Collective life changing experiences (English podcast episode here transcribed :-)
Hello and welcome to Vital Kompass, I am Cris Ferraz Prade and in the next half hour you will hear a conversation with Fernanda Pimentel about what is this collective moment that we are going through.
Fernanda is a psychologist and member analyst at SBPA (Brazilian Society of Analytical Psychology) and IAAP (International Association for Analytical Psychology) and she has a Master’s degree in Religious Sciences.
Regarding this pandemic context that we are currently experiencing, I thought it would be interesting to reflect on this issue of collective transformative experience. We explored the transformative experiences with unique reports, but what about everyone living this pandemic? A little bit of history about Jung and analytical psychology so we can start the conversation:
Analytical psychology was developed by the psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung, born in Switzerland in 1875. Jung graduated in medicine in 1900 and soon became interested in psychiatry. He and Freud had a very intense relationship and several letters exchange. Jung was expected to continue Freud's vision and psychoanalysis, however as Jung would bring Freud new insights into the human psyche, they would disagree more and more until they ended their relationship some 5 years later.
Some of the central points of Jungian analysis are the concept of the collective unconscious and archetypes.
Collective unconscious is a layer of the human psyche that is inherited and shared by all humanity, a set of memories, feelings and thoughts that we all share. And archetypes inhabit this space too. They are the myths that live in all of us and that express themselves collectively through cultural characteristics and religious manifestations, for example. This imaginary contributes to the construction of the meaning of the experiences we live individually.
The analytical process seeks to increase awareness of ourselves, allowing a person to have more clarity of the dynamics created and lived. The analyst's role is to help facilitate the individuation process and to accompany the person in the personal journey.
Fernanda Pimentel: Jung always spoke about it, about the great collective moments, because the psyche is individual and collective unconscious. It is a two-way street and we are affected. If we think in terms of the collective unconscious, of collective transformation, these big turning points are archetypal, they will happen and it remains for the individual psyche to understand what are the transformations and adaptations that it will have to make in the face of this scenario. He worked a lot with the issue of war
Cris Ferraz Prade: You mean Jung?
Fernanda Pimentel: Yes, he foresaw a war.
If you think that the world as well as the individual and collective psyche is cyclical, when you reach the peak you have to decline for then to rise again transformed.
So these cycles would be natural to happen. It can be wars, pandemics, political issues, major ecological transformations. We are reaching a point of wear and tear that now the tendency is to fall. We can always think about these moves as light and shadow, yin-yang, of these opposites that complement each other, that are necessary, that are archetypal movements. It is inevitable regardless of the way it comes. But the ego has a lot of resistance to adapt, and the more resistance the harder the process; the more suffering is the process. So I think… if you can think more in terms of a big turning point, of a great opportunity - I like this word - for humanity, collectively, to stop and think about where we’re going… honestly, I don’t know if this change is going to happen… But, I'm speaking in symbolic terms now. Symbolically, it is a great opportunity.
I heard one of these days in a conversation with a colleague, an interesting thing "people are so anxious to go back to normal, without realizing that normal was no longer good.
Cris Ferraz Prade: Exactly
Fernanda Pimentel: It is not good to go back to normal, to that normal. We have to go somewhere else. That normal was no longer good … As long as people do not realize that the cool thing is not to go back to normal, we will be beating our heads.
Cris Ferraz Prade: How can symbols and archetypes help individual people not to feel so threatened by this process and to take this time as an opportunity as you said?
Fernanda Pimentel: First, when we start to understand and open up to the idea that this movement is archetypal, a natural part of life itself, I think we fight it less.
Cris Ferraz Prade: Interesting… if we think as you said that it is a movement, that this archetypal cycle is natural, like the seasons
Fernanda Pimentel: Yes, death and life and rebirth.
Cris Ferraz Prade: Exactly… everything that is alive goes through this cycle in a certain way. And if we think that this cycle is normal, maybe we can adjust a little with the question of the word “normal”.
Fernanda Pimentel: In fact, the ego always tends to resist.
Cris Ferraz Prade: But explain to us what is the ego
Fernanda Pimentel: I’ll explain from a Jungian perspective, because it differs from psychoanalysis.
The ego is the center of consciousness. But for analytical psychology the ego is also a complex ... the ego is one of the complexes of the unconscious. It is formed via the unconscious, which is already a different principle from psychoanalysis. For analytical psychology, we are born immersed in the unconscious and that's why the idea of the collective unconscious is so attractive. It's like a big rhizome. Think that we are fungi and we are all united by a big rhizome, that is the collective unconscious. The baby is born immersed in that unconscious, and from that unconsciousness, clusters that later are going to be called complexes arise. The ego is one of these clusters, originally it is a complex of the unconscious.
Cris Ferraz Prade: For those who are not in the psychology area, how do we explain this?
Fernanda Pimentel: Let me think… let me conclude and maybe a better example will come to mind.
Complexes are forming, they are clusters of psychic energy, one of them gains strength, becomes more powerful and stands out, gaining autonomy, and from the consciousness that is formed, the ego stands out and is configured as the center of consciousness. Consciousness is formed from the unconscious.
In a simple way, we can think of the ego as a way to deal with the world. As the center of consciousness, the ego guides us in the world, in everyday life. With it we think, we position ourselves, we introduce ourselves to others.
Cris Ferraz Prade: And it is this ego that resists the process of change, right?
Fernanda Pimentel: Yes, it resists, because as the center of consciousness, it wants to have control over the environment. The ego wants the planning to work out, wants everything to go the way it wants. It was an egoic difficulty, for example, at the beginning of the pandemic, to believe that we would have to stay at home.
I heard a lot in my clinical practice… “No, but I already bought the tickets to go to Disney in July.
I'm going to Disneyland. I know, the pandemic ... but we are in March, until July it will be solved.” It is our ego that does not admit this situation.
Cris Ferraz Prade: And what are the other aspects of our psyche that we can access to help the ego deal with this reality in another way?
Fernanda Pimentel: We can think in different ways, we can think that as a process of psychic growth, psychic evolution, we have contact with several archetypes. These can be our allies. The shadow, that is a Jungian term for what is in the unconscious that we don't know - what walks with us, but in general we don't see. We can use this dark part of our psyche to help us. What is dark is not what is bad, it is what is unknown.
Cris Ferraz Prade: How can we approach this shadow?
Fernanda Pimentel: First thing is self-awareness. A process easy as hell (laughs). Very simple.
Cris Ferraz Prade: So, to open more space to be with yourself?
Fernanda Pimentel: Yes, opening up more space to be with yourself. The humbleness of recognizing that we are only a part of the whole, whether collectively or psychically. Our ego, this center that organizes us is necessary for us to grow, create personality, for us to develop, but it is a part of the whole, it is not the whole. We have a tendency to think that we are the whole, that we are in charge, and consequently we have a tendency as individuals to think that we are the ones to give orders when it is in fact the opposite.
Cris Ferraz Prade: Of course.
Fernanda Pimentel: In fact it is the other way around, the collective has more power over us. So the first thing is this, being able to look inside, and… it takes courage and it requires investment… it takes time. It is difficult to deal with frustration and a number of other issues. Humbleness to understand that we are part of a whole.
If we look at it from this point of view, that we are part of a whole, it is not that it is easier to accept, but we go through it with a little more tranquility, we stop fighting something that we have no power. I think this is a big problem; arrogant people who are denying the situation now want to break everything, because they are not understanding this moment. We have to stay calm. It's a difficult moment, we lost control of the paddle, but we do not need to sink, you know…
Cris Ferraz Prade: That, I loved this image.
Fernanda Pimentel: Let's use this as an opportunity. Let's learn to be without the paddle and see what other mechanism we create for the boat to move forward.
I remembered the boat because there is a very nice image, it is a painting that has a boat on the river with a hint of current and in the boat there is a sage with the paddle in his hands but with his eyes closed. And I think that this is a psychic balance that is difficult to achieve. We are getting carried away by life, by this boat in the current, we are surrendering with our eyes closed, but we have the paddle in our hands, if we feel that something is wrong we can change course and we can try to do things differently. It is conscious relaxation. it's a delivery state, but an active state.
People tend to think that if I surrender, for example, to this moment of transformation of the pandemic, I will be passive, and that's not it.
Cris Ferraz Prade: And that I lose control.
Fernanda Pimentel: Yes, it is not passive and losing control, but it is managing the possibilities that you have or not have. I say a lot to my patients, one of the biggest illusions that we have in life is that we control. we do not control life, we manage what comes, and it’s already enough, be satisfied that you have a strong enough ego to manage what comes. We think we have to have a strong ego to control.
Cris Ferraz Prade: Yes.
Fernanda Pimentel: We may not like it, we may be angry. Human emotions are normal and welcomed, we may be angry, we may think that life has been disgraced, no problem ... but this as an emotional expression. What we need as a process is to understand that this movement is cyclical, and understanding this already helps us in dealing with our anger. We can take a deep breath and say ok… how do I go now… and also be able to let go of this idea that we will to be able to go back to what it was. I think this idea causes more suffering, deep down, than a positive perspective, you know. Because, I agree with my colleague's phrase that what we had was not good, if it was good, we wouldn't have a pandemic in the first place.
Cris Ferraz Prade: It is important to say that dealing with this boat without a paddle and with this issue of active surrendering can be lived with a lot of anguish too. As Fernanda said, and managing is already plenty to be doing at this moment.
We are in the zone of total discomfort, both individually and collectively. We are experiencing losses and transformations. In these situations, humbleness and vulnerability are experiences that bring us closer to each other. And the more we keep a pose of “I don't need anything or anyone”, the greater the discomfort and feeling of loneliness. Although social distance in many contexts favors a sense of isolation, we are not alone. We have heard several stories of solidarity in the past few months, people offering to do the shopping for the neighbor who can't leave the house, people prioritizing local commerce, people making masks on the sewing machine at home and distributing it to friends and family, also selling at an affordable price, people organizing a donation campaign, and so on ...
Fernanda Pimentel: To think in terms of archetypes helps people to put themselves in that place of “Wait, I am part of this whole, what can I do to help this whole”; “I may have contributed in some way to making that happen”; the person takes responsibility. You pull back the projection to the other… it's his fault…
We have this habit of “I did not make mistakes, the neighbor made the mistake.” As Sartre said, “Hell is other people” . It's not me.
This moment call for a pull back of this atitude.
Cris Ferraz Prade: Projection, in the Jungian analytical view, in a very summarized way is transferring something from your internal world to another. When, for example, the ego is threatened for whatever reason and there are very painful or distressing internal processes that we, unconsciously, do not want to deal with, we get rid of these contents by depositing them in the world outside, in the other person.
We can take an important step when we recognize that we don't know ourselves completely.
As Jung said: "Anything that irritates us about others can lead us to a better understanding of ourselves.”
Fernanda Pimentel: You might have not stolen land and expel natives from their land, you might find it abhorrent, but if you somehow consume something from the guy who did this, you are a part of the contribution.
Cris Ferraz Prade: At this point in the conversation, we continued talking about how we are all responsible for the world we create, where we live. And as we insist in perceiving the world as a resource, as something to be used, its resources, and we need to make a transition, mentally, to think and perceive the world as something to be taken care of. This is an important transition, one that may perhaps start to show some chance in this collective moment of great vulnerability that we are all experiencing.
Fernanda Pimentel: We think the world is here to serve us.
Cris Ferraz Prade: Yes, it is immature.
Fernanda Pimentel: To think symbolically would be an excellent instrument to go through this moment with serenity with every right to find it terrible and so, but to go through it with some serenity to try to build a reality that is better than the previous one.
I find it curious because it is so hard to get out of the box that we often do not notice that these turning points, these moments of life, whether collective or individual - we were using as an example a large collective one, but if you think of your life, you have several of these, there are 2 or 3 that are very deep and that get you off track and that concern only your life or your family - but we are so attached to what we have and have so much difficulty in getting out of the box, that we end up not noticing that these movements are movements of expansion, they are movements that open you up to other things, new possibilities.
But you want everything the way it was so much that you can go back to where you used to be.Sometimes you don't notice that where life is throwing you is much more interesting, it is much cooler, it will generate a new awareness of something.
Cris Ferraz Prade: To validate our curiosity is a way to be in contact with the new with less fear. It is a way of taking the pressure out of the controlling ego. But we are so concerned with being right, that we spend too much energy trying to sustain what is falling apart, instead of living the experience of change.
Curiosity does not kill, curiosity is stimulating.
I really liked what Fernanda last said. It brings me an image of ripples, expanding circles, more space inside and outside ourselves, enriching exchanges in life experiences.