Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘analysis’

watchwordThe Watchword technique is method of self analysis. Its origins are obscure, but find themselves formalised in this 1990’s title by Michael Daniels, senior lecturer in what was then Liverpool Polytechnic’s Department of Psychology. The book has a very Jungian grounding, and aims to give the reader a clear picture of the forces at play in the currents of the psyche – where we’re going, what’s holding us back, what are the dominant forces driving us, what areas we need to work on, to let go of and so on.

If you’re of a New Agey, self analysis, Jung-fan bent, you probably already have a number of methods for getting inside your head. Tarot cards are popular, as are Runes. For a long time I favoured the I Ching but, like all oracular devices it can be misunderstood and, like the Tarot and Runes, is somewhat tainted by an occultish aura which does not appeal to everyone.

Oracles do not foretell tell the future. It’s a common misconception. Instead, they read the psychical landscape and make projections from it. They grant us a look inside our heads, revealing what might otherwise be hidden. All methods have their attractions and drawbacks and we should feel free to take them up and set them aside as and when the mood takes us, never adhering to them too slavishly, but rather listening to our own instincts for what’s right at the time. In this way the Watchword technique can be looked upon as another thing to try, perhaps when answers are failing you elsewhere. The method is direct, and carries none of the occult baggage associated with other methods, though this is not to say its intuitions are both startling and mysterious.

The technique involves writing down sixteen words – whatever comes into one’s head – then pairing them off and looking for an association with the linked words, then pairing these off. Reminiscent of a Jungian word association test, and dream amplification, what we end up with is a grid of highly charged words which, like dream symbols, represent the archetypal forces, or a kind of psychical weather forecast. As a method I find it very powerful, though as Daniels cautions in the book, it is not something to be read too literally or follow too slavishly.

So, our sixteen seed words are boiled down by a process of association into a square matrix which we then interpret using a form of directional symbolism. In short, the up and down directions indicate progressive and regressive tendencies, the left and the right involve the more subtle interpretation of inner (left) and outer (right) psychological urges. The overall balance of the square therefore comes to represent a map of the forces within us and the complex dynamical churn between them. A further pattern of three words emerges in the centre of the matrix, the middle one of these being taken as the ultimate direction implied from the interplay of all the other forces in the mix.

While this may sound dubious to anyone not versed in symbolic or archetypal thinking, I find the method has an uncanny way of homing in on the key dynamics. The answers arise from our own thought processes, it’s just that some of them are normally hidden from view and the method tries to tease them out. At its most basic level the Watchword technique can be treated as a word game, as a bit of fun, and when beginning with it, it’s perhaps best to treat it as such. But at its deepest level it can aid us in coming up with some profound insights into our own strengths and failings.

A more individual analysis of the words we’ve chosen can also reveal our Myers Briggs type, and the book goes into this in some depth, but I’ve found the technique less reliable in that respect, probably due to my own failings in grasping the symbolic significance of the words we use, better to use the Myers Briggs method itself, but in all other respects this is a valuable tool for anyone on the path towards self discovery.

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

La Pregunta Lawrence Alma-Tadema

La Pregunta – Lawrence Alma-Tadema – 1877

Number and time; the primacy of integers as psychological archetypes; the I Ching, and dreams. These are my current preoccupations, resurrected from notes a decade old by now, but I’ve not had much “time” to ponder them afresh. My workaday life has been upside down, and I am besieged by an army of conspirators tugging at my elbow, presenting me with more tedious problems to be solved, one after the other.

And the amateur philosopher has not always the luxury of an ivory tower in which to retreat, and must more often times glean his meagre insights from the muck of battle, with his belly pressed to the earth. And most of the time there is no progress, just the occasional opening on a window of strangeness that is both bewildering, yet also reassuring that the underpinnings of the universe are more than we can know, that the muck of battle, while not an illusion, is only a small part of all there is. And time passes, sometimes whole decades before these ideas circle back at us for one more pass.

I’ve been a long time forgetting my dreams now, but just this week I’ve been trying to get back into them, trying to honour the unconscious by at least listening to what it has to say. We all dream, every night. It’s just that the dreaming takes place in a place beyond memory so the remembering of dreams is never a sure thing. More often we forget them, or some of us might even spend entire lives believing we have never dreamed at all. When we do.

If we want to remember our journeys in dreamland, regularly, we need only remind ourselves, before we sleep, that we want to remember. And then the dreams will linger long enough in the first conscious waking moments for us to catch up with them. They offer fleeting glimpses at first, as we snatch at their coat tails, but with persistence rich panoramas open that we can drink down into memory. Then our days are coloured by the subtle feeling tones left over from the dreamlands we journey. Dreams can be sweet, or they can be unsettling. They can reveal insights, or they can leave us speechless with their impenetrable lunacy. But unlike that daytime army of besiegers, the dreamland and it denizens never drain us. Their purpose is to nourish, to heal, to inform. And occasionally in so doing, they reveal intriguing glitches in what we understand as the fabric of space and time.

So, last night I dreamed I was going to be late for work. I had to get my breakfast, get dressed, get out to work. I had to be there by 7:20. I wasn’t going to make it. All was in disarray, my clothes and my gear scattered everywhere. I didn’t know what to wear. I couldn’t find anything – phone, keys, nothing. And what I managed to find, I’d lost again by the time I came to look for something else. And already it was too late. I was too late to get to work for 7:20. Then my wife appeared in the dream, telling me I still had time, because she knows what I’m like and had “altered the clocks” while I slept. It was okay then. I was going to make it by 7:20 after all because my wife was watchful and had introduced a glitch in time. Yes,… a classic anxiety dream. Need a holiday and all that,…

But then I woke up, and my wife was telling me it was 7:20, that my alarm clock hadn’t gone off and was I going to work or not? If I was I’d better hurry becasue I was already late! Her intervention saved the day. Again.

This was the first dream I’ve remembered in any detail for a long time, and it has pitched me at once outside of time, left me floundering a little, yet also serene in the reminder such things are possible. You could say dreaming of being late, of the time “7:20” appearing in my dream, forcibly, several times, and then waking at “7:20”, to find myself running late in reality,… that all of this was a coincidence. Indeed we have no choice but to label it as such, because any other explanation leads to the absurd conclusion that the dream was informed by images, numbers and circumstances from something that had yet to happen in waking reality.

And how can we dream of a thing apparently inspired by events before they happen?

Well, it does happen and I’m okay with it. It’s happened before. It happens to everyone, as anyone who remembers their dreams will tell you, and there’s no need to fear it. I don’t mind that the dreaming runs ahead sometimes. I don’t know what it means, other than a part of us, an unconscious part, is not bound by the normal constraints of space and time. I can’t find a convincing explanation for it in the literature – only snippets of speculation from others who have experienced the same shifting nature of the dream-time. These are not super-normal powers. We are all subject to their whimsical mystery. But they’re unreliable, not summonable at will, as far as I know, so mostly useless in practical terms. Just,… curious.

I arrived at work on time, and have spent much of the time with my head elsewhere. When in the thick of it, it’s often not a bad approach to gain another perspective.

Dreams can sometimes do that to you.

Read Full Post »

shadow games2Life is in part a struggle for identity; we try to define who and what think we are; we carve for ourselves a slice of something recognisable, and we say: “I am this”. We draw a line around the shape of it, and we present it to the world as our identity, our mask. But in deciding what we think we are, we also reject what we think we’re not. We reject that we might possess certain innate tendencies that seem unpleasant, embarrassing, or reprehensible. We reject that we can think certain thoughts which might be deemed “deviant” or “dark” or “pathological”. What we reject then becomes, in psychological terms, our shadow, and the more vehemently we reject our shadow natures, the more troublesome and the more powerful our shadow becomes.

The shadow is our worst, indeed our only enemy, for it is through him we project all our quarrels into the world, through him we awaken our worst insecurities, through him our deepest neuroses are born. Befriending one’s shadow is therefore the first step along the path for the spiritual hitch-hiker in search of that door to the contemplation of deeper layers of the psyche. It is the first hurdle, if you like, of a descent into the depths of our selves, on our journey to meet the soul.

These were my first lessons, and conversations with my shadow over the years have opened the door on glimpses of a rich inner world, as well as dissolving much of the angst I felt as a younger man, but it’s also become clear that my shadow is a thing I’ll always be learning from, that no matter how far I think I’ve travelled I’ll never be done with him. My shadow is my greatest enemy, but also, potentially, my greatest guru.

When we talk of rejecting certain aspects of character, it’s easy to recognise the things that can land us in jail. We say: no, I’d never do that – never kill, maim, defraud, rape, abduct, insult or lie. We experience a visceral reaction to newspaper headlines that talk of such things, because the news media are great manipulators of the shadow archetype; they raise our shadow up in the guise of some dumb schmuck in handcuffs and they call him names: killer, con-man, abuser, slacker, benefit cheat! While it’s important to know wrong from right, emotional reactions to shadow archetypes are at best unhelpful, and sometimes dangerous, often leading to the wrong man getting lynched. Fear of the stranger is another shadow-based insecurity: the foreigner, the black man, the man who is not like me. And then there’s sex in which the shadow manifests itself in the vilification of homosexuals or transsexuals or anyone who doesn’t “do sex” in what might be perceived to be the “normal” way. It’s hard to accept, but these shadow insecurities are a rejection of the fact that we might harbour, or even secretly cherish the possibility of those same tendencies in ourselves.

We all believe ourselves to be good people – and by far the majority of us are – but the worst thing we can do is become so sanctimonious we reject the possibility we can ever be bad or wrong or just plain different, or that we can think things that others might find shocking. This is the most valuable insight in a century of psychoanalysis.

These are the stronger shadows that we cast, and are fairly easy to spot, fairly easy to dissolve, and to own back. Yes, I tell myself, I would like to think I could never hurt another human being, but if I’m honest, I have thought about hurting others, and I accept therefore that the worst of humanity dwells also in me, as at least a potential for harm – that, there but for the grace of God, go I. Herein too lie the roots of compassion. We need not love the transgressors, paraded for us by the news media in all their shame-faced glory, but to hate them is also to hate ourselves.

I’ve been working on my personal shadow for twenty years, but he’s still there, still following me around, though he’s grown more subtle and elusive. I recognise him in authority figures now, and my irrational mistrust of them – managers, officials – anyone who dictates to me what I can and cannot do. The problem here is not actually a lack of trust in authority, but more that a part of me would like to have authority over others. Indeed a part of me wants to be a manager, a controller, a ruler, and wield power. It’s just that I don’t think I’d be any good at it; I imagine I’m not thick skinned or assertive enough, so I have always avoided promotion to such roles. The result is that my relationship with “authority” is never a good one.

There are a myriad other subtle issues, always illuminated by an adverse reaction to another human being, a strong negative arousal, because something I imagine they possess or represent is something I have yet to own up to as at least a potential in myself. The road is long, and there are many a twist and turn along the way, but we can rest assured we shall always have our shadow for company, and that our progress shall always be a measure of how well we’ve grasped the games our shadow plays.

Read Full Post »

waltham 3This is a favourite little pocket watch of mine. I bought it off a market stall for twenty quid in 1996 and it’s one of the few in my collection I use on a regular basis for telling the time. I usually wear it with a short chain in a casual waistcoat pocket, though my children insist I must have my jacket buttoned up if I’m to walk with them. It seems waistcoats attract so many brickbats these days there’s even a risk of collateral damage.

Anyway, a little research reveals the mechanism of this watch was made in Waltham, Massachusets in 1888. I think the gold plated brass case is a Dennison, shelled out by the millions in Birmingham UK. The case proudly announces it’s “guaranteed to wear 5 years”, so it’s not done too badly, though most of that gold plate has by now worn away.

The mechanism is of reasonable quality, having a jewelled lever and a split bi-metallic balance  for automatic regulation of the time over a range of temperatures. There’s also a bit of filigree detailing which I think is rather nice.  But given the utility of the case,  I don’t think this was intended as a “Sunday best”  watch,  more something that would have been used during the workaday week – a workaday watch for measuring the hours at the office or the factory and for judging the trains.

The amazing database of Waltham serial numbers – entirely the work of volunteers at the NAWCC archive, confirms this, telling me the movement is of a fairly basic standard with seven jewels, and was unadjusted for accuracy. But even after 125 years, and with no obvious evidence of restoration, it’s still capable of telling the time to within a couple of seconds a day, so I’m not complaining. How many consumer devices can you think of that are being put together today and will still be working 125 years from now?

waltham 4I’ve had a fascination for pocket watches since I was a boy,  and my collection now consists of nine pieces, some inherited, some picked up as I go about my travels. None of them, however, are worth much, other than in sentimental terms. But my intention here isn’t to bore you with the details of another of my obsessions. What I’m trying to get at is what  this fascination for old timepieces might yield to a little over-analysis.

The watch or clock face is a good example of a mandala. This is a psychological archetype,  said to represent aspects of the unconscious self, and their drive towards integration, or wholeness. Mandalas are usually circular – either a painting or a drawing, or a physical object like a ring or a watch face, or even an arrangement of objects like a stone circle or a fairy ring. And they fascinate us. They usually feature some form of geometric division, commonly into quarters, but not always. Indeed, they can be quite abstract and if we draw them ourselves they can form a basis for psychoanalysis, because they weave a story of the psyche at a moment in time, one indicative of both a state of mind, and a direction to be taken if it’s wholeness we’re seeking. And whether we’re aware of it or not, wholeness is what we’re all seeking.

Sometimes, like with the Waltham, I’ll encounter a watch syncronistically in the wild, so to speak, at a “time” of auspicious transition. At other times – times of introspection and self analysis – a watch from my collection will unconsciously find it’s way into my hands,.. or my waistcoat pocket.  I’ve looked at all of this before, but that’s another thing with mandala’s – they tell us we cannot measure psychological progress in a straight line. Progress always involves a circumnambulation of the centre, encountering the same lessons, the same insights time after time – but hopefully with each full circle bringing us a little closer to home.

The time element might also be meaningful of course – especially the idea of being tied to it, indeed literally chained to it. The watch measures out the passing of time, the passing of a man’s life. It speaks from the past, also speaks of the future. It speaks of order, precision, regulation, of a desire to be on time. But to be on time also implies being lost “in” time. You’d better solve this, because “time” is running out. You can’t do this now because you haven’t got the “time”. How much more “time” must I wait? How much more “time” before my life improves, before I gain the satisfation I crave?

You get the picture?

waltham 1At this level, the watch is more obviously a projection of one’s Ego with it’s ability to measure out, to analyse, to rationalise, to regulate. And there’s nothing like the fear of not having enough “time” for placing a strain on our nerves. The urgent and all pervasive sense of “not enough” is Ego pointing out our inadequacy. We become slaves to time. Look around: we’re obsessed by it! There’s a watch on our wrist, a clock on the wall,  a clock widget on our ‘phone, or a readout on our computer screen – reminders everywhere that we should remain in time and that time is constantly moving, constantly in danger of running out, and we need to keep up with it if we don’t want to be caught out and shown to be less than who we otherwise like to believe we are.

But on another level a pocket watch is different. You don’t see them much any more. They’re disappearing from general use, having been discarded long ago for being too slow, too fancy, too fussy with the time. But then there are people like me seeking them out from the junk stalls,  saying hold on; I think we’re missing something here.

But what is it?

waltham 2Well, I was in the woods the other day, at a local beauty spot, down by the river – a weir roaring, sunlight filtering through bare trees, early daffodils nodding. I was lost in the motion of the water, leaning on a fence, breathing the air, not thinking of anything.

Then someone appeared at my elbow with an urgent enquiry: “Have you got the time, mate?”

A snatch at my sleeve revealed an empty wrist and a reminder I was “off duty”, wearing the waistcoat under a jacket, carrying the Waltham. So I had to unzip my jacket, feel for the chain, draw the watch up. I did it hurriedly, snagging my zipper, and altogether making a terrible fuss in order to get at the watch, when all the guy wanted was the time – instantly! Hurry. Hurry. Time is running out! He was even poised on one leg as if ready to bolt back into time, as soon as he got the time, and the time was soooo slow in coming. No wonder they invented the wrist watch.

“Half past twelve,” I replied, eventually, and off he went like the Mad Hatter, already late, because for too long I had delayed his re-entry into time.

But what time was it, really?

When he’d gone, I felt time slowing down again, and I wondered why I’d been in such a hurry. Half past twelve, said the watch. It felt warm and vital in my hand, having absorbed so much heat from my pocket. I flipped open the back and watched that balance bouncing. It felt alive. I could feel it through my finger-tips. The sun was shining beautifully, the water making a mesmerising roar – a little rainbow forming in the spray. A thrush was singing. I snapped the case shut, put the time back in my pocket, and settled once more into the moment. We become more aware of life, I think, when we can put the time away, and in doing so find the space in any moment, space enough to expand and rediscover the pleasure of simply being.

What time is it? Well, it’s a trick question and you shouldn’t fall for it. The time is always “now”. Not in the future, at some imaginary time that never actually arrives, a  time we might easily waste our whole lives waiting for. Our lives are not a destination but an experience to be perpetually explored – and this does not mean the more extreme or exotic the experience the better – you can find it in nothing if you know how to look, even in the beating of an obsolete timepiece, so long as you can see past its mere function and realise its inner beauty.

Read Full Post »