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Episode 219 – Archetypal Aspects of School

Jun 23, 2022

Schools have existed across cultures and throughout time; the knowledge they transmit leads us out of childhood, shapes our values and world view, and grooms us for citizenship. Schools help us build ego strength and adapt to cultural norms, the goal of the first half of life and the first stage of individuation. School experiences also wound us, as Jung recalled in his memoir. Collective schooling instills the uniformity needed for a cohesive culture, but individual uniqueness may be lost. Individualized education—including home life–can enhance personal uniqueness or compensate for special needs, but lacks universal principles and methods. Education by example allows the influence of the unconscious to be most openly included—whereas in other methods its power may be unacknowledged or denied. Jung says, “I would say, in the light of my own experience, that an understanding heart is everything in a teacher, and cannot be esteemed highly enough.”

Here’s the dream we analyzed:

“I am participating in some sort of arts class where most of the students are younger and less experienced than me. We are assigned a project where two art works are placed on each of the four walls. The teacher/facilitator puts on some very interesting music that I like and the students/participants are to dance around the space and interact with the art works in a semi-choreographed dance. There are art materials available if they choose to add to the works, or they can choose to just interact through semi-choreographed dance (pointing, touching, etc.) I make a conscious and intentional choice to sit to one side and observe and absorb rather than to actively participate. During the dance, only one of the participants, a black female, chooses to use the art materials to make changes to one of the paintings. She is frustrated when her colored pencil breaks almost immediately so all she can manage to do is sign her name to the painting. The song ends and the teacher/facilitator immediately expresses her frustration that I did not actively participate. She treats me as though I am a hostile, unwilling participant who chose not to participate out of fear, which is simply not true. She refuses to understand or believe that I had made a conscious and intentional choice. I offer multiple times to explain myself and she refuses to hear me, saying instead that we will move on to the next activity and I better participate this time. I become quite agitated and angry that she won’t listen to me, and say so: “Since you aren’t listening to me, I’m going to FORCE YOU TO!!” I then tell my story angrily in such a way that she and the class have no choice but to listen. I tell how in my readings and studies, I’ve come across two stories that are the reason I’ve done what I’ve done. The first is a story of a man who lived in Greenwich Village in the 70s or 80s who would throw huge, elaborate parties in his apartment, inviting 20-40 intentionally cultivated younger men. He would provide the food and the drugs and the music. Decades later, multiple people who had attended these legendary parties would all describe the scene the same way: that this man would never actively participate, but only sit in the middle and observe and absorb the goings-on. “Don’t you understand,” I scream to my classmates/participants and the teacher/facilitator, “You can’t observe and absorb if you’re focused on participating!!! There was a second illustrative story but I’m too worked up right now to remember what it was!” 

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