Outer Limits

IN THE memoir-writing circuit, abuse is a recurring theme and writing the best form of therapy, published or not. The abundance of stories seeking an audience is a healthy sign of real cultural change. Less healthy is the sadistic glee when some abuse survivors refuse to entertain protecting the identities of their villains, regardless of the spectre of legal action.

I am of the view that the writer should never take responsibility for how others react to the truth and that wrongdoing should be exposed. However, if a memoirist cannot demonstrate the humanity that was denied to them, then they have learned nothing that will be of real value to their readers. A memoir is about how the writer handled their shit not what So-and-So did to them.

Both ‘perpetrator’ and ‘victim’ are the products of a corrupt value system that first takes us prisoner in the classroom. By the time we reach elementary/primary school, we know all about what ‘it’ is to be a boy or a girl. We are subsequently introduced to a host of other opposites. Something is either good or bad, strong or weak, beautiful or ugly, big or small, nice or nasty, smart or stupid – in-betweenness is viewed with scorn. We are trained to pigeon-hole even ourselves and this can occur in any combination of positives and negatives. The end result of this process, as we are ‘knocked’ into the right shape, is polarisation – some children become bullies, if not abusers, while others become the abused.

So in a sense both parties have been wronged. This way of looking at things creates an environment in which it is easier for the bully/abuser to accept responsibility for their actions and a basis through which some common ground can be achieved. Personally, this is a far more satisfying possibility than revenge.

When all other avenues have been exhausted and if an abuse survivor has no choice but to drop someone in it, a mature writer will show any redeeming qualities that they were aware of. Painting them in as balanced a light as possible will go a long way to reducing the amount of fallout and reduce the likelihood of being accused of being a liar. Intent is everything and karma is still a bitch.

It also falls upon the professing self-healer to shine a light on their own darknesses and failings. The idea that we are a bastion of all that is good and the ‘bad’ guy is scum is not credible and, um, quite frankly, boring.

Causing your outed villain(s) discomfort is inevitable and to a degree, desirable. After all, discomfort is a vital part of the self-healing process and both parties have a right to self-heal. Wanting them to suffer, though, brings you to their level. How can the teller of the story self-heal effectively if they add another layer of baggage by wilfully hurting those that have hurt them (and their families and friends)?

My motto is and always will be “Treat others as you would be treated, not how they treated you.”

********

Note: Yes, my memoir has a ‘villain’ (or two) but, for the avoidance of doubt, GB is not one of them.

Stranger than fiction

gears

BOXING DAY 2014. As usual the telly is crap. Flicking through the mindless list of channels, we finally stumble across Jonathan Creek and I declare “Aha!”. Since it was once rather compelling, it is logical to think that it might still be, even if we are about to watch a repeat. However, as we become drawn into the clever weave of mystery and intrigue, it seems that it has been so long since I last saw it that it feels fresh. This one is called “The Judas Tree”.

In case you’re not familiar with Jonathan Creek, the main character is a creative consultant to an illusionist and in his spare time he solves crimes that appear to be supernatural. The bad guys are always clever illusionists themselves and it’s Jonathan’s job to figure out how they pulled off their dastardly crimes. He has had three sidekicks – this time it’s not Caroline Quentin, it’s the blonde one.

Anyway, there we are sitting in front of the TV, Alex trying to have a conversation with me while I try to keep up with the complexity of the plot. Jonathan meantime is rooting about in a darkened room, experiencing his own “Aha” moments with increasing frequency yet, like me, still scratching his head.

Earlier that day, I took Alex to task for having resorted to clipping my thigh with the back of his hand in order to get my attention. Now he is doing it again.

But this time, before I have a chance to yelp the word “Ooowwwww!”, Jonathan’s bubbly assistant Sheridan says to him, completely out of context with the rest of the dialogue, “What’s that smacking sound?”

In true Scooby Doo fashion, my jaw drops and I turn to Alex, who is looking back at me, eyes nearly popping out of his head.

All together now “Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa-aaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhh!”

“Shaggy?”

“Okay, Alex, seriously – how did you do that?”

Once the initial shock of such a freaky coincidence is over and we are both satisfied that the other hasn’t been sneaking a shifty peek on a +1 channel, we devote both our attentions to the eventual resolution of the case, convinced that if we keep our earflaps wide open, the significance of the smacking sound will be revealed. After all, it is reasonable to assume that it is a clue. We listen … and we wait ….

But the eerie part is this … when all the pennies finally drop, the smacking sound is not one of them. Those four words served no purpose whatsoever. Now I’m going to have to replay the whole damn lot to make sure it even happened.

Can two people imagine the same thing? What if the idea to start slapping my thigh had actually been planted in Alex’s head two nights before during an earlier episode of Jonathan Creek? I’m scared to google this in case I’ve just taken part in an outdated and well documented mind control experiment by the BBC! I’d hate to ruin a good story.

Copyright (c) M K MacInnes

NATIVIDAD: Chapter Three

nativity

IT IS 1961. Tensions between Cuba and America are at an all time high and an Englishman and his heavily pregnant Cuban fiancée flee New York for their lives. The Cubans just want the baby. The Feds just want the Englishman. Who knows what the CIA want …

I’ve written this ‘modernisation’ of the Nativity in a biblical style to give it a more ‘genuine’ feel. It is not a political tale and is not pro-this or anti-that, so don’t be put off by the revolutionary backdrop, which is necessary to the story in its symbolism.

It’s more ‘realistic’ in biblical format here.

CHAPTER THREE

THE day before Christmas Eve, word came to the FBI of Percy and Eva’s intended departure, and this so enraged them that they ploughed every possible furrow to discover their destination. London they were told. So a Federal agent was sent to the airport to prevent their escape.

Percy and Eva arrived there only to find that they were followed by not one, not two but three men. One looked like an FBI agent, another was the man who had assailed Eva; the third man Percy recognised as the stranger in his dream. They seemed none too pleased that the others were there.

It was for this reason alone that Percy and Eva reached their flight without incident. ‘Twas the last flight before Christmas.

During their journey, Eva protested her innocence anew. But still Percy’s heart was cold.

Once in the land of Percy’s forefathers, they got through the airport as fast as they could to confound the Federal agent. Then when they hailed a taxi to take them into the city of London, where they had booked a hotel for the night, they saw the Cuban agent.

Followed by two taxis, Percy and Eva finally arrived at the Waldorf Hotel, exhausted and sore afraid. But their reservation was not to be found and there were no more rooms.

Percy flew into such a rage that he struck fear into the receptionist, so he was informed by the manager that if they did not leave, they would call the police. Meanwhile, Eva’s pains had begun and snow was nigh.

Their fear made greater by the sight of the third man lying in wait outside the door, Percy instructed the next driver to take them to the mansion house of an old friend in a place called Bethnal Green.

To be contnued …

Copyright (c) M K MacInnes 2017

As The Crow Flies

crow

MIDNIGHT had long passed and it was raining hard. Visibility was limited to that which was illuminated by the bright flecks of driving rain caught in the beam of the headlights. All else was black.

The dance was now a distant memory. Despite the conditions and a bloodstream full of whisky, the man in the brand new Hillman Imp knew this single-track road from Torrin to Broadford intimately. He had no idea he was getting sloppy but he did concede that he was feeling tired and welcomed the thought of his warm bed.

Just as his eyes were getting a little heavier, the man became aware that he was about to pass the old haunted graveyard. The realisation gave him just enough adrenalin to restore him to a state of wakefulness, for Kilchrist was a place that struck fear into the hearts of anyone that had ever been within its perimeter. The man squinted at the timepiece he pulled from his coat pocket.

Two o’clock. God, was that the time?

The witching hour. His grip on the steering wheel became just that little bit tighter.

II

HAD THE man still been in a stupor, he may have had less of a fright when the creature appeared out of nowhere. What looked like a pair of shiny black wings exploded into view, piercing the driving rain and heading straight for him.

The man slammed his brakes, veering to the other side of the road to avoid lurching forward and flying through the windscreen himself. When the car finally screeched to a halt, he sat for what seemed to him an eternity, his fingers and forehead glued to the upper rim of the steering wheel. It was only when he lifted his head that he realised he had no idea which direction he was facing. Whatever that thing was, it had pulled up and over the vehicle just in time.

But even when the danger appeared to be over, the fear persisted and his darkest imaginings ran wild. He could hear the voice of his mother rambling that this was the work of the Devil and at this very moment, he wondered if she was right. He reached for the glove compartment and pulled out the leatherbound Bible that his mother had insisted he keep with him at all times. Without his spectacles, he drew his comfort just from holding it, reciting the Lord’s Prayer until his heartbeat settled into its near-normal pace and he started to feel foolish. Putting the whole episode down to having drunk too much, he returned the Holy Book to its hiding place.

With no inclination whatsoever to get out of the car to investigate, the man had to switch off the headlights to get his bearings. He reoriented himself in the direction of Broadford and went on his way. When he crept into the house, his parents were asleep and he was quiet as a mouse.

III

IT WAS breakfast and an hour past sunrise. The man’s early morning chores up on the croft had been completed and he was on his second cigarette. His mother drew a bowl of steaming porridge from the cast iron pot perched on the range and placed it in front of him. She said not a word. Her face was more drawn than usual.

His father fixing on him through rings of pipesmoke from the opposite end of the table made the ticking of the grandmother clock on the back wall seem unnaturally loud and the man nervous. His intakes became longer and deeper.

His mother muttered some inaudible excuse and headed outside with a basket of clean washing. Once certain that she was no longer in earshot, the Old Man leaned over the table.

“Iain, is there anything you would like to tell me?”

Mid-draw, Iain stopped in his tracks. He scanned his memory to figure out if he should know the answer to the question.

“I’m not sure what you mean.”

“Well, how do I put it? The Old Man emitted a long puff as he tried to find the right words. “Have you done anything?”

Now Iain’s heart was beating faster. Something was clearly not right.

“Done anything? I still don’t know what you mean.”

“Did you do anything you shouldn’t have?” A shorter pause. “Last night to be exact.”

Iain’s heart stuttered. Sharp intake of breath. A cough. Murky half-faded images from the night before sought form in his head.

“You’re scaring me. If you’re talking about last night, I went to the dance. I danced, had a few drinks and came back. End of story.”

“You sure about that?”

It was hard for Iain to look his father in the eye. The only thing he could think of was that he might have taken a liberty or two with one of the wives, so the look of guilt was unmistakeable.

“Will you please tell me what you’re talking about?”

“You really don’t know ….”

“No! Now will you please tell me.” Panic was setting in. “I don’t want to be late for work.”

The Old Man drew long and hard on his pipe. He was clearly going to stretch this out.

“Well, Iain,” he said, “you must have done something. Not long after you came back to the house, there was a strange and mighty rattling sound coming from the window above your bed.”

“I don’t remember that.”

“No, you wouldn’t. You were fast asleep. Well, I got up to have a look and in the name of the wee man, if it wasn’t a great big black bird trying to get in. It was making one godalmighty commotion, flapping its wings and pecking at the glass with its beak.” He lowered his voice to a near whisper. “It was trying to break the window ….”

Iain’s fingers were trembling, his face ashen, when he stubbed out his last cigarette of the morning.

“Really?”

extract from Close Call: Short and Bittersweet, published April 2015

Copyright (c) M K MacInnes 2014

NATIVIDAD: Chapter Two

nativity

IT IS 1961. Tensions between Cuba and America are at an all time high and an Englishman and his heavily pregnant Cuban fiancée flee New York for their lives. The Cubans just want the baby. The Feds just want the Englishman. Who knows what the CIA want …

I’ve written this ‘modernisation’ of the Nativity in a biblical style to give it a more ‘genuine’ feel. It is not a political tale and is not pro-this or anti-that, so don’t be put off by the revolutionary backdrop, which is necessary to the story in its symbolism.

It’s more ‘realistic’ in biblical format here.

CHAPTER TWO

FIVE months passed. During this time, Percy forgot about the dream and was too preoccupied with the demands of his profession and the infidelity of his once beloved to pay much heed to the host of vehicles regularly parked outside.

When it was made known to Percy that Federal agents were about to apprehend him for being a Communist spy, he knew that he had no choice but to flee to England.

He found a listening instrument in his apartment but left it in its place.

Meanwhile, Eva’s father had bade his time before he sent an agent of his own to persuade his daughter to return to the land of Cuba and bear her child there. But she refused.

The agent said to her “Verily, if you come with me now, and bear this child in the land of your forefathers, I shall guarantee you safe return to New York.”

Realising that her father had interest only in the child, she kicked her abductor in such a manner and with such force that he might beget no offspring of his own and ran for her life.

Then she pleaded with Percy to take her out of the country. He agreed to this but only on condition that she spoke quietly so that no-one might hear them and promised to have the child given away.

To be contnued …

Copyright (c) M K MacInnes 2017

Writing a memoir

WITH a pandemic in full swing and many of us having more time on our hands than we might like, there has never been a better time to write one’s memoir. And you don’t have to be famous to have a tale worth telling. They say that everybody has a story in them – if you can extract meaning from your life experiences, then the chances are that others will also find meaning in your words.

The whole point of a memoir is that it should be written with abandon, no holds barred – worry about reactions later. Many memoirs never see the light of day because the content is too sensitive but if a greater good can be served by sharing a universal truth, then upsetting people might be a price worth paying.

Memoirs are best written after the passage of time to allow for processing and absorption into the psyche. It involves the same level of craft as writing fiction. The storytelling devices used, such as plot arc and character development, are the same, even if they are formed from memory rather than imagination.

It is important to stress that memoir is not autobiography, which charts an entire life from the beginning. Instead, it homes in on an aspect of someone’s life or a period of it in depth.
Memoir is less bound by formal expectations of chronology or factual accuracy. However, it is universally understood that, aside from some tweaks here and there, often in the name of confidentiality or simplification, in essence the story is true. Where factual deviations occur, events and people are more likely to have been removed (or fudged!). Fortunately, for writers who wish to embellish, there exists a form of memoir known as autofiction. Here the reader cares less about what is fact and how much is fiction. What is expected though in the former is a degree of candour and authenticity that might not be found elsewhere.

For the writer, irrespective of whether publication occurs, the benefits of such honesty (even with oneself) are immeasurable. The very act of organising one’s life into a coherent whole is the best way to make sense of it and even the most chaotic life looks less so when viewed through a the widest possible lens. Airing painful experiences that have hitherto been hidden is liberating and cathartic. Writing your own memoir is in my opinion the most effective source of self-healing and it costs nothing.

And the healing can be extended to the whole of humanity. Often one person’s life experience can showcase universal truths that need to be shared. Particularly when dealing with ‘difficult’ issues such as childhood sexual abuse or modern slavery, memoirs bring them into public consciousness, emboldening others to share their stories and from where real attitudinal and social change can occur. They also become a valuable part of the historical record.

Having gone about writing my own memoir, making up the process as I went along but realising later that despite some rookie mistakes, I had largely gone about it in the ‘right’ way), I have attempted to compile this guide. It combines my own direct experience, along with a handful of sources. As my own memoir is still in mid-flow, I still have much to learn but if you’re thinking of writing a memoir, then this is as good a place to start as any. At the end of the day, writing your memoir is your journey and this page only a guide.

Getting started

– If you aren’t already in the habit, start a journal. At the very least, it will allow you to keep track of any new material (thereby making writing the sequel much easier!). Also, keep your journal, or a separate notebook, with you when you are out and about or travelling. This is often when memories pop up, so you need to ‘catch’ them before they’re gone – poof!

– Whatever you do, don’t start at the very beginning! Whatever memory or insight prompted you to think of writing a memoir in the first place, start there.

– Don’t hold back. Tell the truth and be damned. Think about the consequences as they relate to other people after you’ve written it.

– Brain dump what you already know about that part/aspect of your life (and other related areas), as it comes and in no particular order, until you can’t think of anything else. You’ll be staggered at what pops up. Add dates where you can, even if they’re only approximate.

– Record as much detail as possible:
– sights, sounds, sensations, tastes, smells
– intuitions, perceptions, personal insights, realisations, aha moments
– emotions, inner as well as external conflicts
– any dialogue/phrases that you can remember
– every association you can possibly think of.

– Where your story has a strong psychological or spiritual theme, look for metaphor, archetype, symmetry, synchronicity to add more depth. The more opposites (and harmonies) you have to work with, the better.

– Don’t overthink. Even if your conscious mind doesn’t know the first thing about how to structure your story, your unconscious mind does. Let it do the heavy lifting, just concentrate on getting the raw ingredients onto paper.

– Type your notes into bullet points.

– Approaching it as you would a CV, organise your notes into chronological order.

– Use external reference points as necessary, for instance, a movie that you saw the day a significant life event occurred. Googling the release date for that movie on IMDB will refine your timeline.

– If random details pop up that you cannot place, write them down anyway along with a question mark. Similarly, some details might be superfluous but rather than delete them, put them to one side, on the off-chance that their importance might become apparent later. Contradictions and ‘holes’ early on are not uncommon.

– Home in on key bullet points and repeat the process as many times as is necessary until your timeline reaches saturation point and a story structure (and your emotional journey) becomes discernible. From this point onwards, you can start to think about removing anything that doesn’t serve the story.

– By now, you should also have a clear idea of where your story should start and roughly where it ends. The best stories start with a hook that draws the reader in before going ‘back’ to the beginning. The ending should see you prevailing somehow in the face of all odds, even if it isn’t quite the happy ending you were hoping for. Personally, I wouldn’t attempt to structure the middle too much until after you have written it. Get as much detail out of your system first, then cut later.

– You can also start to think about splitting it into sections/chapters. You may want to stick to a chronologically linear storytelling structure until you have a better idea what style suits your story best. Memoir has a life of its own, so be open to your story letting you know how it wants to be told. The most appropriate way for me to structure THE LOST SECRET was through a present and a past timeline running in parallel.

– I do not recommend attempting to flesh your memoir until you have constructed the bones. Now is a good time to read up on the craft of storytelling, which I have purposely not covered here.

Writing

– Embellishing or bending the truth will catch you out so don’t even think about it.

– If you have done a thorough job of structuring your memoir, you should already have a series of bullet points that just need expanding and be able to get through the ‘writing’ phase with relative ease.

– You can pick and choose which parts you want to start writing. If there are iife experiences you can’t quite stomach writing just yet, you can come back to them when you feel ready.

– As you write, keep a note of any new memories that crop up but belong elsewhere.

– Establish your own unique writing voice. Stick to one point of view (for instance, if you’re writing about your childhood, are you speaking as the adult or the child?).

– Choose your tense carefully, bearing in mind that it is possible to use both past and present (though don’t mix them). Keep your dates as headings. Even if you intend to dispense with them in your final edit, hang on to them for navigational purposes.

– Put readers in your shoes.

– Pace the story. Don’t ramble but don’t rush a highly dramatic moment either. Establish a rhythm..

– When sharing traumatic experiences, avoid victimhood and the language of blame. While you do want to crank up the emotional impact, your story is about you and how you dealt with what happened to you, not the people responsible. If for instance, you have an abusive ex-partner, humanise, don’t demonise them. Try to remember their redeeming qualitiies as well as the bad.

– When dealing with death, avoid being maudlin.

– For more complex works and memoirs with a ‘message’, you may need to contrive signposts along the way, so the reader gets a chance to digest any takeaways.

Finally, not only will you get out of your system that which you already know, you will learn so much more about yourself. You may well be shocked at what ‘new’ memories crop up and how the version of events you’ve remembered ‘clearly’ for years is out of sequence. By the time you’ve started fleshing out your memoir, you may even notice repeating patterns (aka lessons!). As the penny drops that your chaotic life wasn’t quite so random after all, it is as if you really knew what you were doing all along …

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Additional sources

https://www.masterclass.com/articles/6-tips-for-writing-a-memoir
https://thewritelife.com/how-to-write-a-memoir/
https://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/dec/14/the-naked-truth-how-to-write-a-memoir


NATIVIDAD: Chapter One

nativity

IT IS 1961. Tensions between Cuba and America are at an all time high and an Englishman and his heavily pregnant Cuban fiancée flee New York for their lives. The Cubans just want the baby. The Feds just want the Englishman. Who knows what the CIA want …

I’ve written this ‘modernisation’ of the Nativity in a biblical style to give it a more ‘genuine’ feel. It is not a political tale and is not pro-this or anti-that, so don’t be put off by the revolutionary backdrop, which is necessary to the story in its symbolism.

It’s more ‘realistic’ in biblical format here.

CHAPTER ONE

IT WAS Nineteen Hundred and Sixty-one in the year of our Lord. In those days the leaders of America were most incensed that Communism had taken the land of Cuba. So too the new government of Cuba was greatly displeased that America had secretly taken its children on the pretext that they were saving them.

And living in the city of New York was an actress exiled from the land of Cuba called Eva. Her betrothed was an English advertising consultant by the name of Percy.

And it came to pass that two months before the day of their legal union, Eva declared that she was three months with child. By the time she realised that her physician must have made a mistake, it was too late. Percy did not believe that the child could be his, for he was on business far away at the time of its conception. Eva was aggrieved that she could do nothing to persuade him otherwise.

And so Percy made it known to Eva’s father, who happened to be a high-ranking official in the court of Fidel Castro, the King of Cuba, his displeasure, in the hope that he would come and take her away. Until then, he would renounce their betrothal but not put her to shame, instead continuing to keep her, but in a separate dwelling.

One night Percy became so intoxicated that he fell into a deep but fitful sleep on a park bench.

A well-spoken man wearing a fedora and a belted overcoat appeared to him, saying “Behold. Marry your beloved and go to England. She speaks the truth. Verily I say until you, the child is of your seed and you are all in grave danger.”

When he awoke, his head was as if cloven in two.

To be contnued …

Copyright (c) M K MacInnes 2017

The Inner Journey

During the writing of my memoir, THE LOST SECRET, I didn’t have much time or mental energy to research the psychological processes I was going through. That came later and even then, there was a limit to how much time I could devote to study, given that I have more to offer by allowing myself to experience the reality first hand.

Although I have sought to detach myself from belief systems and existing theories, it so happens that the work of Carl Jung best describes my journey, even if the specifics are entirely unique. I also draw on the work of Joseph Campbell and James Hillman. Although coming at it from their own angle, Jung, Campbell and Hillman all point in the same general direction.

It also has to be said that some of my experiences may challenge these theories, for instance, the way Jung differentiates between the Shadow and the Animus. This is to be expected given the evolutions that have taken place since his time. Jung said himself that it was up to future generations to build on what he had started.

While it is my intention to stick to what I know to be true for myself and leave the explanations to others, I do occasionally ‘break’ this rule. However, where I do, I merely dip my toe in the water. I avoid statements of ‘fact’, erring instead in favour of perspectives based on personal experience and insight. After all, the whole point of all this is that we are, and should always be, a work in progress. Your experience may bear different results.

To some of you, the ideas I touch on will be already familiar. Many of you will never have heard of indivduation/psychosynthesis or archetypes. Some of you might already be in the throes of your own personal journey and like me would benefit from some sort of explanation for the bewildering changes you are experiencing.

So I felt it would be useful to signpost readers in the right direction should they decide to undertake their own research (regardless of their level of exposure to the ‘real deal’). My Resources page is also a work in progress. It includes a handful of articles I wrote on key elements of Jung’s work. These are not in-depth and are intended only to whet the appetite.

Resources page at https://mkmacinnes.com/resources/

Please feel free to suggest amendments or additions.

The Other Half

BY NOW, it’s pretty obvious that I am a big fan of Carl Jung. In an earlier post, I spoke about the Shadow, the collective name for those parts of our psyche that become consigned to the unconscious for reasons of conditioning or trauma, to name but a few. Fortunately, through the self-healing process of individuation (or psychosynthesis), a person could painstakingly reassemble their fragmented psyche into an integrated whole. A satisfying never-ending journey not for the faint-hearted. Jung spoke of yet another aspect of the psyche, that is not entirely separate from, yet distinct from, the Shadow. He called this the Anima/Animus.

For a woman, the Animus represents those parts of her psyche that are regarded as masculine and have been repressed since childhood, such as confidence and leadership, while for a man, the Anima represents the feminine, repressed parts of his, such as compassion and intuition.

So for instance, speaking only of my generation and coming from a mixed-sex school environment, girls were raised not to stand up for themselves and put other people’s, especially men’s, needs over their own, so typically, a little girl might grow up as a pleaser with low self-esteem. Boys on the other hand were taught to act tough, suppress their emotions and fight their way out of difficulty, so typically, a little boy might turn into a bully with an over-inflated opinion of his abilities and who does whatever the hell he wants. I am, of course, generalising – the reality was far more nuanced.

Carl Jung believed that when it comes to peeling back the onion layers of the unconscious, the Anima/Animus is stored in the very deepest recesses and so represents the final stage in the individuation journey once the Shadow stage is complete. However, I have found the two to be interchangeable and the work on both to be in parallel. The extent to which the Anima/Animus is distinct from the Shadow may well depend on the environment into which a person is born. Gender-based expectations were more pronounced in Jung’s time, so it would follow that the personal journey that informed the bulk of his research is coloured accordingly.

Jung also did not account for greyer areas in sexual identity and it is generally recognised in therapeutic circles nowadays that both men and women exhibit/repress both anima/animus traits. If Jung were to time travel to the present, he would almost certainly have to revisit many of his assumptions. The key is not to take his ideas too literally.

Of course, the notion that men and women are fundamentally different has been around for millennia. With the advent of Christianity, the onus was on women to be ‘saints’, while men had carte blanche to be ‘sinners’ if they felt so inclined and as long as nobody was looking. Scientific dogmas for gender difference are more recent – Men are from Mars and Women from Venus seemed to knock on the head once and for all any ideas I had that men and women were sexual equals. Based on what I know now about the part conditioning plays in identity and behavioural development, it turns out that I may have been right all along, and we are in fact all a dizzying cocktail of what we might term ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ qualities. Just as ‘good’ and ‘evil’ are man-made, so too are gender behaviours. There are indeed natural differences but these are far more subtle that we have been led to believe.

The end result of generations of societal cherry-picking is that noone but noone operates on full capacity. If for argument’s sake we say that we exhibit 50% of our full potential (chances are it really is 10%), then you can see how so many people feel a gaping void and the concept of a missing other half arises. As harsh as it sounds, putting all the hormonal, physical aspects of biological sex to one side, when we fall in love, we are in fact falling for the missing parts of ourselves whom the object of our desire just happens to best represent. This is the X-factor, that thing you cannot put your finger on and why when they say “It’s not you, it’s me”, they really do mean it (though it doesn’t seem that way at the time).

So if Jung is right, then romantic love as we have come to know it is nothing more a societal construct, a projection, the outcome of millennia of conditioning. Yes, boooooooooo!! Romantic love would not exist if we were whole.

Much is currently made of the Patriarchy that has held sway for what seems like an eternity across the world. What tends to be overlooked is that both sexes have been hammered into conformity. Even in these crazy times, what is exciting is that men and women have an opportunity to liberate themselves from centuries of bullshit and rediscover the truth of their entire being.

We are the One.

See-saw

WITH all this talk of a new vaccine, i can’t help but feel a little disappointed that things will eventually ‘get back to normal’. So, what, we’ll just act like nothing happened and swing back into a state of excess to make up for lost time, making us sitting ducks for the next pandemic.

Wash. Rinse. Repeat …

This isn’t the first pandemic and it most certainly won’t be the last. Why waste an opportunity to make some of the behaviours we have adopted to combat the virus more permanent and moderate our extremes in order to soften the blow when the next one comes along?

I for one like the idea of maintaining a one meter default setting. And handshakes seem so outdated when other gestures do the job just as well if not better.

What habits developed during Coronavirus would you like to keep post-pandemic?