I marked the shift into summer this year more on my calendar than in my psyche. Solstice has its roots in ancient cultures that paid attention to change in ways forgotten today but for archeological remains and tourist attractions. But, if Carl Jung is right, there remains a deep connection that influences us in profound ways.
The collective unconscious has no beginning or end that our temporal world acknowledges. It is found in the architecture of our brain and accessed through synchronicity, dreams, and states of consciousness other than “reality”. I mention this because I have a nagging sense that there is huge change on the horizon, but I cannot describe it with any detail.
During Jung’s lifetime, he experienced a world of change that is almost incomprehensible in its arc. Born in 1875, he lived through two world wars, saw nation states rise and fall, was at the birth of psychoanalysis and saw it through to its modern applications including pharmacotherapy in addition to talk therapy. When he died in 1961, the world was on the eve of destruction, with the threat of nuclear war and total annihilation consuming the consciousness of world leaders.
In Jung’s era, what was known of the brain and the mind was discerned by deduction and basic tools of the scientific trade: microscopes and anatomical dissection. The scientific method was supported by laboratory research that, by today’s standards, was primitive. Yet, it was remarkable in how well it mapped the incredibly complex and befuddling organ we call the brain.
A Lifetime of Change
How much change can one human experience in a lifetime? From birth to death, change is constant. While predictability is often calming, the reality is that even though I have lived through 68 solstices, each one has been different. And somehow, I have accommodated the changes and continued on with my life.
The magnitude of change is overwhelming when I acknowledge that each breath is different from the one before. In some cases, cellular changes happen in seconds. Cycles of digestion, growth, elimination, and death happen on an hourly, daily, monthly, and annual basis. Without my needing to initiate any of these changes, my remarkable change machine works tirelessly. In some cases, it does this despite my poor maintenance and abuse. In other cases, it does this in the face of external threat.
COVID and Change
COVID provided me with a different projection screen to observe how change impacts my psyche. I was able to more clearly see where I had been acting unconsciously, almost on autopilot, in ways that put enormous demands on my mind and body. Because of COVID, I was able to change this.
The outward effects that COVID had on me include this thing called “Brain Fog”. It is an experience that ranges from being unable to recall the names of people and things and speak fluently to occasionally amusing and at other times frightening forgetfulness. Recent findings published in medical journals suggest that the virus causes inflammation in the brain resulting in loss of white matter. This is a frightening finding.
COVID also forced me to become conscious of my energy output because the virus has left its mark on my brain in ways that research is just beginning to uncover. While we have more tools at our disposal than Carl Jung did, I find myself preferring to explore these changes through the refractions of his psychological/spiritual lens along with the fMRI’s and other pictures we now have of brain functioning.
What brings me solace is what Jung called entropy. As I age, my opposites tend to seek middle ground and, with attention and compassion, I can experience a more balanced and integrated self. This gives me hope, and I tend to let go of striving to reclaim some previous level of performance, and accept that in the moment, I need more time and space to express myself.
It is not that my mind is not working; it is, but in a changed way. Just as a river creates new tributaries when it encounters resistance, my brain is now creating new neuronal pathways to avoid the broken synapses and access alternative systems of recall. In some cases, these adaptations work incredibly well. In others, they fail completely.
This is all within my own unique self. Change is happening outside of me. Political changes, environmental changes, social changes, and economic changes are all happening simultaneously. Again, Jung suggests that awareness of this dynamic change is not limited by what I read, see, or feel. It is part of the collective unconscious and often manifests through archetypes and dreams.
Q-Anon and the former president are evidence of our shadow coming to consciousness. There is a wonderful blossoming of awareness around our anima and animus, no longer locked in a binary straitjacket, but allowed to express these aspects of self in the totality of what it means to be human. That we must change how we think about ourselves and our relation to our environment is just more evidence of the power of archetypes to guide us through the process of change.
Taking the Long View
According to the atomic clock, the days are getting shorter, but I am noticing the light lingering at evening and calling me awake earlier in the morning. Each day that I complete, I am further from birth and closer to my end date. The food that I ate today has been changed into nutrients that I will absorb or waste that I will eliminate. The thoughts that I put out for your reading will exist for a moment in time as you read them but be available for Lord knows how long in some database.
I am not sure what to make of all of this. I just know that I am changing.