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blog - Andrea Jivan

Playfully Reanimating Our World

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“[Thus] men forgot that All deities reside within the human breast.”

- William Blake, Plate 11, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

“Perhaps the most important thing we do is to help people promote their own creativity and also promote some sense of play, now when you’re dealing with people with serious illness it can be hard to remember that… but that’s really where we need to be.”

- Dr. Richard Kradin, MD, Jungian & Freudian analyst, “Imagination and Medicine”- Lecture Series.

Weeks of summer have passed in a year with no time for vacation. Perhaps this has happened to you, the months plod forward and you’re working, hard immersed in day to day matters, thoroughly wrapped up in meeting your goals.  Then a morning of unexplainable aggravation arrives, and you recognize you’ve neglected creating time for freedom. The claustrophobic voice of stress has a chorus of complexes backing it up: anxiety, neurosis, obsessive compulsive, and dissociative characters fill the mental stage. Clarity is fleeting, thought fog prevails, along with a fetishistic anger moving around like a lightening net, as if seeking some kind of prey.

How can one find time to be playful amidst the demands of daily life? (Artwork by Travis Bedel.)

That’s one way it goes, and frequently we see this in the therapeutic space. We see a frustration that occurs while grasping to locate self, joy, and the sense of an internal reservoir of trust usually responsible for creating relational ease. It’s an odd conundrum to be lonely as so many are in crowded spaces, and yet cringe at the proposition of creative time spent alone; merely the suggestion of which goes something like hitting a cat with the water hose by accident. Yet, maybe the ghostly voices of our complexes are calling to us to reanimate our own sense of curiosity to make room for playful discovery, to create a place where the inner landscape meets the outer table rasa, where imagination can open windows on new shades of experience. In his book Care Of The Soul author Thomas Moore emphasizes our need to awaken to the ensouled world around us, remembering Anima Mundi:

What if we took more seriously this capacity for things to be close to us, to reveal their beauty and their expressive subjectivity? It’s a simple idea: if you don’t love things in particular, you cannot love the world, because the world doesn’t exist except in individual things. Anima Mundi refers to the soul in each thing, and therefore psychology, as a discipline of the soul, is properly concerned with things. (p.270)

This is the work expressed in the arts; whether it’s the figure Michelangelo finds revealed in each stone, or Picasso inhabiting the Minotaur as archetypal experience. Playful awakening to the attachments that form as we connect to the tale of things births these personal gods of which Blake speaks when he notes that the gods are a relational experience, and one that is felt in the chest.

Playfully interacting with the world around us helps us connect to the gods within. (Artwork by Travis Bedel.)

Jung’s understanding that the creative voice of the unconscious is essential to our discovery of ourselves as whole individuals is part of the impetus behind playful therapeutic processes like mandala construction and sand play. Though we may think of these as methods used solely with children, they are tools allowing seekers of any age to engage the kind of free awareness that informs awe, fosters feelings of renewal, and promotes our ability to place the ghosts that inhabit our complexes into their own life, as opposed to denying them. This capacity to enrich life with creative meaning, even in cases of serious mental illness, is what Dr. Kradin illuminates by suggesting that playful engagement- a joie de vivre- restores us to an ability to lithely witness our own drama as we explore the obstacles that so often define our sense of success or failure.  In fact,  maybe more important than success and failure, we gain from improvising our feelings of ensouled resonance between our inner life and the life created by things around us.

                                    “The senses paint
by metaphor. The juice was fragranter
than wettest cinnamon. It was cribled pears
dripping morning sap.”

- Wallace Stevens, Poem Written at Morning

 

Andrea Jivan, L.M.T., M.A.
Depth Psychotherapist Intern
Social Media Manager
Jung Society of Utah

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