Self-exploration 1


We all share a similar destiny — a longer or shorter lifetime, of which we must make the best, whatever that means to each of us. Self-knowledge is a basic orientation to being and a Way of life. We all share the denial and suffer traumatization by the inhumanities of modern life — the fragmenting reality of human conflict and destructive rage we cannot comprehend. Transpersonal stories hold our inner pain before our personal story can be told.

Instead we deny, shut down, or dissociate and yearn for the sacred to counteract the destruction of human spirit. The unconscious is synonymous with the opening of imagination. When we find our own way of belonging in the world, it deepens our experience and the imaginative possibilities of our nature, realized in reflection. Trauma survivors often overvalue and become enmeshed with the mysteries of the inner world in a defensive way, so need to be grounded or re-connected to life.

We experience external reality throught out consciousness or unconsciousnes. Soul is the source of unconscious longing that launches our innate instinct to search for ourselves. Life on the edge is experienced through the personal unconscious, acting as a bridge, threshold, or a life-sustaining transition phase between conscious and unconscious. An ensouled life helps us be more resilient and aware of the ultra-real.

Life is created and sustained at the very edge of chaos and the fringe of consciousness, conditioned by unacknowledged terror, about death, impermanence, human limitation. The inner world of the trauma survivor is often mythic before it is personal, blurring the boundaries of ordinary and non-ordinary awareness. Fantasy and life-saving encounters with the numinous become defenses against symbolic individuation and the pull of reality and the dark side of the self and interpersonal struggles — the larger narrative of our soulful foundation and unique lives.

What cannot be represented personally is represented transpersonally. What can’t be registered symbolically or in language gets embedded in the body. The traumatised psyche becomes self-traumatizing, self-sacrificing, and self-damaging to the distressed ego. The self-defense system ends by turning against us. We are all more or less traumatized by the unbearable reality of man’s inhumanity to man. We inherit the longterm effects of intergenerational transmission of victimization. Heartbreak overwhelms the self-care system.

The frontier is the edge between what you know and what you don’t know that sustains being at the threshold of the conscious and unconscious. Complexity lies at the edge of chaos, a transition phase, where life itself is created and sustained. The unconscious is self-generating, self-arising, self-iterating (or repeating–chronic), and self-organizing.

When we are identified with a defense from unbearable trauma, psychic pain, and anxiety we cannot see it and it turns back on the self. We put up protective shields against stimuli. We have to constantly question our perception of reality and dig beneath our self-image and assumed truths to reveal deeper awareness of psychical realities and daimonic defenses of the unconscious. By considering the soul, self-knowledge helps us learn to live between the worlds.

All knowledge is the result of imposing some kind of order upon the reactions of the psychic system as they flow into our consciousness … it is not a question of … asserting anything, but of constructing a model, which opens up a promising and useful field of inquiry. A model does not assert that something is so; it simply illustrates a particular mode of observation.” (The Structure and Dynamics of Psyche, Volume 8, par. 362, 381)

Nature is matter, soul, and spirit. Thales recommended a look inward to “know thyself,” many centuries before Augustine. Hillman speaks in Healing Fiction how “‘Know Thyself’ is revelatory, non-linear, discontinuous; it is like a painting, a lyric poem, biography thoroughly gone into the imaginative act.”

But those who are in this process often cannot see it, cannot see its imaginative metaphorical quality and mistake it as literal and concrete. Creating any approach to the image and results attained are skewed by our presence. We move to the ‘edge of chaos,’ the creative edge, to solve problems between stability and instability. On this edge everything is in flux, dynamic and changeable. We have to uncouple ourselves from our subjective  ideas about  the  nature  of  things —from  the  things  themselves — and separate affect from perception.

Chaos theory provides a natural yet scientific metaphor of this complex trajectory of emergent order from disorder, the complex dance at the edge of chaos. We learn from chaos theory that physically and mentally we need chaotic disorder to function smoothly. Dipping into that disorder shakes everything loose and allows creative restructuring to occur. Forms emerge, dissolve, and reform through the creative process known as autopoietic self-organization. It demonstrates the unfolding of creative process itself, the emergence of form or structure from formlessness and chaos.

Self-organizing systems, both organic and inorganic, naturally evolve toward the “edge of chaos.” All the creative action is at the boundary of any field, the creative  threshold, the leading edge. It is in finding meaning and expressing  that meaning that we exalt our humanity in our individuation. We don’t  actually change but our experience of reality does and this experience  is largely outside of our “conscious” grasp.

It is the means of creative self-organization which arises from the undifferentiated disorder that lurks within the processes of creation. Chaos holds infinite possibilities of new form, and these forms are eventually revealed and emerge from chaos as new structure. This is also an apt way to describe consciousness dynamics, such as thought, spontaneous behavior and creativity.

Reality is neither structure nor chaos, but a process in which structure and chaos dance between form and formlessness. The ability of a system to move in and out of chaos gives it the greatest creative advantage — spontaneous adaptability. Healing is biological creativity. We can embrace this disruptive chaos, trusting that it is an emergent self-organizing process. This boundary domain is the creative “edge of chaos,” “the twilight zone,” “the crack between the worlds,” where the two meet and progressively meld into one another.

The edge of chaos is important to self-organization. Giving up control and embracing uncertainty allows the unpredictable to arise. The creative edge of chaos is implicated in the creation of the universe, as well as in human creativity and learning processes. Creativity and healing are emergent properties of self-organizing systems. The edge of chaos is the point of emergence for new behaviors, enhanced capacities and transformed identity. The top-down process meets the bottom-up process at the creative edge.

Perhaps the best claim we can make for our approach is that at least it is a fertile one. ‘Know Thyself’ is more of an invitation than a heroic exhortation driven by ego or will. The cutting edge of the evolutionary condition to seek greater horizons and to always want to transcend whatever our limitations are at the time. Plotinus admonished, “The way to truth was the journey of a lonely person to that which is eternally alone.”


the body advances its claim for equality; it radiates the same fascination as the psyche. If we are still stuck in the old concept of confrontation between spirit and subject, this condition must be an intolerable contradiction. If on the contrary we can reconcile with the mystery that the spirit is the life of the body from the inside and the body the outer manifestation of the spirit, being the two one thing, then we can understand why the commitment to transcend the current level of consciousness Through the acceptance of the unconscious, it must give the body what is due and why the recognition of the body cannot tolerate a philosophy that denies it in the name of the spirit. ” –C.G. Jung

in Depth Psychology, Self-Care, and Art
by Iona Miller, (c)2018, Life On the Edge

“…we are not concerned here with a philosophical, much less a religious, concept of the soul, but with the psychological recognition of the existence of a semiconscious psychic complex, having partial autonomy of function, [anima].” –C.G. Jung, Two Essays

Before the birth, the soul of each of us chooses an image or design that then we will live on earth, and receive a companion to guide us up here, a daimon, which is unique and typical. However, when we come to the world, we forget all this and we believe we have been empty. It is the daimon who remembers the content of our image, the elements of the chosen drawing, he is the bearer of our destiny.” –Hillman “The Code of the Soul” (p. 23)

Image result for art, iona miller

Interactive Field

When God sends his angel to the soul It really begins to know.
–Meister Eckhart, German sermons

We welcome the reader into their own journey of self-discovery. We sometimes feel lost, sometimes validated, sometimes illuminated. But, we always once again pick up the connective thread. Ideally, there is a co-creation with readers, listeners, and viewers bringing their own innermost responses, experiences, and perceptions to the reflective process, whether in agreement or disagreement. Then we know how we think and how we feel and a spontaneous internal dialogue begins.

More books and information don’t change your soul, but active participation and engagement with psyche can open new vistas. The living stream of psychic material weaves the imaginal  journey together into patterns with seasons of agony and grace, the ecstasy of radiant intuition and emergent knowledge. The interdisciplinary path is our trajectory of change.

Wisdom is an orientation, like an internal compass. The most difficult human experiences are potential sources of wisdom. “It’s very hard to know what wisdom is,” James Hillman notes. The wisdom of a lifetime is paradoxically atemporal and cumulative. Constant reorganization and reintegration is part of the life process at the edge of chaos. Integration is never done because we live in a spontaneously changing inner and outer environment.

The remembrance of wrong is transformed within a wider context. Jung suggested, the salt of bitterness is transformed to the salt of wisdom. The Greek word sophia, translated as the word “wisdom,” comes from crafts—carpenters and hand work, sort of technical skill needed in a particular craft.

The Greek word psyche means “butterfly,” and is linked to the Greek anemos, meaning “wind” or “breath,” as well as “soul” and “spirit.” Psyche is the ‘butterfly effect’ that permeates our unconscious dynamics. Small changes trigger larger ones rooted in initial conditions. Denying soul and complexity creates a chaotic dimensional system. So what we do as individuals matters.

Jung emphasized, “the experience of the sacred, of mystery, and of the ineffable. . .[is] an approach that is at home with myth and symbol, with the religious and spiritual traditions of the world, with anthropology and archeology, with art, poetry, and literature.

‘Depth’ includes the inner and outer context of our lives and the depths of nature herself. It includes what is below the surface of psychic manifestations expressed through behaviors, conflicts, relationships, family dynamics, dreams, including cultural, social and political events. We harbor an abundance of fears between the surface and abyss of the unconscious. Depth is essentially limitless, the mystery and creative potential of the unknown.

Psyche is characterized  by wisdom, internal complexity, and depth. It is the natural pathway to our own depths, a more inclusive participation in conscious and unconscious life. Without authentic guidance we explore at our own peril, because as Ginette Paris claims, “the human psyche seeks to destroy relationships and lives as well as to sustain them.” Heartbreak, for example, can be as painful as torture.

Like fractals, the closer you look at psyche’s complexity, the more there is to see; more complexity emerges. It is dynamically fluid, ever changing, mediated by complex, recursive, feedback loops existing simultaneously at physical, social, cultural, and historical levels.

Self-image emerges to form self-referential loops in consciousness. Because our images correspond with our own nature, they have a power drawn from the soul, to hold our attention. Deep energy sources fund constant renewal. The soul concentrates our entire life in the present so that the heart comes to resemble a mirror, reflecting the identity of the personal and superpersonal.

Gordon Axman describes a metaphor: “Psyche can be of different complexity and can in this respect be compared with a mirror globe that has more or less reflectors on its surface. A globe with less mirrors gives a simple image of reality whilst a globe with many mirrors gives a highly complex image of reality. It is obvious that a highly complex psyche is able to represent reality more sophisticated but on the other hand is more prone to picture distorted images of reality.

Our excursions into the unknown wilderness of the psychic landscape and deep, dark recesses may be an inner pilgrimage, archetypal adventure, a voyage of descent into our suffering and vulnerability. It can be a path “sharp as the edge of a razor,”  a poetic journey through remembering, labyrinthine descent, an alchemical, shamanic, healing, or initiatory journey — even a genealogical search.

The relationship locates us in a larger story. It arouses and reacquaints us with our ancestors, soul-guides, daimon, and wisdom figures. Phenomena are the observed facts of the holistic system and pattern of psyche’s innate image-making capacity. Psyche’s self-organizing activities unify many parts into an organism.

We may play the Fool, Lover, or Knight Errant. The Imaginal Realm is the realm of Soul and it is irreducibly plural in its perspectives and outlooks. The movement toward spirit is a journey of ascent, a journey of transcendence, while the movement toward soul is a journey of descent into our depths.

The way of depth involves the discipline of establishing a more compassionate relationship with the image where we witness the expression, suspend judgment, open and respond to its presence. The mystery of imagination is present in symptom, dream and vision, in disease and health, in personal and collective unconscious.

Our way is bringing imagination into the world. We learn how to shift consciousness to connect with non-rational consciousness. This complex multidimensional field beyond our normal perception is something larger than ourselves. Psyche begins to manifest. We feel what our body is doing, but the unconscious acts without our observation, understanding, or approval.

We struggle to emerge in that field, a constituent part of our soul in loving relation to the images of soul. They help us carry our suffering more graciously through resilience. Pain is a signal that our natural psychological needs are not being met. Depression is a form of grief -– for yourself, and for the culture we live in — that sets us on a quest for deeper resources. Personal artistic expression is a primary mode of inquiry.

Lack of autonomy, feeling powerless, controlled, and unappreciated can lead to stress. Depression is grief for ourselves, and our own legitimate unmet needs. Our journey may be motivated by trauma, extreme distress, abandonment, adventure, illness, grief, death, or love, that is, by whatever awakens the imagination to existence, including therapy. It challenges, deepens, and enriches us. Trauma is an overwhelming injury to the capacity to feel and its subsequent defense.

Traveling in “Foreign Countries” is a symbol of the undiscovered country — psyche’s unknown realm and language. To leave the physical and “travel in foreign countries” opens the door to knowledge through the autonomy of living memory images and imaginal remembering. We don’t know what is going to change or where we are going to go.

The journey into the invisible beyond takes place through our self-generative images, which are not mental constructs. This is the imaginative visibility of the psyche, not what we see but the way in which we see, perceived by an act of imagining. Our response is metaphorical and imaginative, not literal or dogmatic.

Does the image release and refine further imagining? The depth of the image is limitless due to its implications. Its “source” is complex: a self-limiting multiple relationship of meanings, moods, historical events, qualitative details, and expressive possibilities.

The natural inborn process is an innate necessity. inherently purposeful, all psychic events whatsoever have a telos. Purpose is a perspective, even without goals or intentions. We need deep respect for inner life and a belief that it is only through attending to and interacting with what is inside that we can live authentically and engage the outer world with our whole self. Our unknown self is the who-am-I question that brings us to the threshold.

Only the journey makes the homecoming possible. The metaphor of the journey is primarily one of ‘transport.’ We travel imaginally, but are also carried along, led by our innate trust of the process itself. Looking inside, we engage inner processes of knowing, experiencing, interpreting, reacting by spending time and attention with what is interior, both felt and imagined.

Engaging with powerful, living images is at the heart of our worthy and therapeutic journey. Symbols are complex facts not yet apprehended by the unconscious. We can build a creative, symbolic bridge between conscious and unconscious.

Implicit, unfinished processes are held in the body in some form, such as somatic sensations, general anxiety, tension or other symptoms. Narrowed or blocked interaction or experiencing, an interrupted or unfinished condition is an incomplete process. Incongruence is a doorway to deeper self-awareness.

Healing allows what has been repressed, rejected, denied or ignored to emerge so we can understand, explore its significance and integrate it as a transformation in consciousness. If we carry our processes and responses forward, images restore flow and open depth to the emergent sense of self-agency.

We empty the mind and engage the body and images in a tangible way, including inner dialogue, gestures, and ethical confrontation to come to terms with the imaginal. The ultimate goal of any inner process is to develop a relationship to what is encountered inside, with openness, curiosity, even reverence. The Imaginal realm is the realm of soul with its irreducible plural perspectives and outlooks. The archetypal image precedes and determines the metaphysical hypothesis of a noumenal archetype.

Living images and felt-sense operate with a certain autonomy. They can interact with us as much as we can interact with them. An ecological, interactive view of inner world is inseparable from the outer world, as interactions inseparable from our environment. Deliberately attending to the body can open vivid, living images, repeated with progressive changes. This is a process of continually becoming one’s self rather than achieving a once-and-for-all state of being.

Filled with emotion, these encounters speak for themselves without interpretation or process guiding. The visceral felt sense of the image is clearly present, and the image itself has a life of its own. The whole of the situation, as it is felt in the body, might be overwhelming. Images can be experienced as ‘not-me’, a too-intense felt sense. An image can feel very other, even if it also represents a part of oneself.

Listening inside and interacting with what we find there nurtures felt-sense with deep and indispensable insights. Felt sense is the embodiment (bringing awareness inside the body) of our ever-changing sensory/energetic/emotional landscape. It moves our focus from actions and things happening outside us in the world to qualities of our present, internal experience (e.g. textures, colors, sensations).

Experiential process is as, or more important than content, potential not yet developed fully. Unfinished or unconscious processes can  be blocked and not be carried  through. We may be aware of them but not their meaning. Awareness moves attention from  the image to direct feeling. Change comes with directly felt tangible, feelings, and attitudes.

Jung called this the transcendent function, the process by which we are guided in a teleological way toward the person we are meant to be. The cooperation of conscious reasoning with the data of the unconscious progressively unites the opposites.

This symbolic bridge is a psychic function that arises from the tension between consciousness and the unconscious and supports their union. The tension of opposites produces a new, uniting function that transcends them. Difficulties arise from our becoming too one-sided in dealing with opposing functions.


~ by ionamiller on January 12, 2018.

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