How can I explain this photo? Why did I even take it? I have to admit that I had already written a good portion of this post before figuring out what I wanted for a photo. I knew which quotes I was using for the post and had searched through my photos taken here in Costa Rica only to feel that there was nothing that “fit,” nothing that could speak for me where words failed.
So, I returned to the quotes and did some serious thinking. The first quote finally convinced me to risk exposing things that I have devalued. I knew that Jung was talking of something broader, something at the collective level. What did I share with others in the collective? What has the collective devalued that has convinced me to devalue in myself?
The answer is body identity and sexual identity. In my culture a man is considered normal or better if he is tall, light-skinned, and trim and fit. I am small: short, dark and hairy. Society has men be men with an active sex life that woos many and scoring many conquests. I only wanted to be desired by one woman. One woman finding me to be the man of her sexual dreams was my dream. Of course that only set me up for maintaining my virginity into my twenties.
So, I took this photo, an image that is explicit though its lines are soft enough to give the photo a certain artistic quality that saves it from being just another opportunity for exhibitionism. But in all honesty, can I deny the intent?
“If anything of importance is devalued in our conscious life, and perishes – so runs the law – there arises a compensation in the unconscious. We may see in this analogy to the conservation of energy in the physical world, for our psychic processes also have a quantitative, energic aspect. No psychic value can disappear without being replaced by another of equivalent intensity. This is a fundamental rule which is repeatedly verified in the daily practice of the psychotherapist and never fails.” (Jung, The Spiritual Problem of Modern Man, Modern Man in Search of Soul, 1933)
What has been devalued in my life? Well, I guess that the answer isn’t as easy to state as I thought it would be. For so many years I devalued myself as a short man, one who didn’t fit in. I lived in redneck country when I left my youth as a city kid. I was the odd man out and soon believed that I even looked odd. That feeling has never really left me and I am just now learning to accept that perhaps I am not odd as I came to believe.
There was no question in my mind that any woman would actually find me attractive, especially in midlife. I never did understand what my wife ever saw in me. I was and am certain it had nothing to do with looks or sexual attraction. She saw something buried under the skin that was valued, likely that old expression holds true here – opposites attract – we are fully opposite (INFP versus ESTJ) in so much.
Of course this lack of body and sexual value for myself had to find another outlet. Dreams became a hot and steamy affair. The face of anima often came looking like a harlot, tempting me. Strange how all of these dreams did nothing but leave me feeling guilty as though is some way, I had cheated on my marriage. The repressed contents also found a veiled presence in poetry.
My outer life served as a reverse mirror for what was happening within. Denying self, denying need all in hopes of becoming more acceptable only served to have anima become even more a temptress. I saw myself as more and more unworthy because of the dirt within. It was only to be expected that something would break.
“The doctor in me refuses point blank to consider the life of a people as something that dos not conform to a psychological law. For him the psyche of a people is only a somewhat more complex structure than the psyche of an individual. Moreover, has not a poet spoken of the “nations of his soul”? And quite correctly, it seems to me, for in one of its aspects the psyche is not individual, but is derived from the nation, from the collectivity, from humanity even. In some way or other we are part of a single, all-embracing psyche, a single “greatest man,” the homo maximus, to quote Swedenborg.” (Jung, The Spiritual Problem of Modern Man, Modern Man in Search of Soul, 1933)
“The psyche of a people” is a powerful statement. When one thinks of it, it is something we have always known. We have no problem with the idea of a culture, a nation having a certain way of being and believing and acting in concert with each other; something that defies logic where one sees a large group of individuals in any particular culture. One would expect a lot more variation. Travelling has accentuated the notion of a collective psyche. And in accepting this idea, I see how my psyche is connected to the collective regardless of my sense of alienation.
Shame of body, shame of sexual desire is embraced by the collective of a conservative people. And in the collective of which I am a part, the body is best hidden under layers and layers. Even at a beach, bikinis are worn but are covered with tee-shirts and baggy shorts. Shame of body, a sexual body is also hidden under layers of fat. If one can look unappealing sexually, then perhaps one will kill sexual desire within. But it doesn’t work and we cover ourselves in tattoos and ugly clothing that avoid any vibrant colours.
So we repress as individuals, repress as cultures, repress as a human race trying to proclaim that we are beings that transcend fascination with the human body and human sexuality. And in this repression, we end up hurting ourselves and others. We become tyrannical. The individual is part of the whole.
And as each of us become more conscious, we do influence the consciousness of the whole. There is real hope. Maybe I am not so absurd, not a dirty old man after all. Perhaps I am a human.