The split, the discrepancy between what we long for and what we suppose are limitations of Western imagination, the day we discover and grieve that we are not gods. These are the swamplands of the soul, the cauldron of suffering that provides the context for stimulation and attainment of meaning. Many addictions, ideologies and neuroses are futile to such suffering. The most profound irony to befall the healing arts is the evasion of the concept of the soul in the practice of psychology. Modern psychology only addresses behaviours which can be observed, cognition which can be reprogrammed, or biochemical abnormalities which can be medicated. all hiding the need to make one`s journey meaningful.

Without such suffering, needed for psychological and spiritual maturation, the world remains unconscious, infantile and dependent.

The purpose of therapy is not to remove one`s suffering, but to move through the pain and anxiety, to develop a greater consciousness that can sustain the polarity of painful opposites. The neurosis must be understood; otherwise, the soul’s suffering for meaning is undiscovered. If we succeed in the anxiety of solitude, new horizons will be upon us, where we can finally learn to exist independently of others. Most of life is the flight from this anxiety of being radically present to ourselves, naked before the universe. One can never relax and let go of the frantic desire to be happy and untroubled, living comfortably and easily. The ego, a conscious sense of who we are, conducts the business of conscious life, mobilises psychic energy and directs it towards goals. The need to maintain a degree of self-consistency and continuity, whose central role is security and safety. The narrow egoic view, seeking security and dominance and avoidance of conflict.

The proper and desired role of the ego is to start a dialogue with the self and the world, a separate exchange of ideas and goals. The goal of individuation is the manifestation of the larger purpose of nature, through the incarnation of the individual, liberation from the causes of serious discomfort and anxiety. The dialogue enables the client to become an adult and actively face feeling alone with their pain and the perceived abandonment from the world.

Guilt sits like a blackbird on man’s shoulders; the shadow reminds us of the participation with the forbidden, our egotism, narcissism and cowardice. The blackbird still sits there; it claws at fleeting moments of celebration and freedom and slips back down with its attendant shame. We generally suffer three types of guilt.

  • Real guilt as a form of responsibility
  • Guilt as the inauthentic defence against angst
  • Existential guilt

We must learn to accept the responsibility for the consequences of our choices and actions; however, unconscious one was at the time. Consciousness involves the recognition of the harm done to self and others. We must acknowledge the guilt, not deny or project it, release it and bring it into the open and present. Any act or expression of self-assertion may induce anxiety and guilt for experiencing forbidden feelings. A sudden coldness of reflexive memories, the visualisation of the wasteland of parental disapproval, displeasure and punishment. This inauthentic guilt may be aligned against the resentment of others, jealousy, rage and a whole host of shadow material. The shadowless person is shallow, nice rather than real, accommodating rather than authentic, and adaptive rather than assertive. Guilt as a defence against the greater angst reflects a lack of permission to be oneself.

Given we accept and recognise our own complicity in the world’s evil. Forgiveness becomes the hardest goal of all due to the evil we do to ourselves and others. A person must be prepared to break commitments to grow, not stay in abusive relationships because of guilt, unable to understand they have their own calling to a separate journey, not here to save others from not taking theirs. The recognition of wrong choices, the release of regressive defences against anxiety and the bonds of the past. The psychic energy can be reclaimed in the process and reinvested in the future.

Whenever one deconstructs the false self, one will suffer disorientation whilst wandering in the wastelands. Wandering between 2 worlds, in the gap, the void, one dead and the other powerless to be born. No career, relationship, direction, or desire emerges, for one is absent and spiritually adrift without the vision of the new renewed self. One great loss can be the catalyst to encounter another loss, which lies deeply in the unconscious and starts one`s spiritual journey. Suffering is primarily due to the ego`s need and desires to control others, the environment and even its own mortality. We need to let go, go with the wisdom of nature and release ourselves from their neurosis and no longer split from nature. To experience these losses, we have to bear the heaviness of the condition but also testify to the depth of the scenario. We learn a sense of importance and how little control we have in our lives.

The loss of innocence, trust and simple relationships when we experience betrayals through neglect, abandonment or abuse. They will later bond with partners who repeat the betrayals via “reaction formation” and self-fulfilling prophecies. Avoidance of intimacy and trust, who avoid the pain of hurt from betrayal again, living with no depth and true feelings. We are morally outraged by betrayal and seek revenge, which constricts growth in consciousness. Those consumed by revenge legitimise their grievances and remain victims, back at the original betrayals, a refusal to feel the hurt and resistance to growth. My mother left me, and so will everyone else, paranoid, suspicious, and afraid of intimacy. Betrayal can spring us towards individuation, where we can embrace greater wisdom and understanding. We are driven to face where we want to remain infantile, learning greater insight into the repetitive roles we continue to play out. This experience of self is always a defeat for the ego.

Finding the courage to stand in our vulnerability and responsibility, we are challenged to grow up to take a journey of greater consciousness, which can be terrifying, freeing and bringing meaning. The child abused by their mother still needs her but fears and hates her; the earlier the disturbance, the greater the defence and the more untouchable the wound. One will end up wounding others in return, incapable of reflection and responsibility. The neurotic is racked with guilt and a sense of inferiority. Haunted by inadequacies, not enough ego strength to dialogue with the interpersonal space, forever trapped in childhood. Risking doubt means risking anxiety and the development of a greater personality. Doubt can be a form of radical truth, breaking away from old categories to free new energy. Dogmas, rigid beliefs and politics are these old husks, which hold the energy, working as mental prisons of society. We must face ambiguity to grow, overthrow the concrete ego, and take the traumatic journey of separation, thrust into the cold wasteland, falling through space and time. The more immersed we are within these dogmas and ideologies, the less differentiated and individuated we are.

Aggression is often the disguise of loneliness and anxiety, expressed through cynicism and contempt for love and cultural interests. The person who attains solitude is more in their unique experience, conscious of their inner dialogue and journey. Departing from old ego concepts. They are enduring the enlargement of consciousness through suffering and achieving a new place and dynamic. We are asked to bear the unbearable task awaiting us in the swamplands of the soul, which we call loneliness. Most relationships succeed for a while in the form of infantile fusion, limiting the growth of both parties. They often fall due to the weight of unreasonable expectations and delusions. A healthy relationship is only possible if one can come to the table as an individuating person, able to live beyond the terror of silence and separation.

The task implicit to any of the swamplands is to become conscious enough to discern the difference between what happened to us in the past and who we are now in the present. The ability to choose between anxiety and depression is a way to move forward, as our soul insists. It takes great courage to value depression, respect it, and neither try to medicate it away. Don’t distract ourselves with misery, as we have the opportunity to find true meaning and deeper consciousness. The lost energy can be retrieved by serving the soul, which serves our true purpose and journey into meaning.

We don’t want to enter the swampland of despair, the land without hope, alternatives, with no way out. One does not want to sit in their despair and seek immediate resolutions and cessation of the anxiety. If one can embrace this implicit wish and need for transformation, manifested as despair, one can catalyse the dynamics for change. Out of the self tumult, out of genuine despair, brings meaning, encounters with the depths of being. When we come close to annihilation, we can retain a measure of dignity that saves us, drives us and gives us something to hold onto. The quality and depth of the struggle bring strength to become a hero, enduring terrible feelings and experiences, and healing our inner wounds and trauma. We work through the obsessions and addictions, the secrets buried in the depths of the soul.

Only through the surrender of the fantasy for control, suffering the domination of the ego, we can surrender to the will of divine power.

We can deconstruct the addiction, find the primal wounds, assimilate and transform old beliefs, suffer the insufferable, and heal to spiritual enlightenment. We can heal the wound of sexual and aggressive expression, repressed into submission and self-estrangement. We learn to live consciously with our failures, imperfections and inadequacies. We can express legitimate anger against being abandoned, abused or neglected, vital energy available for healing and merging of the opposites.

Managing anxiety

Fight and flight are options when we find life overwhelming; we usually flee, out of sight and out of mind. The child learns the survival mechanism, which fundamentally affects the distorted growth of their personality.

  • Paranoid – suffered betrayal from their primary objects (parents), and will find betrayal everywhere, unable to trust and will drive people away.
  • Schizoid – overprotective and detached from others, with a limited range of emotions and feelings, avoids intimacy.
  • Borderline – instability in object relations, unstable self-image, acts impulsively with little regard to the damage to others. Shifts in moods and haunted by chronic feelings of emptiness.
  • Histrionic – need for attention, love and approval. Agitated, when not the centre of attention, act provocatively to draw attention, jealousy and rage at imagined slights.
  • Narcissist – demands admiration and reassurance. Entitled to special treatment from others and lack empathy for the needs of others. It feels empty and unloved when it has no supply.
Hollis, J. (1996) Swamplands of the Soul: New Life in Dismal Places (Studies in Jungian psychology by Jungian analysts, Inner City Books; First Edition