Questing and the Ego

FOR WEEKS it has been my intention to pull together all my Carl Jung notes on the ego into a semi-erudite article, to follow on from my earlier attempts on the Shadow and the Heros’s Journey. However, my overthinking quota is up for this week, so I’ll stick instead to my own observations.

The ego refers to that part of the conscious psyche that deals with survival and how we fit into the world. As we grow from childhood into adulthood, it generally becomes corrupted by the banishment of undesirable traits into the unconscious (the Shadow – I deal with this elsewhere). I suppose this is why the word ‘ego’ has such a bad press – it has come to be associated with unhealthy egos (dickheads).

In eastern philosphy, the ego is regarded as something that must be transcended in order for us to become enlightened. We are but specks and life is but a meandering river of infinite possibilities. Not everything is knowable.

Western philosophers, on the other hand, gave us the idea of the questing hero. Now it’s all about pursuing – and winning. Life is there for the taking, if you’ve got the self-belief to do it. The wealth of infinite possibilties resides within you and anything that is not knowable does not exist.

Both schools of thought are unrealistic because they cherry-pick (they are also not comparing like with like). Transcending the ego is nigh on impossible for most folks and overemphasis on control and self-determination takes no account of the fact that our lives are mostly dictated by the random and unexpected. Neither will equip us for the road ahead.

There is a time and a place for both ways of being. Even the I-ching recognises that there are moments in time when it is appropriate to act and others where you must sit back in the knowledge you have done all you can. It’s about knowing when to ride the waves and when to let oneself be carried by them. The problem with today’s culture is that the ‘answer’ often lies in putting the sea in a more convenient place.

It still amazes me how religiously some philosophers stick to one camp or the other. From personal experience, I would agree with Jung that in the transition to psychic wholeness, the ego becomes integrated with other parts of the psyche rather than killed off (which only creates more shadow anyway, so what’s the point?).

A healthy middle ground is achievable.

Being a self-professed Quester, I am keenly aware of the pitfalls of taking a ‘hero’s journey’ approach to life, such as taking it or myself too seriously or using it to set myself apart. If an element of ego were not present at all, then literally I would not be able to achieve the level of propulsion required to do something that goes against the grain (how much worse would my procrastination be without it!). As long as I am able to hold my hands up and admit to my mistakes, then at least for now I regard my own ego as being in a healthy balance with the rest of my psyche (there’s plenty room for improvement, believe me). This also involves knowing when it’s time to take a break, slow down and acknowledge when it’s time to go back to the drawing board. Dealing with the unknown and making things up as you go along is a lot of fun when you learn to let go of controlling the outcome.

It is only when operating from a position of protectionism and fear that the ego becomes unhealthy. For me a healthy ego is able to stand in its own power, while acknowledging and respecting the ability of others to do the same, on the understandng that all are equal in the service of the Whole. For want of a better word, this is Love.

Reality check October 2020

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I KNOW, I know, to all appearances I’ve well and truly lost the plot.

Maybe so, but I sleep at night …

While on paper my prospects are looking increasingly bleak (whose aren’t these days?), I am more at peace with myself than I have ever been in my entire life. That’s because, for better or worse, I stand in my own truth, noone else’s. And I’m past caring who knows what about me.

This time last year I was on three different sleep medications. Since March (touch wood), I have slept like a baby. That’s even with the continuation of my dystonia symptoms, which started two and a half years ago and are still affecting my speech.

This time last year, I overcame what little fear of death I had. This year, I have overcome the fear of what might happen to me if I do this or do that, say this or say that. I have stopped apologising for being what people expect me to be. I am proud to be a misfit.

Among other things, I have learned to be more accepting of things as they are. I still plan ahead lke a maniac but I take things one week, not months, at a time.

It goes without saying that the course I have charted for myself is a stressful one. But it would be a damn sight worse for my mental health were I continuing to do it covertly. I have spent half a lifetime hiding and I’m done with it. Now the only reason I have to keep my cards close to my chest is for want of not giving away spoilers.

I must point out that fulfillng my life purpose does not hang on what Mr Butler does next. Now that I have got that first hurdle out of the way, that is daring to speak his name, there’s a lot I can get on with in the short term while waiting for some kind of response (without holding my breath), bearing in mind that I won’t be at liberty to discuss it in real time (or possibly ever), if or when that occurs.

I don’t need any one particular outcome to succeed. There’s any number of ways this could pan out and these are only the ones I’ve thought of. I am slowly but surely finding myself and that is what it’s all about. The journey IS the destination.

Anyway, on a therapeutic level, I must be doing something right. There’s a lot to be said for being true to yourself. To anybody still harbouring any notion that you cannot be who you were born to be AND a paid up member of society, financial constraints to one side, you really should try it some time.

Open letter to Gerry Butler II

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Dear Gerry

Twenty-five years almost to the day since your mythic departure from Scotland. Twenty-five years since we parted company and my life was turned on its head in ways even you could not possibly imagine. You helped make me the person I am today, so for that you have my heartfelt gratitude.

Thing is, I really need your help. Over the past seven years, I have written a memoir that is nearly ready to publish. It’s one of those stories that has to be told and you are the inciting incident. As with any inspirational memoir, others will benefit from it, only I don’t have the resources to iron out some of the legal issues.

I am so sorry to go public with this but my circumstances dictate that I have to. In the spirit of self-healing, please will you at least read it? I have just published the first two chapters on my website at mkmacinnes.com. For what it”s worth, there’s also a trailer.

Yours in good faith
Morgan

Open letter to Gerry Butler

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Dear Gerry

Twenty-five years almost to the day since your mythic departure from Scotland. Twenty-five years since we parted company and my life was turned on its head in ways even you could not possibly imagine. You helped make me the person I am today, so for that you have my heartfelt gratitude.

Thing is, I really need your help. Over the past seven years, I have written a memoir that is nearly ready to publish. It’s one of those stories that has to be told and you are the inciting incident. As with any inspirational memoir, others will benefit from it, only I don’t have the resources to iron out some of the legal issues.

I am so sorry to go public with this but my circumstances dictate that I have to. In the spirit of self-healing, please will you at least read it? I have just published the first two chapters on my website here. For what it”s worth, there’s also a trailer here.

Yours in good faith
Morgan

THE LOST SECRET (first two chapters)

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For reasons that I won’t go into here, I have decided to scrap any attempt to sell my ‘mini-book’ on Amazon. Why it’s only two chapters and only on Kindle needs too much explanation. Instead, it is available here via the link below. This may be temporary, it may be permanent, I don’t know. We’ll see where this goes.

You can read the first two chapters here.

Although this offering is free, donations are gratefully accepted.

The Quandary

I am by no means an expert in anything but when it comes to being me I am a fucking pro

I’ve sweated these past few days about how to write this post. I had intended to attempt to justify the course of action I am about to take, before then realising that I didn’t have to explain myself at all. Firstly, the circumstances that led me to this juncture are too complex to pack into a single post – secondly, I’ve over-explained myself already – and thirdly, too many spoilers! No amount of explanation can adequately convey what is the most finely sprung state of affairs you can possbly imagine (think tight-ropes, nooses and crocodile clips).

I have no doubt that many will look at my actions and think “What the ****?” Suffice to say that I have agonised long and hard over this and, given the specifics of my circumstances, it is the most appropriate action I can take.

It is what it is. Stay tuned …

M K MacInnes
5 October 2020

Secrets and Lies

YEARS AGO I was fascinated by my ancestry. I still am to a point, only I have other preoccupations to take up my time! Not only did I find out who my great greats were, I discovered their stories, was able to work out what their motivations, aspirations might have been. I saw them as characters in my own story, identified with their struggles. I even learned things about myself.

Other family members humoured me, as I asked pointed questions of anyone who might still be in the know. Until that was, I got to my parents’ generation. Then I might be met with a slight bristle, disguised as concern that in pursuing it I might accidentally self-destruct. Stranger still was the reaction when I wanted to talk about events from my own living memory, things that were mine to discuss. Suddenly, the language would turn to “Don’t you think you should just move on?” or at worst “Leave it alone. What’s the point of digging up the past?” At best I might be met with a blank expression.

What they failed to realise was that I already knew damn well their reaction was a projection of their own fear of having to face up to things that they themselves might no longer remember. And secondly, the past we leave behind never goes away. That time is a great healer is a lie – what fades only sleeps, wreaking havoc with our personalities and our relationships in ways to which we are oblivious. Unprocessed memories hole up in the unconscious part of our psyche and fester. And they grow. And they fester some more. And they grow some more. Until they act out because they can be contained no more. The only way to ‘get rid’ of them is to process them and integrate them into the conscious part of the psyche. Only then can we truly ‘move on’.

* * * * *

For the purpose of this article, there are two kinds of secrets – the personalty traits, emotions and memories we deliberately hide from others and the ones we lose or ‘forget. I will refer to these collectively as secrets. I should, of course, point out that it doesn’t necessarily follow that the content is traumatic or even painful. Positive memories too can be repressed or hidden, if they are deemed unpalatable either to society or to ourselves. But the psychic harm is the same.

In the case of secrets kept from others, a whole manner of methods can be used to maintain the facade. This might include outright lying, denial, omission and minimisation, even gaslighting. Not only can this have a devastating effect on the person on the receiving end of such tactics, it can also quietly take its toll on the perpetrator, until they are unrecognisable as the person they once were.
Forgetting is a form of repression, just one of a host of clever tactics employed by the psyche to avoid feelings of pain, shame, guilt or anxiety. Denial and rationalisation are others. This internal type of secret can be more insidious, since they are more difficult to identify but still show up in our thoughts and actions, if they are not brought back into consciousness for processing.

Of course, the perceived need for secrecy arises in the first place from being conditioned to cherry pick which parts of our personalites are acceptable to society and to ourseslves. But that is another article for another day.

The real problem with secrets, though, is that they are multi-layered, each one compounded by yet another. And another. Until the innermost core of the psyche becomes an immovable knot. Over successive generations, the knots become ever more tangled, as they digest us from the inside out.

The longer we carry our baggage around, the more havoc it wreaks; the damage done to our joints may be more than just an analogy. Unaddressed issues have a devastating effect on our mental and physical health and our ability to function properly. I am not saying for one minute that repression alone causes morbidity, but I am more than suggesting that it plays a part. All illness to some degree is rooted in the psyche; when all other avenues are exhausted, it’s the only place left to look.
Has recent history not taught us that secrets and unresolved trauma do more harm when kept under the carpet than they ever could revealed? Secrets kill. Lies kill. Repression kills. Unless it’s self-inflicted, they just do it very very very very slowly …

* * * * * *

But our forebears did just fine, this is a modern issue, I hear you say.

Bull. Shit. Where I come from, the majority of people born around the turn of the Twentieth Century had OCD, for godsakes, and it was accepted as normal! They were just as reliant on substances to get through, they just disguised it better.

My grandmother, with the benefit of hindsight, though only second hand knowledge, had all the hallmarks of undiagnosed mental health issues. This was compounded by having to soldier through the aftermath of a stillbirth before having her next child plucked from her by a man too embarrassed to have spawned a ‘dud’. After a fortune spent on specialist care, as long as it was elsewhere, the little girl was raised (in a loving environment, thank God) by her unmarried aunt, thus paving the way for my grandparents to adopt a ‘whole’ one. A woman who pretended not to smoke or drink, she maintained the illusion of piety, while in all likelihood using my father as a human shield to avoid intimacy with her husband. All the while, my father’s entire extended maternal family were sworn to mortal secrecy over his adoption while she fretted over his every move.

His adoption wasn’t the only one. Eight years before I was born, the family of the pregnant girlfriend he left behind in Glasgow threatened to kill him if he came anywhere near, let alone marry her, and so yet another generation was given away. No doubt, getting my mother in ‘trouble’ and subsequently doing the decent thing had echoes of a past he was trying to fix.

Did my grandparents take the opportunity that presented itself to come clean? No, they did not. Instead, my grandfather arranged for his cousin in Glasgow to forge my father’s birth certificate, so that when he married, the lie about his origins could be maintained. The later accidental revelation that he was not who he thought he was and that he had been ‘abandoned’ by his natural mother was the beginning of the slippery slope that would lead to my father becoming a first degree alcoholic and an abuser and ultimately to his ignominous death on a pavement with a full bottle of whisky stuffed in his coat pocket. Until some spiteful piece of work opened his big gob over a few whiskies, from as far back as early childhood he had never understood my grandfather’s jibes that he was something that had crawled out of the gutter.

My father at his core was a compassionate, sensitive, creative individual, who had the misfortune to have his true self knocked out of him, like most of hs peers, by the time he reached puberty, then latterly his identity ripped from beneath his feet. The boy who played truant just to go visit Elsa the Lion at the Kelvingrove Museum, his true nature would occasionally show through only when intoxicated or changing his mind in the throes of drowning a miaowling ball of kittens. My father’s life, in effect, was a complete fabrication, because his authentic self was hidden even from himself. For the record, his real name was Eric Abernethy, if he’d stood up to his adoptive family he could have gone to Art School and my parents’ shotgun marriage was technically illegal.

I came into this world on top of a pile of deceit and I doubt very much I’m the only one. Every family has a story like this somewhere along the line, whether they know it or not. How can we kid ourselves that our predecessors were mentally tougher than us? Resilient yes, but often lacking moral courage where it mattered and driven by motivations that have not changed one iota in millennia. I hardly think it was my father’s interests he was protecting when my fine, upstanding grandfather asked the Registrar to commit a criminal offence. The prevailing culture, I have to add, was that the sin was in getting caught; it didn’t matter what you did, as long as nobody knew about it. As for Dad, the first twenty-nine years of his life (from his point of view) wasn’t just a lie, it was a fully-fledged cover-up from which he never truly recovered.

* * * * * *

I have learned from personal experience that the only way to achieve true healing when dealing with lifetime trauma and personality disorder is to dig and this is borne out in the work of psychosnalysts such as Carl Jung. For me, writing a memoir provides a safe and structured framework through which unprocessed material can be exhumed and restored, without the need for professional intervention. This extends not only to trauma but to situations where my own actions and intentions were less than stellar. This requires a degree of honesty first with myself, and ultimately openness with the people who inhabit my psychosocial environment. And there is no room for victimhood or blame. When all the pieces are reassembled, I am both victim and perpetrator, yet neither of the above.

And yes, confession is good for the soul (though I would argue that the practice of confessing to a priest while maintaining a facade to the majority only props up the culture of secrecy). Allegedly, a tribe in Africa have got it sussed, holding mass confessionals where tribe members spill their troubles and misdeeds to all and sundry. I can no longer find the story but the upshot of it was that their health record was enviable. The other plus of communal confession is that you no longer face exposure to exploitation or blackmail. Losing the fear of what will happen to us if our innermost secrets are exposed by going public allows us to operate with complete interpersonal free will.

* * * * * *

It is said that there will come a time when all will be revealed. That time has probably come, if only because we live in an age of easy access to information and a ready supply of scandal. Each new revelation in politics or entertainment brings with it a sense of inescapability, as well as a growing recognition that the cultural secrecy racket creates far more problems than it solves.

And relief perhaps, not just for those on the receiving end. Jusk ask any high profile con artist about how much mental energy is required to remember which lies have been told to whom.

In the wake of the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal of the 90s, I always had the distinct impression that in the long run Clinton felt better for the exposure, that somehow he didn’t have to pretend anymore, had to look over his shoulder a little less. And I trusted a politician with nothing left to hide a little more. Charlie Sheen fought tooth and nail to prevent his HIV diagnosis becoming public. Once it was out in the open, any reputational damage came more from the lengths he went to than for having it. In either case, the burden of denial and eventual relief must have been immense.

In the end, revealing is healing. Far better to spit it out. And if someone, or something, is holding a gun to your head, look them or it square in the eye and politely say “Bring it on”.

Copyright (c) M K MacInnes 2020

The Lost Secret Revealed

COMING TO AMAZON
15 JULY 2020

PRE-ORDER NOW

ALL HER life Morgan has wanted to be a writer. Now in the wake of a failed marriage, her dreams are a thing of the past. When the chance recollection of a long forgotten memory and the daddy of all ghosts throws Morgan down a rabbit-hole the size of NORAAD, the only way out is to dig deeper.

The secret Morgan once had to guard at all costs and must do so again has a life – and a magic – all of its own. How did she forget something of such magnitude? When? And why?

Navigating the challenges of everyday life while ploughing through layers of unleashed memory and mind-altering synchronicities without the aid of a therapist is enough to drive her nearly insane. But then the grim task of investigating her own past takes Morgan into a realm of self-realisation that could only have been pre-destined, with a combination so elaborate, it could only have been fashioned by a Master Locksmith.

Now Morgan is sitting on the story of the century, aiming for the greatest Prize of all. But in order to reach it, she must find the one whose memory she protects and the very source of her darkest fear …

VIEWED as a case study in archetypal psychology, this brave and frank memoir explores the role of consciousness in shaping our destinies, backing up Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell’s insights into the very essence of the human and universal psyche. As a piece of storytelling alone, THE LOST SECRET is a spectacular modern day reworking of Ishtar’s mythic Descent into the Underworld …

Important note
This release consists of two chapters of an as yet to be published fuller work. 

Heroes wanted – apply within

Teamwork couple  climbers in silhouette

WE PUT them on pedestals then pull them down when we realise they weren’t what they were cracked up to be. We are in such awe that whole ecosystems were wiped out in Australia, in part because a handful of ‘nobodies’ wanted to be Somebodies, and valour theft is rife in the UK because of our obsession with the War. Add now to that the army of nurses and doctors, of whose ability to turn up for work each day knowing what horrors lie ahead, the rest of us rightly stand in reverence. As for the Marvel fetish, this will in all likelihood become more indulgent as the coronavirus pandemic takes its toll. I am, of course, talking about the cult of the hero, a phenomenon as emotive as it is pervasive.

The meaning of the word is as mercurial as history itself, which lends an exquisite irony to the way current events are playing out. Race aside, for years health and care workers were undervalued and are still underpaid while smug rich white men who made their money on the suffering of others enjoyed centre stage in our public spaces. Until now, the prevailing political narrative of the day has usually determined our understanding of what constitutes a hero. It is fitting that at this turning point in human consciousness we should decide for ourselves.

In movies, the hero is generally synonymous with the central character or protagonist. Flawed or conflicted from the outset, any virtues tend to be revealed as they interact with the other characters and the story unfolds. By the time the plot is resolved through some decisive course of action, the world in which they live, if not the protagonist/hero themself, has transformed.

The hero is one of an array of archetypes, which can include a villain, an underdog, a mentor, a love interest … the list goes on. The plot too is archetypal, consisting of a comfort zone (‘normal’ everyday life), a choice made in response to a call to adventure or inciting incident, obstacles and/or internal conflicts, a point of no return, a high point, a low point, a climax and a resolution.

Myths, regardless of whether or not they depict historical events, all share the same characteristics. It is no secret that George Lucas, when he made Star Wars, stuck religiously to the mythic principles Joseph Campbell talked about in The Hero with A Thousand Faces. Even the Easter and Christmas storylines follow the classic formula.

While the oldest myths spoke of elemental forces, animal deities then gods (and goddesses), later versions spoke of half-gods motivated by the achievement of the greater good through their selfless actions (and often subsequent death). With the onset of the Bronze Age, militarised city states and a shift from goddess-worshipping priesthoods to secular forms of power came stories of kings, conquest and the search for honour, glory or fame. The pay-off for the collective was the benefit of the triumphant hero’s protection. And since it is a key requirement of storytelling – and conditioning – that whoever is experiencing the story identifies with the protagonist, the more human heroes became, the more flawed they became and the more mere mortals identified with them.

The oldest versions of the labyrinth myth are ‘softer’ than the Minotaur story with which we are most acquainted. The more recent narrative of the male hero slaying the Beast to save the people secured the progression towards the more psychotic approach to the unknown that survives in western culture to this day. In contrast, the more feminine versions of the hero myths somehow survived in romantic tales of princes and princesses (compare Beauty and the Beast with the story of the Minotaur). Scholars now estimate the point of origin of European fairy tales to be around four to six thousand years ago.

Now it appears we have returned full circle to a pantheon of half-human superheroes (not all white blokes with long beards, thankfully) serving the greater good. It will be interesting to see how the ongoing demonisation of ‘kings’ and the veneration of key workers will play out in future narratives.

As for mere mortals, we’re all hard-wired for meaning and purpose. Some say the search for meaning arises as a reaction to the absolute certainty that one day we will all die. We are instinctively drawn to opportunities to depart from the status quo, to leave ‘home’. That is why we get bored. And when the adventure is over, we return ‘home’.

However, society counter-programs us to fear the unknown; the Bogeyman is planted in the childhood psyche to prevent us from straying too far from the herd. And so we are conditioned to satisfy our heroic impulses by vicariously following the deeds of others while keeping our own heads down and maintaining the status quo. Only those who ‘sell their souls’ seem able to clamber to the top. Nine times out of ten, hero status on the basis of virtue is granted only to those who die in the pursuit of their great deeds or put themselves in harm’s way. Indeed, putting dead people on pedestals is an essential requirement of maintaining ‘social order’ (the Church turned this into an art form). Meanwhile, from birth, our educational system conditions us to confuse meaning with validation by our peers, our whole sense of identity tied up in how many friends we have, how ‘successful’ we are, how much money we have, the badges we wear, acceptance by the Tribe.

I am convinced that everyone at some point in their life hears the ‘call’ but that most choose to ignore it. Until the next time. And the next. What else is a mid-life crisis if not an exhortation to one who chose to play it safe first time round? Most people it would seem are scared of their own company, let alone peering into their own soul.

No surprise then that the hero archetype goes deeper still. According to Carl Jung and other psychologists, the human psyche itself is rooted in mythic structure. Archetypes form the ‘language’ of the unconscious mind and are expressed as symbols in dreams, fantasy and meditative states. These are hard-wired both on a personal and collective level. In the protagonistic sense of the word, it seems we are pre-programmed to be heroes. In the psychological journey, we may face such adversaries as the Ego, the Persona, the Shadow, the Animus or Anima and the Self.

Based on his own clinical and personal observations combined with ancient wisdom teachings, Jung proposed the theory of individuation. This is a lifelong process that consolidates the conscious, the unconscious and the ego into a purified whole, all opposites reconciled. The basis of the spiritual Hero’s Journey, it s not dissimilar to the Christian idea of redemption, only wholeness is achieved without the intervention of an external force or figure. Jung’s contemporary, Roberto Assagioli, used the term psychosynthesis, which better describes the journey towards the ultimate goal of individuation. Whether it is achievable start to finish in a single lifetime is open to debate.

Often represented by a labyrinth, psychosynthesis requires introspection, often taking the very forces that create fragmentation in the first place to thrust one inward. The conversations you have with yourself (or rather your archetypes) are an integral part of the process. The end result is a well-rounded personality that is mature relationally, emotionally, practically and intuitively. As the core Self becomes more stable under all conditions, no longer relying on external sources for validation, rather than becoming more self-absorbed, it becomes more empathic and compassionate towards others. One’s past, present and future become one meaningful whole.

Imagine standing in an art gallery, nose right up to a huge painting by one of the masters. Up close it’s just rough almost random globs of paint, not much to look at at all. However, with every step you take back, the globs get smaller and smaller and the juxtaposition of colour and form starts to emerge. By the time you’re standing ten feet away, you are transfixed. It has form, it has just the right balance of shade and colour, it has life. It has meaning. If you’re lucky, you might even remember the last time you saw something so utterly satisfying to behold. Now, the artist when they painted it might have thought “Hmm, something doesn’t look right here” or “It needs something else juuuust there”. So they maybe made the blue in one of the uppermost corners just that little bit bluer or exaggerated the twinkle of an eye with an almost imperceptible flick of the brush. Not to mention that time they tore their hair out because the legs were so out of proportion with the rest of the body that they had to start all over again. Imagine now that you are both the painting and the artist.

I have to emphasise that individuation is not about becoming a ‘good’ human being as opposed to a ‘bad’ one, rather one becomes a higher-functioning human being in harmony with itself and others. Indeed, the perception of good and evil gives way to a more subtle notion of what is appropriate in any given situation. More significantly, the effects of psychosynthesis across multiple individuals are reflected in the world at large.

So the inner journey is not a waste of precious time and energy. Upping our inner game matters. Faced with the daily diet of war, famine, abuse, unrest and catastrophe, it is easy to feel that doing nothing is doing nothing. However, if we are to address this plethora of issues (all man-made), giving ‘fixing’ ourselves equal attention is the only real way to deal with all of them. When a critical mass of people working through their own internal conflicts, helping others in their own back yard and fulfilling their innermost calling, is reached, the world will start to heal. Has the response to coronavirus not demonstrated that we have the collective power to swing the odds?

In fact, COVID-19 can on one level be regarded as the ultimate call to adventure and social distancing a fertile breeding ground for the level of introspection required to get the ball rolling. Not only are we doing our bit in saving lives, we’re already thinking about what kind of world we want to go back to.

Deep down we all want to be be part of something bigger than ourselves. As individuals, communities or a society, we have a once in a lifetime opportunity to put our petty inclinations to one side and become the superheroes we always wanted to be when we were kids. And what greater calling is there than collectively pulling our entire species and our planet from the brink? If imminent self-annihilation isn’t the mother of all wake-up calls, then we might as well just go back to bed and stay there. And what a yawn that would be.

Further reading

Useful information on psychosynthesis/individuation here.

Reality check 2020

Young woman wearing virtual reality glasses

WHEN I published my first short story collection, Close Call: Short and Bittersweet, I dedicated it to ‘the two Gerries, without the shadow of whose memory this my first book would never have seen the light of day’. My brother asked me who the other Gerry was and I told him it was a reference to our late mother’s schizophrenia (she was a Gerry too). Well, that was only partly true. My choice of words was designed to be ambiguous. So in effect, I lied.

There are things even my closest friends and family never knew about me that I’ve lugged around for years. I may have dropped little jigsaw pieces here and there, that is when I did feel inclined to discuss it. But the bigger picture was so mind-blowing and at times surreal that even when I tried, I could never find the words. The only way was to write it. And that has taken years and many false starts.

My biggest problem was never the writing but the perceived risks of attempting to get it published. It describes a unique inner journey and under normal circumstances, the right publisher would bite my hand off. However, it is loaded with legal implications and I can’t very well pass it around in the expectation of confidentiality. And I can only disguise my characters up to a point without killing the story. Particularly as it has an ethical and spiritual angle to it, it has been my goal all along to act with the best intent towards the individuals who co-created it. Which is all very well if you can get hold of them and they are not surrounded by a metaphorical barbed wire fence.

Another dilemma I faced was deciding who my readers were. The closest genre would be ‘spiritual memoir’. However, a wider readership, for whom some of the themes I touch on would have little or no appeal, might have altogether different motivations. I would rather sell fewer copies to a smaller audience, for whom the subject matter is meaningful and potentially life-changing. It is something of a paradox that to get people to read it at all, I have to play to the crowd.

And so for the past several years I have danced around the invisible elephant in the room. Pissed in the wind, if I’m honest, by trying to produce ‘other’ stories while the real, the important, the infinitely more sellable work grew arms and legs (two sequels are already underway).

That I now find myself about to publish the first couple of chapters in order to get the ball rolling and generate income to get myself out of the proverbial is deeply unsettling. I have had to weigh up not only my interests and those of my master catalyst but those of society at large. For a start, the full version of my story offers insights that may be helpful in gaining a better understanding of PTSD, possibly even Alzheimers, and I have a duty to share what I know. Having suffered a neurological condition for the last two years, I am only too aware of the role of the psyche in self-healing. Which brings me to the inescapable truth that in order to fully recover, and safeguard my mental and physical health, I must tell my tale. The risks of doing nothing outweigh the risks of doing something.

With the most recent plot twist in our collective fortunes, the COVID-19 pandemic, I have found myself staring at an opportunity – and justification – to act. With recession imminent and my options to keep a roof over my head running out, that’s one almighty stick. The carrot is the global appetite for stories of self-healing that capture the collective imagination – and potential readers have time on their hands. I have known for at least the last decade that telling this story was the sole reason for my very existence. If our hour of direst need is not the time to bring it to fruition, then my entire life will have been for nothing.

The course of action I am taking now, touch wood, is the most significant hurdle I am likely to have to deal with. Before a publisher will stake their reputation on it, I have to remove at least some of the risk. I will almost certainly need the broad shoulders of an established publisher to pull this off in the longer term.

Over the years I have remarked that the best analogy for my life is walking a tightrope with a noose around my neck and crocodile clips around my balls (I don’t have any but you get the drift). If I make it to full publication, you will discover just how accurate that statement – and warranted my occasional use of profanity – really is.

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M K MacInnes
June 2020