Wednesday, October 05, 2005

a very, very long story

Sharing my secrets with you is no help at all,

But without you I don't have the gall to air my secrets at all.

You surely are not the remedy for what ails me;

What ails poor me is a very, very long story.

#971: From Rumi's Kolliyaat-e Shams-e Tabrizi

Search word: help

Today I've agreed to help out a friend, to do her a favour. She has given me this gift of asking me for my help. It makes me feel useful and valued. This afternoon, I'll be writing down notes, taking minutes, during a potentially conflict-ridden meeting. It will be a nice little challenge as I've never taken minutes like this before. Long ago, I took minutes when I was secretary for the local Jung Society but it was a small familiar group that met regularly. This time it will be a room full of strangers and the issues discussed are to me but sketchy. I will bring to the meeting an element of objectivity, which I daresay is what my friend really wants of me.

One of the differences between my friend and me is that she pooh-poohs everything to do with psychotherapy, psychoanalysis, counselling, any and every type of "talking cure". With my background interest in Jung, naturally I treat all these forms of healing seriously although the Jungian influence causes me to focus more on the mind expanding, enlightenment or self-knowledge aspects of analysis (as the Jungians describe the one-on-one relationship set up between analyst and analysand). I do respect her view on this because I am troubled myself by many aspects of what might best be categorized generally under "psychotherapy".

There are quite a few parallels between Sufi meditation sessions and psychotherapy groups, between the relationship of Sufi teacher to pupil and that of therapist to client. Rumi also stressed the friendship or peer relationship that arose within or alongside the teacher-pupil bond, as was most strongly evident between him and Shams. This is also stressed by Jung, most notably in his small book, The Psychology of the Transference, which uses the images from the Rosarium philosophorum as a basis for discussion.

Perhaps I am reading my own preoccupations into Rumi's verse (sure, I am always doing that but hopefully a little more as well) but I see him summarizing succinctly what is valuable and what is limited in psychotherapy. Sharing one's worries, anxieties and fears does not dispel them. Sharing one's dreams, hopes and longings does not make them real. Jungians are realistic about these angels and demons that benefit from an eternal life and can never be killed off. At best we can become better acquainted with them and come to love and accept them as a part of what we are.

One way that human beings do this is to collect or re-collect their history through tribal legends and hero tales. The individual can do this through autobiography but plunging into wider human history is also important. My life, my problems and my dreams, did not begin at my birth. They began at the very beginning. I cannot fully understand myself unless I incorporate that greater vision into the picture of self I hold. That larger self is our god-self and without it, we are the loneliest creatures on the planet.

It is so true what Rumi says: What ails us is indeed a very, very long story. It is probably without beginning, equally probably without end; unlikely to have a merely happy ending, but equally unlikely to be all bad. I doubt that we can truly love and accept ourselves and our fellow creatures unless we can learn to love the story we are all in.


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