May 122014
Photograph by Emma McEvoy

Photograph by Emma McEvoy

There’s a famous story that Robert Bly tells about Carl Jung who, whenever a friend reported enthusiastically, ‘I have just been promoted!’ Jung would say, ‘I’m very sorry to hear that; but if we all stick together, I think we will get through it.’ On the other hand, if a friend arrived depressed and ashamed, saying, ‘I’ve just been fired,’ Jung would say, ‘Let’s open a bottle of wine; this is wonderful news; something good will happen now.’

Now this may seem like backwards thinking to the rational mind, but to the soul it makes wonderful sense. These kinds of promotions in social stature set the ego into inflation, believing itself to have finally been recognized as the supreme ruler it was meant to be (!)  The ego’s survival depends upon the belief that it is in control and it doesn’t like to think that it might lose its ascendancy. But in those moments of trembling loss, it is forced to face its smallness.

Jung wrote, “… the experience of the Self is always a defeat for the ego.” Indeed, in those initiations by illness, loss or depression, when we are dragged into the underworld to pass through the gates of intensifying vulnerability, we are being stripped of our outer world clothing, prepared for to meet the Divine.

We’ve all had those dreams of losing our wallet or purse, which contains our ‘identity’ and money – a symbolic ‘self worth’ –  and this is where the ego panics; it says, “Who am I without these things?” And it is right to be struck with fear, because there is a greater Self who finally has a chance at being encountered now with the ego demoted, but it will require your willingness to be wholly disoriented for a while.

Just as there are times on a winding walk when you can not the see the road ahead, so too will you lose visibility on your soul’s unfolding.

If you can find solace in your surrendering to that groundlessness, there is a pleasure possible in this depth of not-knowing, where creativity can use you as a vessel and, for a moment, you can know real freedom in your acquiescence to the numinous.


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A writer, artist and tender of dreams, Toko-pa has been interviewed by CNN News & BBC Radio and her writing has appeared in publications around the world. Thanks to Skype, she works with dreamers internationally in her Private Dreamwork practice, based on Salt Spring Island in Canada. You can find Toko-pa on Facebook or sign up for her mailing list to receive news about upcoming events.

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  17 Responses to “Loss of Identity: A summoning of the Numinous”

  1. Such wisdom you carry sister …. Continue your work as it reaches many, it would be a honor to seek the truth behind the truth with you in the dream time.It is my hope that one day the ancestors will bring us together. In medicine Makhosi Lorna

  2. Love this, Toko-pa. In two decades as a professional author I’ve seen what can happen to egos with great worldly success, and also what wonderful rebirths can come from rejections and setbacks in a writing career.

  3. Absolutely loved this piece. Was writing on this today, ready your piece and felt the lid pop off my brain with ideas. Beautiful.

  4. I really love this and I am reminded how many times I lose my purse in my dreams. 🙂 someone left a post on here, which I don’t see right now, commenting on Jung not using a capital S, but I thought he always used a capital S in reference to the higher self as opposed to the egoic self. Am I wrong here?

  5. I have had many dreams of losing my purse. Then the dreams changed to be me, leaving my purse on purpose to see who would pick it up. Then, after a while, I had a new purse that was much more fun and more colorful.

  6. Thank you Toko-pa ~ such richness ~ so gentle ~ so POWERFUL!

  7. Blessed Be and keep up the good work! It is an honor to “find” you. Jung was always a favorite of mine. I would like to introduce you to friends of mine at Dreamtime Village, here in Wisconsin. My own passages through dreamtime have richly rewarded me with insights into the plant kingdom, realms of the spirit, earth, air, fire and water. Back in 1987 IO rode my bicycle around the Great Lakes and am planning to do so again in a couple years. your writing is especially important and I would like to share it on either my Permaculture, ECO-Ethics, Trees blog on wordpress or at The Otherfish Wrap that is at
    thank-you for your work, Tony C. Saladino, director ECO-Tours of Wisconsin inc.

  8. Experiencing it now ,completely stripped of identity due to illness … after 11 yrs of not knowing “name” of illness -finally I know it’s due to a tick bite … my ego has died a thousand deaths …attempting to hold on ,hold on I’ve LET GO … always a work in progress .but Ive found ,the more I let go ,becomes less & less painful ~ physically & spiritually … clearing away my old garden & composting it ,now must plant a new one …and to be honest -the old garden was Full of weeds ,for I had not been tending to it with eyes open -sleepwalking

  9. I wish I had a deeper understanding of these concepts. I hear much about the joyfulness of understanding but how to achieve this? I feel lost.

  10. “Let’s open a bottle of wine” is a good response to most things, I find.

  11. My greatest leaps in personal growth have come during the biggest challenges to identity.

  12. Just what I needed to hear today, as I continue to float moorless and grasping at the liferaft of ego, instead of letting the salty ocean float me. How *do* you do it, Toko-pa?….you might just be my fairy godmother, whispering soothing words of encouragement whenever i start to turn towards hopelessness on this lonnnnnnng journey of initiation. Thank you.

  13. What does Mr. Bly Provide citation to prove que Dr. Jung ever “famously” said:

    “‘I have just Been promoted!’ Jung would say, ‘I’m very sorry to hear that; but if we all stick together, I think we will get through it. ‘

    “‘Let’s open a bottle of wine; this is wonderful news; something good will happen now. ”

    I am having difficulty finding Either quotation in Dr. Jung’s Collected Works, Seminars or Letters.

    Thank you

  14. What about if our purse/wallet was stolen ~ what shall we be doing ?

  15. […] — Traduction : Michèle Le Clech, by courtesy of Toko-pa Relecture : Nelly Delambily Article original paru sous le titre : Loss of Identity: A summoning of the Numinous  […]

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