Shadow and the power of the Unconscious

Morning. My country is at war – devastating war. At seventy, I am mostly helpless, worried, terribly angry, and… fearful. Irrational thoughts preoccupy my mind. Living among Israeli Arabs – my neighbors – I am aware of the threat of being attacked. I become paranoid enough that I access the internet and research how to purchase a gun. It has been 50 years since I last held a weapon – as a soldier. I never used it except to shoot at targets during military training. To my relief, I find I am not eligible to purchase a gun – I’m too old.

Noon. On the internet again. This time on Zoom to teach the last module for one of my domestic Jungian coaching schools. By now it is expected that the soon-to-be graduates are masters at facilitating a fluent coaching session. For a warmup, I suggest we observe two volunteer students as they demonstrate an entire coaching session. No one takes up the gauntlet, so I get anxious and nominate two students to perform the demonstration as coach and coachee. The coachee presents his dilemma: his parents quarrel endlessly, and he is concerned they might get divorced. He is a young fellow, and I think to myself that this is a great opportunity for a step towards individuation, or perhaps an invitation to a hero’s quest. But instead, the coach asks the coachee how he feels about it, and to my astonishment I find myself yelling at the coach, “No, no, no! You are leading into therapy!” The student, who was coerced into the coaching role to begin with, is paralyzed. He won’t continue. But the show must go on, and so a different student saves the session and brings it to a relatively happy end.

Lunch break. I am by myself. Reflecting. I did something awful by screaming impulsively at my student. Shame pricks my conscience and puts me in such a state that I cannot eat anything. I feel panic. Suddenly I have a flash of insight. “Avi, you are frantic. You projected your unconscious anxiety onto the innocent student. You have lost control, fear is leading you, and you are in a deep shadow.” Now, students reappear on the screen, and I share my insight – deeply apologizing with tears and remorse. The professor has fallen into the archetypal position of the wounded healer.

Afternoon. The students return from real coaching sessions with their volunteers and report on their fulfilling and gratifying experiences. There is one more hour to go before ending the day. I ask to be coached by my team colleague. She is a gentle, polite lady from the domestic team and has a warm voice and a witty smile. She consents and enters into the coach role. I present my dilemma: “I am afraid. We are at war, and I am in a state of panic,” I hear myself claiming. With quiet confidence, this ACC coach instructs me to close my eyes and see an image which connects to my dilemma. Accepting her offer, I immediately feel like I’m held in safe hands. In a moment, my unconscious presents me with an image. I see a wide, tranquil river. A river you can see in India where I have never been. The air is dense, and the sky is filled with heavy, foggy clouds. I am located on one side of the riverbank, there is thick vegetation surrounding me, and I see there is a most beautiful shrine – a holy temple – located on the opposite bank of the river. In a quiet, comforting voice my coach says, “You know the technique. Speak to the shrine across the river.” I say, “Dear shrine, I am afraid. Help me out, please.” She encourages me to turn my swiveling chair – to become the shrine and respond to the frightened Avi. The shrine is silent, breathes heavily, and finally speaks. It has a voice like a wise old man’s. “You do not need a gun, it is painting and drawing which will comfort your anxiety. Connect inwards, involve yourself in artistic activity, meditate on your creativity. Now is time to retreat inwards.”

I am puzzled. Memories of the Corona pandemic pull me back into feelings of aloneness and tender creative acts. I know what my Self, which dwells in that temple, is leading me towards. We end the coaching session by determining my homework, which is to redirect my aggression into the creative act of painting.

Three weeks later. I am at the Garden Hotel in Zagreb, Croatia. I always arrive the evening before the start of a seminar. This time it is my “Creation Axis” paradigm seminar. I will be teaching it as I start a new cohort of students learning to become Expressive Arts practitioners.  This modest hotel is my home while I am staying in Croatia. The staff know me, and I love their breakfast. The next morning, upon entering the dining room, I am shocked. I notice the large painting that always had decorated the wall above the buffet. My creative unconscious imagination had presented to me what I had long forgotten. Here it is: