April 25, 2008


Everybody has a shadow side. Poster courtesy of wikipedia.

The theme around here this week has been the psychology of C.G. Jung. If this is your first visit, please click on earlier posts. You'll also find links and comments about current events.

To sum up, the official Goat Rope verdict is that Jung was more of a shaman, cult leader or philosopher than a psychologist or social scientist. Many of his ideas, while interesting and entertaining, wouldn't hold up to serious investigation. Part of the problem was Jung's tendency to reach universal conclusions about the psyche on the basis of an individual's dreams, fantasies, or artwork.

And, as was noted yesterday, the dude had some serious political problems.

Still, I have to admit that every few years I go back and take another look and there are some things there that I think may be both true and useful. I remember an old saying that even a wild hog will occasionally dig up something good.

Such as...

*The unconscious. As far as I know, nothing in recent scientific research has discredited the idea that we have unconscious cognition and emotion. In fact, some of the latest seems to indicate that we're kind of unconscious even when we're conscious, as in running on automatic pilot. I think Jung was right over Freud in thinking of the unconscious not just as a cesspool of repression but a wellspring of creativity.

Some of the best advice I've had has come from dreams. And sometimes where I'm trying to figure out how to do something challenging, I deliberately try to push the problem out of my conscious mind so that the "it" down there can work on it. Usually it does better than I would have.

As for archetypes and all that, I'd say Jung was partly right and partly wrong. Undoubtedly basic images and motifs exist and show up time and time again in stories, art, etc. But you could make the argument that strong stories often repeated create archetypes rather than vice versa.

I don't think there's much room to doubt that the human mind is wired not only for language, but also for narrative and metaphor and there's probably a limited stock of both. And the structure of human life--day/night, seasons, birth/death, major life events--is bound to generate recurring themes. We're likely to learn more about that as brain and cognitive science develops, but it's a safe bet we're no blank slate.

*personality. Jung's theory of the various almost autonomous parts of the personality (the anima, persona, shadow, Self, etc.) make for an entertaining story, but are unlikely to be accepted by anyone who isn't a member of the club. Still, I like his idea of individuation or self-realization as integrating the various aspects of the personality (although he neglects the social dimension). As Nietzsche said,

What does your conscience say? — "You shalt become the person you are."

*the shadow. I have a particular fondness for Jung's idea of the shadow, that part of ourselves that we dislike and disown and often project onto other individuals and groups. Jung said

The shadow personifies everything that the subject refuses to acknowledge about himself and yet is always thrusting itself upon him directly or indirectly...

I'll give him that one. I think we all have a darker side which we would do well to recognize and integrate into our conscious personality. People who deny their own shadow side and project all evil onto the Other are dangerous...especially like if they happened to be president or something.

DEATH ON THE JOB. According to the AFLCIO, 5,840 workers died on the job in 2006, up from 5,734 the previous year:

each day in 2006, 16 workers were fatally injured on the job and more than 11,200 were hurt or made sick. But the price workers pay for toiling in dangerous jobs climbs even higher when the tally includes the 50,000 to 60,000 workers who die every year from occupational diseases.

West Virginia, by the way, has the third highest death rate.

BAREFOOT may be better.

BETTER LATE THAN NEVER. This article about mountaintop removal mining appeared in the Sunday Washington Post.

STARCHER VOWS TO STAY. WV (real) Supreme Court Justice Larry Starcher said that he intended not to recuse himself in a future case involving Massey Energy. He did so in the past in the hope of setting an example for "justice" Brent Benjamin, who owes his seat to vast spending by Massey CEO Don Blankenship. Benjamin couldn't take the hint. On the bright side, the WV Supreme Joke--I mean Court is making WVU look like a pillar of integrity.

URGENT DINOSAUR UPDATE. It's official. The dinosaur T. Rex has been proven to be genetically related to modern birds. In fact,

the scientists said, T. rex shared more of its genetic makeup with ostriches and chickens than with living reptiles, like alligators.

The chickens, peacocks, and turkeys at Goat Rope Farm will be insufferable when they read that...

SPEAKING OF THE FARM, it looks like the human race almost bought it 70,000 years ago.

Y'all have a good weekend!



Chrissie said...

I saw that dinosaur article in my paper this morning, and immediately thougth of Dr. Denny Dimwit, noted market economist. Glad to see the crack staff at Goatrope Farm was on top of the story.

El Cabrero said...

As you might well imagine, this is THE topic of poultry conversation at Goat Rope Farm. Dr. Dimwit views this as yet another triumph of the market!