My mother is a ghost now. She died the last day of 2016. She was the person nearest and dearest to me for much of my life, yet it seemed we never quite understood and accepted each other unconditionally. She haunts me as an unfulfilled spirit when I have anxious thoughts, or fearful premonitions, or self-admonition, but also in old sayings, endearing quirks, and the names of flowers and trees. And she inhabits my dreams, mostly as an unhappy child.
Relationships & Partnerships
Couples often wonder whether they are “ready” for such a commitment. I look for situations when each person’s “sore spot” is activated. When a couple is able to hold the tension of the activated inferior function and find a way to make their relationship a vehicle for the development of personality, then they are “ready” for marriage in one of the most crucial ways.
Being married is easily the hardest thing I have ever done. Marriage is an all-consuming project that requires energy, commitment, and sustained effort. Unlike my other projects, I can’t just ignore my marriage until inspiration strikes. Mostly, there’s no faking it. As an introvert in an extraverted world, faking it is a lot of how I survive.
The more I fell apart inside, the more I needed outside structure and order. One night I dreamed of an interior colorless and noiseless explosion that was followed by a voice that boomed, “You have the courage to let your interior world be chaos; there are no walls where there should be walls. You are a crab, and you need an exoskeleton.”
Later, I reflected that my tone, out of awareness at time of utterance, was the element to which she was reacting as a feeling type, and that my insistence on staying on topic showed up in her experience as my controlling her. Such was my first conscious application of Beebe’s sobering formulation of the monster-in-play when our eighth function breathes fire at another’s dominant function.
My sister’s life illustrates the impact of a lack of positive parental guidance on the development of personality and what happens if the inner parent fails to develop. Family tragedy deprived Christin of a compass with which to navigate psychic turbulence during midlife. While few people succumb to such crises, many lack the tenacity to face them.
The dynamics of creative process and psychological wellbeing are such that creative artists are often overcome by the demonic. From Nietzsche’s Zarathustra to Curt Cobain’s Nirvana, there is an artistic star swallowed by the unconscious every week. But the arts can also be a type of savior—a place for us to process our darkness and not become it.
Individuation calls us to fight the dragon head-on. The struggles of relationship—whether with another person or within a culture—are opportunities. We can flee and seek a quick-fix, taking what my husband calls “tequila shot” flights to numb the discomfort until the next situation arises. Or we can remain within the oyster shell and endure the uncomfortable rubbing.
Igniting the spark of opposites produced during conflict can provide an opportunity for holding the tensions between the one-sided attitudes. The process requires confronting and embracing the forces of unconscious qualities, along with holding the tension and uniting of opposing forces, in order for the full expression of an individual’s potential to be revealed.
A marriage is not only a dynamic story of two but also a mirror of the innermost soul workings of one, a journey of the disparate parts of one’s self seeking integration, finding their way home. If I have learned anything about marriage it is this: the greatest legacy I can offer my outer marriage is soulful, abiding attention to my inner union.