hero, but he loses his Grail because he forgets to ask the question ‘who does the Grail serve?’ His ego blinds him from seeing the answer that is beyond himself. He is saying the Grail serves I. The Grial King remains unhealed. In other words, you remain unhappy. Until one day, Parsifal listens to the heed of the Hermit within and finds the shortcut to the castle. When you listen to your inner voice, the castle is never far away. This time he examines his own shortcomings and stays humble, and asks the question ‘Who does the grail serve?’ Your consciousness only needs to formulate the question, but is not required to answer it. The answer will reveal itself as you trust your own unconsciousness. The answer comes, the grail is here to serve the Grail King. You are here to serve the grail and the Grail King. The higher self that is beyond you and will see your life is to serve something bigger than yourself. The achievements and failures are not personal but just creative spontaneity of the Self.

The ‘Ten Oxherding Pictures” from Zen Buddhism

Image result for ten oxherding pictures

An identical theme is found in the Ten Oxherding Pictures. This is protraying the steps towards enlightenment. In the first the young hero seraches for the ox–his inner nature; in the second he sees the foot-prints of the ox; in the third he sees the ox. The series proceeds to the ninth picture in which the hero tames the ox, forges a peaceful relationship with it, and sits quietly surveying the scene. The question rises at this point–Behold the streams flowing, whither no-body knows, whither nobody knows; and the flowers vividly red- for whom are they? Author Mokusen Miyuki reflects that these words could be translated literally into “The stream flows on its own accord, and the flower is red on its own accord.” In Taoism it can mean ‘naturalness,’ an occurring of the creative spontaneity of nature, within and without. In other words, 自然 (Tsu-jan), an occurring of the creative spontaneity of nature, as the living reality of self-realization or the creative urge of the Self manifesting itself in nature.

The series of pictures culminates in the tenth when the hero, now perfectly at peace, walks unnoticed through the village streets. There is nothing extraordinary about him now except that all the trees burst into blossom as he passes by.

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When the obedient decided to chase after freedom

I think there is an important life lesson I really really need to log down. I have always been the obedient child. But I can see that it is toxic now. I would like to change that.

The obedient do not know how to fight against the odds. The obedient care too much about what others think of them. We are too good at hiding ourselves instead of showing the world who we are. The obedient are passively aggressive because we do not like you but we pretend we do. Something shows, right?

Growing up my mom cares a lot about what I do and think. She believes everything has to be according to the social standards. That makes me sick. I am screaming ‘I am not normal’ but no one hears that. Most of the friends were too busy trying to please their parents and act ‘normal’. But I refused to accept normalcy is something humans chase after. I can see so many flaws that society will not accept in me. It is so loud in my quiet mind that I know it is impossible for me to be normal. Luckily, I was smart enough to know probably this is the state for other people in the world as well.  They just refused to accept it. I don’t know why they can’t see it, but they are good people. The end result is, back and forth I doubt myself. They say I don’t belong. They say I am marching to a lonesome defeat. But I refused to believe in the society. I refused to give up. I have given in for a long time. This tug of war is between my identity and the world in front of me. How to strike a balance and call it a win-win?

I chose myself. I became an artist. I grasped any opportunities to express myself as a person. I studied psychology and philosophy. I studied the things that constitutes normalcy from a scientific angle. I studied the so-called disabled people and read their autobiographies. I stumbled upon Carl Jung’s quotes and I think that changes everything. At the age of 14, I read about Carl Jung and for the years to come, his words painted the wall of my room and the back of my mind. In a large scale, everything I do is to preserve the selves that society wants to repress, to entertain the selves that I am scared to lose. The emotions that are running in the background, the quiet screams only those who are sensitive would notice.

However, no matter how good I am being an artist, I did not learn to use words to express my own selves in front of others. Writing is good but it is still not a direct mean to express emotions. I still shy away from expressing my own emotions to others. The idea that others will actually accept I dislike something others like is hard to take.  Adults do not like truths, they just want to conserve the superficial harmony. This is something I hate about being an adult. This is something I hate about my parents.

This was true until one day I told my colleague I got nothing to work on, and he told me that is because I have complied orders and followed instructions all my life and do not know how to find my own work.  ”Our company gives us lots of freedom, you just have to ask for permission.” He is the colleague that many others do not like because he started many things but did not manage to finish them properly. A trouble-maker. But in that moment he said those words, I was not offended. Not at all.  I think he is wise. What he said is true. I do not know how to express myself even when people allow it. People would like to see what I can offer and bring up.

It is the moment that I think the world is not working against me but with me. The feeling of ‘the world is against me’ is really hard to shake off but in that moment I turned the concept around, I can sense freedom and acknowledgment are possible in this world.

The more I work with other humans, I realised they are not really rejecting me but curious about me. They want to know I will say, they want to know what kind of surprise I will bring them. This is something never existed in my world. People in my world used to reject me because I was not following instructions. People used to show hatred and take freedom from me when I refused to obey. I lived in an authoritarian world! In the sacrifice of personal freedom, I lost interest in living but drifting into a world that no human exists. I love to draw fluffy animals and I would be the only human being in my imagination.I drifted into the world of books in search of meaning in life. I go dark. I disappeared from the reality in favor of my own reality.

Humans are extremely hard to satisfy. We all have our own ideas but only a few can articulate their ideas fully to feel understood.

Paulo Coelho said madness is the inability to communicate your ideas. It’s as if you were in a foreign country, able to see and understand everything that’s going on around you, but incapable of explaining what you need to know or of being helped, because you don’t understand the language they speak there. We’ve all felt that. And all of us, one way or another, are mad.

Maybe that’s the reason: the obedient have a hard time to get out of their own madness. They lack the skills to tell others what they need to know.

To escape that, you either allow yourself to be mad in front of others or you learn to communicate in various ways. I do both, I suppose.

Yesterday, I had a dream of being naked but I do not feel ashamed. I remember Milton Erikson once told his patient that God gives us the body and we should not be ashamed of showing her breasts in public while feeding her son; or giving out gasses. They are the miracles of human bodies. Being mad is also what humans do, there is nothing to feel ashamed of. I think ‘madman’ do it differently because they cannot choose when to do the mad things, but most of us have this choice. I started to scream when I am at home, especially when I feel life is unfair. I started to shout and growl like a dog at home or in the forest whenever I feel like it. It feels good, it helps with the release of anger I have, for myself and for this world. I am also working at a school setting and learning to communicate with students who test my boundaries and get rewards for free. It tested my ability to communicate and value their ideas and at the same time stay true to myself.

I have learnt to embrace the absurdity of human life and embrace the unconscious mechanisms that most people may not understand.The acknowledgment of personal freedom feels good, even though it may not be what you think it is. It could mean doing harmless silly things in front of others. It could mean being proactive and stand for yourself and the values you held close to your heart.

My kind of Mantra

Fill yourself with love, imagine yourself holding someone in pain. Someone in physical pain, or emotional pain. Hold her/ him tightly, tell her/him you would take good care of her/him. Promise her/him. Generate the type of energy that is kind and loving, hug her/him, touch her/him. Practice it. Imagine yourself as someone strong, someone with scars and someone who understands. Someone protective and someone who is willing to take the responsibility to dig deep.

This is my kind of mantra. I will be here, for you, till we see the sun, and you are strong enough to carry one with yourself. My name is called trauma healing. I am just a tool in God’s hand. I use all my might to go through hard times with other people, I stay with their uncomfortable times so that they can find ease and peace and tranquillity on their own.

Grow a forest in your mind.

Lately, I have been crying a lot. Since I have been back to Hong Kong I felt like part of me died. Whenever I am free in my room I reminisce the days I was in England. The good old days, when I know what I was doing and what I wanted.

There have been days I dream of someone leaving me.  The dreams are like telling me, ‘There is no one else to take care of you anymore.You are on your own now.Your days in England have taught you enough to face whatever in front of you. So please be strong. Please be patient.’

Returning to Hong Kong is also like facing my old depressed self again. I go back to live with people who have once depreciated me. I go back to see the things I had once tried so hard but failed. I have learnt better but all these still hurts.

I started to build up a mental health system for myself. I look for a jogging trail, I look for healthy food, I look for inspirational and motivational people, and most of all, I look for solitude. It has been three months, I have found a jogging trail close to where I live, but I haven’t found a way to cook healthy food in this household. I have failed to find inspirational and motivational people. I felt like abandoned. I only found books, things I have once written down. I have to become my own motivation generator. Solitude is hard to find when you are living in a city and everyone is annoyed or complaining about something or someone.

From time to time I think humans aren’t meant to live in a city. Too many people are too much. Humans need personal space to be themselves. Humans need to have spaces where they can be disgusting and ugly, so they can have the space to show others their cheerful and positive sides. Hong Kong has gotten this all wrong.

I got a job working at a secondary school. The job has been meaningful but it’s not pointing me to the direction I am going. It’s a sidetrack. It’s my way to comfort my parents that I could be independent and live my own life. But it’s hard for me to accept that things aren’t alright. I need to go back to psychology and do a master. I felt stuck even though people around me are all telling me I am on the right track. It doesn’t feel that way.

I still remember the week before I left England, I was upset because I can foresee what’s upcoming. When I was jogging in the woodland trail in England.I prayed and asked God what I can do when I am surrounded by anxious people. There was silence for a long time. But then, after a long while, someone answered. A voice told me, you see the trees here? Yes, I said. Imagine yourself in this serene and peaceful setting. Come back to this place. Grow a forest in your mind. And you have it, relaxation and calmness.

What if you have already won life?

Last year, I was in a martial arts training and someone cried because she cannot do a kick properly, and the teacher asked me to go to the toilet to see if she was alright. I knew that is a sign of depression, or at least, it signified the fear of failures. But I did not have the courage to bring it up. It was really awkward and I said some random stupid shit that I have done when I was little to make her laugh. She did not laugh. Anyway.

This experience caught me thinking, what should I say when someone you are supposed to build up a friendly relationship with cry at the least triggering things?

‘Do you know that you cry not because of that kick/thing that you have done, but because it reminded you some sort of sad and painful memories in the past that convinced you ”you will never succeed again”?’

‘I know you cannot help crying, so there is no reason to be embarrassed about.’

‘And I am here to tell you, that you are not worthless. You will win, but not in the way you expected. A few years ago, I was really depressed about my public exam results, and I swear to god if there is one more chance I will pass with flying colors. I will try so hard, I will not sleep until I finish revision. I will do anything, just to get back the self-esteem I had lost. But things were still difficult, it was just me becoming more and more desperate and crazy. Nothing really changed really. How I studied did not change just because I wanted to win. I was just getting deeper and deeper into the inferior feeling. Then, day after day I thought about other stuff. I did other stuff. Many of the emotions remain unchanged. But my perspective towards this world changed.

One day I was thinking, what if God created a game that I have to fail 100 times before I figured out all the skills I need to find the key of success? What if there are more than 100 traps in this pathway that leads to success? Why am I quitting on the second or third level? Why am I feeling numb about all the emotions and shut down my whole emotional system just because I bleed? What if I stumbled and fell 99 times but I can still smile and try again?

Think about it. What if that is life? If that is true, I think the game is not about winning or losing, but a testing of your mental strength. A test of your mental flexibility, durability, endurance, the ability to feel and love in the face of losing everything you have.

If you have failed 100 times but you are still able to feel and love, but still able to be sensitive and gentle to yourself and others, I think you have already won.

Some individuation happened.

Carl Jung once said he felt like everyone has two different personalities. Generalised from his own childhood experiences, he mentioned in his autobiography Memories, Dreams, Reflections (1963) that when he was little, he identified two sides of him that are distinct from each other. Jung named them No. 1 and No.2. No.1 was the child who wants parental approval and success while No.2 was spiritual, wise, rooted, mystical and love nature, was his true self.

The similarity between my childhood with Carl Jung was, both of us are extreme introverts, some may even use the term ‘schizoid personality disorder’ to describe this particular condition. Being withdrawn and aloof, we both took our inner life seriously and had a more developed No. 2 than the average in society.

However, different from Carl Jung, I had a hard time developing my No.1 side of me. From time to time, my No.2 dominates the situation. My No.1 development was lagging behind but I did not see a problem with it. No.2 is all about being yourself and live in the present, without concern over other people’s opinions and it can push me to go against societal norms and from time to time, persuade me to ‘break the rules’. But my maldeveloped No.1 side was telling me I am inferior and I am not good enough, never good enough. People will not look upon me with respect. Maybe my No.1 side had become my shadow for a long time but I was not aware of it.So I cling to my No.2 self even further.

My breaking point came when a very close friend who I’ve seen as my opposite persona (who had a very well developed No.1 ) succeeded in achieving something I am jealous about. I realised my No.1 side have always been there inside me, and it’s time to deal with the development of myself. Some inner work needs to be done.

Quick enough, just within a week or so, I started to explore lots of career choices I have never thought about and have more positive emotions within myself. I reviewed and rejected many of the previous statement I took as facts and suspected to be wrong. I used to take my parents’ view of me as inferior and ‘the kid who will always live under mama’s skirt’ started to become a fire and fuel me to develop myself. I had never worked on my outer layer of myself. Now I can see that even though I am spiritual, loving and self-accepting, something is off and I will never succeed. Other people cannot see my strengths neither because I have never tried to dress like the person I wanted to be seen as. Now, things are clear, I want to be seen as a powerful independent woman.

I felt so much better about myself after that existential crisis about my own identity and self. I still have not figured out my future and I am sure this topic will freak me out and stress me out every time I think about. But I am ready, ready to face the side of myself I have not looked at, and make peace with it.

You are born whole

I thought about how some people got multi-personality and split their own self into different layers. I looked at people who teach others to love themselves. I proposed our psychological self is actually making up of different layers. When we say you have to respect yourself this is a strange statement, because you need someone else to respect. How can you give something to someone if there is only one person? But respecting yourself is possible, loving yourself is possible. So psychologically, everyone has different layers of self. Freudians use the idea self, ego and id to explain this. The ideal self is the realistic side of you who want to be successful, admired, loved by others. You follow the norms, do what the society considers as good. But this might not be what you want. What you want to do or your own inner child, is the id. We will go back to the idea of the inner child later, but right now I want to stress my definition of self is slightly different, we have an indefinite number of layers within us, it’s not countable. Also, it is not as clear cut as id, super-ego and ego. There are always grey areas in between, and probably some layers in between.

 

Furthermore, self-love is the glue to hold these layers together, the stronger your self-love, the more you can accept your different layers,the more you can hold yourself together, and the closer you are to unity of self. And by that, some people will say ‘they feel they are whole’, it is that feeling. Unity of self, I mean different layers of self merged together and one no longer feel there are distance among layers of self, he or she can accept the dark sides and the bright sides of himself or herself unconditionally. But this feeling is actually independent of others, in daily lives many people attribute this feelings to their lovers. But love will always stands outside if you cannot love yourself. Love from someone just triggers self-love from yourself, everything is about you, and you alone.

 

We just talked about how self-love can make us feel whole and it is independent to others. So, what is the typical state for most people? There is a huge gap between their ideal self and their inner child. Adults, implements lots of socially acceptable values and beliefs and traditions and customs to themselves, and have the ideal that they have to fulfill those things in order to be successful and happy. Because of that, they are no longer able to see their own inner child screaming to them about what they actually need or desire. They are far away from their inner child. They are usually will not say they are unhappy, but they are not happy neither, because they are not even sure what they want. They thought growing up is about leaving their playful side of themselves behind, and starting to care more about others than themselves. They thought leaving their own desires and needs and satisfying other’s needs and desires means growing up, implies maturity. But as one steps away from their own need and desires, one is also stepping away from their id, the core layer of self. As a consequence, many people step away from their own self and no longer able to love themselves, hoping others can do that for them.

 

Sadly, this is a very common story.

 

To explain this, Freudians will probably say the superego is dominating the psyche and repressing the needs of id. To solve this, the person has to look carefully what the id need and rationally satisfy the desires of id. While in the approach of Carl Jung, this will probably be explained by socialization and the initial wholeness of self disappeared because the internalization of cultural and sociatal values to ‘you who are’ as a person. You learned to look outward and thought that is exactly who you are. Until one day you realised the image of you no longer applies and you freaked out, has an identity crisis and cling to the old self image you have. You cannot see through, the answer is always within, deep within. The only way to find out who you are and feel whole again, is achieved by looking inwards. Getting away layers and layers of what you thought as a good person, examined the criteria that the society considered as good and bad. You will start to see, there are no one judgement that is universial in this world. Everyone holds a different ruler. When you thought you are beautiful the other person can see you as ugly. You are considered ugly in this culture but beauty in another. There are no rules. 

 

Look within, and you will see many things you assumed as right are just culturally accustomed as right. Who you are? The society says we should avoid the pain we have gone through and only focus on being positive. But avoiding the pain also means you are avoiding yourself. Ironic, isn’t it?

 

Once again, please look within. Acknowledge the emotions repressed by your family and friends, acknowledge the things that are stored inside you for the sake looking good. Self-love means looking deep inside, accept the sides of you the society does not give permission to, acknowledge the pain you are in.

 

Life can be twisted and fucked up, but you are whole, every creature on this Earth is whole.