An Annotated & Illustrated Collection of Worldwide Links to Mythologies,
Fairy Tales & Folklore, Sacred Arts & Sacred Traditions
by Kathleen Jenks, Ph.D.


(You can contact the authors, c/o Dr. Mary Watkins, by clicking here.)
***Also see another Myth*ing Links paper by these authors:
Individuation, Seeing-through, and Liberation: Depth Psychology and Colonialism
12 November 2008:
Congratulations to Helene and Mary!
Macmillan/Palgrave has just  released their new book,
Toward Psychologies of Liberation --
please click here for further information:


Silenced Knowings, Forgotten Springs:
Paths to Healing in the Wake of Colonialism

By Helene Shulman Lorenz, Ph.D. and Mary Watkins, Ph.D.



We have each been educated in a system that grew out of, and reflects, 500 years of colonialism, and  are struggling for awareness in a new era of globalization that leaves increasing numbers of people hungry and disenfranchised. Our cultural legacy is profoundly imprinted by the often silenced after-effects of the genocidal war against Native Americans,  the dislocation and forced slavery of Africans in America, and the oppressive labor conditions of the poor.  But how do we carry these kinds of knowing inside ourselves and in our relations to others and the world? When the dictionary describes colonialism as "the practice or manner of things colonial," what does this mean personally, psychologically and culturally?  How has colonialism left its wounding imprint on our individual psyches, on the ways we imagine and interpret our life experiences? What are the paths to awareness and healing of these wounds?

Our very means of trying to understand ourselves--the discipline of  psychology--arose as colonialism was stretching to its fullest reach.  Psychology's development in the last 100 years coincides with the rise of national liberation movements and the ending of the colonial era. While it often recorded psychological effects of colonialism, it hardly ever understood them in the context of colonialism. We must begin to inquire how colonialism has effected our ways of theorizing about and working with individuals and groups. What kinds of suffering have we learned to avoid knowing in ourselves and others because they are so widespread we have learned to accept them as normal and natural? How have we learned to silence not only many of our own feelings and insights, but also the wellsprings of imagination that have the potential to create alternative visions?

In this paper we hope to clarify what some of the psychic corollaries of colonialism are and what some of the psychological methods are that can address the suffering that issues from them.  Through the provision of small group exercises we hope to quicken an experiential sense of how our silenced knowings are linked to dynamics of oppression; how what we experience as most personal and intimate reflect culture and connect us to work in the world where individual development and cultural liberation coincide.

Silenced Knowings

The War At Home
 © Helen Redman -- used with permission

Many silenced knowings can exist within apparently ordinary lives and communities, the lives of others and our own lives. By silenced knowings we mean understandings that we each carry that take refuge in silence, as it feels dangerous to speak them to ourselves and to others.  The sanctions against them in the family, community or wider culture render them mute and increasingly inaccessible. Once silenced, these knowings are no longer available to inform our lives, to strengthen our moral discernment.  Once pushed to the side, these knowings require our energy to sustain their dissociation, and our numbing to evade their pain.
Some silenced knowings require metabolizing over generations, so difficult are they to listen to and bear, to act in the light of.  We want to wonder with you what habits of silenced knowing from the past 500 years of colonialism have been passed on to us? What pieces of our cultural history seek to find voice through us and our lives?  In what ways is our personal individuation inextricably linked with responding to the silenced knowings that exist within our own biographies?  How might they inform our work and our relationships?

As a first and obvious example of this process of metabolizing silenced knowings over generations, we will share a story from Austrian journalist, Peter Sichrovsky (1988), who interviewed dozens of children and grandchildren of former Nazis for his book Born Guilty: The Children of Nazis. Sichrovsky spoke with a woman named Suzanne who had grown up knowing her father was involved with the Nazi party, though she had never independently developed any curiosity or interest in the war. Suzanne resisted when her son Dieter came home from school with an assignment to research the effects of the Holocaust on their home community.

But like many others in the third generation after the war, Dieter wanted to know. His coming to know and the healing of his cultural legacy were intertwined. After examining archives and writing to survivors, Dieter made a surprising discovery. The house in which both he and his mother, Suzanne, had been raised was confiscated from a Jewish family. Dieter read the document to his parents: "Here lived Martha Kolleg, age 2, Anna Kolleg, age 6, Ferdi Kolleg age 12, Harry Kolleg, age 42, Susanne Kolleg, age 38. Arrested on November 10, 1941, deported on November 12, 1941. Official date of death of the children and mother, January 14, 1944. Father officially missing. Place of death: Auschwitz." Dieter's grandparents, Suzanne's mother and father, had taken over the apartment on the day the Kolleg family was deported in 1941. Dieter's grandfather, Suzanne's father, was a guard at Auschwitz.

The information uncovered by Dieter began a process of memory and mourning in Suzanne. For the first time she felt rage over what had happened and how it had been covered over. It wasn't that she was unaware of the history of the war. Suzanne remembered that her father had taken her to Auschwitz when she was 16. But he presented his involvement in the war as if he himself was the victim. There had been an unconscious family script in such environments through which children learned what questions not to ask. Later she commented:

In retrospect, the terrifying thing about [my father] was his objectivity.  His reports and descriptions, his careful recapitulation of events. I never saw him shed a tear, never heard him break off in the middle, halt, unable to continue talking. Only those monotonous litanies, almost as though he were reading from a script.
    Dieter, a member of the Holocaust's third generation, opened up a process of healing that began with curiosity about the intersection of his life with his culture's history.  He gave voice to the silenced knowing, to the secret on top of which his family had lived, literally and metaphorically: that the very home that sustained them was shrouded in racism and genocide.  Only with this re-membering could the affect dissociated from the grandfather's narratives be found and worked with.  As the cultural-historical context they had been living in was seen more clearly, their own individual lines of development clarified.

 © Uldis Zemzaris, Latvian Artist

This story raises three difficult questions on a broad scale for those concerned with both ethics and individual development.  First, we have all seen examples of small children acting out of affection, love, and concern for the people around them. What has to occur to for these empathic feelings to fail to develop beyond one's family and the familiar groups to which one belongs? What ways of being and knowing make it possible for ordinary people to exploit, brutalize and murder their neighbors; or for others to live alongside such terror and abuse and treat it as normal, not to be questioned?

The 500 years of colonialism is in reality a history of multiple genocides in Africa, Asia, and the Americas. In addition, the evolution of worldwide globalization after World War II has unleashed further localized violence between ethnic, class, and religious groups in its wake. In the twentieth-century there were over 500 civil wars in which this type of violence occurred. At present, according to UN statistics, there are nearly 50 such wars in progress. How should we live in such a world, and how does it affect how we are as individuals?

                           (The Emaciated World of "Percepticide")
                            Courtesy of Tradestone International

Secondly, when we live in an environment where violence, hatred, and exclusion are the rule, what losses does each individual sustain in the realm of spontaneity, openness, and creativity?  Writing about the "dirty war" in Argentina, Diana Taylor (1997) coined the term "percepticide" for the effects of violence on individuals, the erasure of one's own perceptions and knowledge. What happens to our consciousness when our lives are flooded with everyday things whose cheap creation has required savage and unfair working conditions, thoughtless and conscienceless degradation of the environment?  When parts of the personality close down and grow numb, when certain topics are silenced and questions are forbidden or socially punished, what kind of maimed individual personality emerges?

Thirdly, how can a community heal after a violent historical period? In Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Bosnia, Macedonia, Rwanda, Korea, Vietnam, South Africa, and many other countries, there are national debates going on about how to publicly account for painful histories. In our own country we have not yet had truly national, public discussion about the legacies of our history.  If every violent and abusive moment in the past yields amnesia on one side and simmering rage on the other -- a scenario that can only lead to escalating cycles of hatred and violence -- the contemporary world will spin out of control. Some process of dialogue and reconciliation must take place among the descendents of genocidal wars in order to break the cycle. Such dialogues can only occur among individuals. Yet it seems that after trauma, a kind of numbness and amnesia are the norm even in the most personal encounters, while what is needed is affective memory and a working-through of the past at both a community and individual level. How is amnesia developed and supported?  How can individuals formed in environments of amnesia about suffering learn to remember to regain lost feeling?

For over 100 years, depth psychology--Freudian, post-Freudian, Jungian, post-Jungian, Lacanian psychology, phenomenological psychology--has developed practices of recollecting, working-through, symbolizing, and healing trauma at an individual level. Unfortunately, many depth psychologists have treated the individual personality as if it were unrelated to a historical and cultural environment. In the last quarter century, some practitioners have been influenced by social psychologies, medical anthropology, and social constructivist theorizing as well as by liberation theology, especially in its concerns for the poor and marginalized. Out of this confluence is developing a critical or liberation psychology focusing on both individuals and communities --now conceived as interdependent. This liberation psychology is evolving practices of restorative justice involving dialogue, memory, mourning, and re-imagining. It is this psychology of the future that we want to participate in creating. It insists that personal development should not be considered independent of the psychological work required by the cultural context in which we live.  Personal individuation and social liberation are seen as dependent upon each other.

First Man /// © Carl Owens
Courtesy of Black Heritage Gallery

We see these insights enacted in the work of South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Their difficult work represents a "third way" toward the future, between, on the one hand, blanket amnesty and amnesia, and on the other hand, the Nuremberg trials, which left the majority of the population that participated in or allowed violence untouched. Bishop Tutu has been an important voice in the search for methods of community dialogue that might lead to a third way through a liberation psychology. This psychology of the future will not be founded exclusively on Western notions of individualism, competition, and self-sufficiency that have provided such a successful educational basis for corporate capitalism and globalization.  Rather, Bishop Tutu (1999) suggests, the African concept of ubuntu or community-building will also need to be a key value: "A person with ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able or good, for he or she has a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed, or treated as if they were less than who they are"(p.31). In the concept of ubuntu one's own self-assurance --yours, mine -- is created through how the Other is treated. The positive development of the self is inextricably linked to treating the Other in a respectful, affirming manner -- free of abuse, exploitation, and diminishment.
Of course it is easy to look at problems far from home and imagine solutions, to see the mote in the other's eye and fail to see the beam in one's own. But our interest is in looking deeply at what is happening close to home in American cities, our own organizations, in our community lives. It is here that we must closely examine our own processes of normalization that cause us to miss truncations of feeling and amnesias. By this we mean our unquestioning acceptance of everyday reality as normal and inevitable that perpetuates our myopia and failure of imagination.

Looking at us from a distance, Bishop Tutu (1999) had this to say about race-relations in the United States:

     If we are going to build a new kind of world community, there must be a way in which we can deal with our sordid past. The most effective way would be for the perpetrators or their descendants to acknowledge the awfulness of what happened and the descendants of the victims to respond by granting forgiveness, providing something can be done, even symbolically, to compensate for the anguish experience, whose consequences are still being lived through us today. It may be, for instance, that race relations in the United States will not significantly improve until Native-Americans and African-Americans get the opportunity to tell their stories and reveal the pain that sits in their stomachs as a baneful legacy of dispossession and slavery. True forgiveness deals with the past, all of the past, to make the future possible. (p. 279)

Gran Ma /// © Clifford Hobbs
Courtesy of Art of Color

Recently we saw efforts of a new type of community building in the United States in the dissertation work of one of our graduate students, Anne Shine (2001).  Shine researched the dialogue currently under way at the Monticello Association in Virginia, of which she is a member. As many people now know, White descendents of Thomas Jefferson have been confronted with DNA evidence that Sally Hemings, a Black slave, was Jefferson's lover and the mother of several of his children. Association members are beginning to meet both Black and White descendents of Jefferson and Hemings. Generations of White descendants have been coming to yearly meetings at Monticello, and at their death have been buried in the Monticello graveyard. Many of the current members of the Association were not enthusiastic about new claims for membership. Looking in from the outside, as the research developed, we could witness a whole range of strategies of denial: the DNA evidence wasn't certain; they could come but not vote; they could vote but not be buried in the graveyard.

Two years ago, Hemings' descendants came to the annual meeting for the first time. They found a variety of responses ranging from brutal rejection, to inept or suspicious attempts at dialogue across difference, to troubled meditations, to friendly welcome. During the previous year, a large African-American community group came and did a memorial ceremony for the slaves of Monticello.  Only Anne Shine attended from the White community.  Dr. Diane Swann-Wright facilitated the ceremony, opening with the following poem by West African poet Birago Diop (in Stanton & Swann-Wright, 1999, p.181):

Those who are dead are never gone;
They are there in the thickening shadow.
The dead are not under the earth;
They are in the tree that rustles,
They are in the wood that groans,
They are in the hut,
They are in the crowd,
The dead are not dead.

Funeral Procession /// © Ellis Wilson
Courtesy of Black Heritage Gallery

But these dead had been denied and disrespected from the point of view of African traditions which require annual remembrance and ceremonies. During the century that followed the end of slavery, the Monticello Association along with most of the American education system silenced Black history, made no memorials for either Native Americans or Africans who had suffered and died on the land, and glossed over the inequities and privileges that were the outcome of that forgetting. This history, and many other silenced histories, still haunts us. When Shine started her research she dreamed a Black woman with a terrible condition of low-blood sugar came to tell her she had a responsibility. In the dream Shine came to understand that part of her work was to help find the place where her ancestors were buried so she could be healed. Another participant in the research dreamed a Black man called to her: "We will not rest until you find out."

Choir March ///  © John Holyfield /// Courtesy of Art of Color

Of course everyone involved had always known there were slaves at Monticello, but it was a silenced knowing, separated off from the kind of knowing that requires feeling and caring. As with the second generation of Germans after the war, there was a kind of socially enforced agreement not to question, not to know. Recently, as a result of a new interest in the history of the Hemings, many people began asking after the location of the graveyard where slaves were buried. This March it was located under a parking lot at Monticello. Several of the people involved in the research we are citing are now discussing the possibility of a public yearly memorial that both white and black descendants of Jefferson would plan together and attend.

As psychologists the problem we are addressing here is not so much about history itself, about what happened in the past. It is rather about how to learn and practice a capacity for deep, respectful, and empathic witnessing in the present to the ancestral narratives and life experience of all those in our communities, in our workplaces. This is particularly important in relation to those whom we classify as Other, whether that Otherness is marked by differences of race, or gender, or class, or sexuality, or ancestry. It is especially true if we are walking in on a long history of oppression and discrimination that we are privileged by even if we are not responsible for it. In order truly to heal our histories and communities, this deep listening needs to be followed by care, an intention to understand and support, and by gestures of reparation. But this listening will not be possible unless we are also willing to break with social codes of silence that have been enforced for generations. That would involve finding unknown and marginalized voices in us and creating another kind of discourse where these voices would be welcomed.  Jung (1969) saw this confluence in this way:
The present day shows with appalling clarity how little able people are to let the other man's argument count, although this capacity is a fundamental and indispensable condition for any human community.  Everyone who proposes to come to terms with himself must reckon with this basic problem.  For, to the degree that he does not admit the validity of the other person, he denies the 'other' within himself the right to exist -- and vice versa.  The capacity for inner dialogue is a touchstone for outer objectivity.  (par. 187)
In other words, listening to what has been silenced within the self is a crucial psychological task that may be able to open to a deeper hosting of the Other.
Vox /// © Andrea Nicolich /// [From a now defunct site]

The silencing of multiple voices in one's self and in one's community is not a problem limited to specific ethnic or national groups in the current era. Drawing on the experience of difficult race relations in Trinidad between African and Indian communities, University of the West Indies' professor Gordon Rolehr (1997), has suggested four possible ways we might interact with the Other as individuals: (1) hostility and overt violence;  (2) covert hostility with public cooperation; (3) negative tolerance, in which the Other exists to serve the needs of the self, with indifference to issues affecting the Other if they do not affect the self; (4) in-group concern for out-group well being.

It is deeply distressing that many of the academic and organizational environments in which we have participated have managed only to reach the level of negative tolerance. During the years since the Civil Rights Movement in the South much has changed in American society, but there has also been a deep retrenchment of reaction. Many organizations are locked in conflict about whose point of view, whose literature, whose history, whose sensibilities are important enough to be included and valued.

We need to focus on why it has been so difficult for people to move beyond a comfort zone where new ways of thinking and being can be encountered with curiosity and even celebration. British post-colonial writer Homi Bhabha (1990) has called this needed space in-between individuals "Third Space," a difficult location where what we already know and are sure of may come into question and be revised, and where what has been silenced within and among us can find voice. Healing amnesia requires a period of disorientation and recollection in Third Space. But what holds us back? What is the threat? We think this resistance to change is a phenomenon toward which the experience of depth psychology can be useful. Our utopian imagining is that it is possible for us to live-into Rolehr's fourth option, to care about the well-being not only of our own tribes, however we define them, but also about Others. From the point of view of depth psychology, this would require coming face-to-face with a forgotten Other within our own personalities that we have learned to disown. It would need our courage to be in relationship with all those disowned parts of ourselves connected with shame, humiliation, degradation, and sadness left over from both a personal and a cultural past that we have never learned to mourn. Depth psychology makes a direct link between what we cannot bear to know about ourselves and what we cannot bear to acknowledge about the Other: that there is suffering, loss, and need to be met.

Stolen King /// © Kadir Nelson /// Courtesy of Art of Color

All forms of depth psychology share the idea that human beings live possibilities of dissociation within their personalities. They have all noticed that there is a widespread survival strategy to avoid painful emotional states at times when they cannot be handled, creating a multiplicity of part-selves within any one personality. In Western psychology these states of splitting and amnesia have been named in a variety of ways: conscious and unconscious by Freud, paranoid-schizoid positions by Klein, ego and shadow by Jung, imaginary and symbolic by Lacan. In contemporary cross-cultural medical anthropology (Peters, 1998)  similar strategies have been located all over the world under the heading of "culture-bound reactive syndromes."  These are variations of dissociative strategies, or negative possession states, which are commonly observed and treated in specific local cultures: koro or impotence panic in China; latah, a startle reaction, in Indonesia; susto, a fright or soul loss in Central America; wiitiko, a frenzy in First Nations Canadians. Our thesis is that the dissociative strategy encountered in many distinct cultural locations, has been hardened into an extremely rigid, destructive, and pathological complex, affecting both individual personalities and whole communities in the United States, during 500 years of colonialism. This cultural complex organizes our educational institutions and social discourse in ways that prevent the working-through and mourning of the painful past. That tens of thousands of Americans ensure their daily survival through addiction to psychiatric drugs, to street drugs or alcohol, is a mute testimony to pathologies of dissociated feeling in our environment.

"Working-Through" Culture

Courtesy of Tradestone International

When Freud spoke of "working-through," he was referring to the process of psychological work required by us to understand something that has been repressed, and thus be able to free ourselves from the grip of repetitively re-enacting its patterns (Laplanche & Pontalis, 1967, p. 488). Repressed memories resist our consciousness of them, taking shelter in autonomous and dissociated re-enactment.
Part of the psychological work we are each called to do as we create the tapestry of our life is to become conscious of the cultural roles, thoughts, and patterns that have come to inhabit our existence from our particular culture and historical period. Just as a small child precociously complies to the psychological landscape of the mother, so do each of us compliantly and unconsciously internalize the roles and structures of relations prevalent in our times. We need to work-through cultural complexes and habits in the same way individual complexes and habits are worked through in individual therapy.  This is a task that may take a whole lifetime, and undoubtedly requires dialogue with those marginalized by our own cultural complexes. It is a task that requires sensitivity to how culture and psyche co-create each other. It is through this process of "working-through" culture in the intimacy of our thoughts, feelings, images and relations that we can begin to discern and improvise upon the roles, ideas, and structures of our time.  To hear this calling, to try to see through our blind and habitual identifications with collective norms, is to prepare the ground for being more open and permeable. Then we are more able to create cultural change through our own more conscious participation in our relations within our homes, neighborhoods, and work groups.

Child Labor in the Carpet Industry: Nepal
From the Anti-Slavery Society

Today we live in a globalized economic system that has rapidly exported production jobs to poorer countries where working people produce the consumer goods we buy for unbelievably low wages, often less than a dollar a day.  On the whole, North Americans live in a material world suffused with commodities whose newness, or at times even beauty, obscures the suffering in their very creation. This was brought home to Mary Watkins last summer when she traveled to China with her 9-year-old daughter, adopted from China:

"We were surprised to find the streets of Beijing teeming with American businesses.  But the image that moved us both the most was a visit to a silk factory.  Once inside the massive set of structures, we found ourselves in a deafening roar of hundreds of looms tended by young girls in a temperature of about 110 degrees.  We had been told that many work twelve-hour days, others actually sleep beside their looms, living in this wholly inhospitable environment.  Even very poor families struggle hard to keep their daughters from this fate of the silk mills. Many of the girls come from the countryside, where living conditions are very poor.  What money is available for school tuition is most often given to sons, leaving millions of rural girls outside the gates of education, available to factories that export the fruits of their toil to the United States.

Off their looms flowed beautiful multi-colored, intricate silks, worthy of royalty.  I began to cry overwhelmed by the human tragedy involved.  But there were also tears at seeing what is usually sundered as a whole, the silk and the girls' sad labor. Back home as I walk in the shopping mall with my daughters, the tidy, bright, trendy offerings of each store stretch within me to connect with what is hidden away from our view: the maquiladores, a girl's long hours becoming a life within factories that do not serve her or her people."

    What responsibility for this system of production belongs to us if most of the clothing we are wearing came out of it? How do we hold the enjoyment of consumption side by side with the knowledge of the suffering that goes into its production?
The Psychological Woundings of Colonialism

My World Eye
 © Helen Redman -- used with permission

As Gandhi was to so clearly formulate through his own life, freedom is indivisible, not only in the popular sense that the oppressed of the world are one, but also in the unpopular sense that the oppressor too is caught in the culture of oppression (Nandy, 1983, p. 63).
Let us open up our lens to the last 500 years of history that has been marked by the rise of colonialism, its defeat through liberation struggles in the last century, and its current transmutation into exploitative forms of transnational capitalism. We propose that it is this wider historical landscape in which our individual personalities have been formed.  While many of those oppressed by the cultural genocides perpetuated by colonialism have worked hard to elaborate the internal wounds that colonialism bred, those who have profited from colonialism have had disincentives to reflect on the psychological correlates of being involved in oppressive structures. For those in colonizing cultures, colonial ideologies have contributed to dissociating the personal from the cultural, lending us a sense of interiority that is strangely disconnected from context, historical and cultural. When we have sought to understand ourselves most often in colonial psychologies, we have turned to intrapsychic, biological, and familial explanations for our thoughts and behaviors.  Working to make the cultural unconscious visible in our identities has been addressed only sporadically and inadequately within the history of depth psychology.
Without looking in detail at the kind of consciousness that has been structured through participation with oppressive relations, we cannot know the psychological toll and disfiguration oppression causes those involved in it. And we are all involved in it.  It is as though there is a sickness of which we are unaware.  To heal it, we must begin to experience it.  Yet it is this very difficulty in experiencing it that is part of the illness. It is only by looking compassionately at ourselves--not through the prism of guilt--that we can begin to make out the contours of the landscape we are living in.  Even if we don't express it, the multiplicity of the world is assimilated by the self, giving rise to a multiplicity within each of us.  We see this multiplicity displayed in the many characters of our nightly dreams. If we reflect on everyday thought, we can see the multiple and often contradictory internal dialogues that arise as we think situations through or respond internally to events and experiences. Self and community are reflections of each other. Using this framework, we can ask how the dissociated world that is the legacy of colonialism impacts our psychological organization and well being, our paths of development.
The Severed Self

Courtesy of Tradestone International

One of the most pervasive determinants of our everyday psychological life has to do with the individualistic mode of selfhood that became developed during the eras of colonialism, industrialization, and urbanization.  As Kurt Lewin (in Marrow, 1969) described:
The American cultural ideal of the self-made man, of everyone standing on his own feet, is as tragic a picture as the initiative destroying dependence on a benevolent despot. We all need each other.  This type of interdependence is the greatest challenge to the maturity of individual and group functioning (pp. 225-226).
To conceive ourselves in terms of individualism has distinctive implications for mental health and for developmental theorizing (Watkins, 1992). When we are thinking within an individualistic paradigm, development entails a progressive differentiation of self from other, and a corresponding strengthening of ego boundary between self and other.  Independence and self-sufficiency become laudable states, pushing interdependency and reliance on others into the light of pathology.  In the individualistic paradigm of the self each of us is responsible for our own successes and failures.  That one side of the playing field has Himalayan-size cliffs and another tilts one way toward success is not thematized.  Failure to succeed that has a context of lack of adequate access to resources is seen nevertheless as personal failure; just as success in a context of privilege is lauded as wholly personal and "deserved."

The boundary that is marked between self and other is joined by boundaries between self and culture, self and nature. When the self's boundaries are experienced as fixed and firm, nature becomes a domain to pass through on the way to where one is going.  It becomes a resource to be used, not a landscape of potential relations.  Sadly, the same becomes true of one's neighborhood, where anonymity can remain after years of residence.

The ego of this kind of individualistic self strives for mastery and control.  Control is achieved through the creation and scaling of hierarchy, providing access to resources to those on top.  This kind of ego judges self in relation to other, and engages in competition to separate the self from other in a vertical fashion.  Our language of corporate ladders and glass ceilings reflects this aspect of the enactment of individualism.

Let us pause here and begin to feel within ourselves the price of this configuration of the individualistic self. See if you can recognize its existence in your daily life.  Such a self may be involved in a "comparative neurosis." Throughout the day some may be self-assessing themselves in relation to others: who is smarter, more or less attractive, who holds more power. Such comparative practices pull us from the possibility of authentic relation to one another.  The other is something to be outdone, or is the one who has outdone us.  Any security gained by fighting one's way to an elevated position vis-a-vis the other may be paid for by isolation and loneliness. The workplace may become a site of potential self-elevation, rather than a potential community of unfolding relations.  This autonomous individualistic self that is intent on amassing resources for itself, on aggrandizing the self, paradoxically at the very same moment impoverishes one through cutting the self off from multiple kinds of relations with self, others, and nature.  The self that strives as it construes its well being to be dependent on its own efforts alone, finds itself in a cycle of exhausting pursuits and almost frantic efforts at recuperation. The holding, containing, restorative potentialities within interdependent relations--internal and external -- are rarely experienced.

For a continuation of this paper,
please click here: Part II

***Also see another Myth*ing Links paper by these authors:
Individuation, Seeing-through, and Liberation:
Depth Psychology and Colonialism


If you have comments or suggestions,
you'll find my e-mail address near the bottom of my Home Page.

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Copyright © 2002 by Kathleen Jenks, Ph.D.
All rights reserved to the two authors as well as to the artists.
All Russian lacquer box art is courtesy of Tradestone International

26-27 January 2002: layout designed, art selected and captioned by Kathleen Jenks, Ph.D.
29 January 2002: replaced Jacob Lawrence images with new ones;
31 January 2002 (minor finishing touches).
Launched officially: 1 February 2002 for Black History Month; Nedstated; 9 February 2002.
12 November 2008: added link to their new book; tweaked a few formatting details.