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The Symbolic Life - Winter 2021

The Coldwater Counseling Center, of which Steve has been the President for over 30 years, shares Steve's article series The Symbolic Life in their biannual newsletters.

In the Winter 2013 Newsletter we reflected on tree symbolism in light of how popular Christmas trees are this time of year. I referenced Jung’s interview in which he describes the Christmas tree custom as an example of the symbolic life. If is cultivated in a creative way, then the soul is fed. I contrasted this with the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman incident the previous summer when dark fantasies took over Zimmerman and he acted upon them as if they were facts. As a result Trayvon Martin was killed.

This projection of “shadow” elements of the personality were crucial to Jung’s psychology. Since Trayvon Martin we have seen many other disturbing examples of this in recent years. The killing of George Floyd by a policeman last year probably stirred the most attention. This year as Thanksgiving arrived we learned that three white men who had killed the young black man Ahmaud Arbery were convicted of murder. The facts presented to a primarily white jury took precedence over what the three men imagined.

Jung’s psychology of the unconscious stresses how important it is to distinguish fantasy from fact. For the former is mostly about us, and if we don’t pay careful attention then we project out our shadow side onto others. On the other hand we can also create problems if we ignore certain facts and let fantasies of disbelief get in the way. Our pandemic is in its second year, because of what some people imagine about the vaccines, rather than the medical facts...

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