Powered By Blogger

Friday, April 21, 2023

Case history AND soul history....really!

 Given that our culture has become familiar with and at least partially comfortable with the concept of the ‘case history’ as it applies to medical work-up’s and social workers’ documentation of the presenting issues in analysing the needs of their clients, it seems appropriate, and perhaps even timely (from the perspective of this scribe and blog, as we attempt to embrace, digest, reflect upon and share some of the more significant differences between what Hillman is talking, writing, theorizing and positing as ‘archetypal psychology’.

Even psychologists and psychiatrists write up case histories, each from their own perspective. In earlier posts, we found that suicide has attracted multiple observations, interpretations, and strategies and tactics for therapists to intervene with a view and purpose of prevention. These observations have, as Hillman underlines, come from the outside and applied various depicters to explain, and to attempt to comprehend this most tragic of human choices. We know that the DSM, in whatever iteration and edition, outlines, describes and denotes various psychiatric ‘conditions’ based on the compendium and interpretation of data from schooled psychiatrists over many years. Many of these criteria of illness are determined in a manner similar to the diagnostic methodology of medicine, given that psychiatry has been a child of that academic discipline.

In attempting to ‘work with’ a human choice like suicide, categories, premises , phobias, compulsions, the call of love have all been deployed as explanations of the act. And the literature is voluminous and precise in this section of the psychiatric library. Words like ‘nervous breakdown’ have been associated with the event, as have such descriptors as alcoholism, depression, bi-polarity, and schizophrenia. What might be helpful, as an alternative window into our understanding of suicide, and by inference, all other experiences of deep and profound pain and suffering, from a psychological perspective. From disease, crime, psychosis and addiction, all of them well established as ‘causes’, Hillman offers a path that seeks to develop a ‘case history’ of the soul….not merely of the body and mind.

Such extrinsic events, as home life, education, marriage, employment, achievements and failures, losses and victories, while significant in a ‘case history’ all have ‘behind’ them an inner life’ the life of the soul.

Case history reports on the achievements and failures of life with the world of facts. But the soul has neither achieved nor failed in the same way because the would has not worked in the same way.  Its material is experience and its realizations are accomplished not just by efforts of will. The soul imagines and plays—and play is not chronicled by report. What remains of the years of our childhood play that could be set down in a case history? Children, and so-called ‘primitive peoples,’ have no history; they have instead the residue of their play crystallized in myth and symbol, language and art, and in a style of life. Taking the soul history means capturing emotions, fantasies, and images by entering the game and dreaming the myth along with the patient. Taking a soul history means becoming part of the other person’s fate. Where a case history presents a sequence of facts leading to a diagnosis, soul history shows rather a concentric helter-skelter pointing always beyond itself. Its facts are symbols and paradoxes. Taking a soul history calls for the intuitive insight of the old fashioned diagnostician and an imaginative understanding of a lifestyle that cannot be replaced by data accumulation and explanation through case history. We cannot get a soul history through a case history. But we can get a case history by prolonged exploration in soul history, which is nothing other than analysis itself….The rediscovery of soul history shows itself in the reawakening of emotion, fantasy, and dream, in a sense of mythological destiny penetrated by the transpersonal, and by spontaneous acausal time. It reflects the ‘cure’ from a chronic identification of theso9ul with outer events, places and people. As this separation occurs, one is no longer a case but a person. Soul history emerges as one sheds case history, or, in other words, as one dies to the world as an arena of projection. Soul history of a living obituary, recording life from the point of view of death, giving the uniqueness of a person sub specie aeternitatis. As one builds one’s death, so one writes one’s own obituary in one’s soul history….Case history classifies death by car crash differently from death by overdose of sleeping tablets. Death from disease, from accident, and from suicide are called different kinds of death—and so they are, from the outside. Even the more sophisticated classifications (unmeditated, premeditated, submeditated death) fail to give full credit to the involvement of the psyche in every death. These categories do not fully recognize that the soul is always mediating death. In Freud’s sense, Thanatos is ever present: the soul needs death and death resides in the soul permanently. (Hillman, Suicide and the Soul, pps.64-65)

While these words are written and borrowed in the context of suicide, the notion that our inner psychic (soul) existence is different from our ‘external’ life remains for our lives, from the perspective of Hillman’s archetypal psychology. His ideas move away from the observable, the empirical and the literal into the mythical, the imaginal and the much more ambiguous, abstract and perhaps even unconscious.

Two concepts leap out from the above quote: projections and Thanatos.

We have noted projections in previous pieces, in this space. The concept of projections of what each of us considers difficult feelings or personal features (and thereby denied and/or avoided) onto another rather than dealing with them head-on, is a deeply established notion in modern psychology. History has it that at least one man, deeply engrossed in suicidal ideation, only hours before his death, expressed to his secretary, “Beware of the projections!” Hillman uses the phrase to describe the ‘outside world’ as a ‘world of projections.’ Considered to be unconscious, projections are therefore highly secretive and deceptive both to the one uttering them and clearly to the target. In my own life, although I have been engaged in several business operations, from the marketing and public relations perspective, and have written sell-lines, and advertising copy and generated leads through guerilla marketing techniques, I have a deep-seated angst about the whole mind-bending, propaganda, political-correctness mind-set and the practitioners in that profession. My disdain for the dynamic of mind-bending can be nothing less than a projection…and it has been noted with contempt by those whose lives have been immersed in that profession, rendering me and my attitudes, heretical, and even untrustworthy.

Hillman has even more to say about projections, that might be of interest to readers, as it is to this scribe. In A Blue Fire, from a section entitled, Therapy: Fictions and Epiphanies, he writes:

Projections occur between parts of the psyche, not only outside into the world. They occur between internal persons and not only onto external people. The alchemical idea of projection referred to interior events. Ruland’s alchemical dictionary describes projection as a ‘violent interpenetration’ of substances; there is a ‘sudden egression’ which is projected over a matter by another matter therewith transforming it. Projection too can be psychologized; we can take back projection itself, interiorizing It as an activity going on blindly between anima and animus within.

From appliedjung.com, we read, in a piece entitled, The Archetypes of the Anima and Animus, by Stephen Farah:

The Anima/Animus related to our inner or soul life. Not soul as understood in metaphysical terms as something which lives on beyond our phnysi8cal existence but rather soul as in the inner force that animates us…..In a woman her contra sexuality is masculine and governs her rational thinking function and we call this the Anima. In a man his contra sexuality is feminine and governs his irrational feeling function and we call this the Anima….When we talk about the  role of the Anima and Animus we are talking about:

relatedness-our ability to relate a whole human beings to the world and other people. In order for the relatedness to have an equal measure of heart and mind the psyche relies on the contra sexuality to compensate for the natural one sidedness of the personality.

Animation or Spirit, the anima/animus plays a significant role in determining how we thing and feel about our lives in the innermost chamber of our hearts. It is not what we say but the spirit we bring to the world that we feel inside ourselves and that others become aware of  when they interact with us.

The archetype of the Anima/Animus forms a bridge between our personal unconscious and what Jung refers to as the Collective Unconscious (Hillman might dub this the anima mundi..) The anima/animus is the image making capacity which we use to draw inspirational, creative and intuitive images from the inner world (strictly speaking transpersonal inner world).

 For Freud, there are two driving forces in the human psyche: Thanatos and Eros.

(From geneseo.edu) Thanatos is the drive of aggressions, sadism, destruction, violence and death. Eros is the drive of life, love creativity, and sexuality, self-satisfaction and species preservation. …Freud notes that human beings, following Thanatos, have invented the tools to completely exterminate themselves; in turn Eros is expected to ‘make an effort to assert himself in the struggle with an equally immortal adversary.

For Hillman, the human soul is concerned with death: the soul needs death and death resides in the soul permanently, as we read above. His view seems to be different from both Freud and Jung, however, in that for Hillman, while Thanatos is essential and permanent as a partner of the soul, there are also many other mythic voices playing out in the psychic dramas of our lives. And these dramas, for Hillman, have meaning for our death. The notion of two competing archetypes, (Thanatos and Eros, for example, or for Jung, puer and senex), is stretched into a constant tension, in Hillman’s thought, in that these two, and other voices are engaged simultaneously, and unpredictably and only discernible in and through reflection.

Interior projections, as well as exterior projections, along with a chorus of mythic voices especially in the deepest and darkest moments of our suffering, in a world culture (society) that is also characterized as anima mundi, and all things in that world with their own animism is at least a beginning approach to how Hillman sees the world from the perspective of archetypal psychology. As compared with Jung who sought to enhance the Christian religion, Hillman is positing a psychology that, while closely connected to religion in that a belief in the mythic voices are credible, is neither speaking in favour of or in opposition to any specific faith.

Indeed, it is not a stretch to ‘see’ Hillman’s archetypal psychology, akin to Joseph Campbell’s study in mythic heroes, embracing each culture that is and has been alive, given that all have their own respective names for the various mythic gods, goddesses, and mythic names for various, sometimes even animal voices that they (we) imagine to be present in our psyche.

For many, the very notion of a ‘soul history’ as compared with a ‘case history’ would be not only narcissistic and self-indulgent, out of the reach of the literal, the empirical and the nominalism of contemporary cultural perceptions and values; it would also be considered a task too ephemeral, and too ethereal and too abstract and too inconclusive even to be worthy of engaging. And, for this scribe, it is only if and when we begin to consider our own ‘soul’ (psyche) with a view to the significance, relevance and imaginal engagement of those emotions, and thoughts and images that have held their respective influence, often without our awareness, that we might begin to ‘see’ and to ‘engage’ in the life of this universe, in a way commensurate not only with science and philosophy but also with the imagination.

Will the deferral from and by the official academic community of science and research to archetypal psychology provide a path to starving archetypal psychology of the oxygen and the investigation and the embrace it warrants, or, conversely and perhaps paradoxically, engender a kind of energy and interest from a cultural public that somehow sees and embraces the complexity and the richness and the darkness and the inscrutability of each and every one of us. And that richness and complexity is accessible for and to each of us, in some measure, without expecting or anticipating a blue-print, like a paint-by-number model, for us to use as a template for how to live.

No comments:

Post a Comment