From the diary of a Jungian coach # 5
Belgrade, or as it is pronounced by the Serbs, “Beograd,” is the capital and largest city in Serbia. It is located at the confluence of the Sava and Danube rivers and at the crossroads of the Pannonian Plain and the Balkan Peninsula. I have come here, not for the first time, to promote my Expressive Arts Therapy & Coaching program. I’m at the airport, preparing to return home. Belgrade was the capital of the former country of Yugoslavia from its creation in 1918 to its dissolution in 2006. Because of its fatally strategic position, the city has been battled over during a total of 115 wars. It’s been razed 44 times, bombed five times, and besieged many times. Now why do I bother you with Belgrade’s history, and what does Belgrade has to do with Jungian Coaching?
My stay in this city made me think continually about the Persona archetype. Does a city have a Persona? And if so, what price have the Serbian people paid by having their capital city’s Persona cracked, hurt, destroyed, and distorted so badly? What struck me most were two facts. First, that the city is amazingly beautiful, and its infrastructure is elegantly designed. Second, that the Belgrade citizens have become apathetic to the dark hues of their city. This long tragedy is summarized by Wikipedia in just one sole sentence: “In 1999, during the Kosovo War, NATO bombings caused damage to the city.”
C.G. Jung In Memories, Dreams, and Reflections (1965), relays a dream he had about Manchester – a city he never visited. The city is the psyche claims Jung. In like fashion, I did visit Belgrade a few times and I feel like sharing with you how I think the city’s Persona affects its citizens. First, let me define Persona.
Persona is named after the Roman term for an actor’s mask. This archetype is considered the one closest to the conscious level, meaning it is the social performance mask we ‘wear’ every morning when we go to work or set out on our life’s activities. Like the individual, the collective has a Persona. For example, the corporation’s persona consists of its interactions with the ‘outer world’ – its customers, providers, competitors, collaborators, and associates. The corporate persona includes its fashion, personal tastes, marketing, branding, advertisements, and the executive’s symbols of status. During the Corona pandemic, corporate persona issues included Zoom appearance and communication – for better and worse. Obviously, billions are invested on the persona level. Often, the Jungian coach is expected to intervene on this level ‘out there’ to evoke change since the persona is the external layer in which significant changes are eventually manifested. Furthermore, sometimes superficial changes on the Persona level will cause significant changes on much deeper levels.
Here is an existential paradox. On the one hand, the Persona provides us with social stability and gratification. But at the same time, it paradoxically prevents the client from executing significant change. It can prohibit the coachee from even thinking about possible modifications to his life, let alone making them. This reciprocity between the Persona archetype and other ‘Archetypal-Change-Activators’ is crucial to comprehending the challenge intrinsic to the Jungian coaching processes. To put it simply we may say that although the coachee comes to coaching and expresses motivation and intention to change and gain significant achievements, when it comes to Persona aspects like prestige, cost, and popularity the coachee shows hesitance, antagonism, concern, and fear.
Once the Persona of the city was damaged and neglected its sex appeal decreased and its economy, wellbeing and spirit suffer. The Serbs continue to try hard these days to reconstruct their city, but we witness the truth of the proverb, “It’s easy to destroy but quite hard to cure.”