Thursday, October 28, 2010

Shadow Dancing

It could have been "dancing in the rain", the title for this shot. Well, I do like this photographic effort, but as usual there was an element of fortuna about it. Every day is a good day perhaps, but when you are returning from work this sudden turn in the weather is unwelcome. On the other hand, it's a pleasure then, to get back to the comfort of home, heating and warm, dry clothes. I have mentioned Jung's shadow concept as consisting of the dark areas of the unconscious, unrecognised and unintegrated. But the shadow concept varies from culture to culture. The shadow consists of "unpremeditated actions" says Chinese philosopher Li Tzu, and has no independent existence. Yet one of the most interesting traditions is that selling your soul to the devil relieves you of any shadow at all. The person stops existing, has no soul and casts no shadow whatsoever. I think this fits well with the Jungian hypothesis that 90% of the shadow is pure gold for the self (if recognised and integrated). But look - if you trade with the devil there is no gold, merely a transmutation. Perhaps that's gold to lead - but the major question of transmutation to what, I will leave with the reader. My shadow-casting subjects in the photo are in no trouble at all. I love the spectacle of their silhouettes and shadow dance in the car headlights.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Happiness of the Red Plant

Of the Autumn colours I think this is one my favourite. The red of this bush gets very prominent in the neighbourhood and then goes through quite a transition. When it's as vibrant as this, the stalk and leaves look happy. I think any kind of fiery coloured bush is associated with the Burning Bush of the Old Testament and hence the presence of God. But symbols are ambivalent. The idea that such bushes hold a treasure inside was associated in medieval times with passionate love. Plants also suck up the strength from the ground and attract solar energy - fire from two sources. So these dazzling reds are both stimulating and irresistible. The colour of fire and blood. Dreaming of particular colours is quite common. Someone once told me he had dreamt a new colour, although it was quite impossible for him to communicate what it looked like! Archetypically, the shade of red might be important. Bright red is often the colour of flags and social movements whilst dark red may be associated with warnings - like the red of traffic signals, or more mysteriously, of libido and sexuality. So if the colour red appears in a dream, it could be a good starting point to first determine the shade, then the associations to that particular red. In the meantime I will think of the red in the photograph, the plant's vibrant red of life.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Dreaming of Pegasus

On such a fine sunny day as it was yesterday, it seems strange to think of Pegasus bringing the rain. The fabulous winged horse (one of my favourite mythological characters) is associated with fecundity, rain and fountains. And wherever his hooves strike earth, a spring appears. He is the bearer of thunderstorms and lightning. He had a bit of a tumultuous history did this particular horse. Born from the decapitated Medusa, he overcame the Chimaera although losing his rider, Bellerophon in the process. But the winged horse is always about creativity, should by any chance you dream of being mounted on Pegasus. Maybe you feel inspired. In this case, the symbolism of wings and the fountains take intellectual precedence over the instincts we normally associate with horses. But with all dream interpretation, also take account of personal associations. For example, as a child, I had a favourite toy which featured a picture of Pegasus. So does the mythological significance of Pegasus outweigh our personal associations with their rich complex of attachments? It is for the dreamer to decide.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Bikes, bikes, bikes and the Dream World

These bikes are a common sight around Dublin these days. What is really interesting though is the process by which they are used and then brought back to a bike station on a lorry. So these bikes are on the back of a lorry, ready to be re-sited. Bicycles are quite common in dreams and this is usually positive because the bicycle is always powered by the individual - it's all about the effort of the rider, since no extra power is involved. The cyclist is independent and uses his or her own efforts. If the bike is out of control and going down a hill, then that might signify something either in the dreamer's life that is out of control or perhaps a part of the psyche is is not truly under control or integrated. I am taking the Jungian view here, that even inanimate objects in dreams signify a fragment of the dreamer's psyche. If the dream concerned the wheel then that is a different matter. The wheel is a universal symbol representing the world, where the hub is at the centre and the spokes radiate out to the edge. The wheel turning around represents renewal. All the parts of the bicycle can be interpreted symbolically, from the handlebars to the luggage rack. In interpreting your dream, try to assess the feeling tone. Was the bicycle ride exhilarating or was there something unsettling? Were you trying to carry a passenger on the bike? Leave no stone unturned when it comes to dream interpretation!

Letter Box in the Gate

I guess we are still in the autumn series with all these vegetation pictures, leaves gradually turning brown as the seasons move towards winter. I liked this "hidden gate", which is not really hidden of course, although it looks like it might eventually get that way. The letter box was rather fascinating and very rural for such an urban area. I took several versions of this shot but I did use a filter to increase the saturation on the browns of the gate and the ivy vines. Gates generally signify an opening to enlightenment and to the universe. It looms large in Christianity - the gates of righteousness of Psalms (118 19-20) for example. "Open to me the gates of righteousness and I will go into them ... this gate of the Lord, into which the righteous will enter." When we go through the symbolic gate we pass from one state to another. Does the gate invite us to cross the threshold? I suppose it does.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Bottle Shot

This discarded bottle might have quickly vanished in the days when there was more home brewing and wine-making. I noticed it by some dustbins and shot it just as it was - but from the top. Known as a top-shot in film, this effect is OK if used sparingly. Perhaps I use it more than that! The symbolism of bottles can vary depending on what is in the bottle, rather than its shape. What does the shape matter when the contents are more important? Well, the contents are gone, so we have to rely on the shape. This is a larger than usual vessel, more of a jar or pot. For some cultures, vessels are related to the womb, and are always feminine. And very often they symbolise immortality because they are a sign of plenty. The top shot is also a way of looking at things (and people) and in general this signifies power. If you are looking down on anything, you are in an elevated position. A top shot can easily induce a feeling of discomfort, because of the effect of "overlooking" or carrying out surveillance. So if you have a dream where you are looking down on something, it may be worth thinking about whether you feel superior to the observed person or to something related to the object - in this case what it might have contained.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Prelude to Hallowe'en

Readers of this blog will know my views on photos of traffic lights. These images seldom work. Either they are over-exposed and the colours look wishy-washy, or the lights change just as you click the shutter. I liked this shot though and frankly it was well under-exposed. Then I did a bit of work to spook it up. We do approach Hallowe'en and the shops are full of colourful decorations and spooky confectionery, so it is time to consider the fun side of what Jung would call the shadow. Here is one place during the year when "the shadow", our unintegrated dark side, can come out and play. Of course all this takes place in a good container and the rites and customs of Halloween are quite old and rather formal. The children are encouraged to dress up in frightening costumes and often they demand confectionery with menaces. This differs from country to country and probably derives from the Celtic Samhain. But the word Hallowe'en is recent and can be traced back to All-Hallows-Even, (evening). That is said to be a Scottish variant of the Old English for All Hallows, ealra hálȝena mæssedæȝ, which can only be attested around 1556. Nonetheless the word for the celebration should really be spelled with that apostrophe for the missing letter "v"! And it does seem that these ghosts in the white sheets are derived from the Scottish custom of dressing young men in white with blackened faces or masks. Boo!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Dreams of an Artificial Tree.

I was deliberately going for a dream-like quality in taking this shot. I made several attempts both in shooting and in editing. In the end, this was the dreamiest version. Occasionally, clients report only recalling a fragment of a dream. Often that is the most valuable. The shot reminded me of a fragment, in the sense that there seems to be something more to say. I feel that the simplicity of the dream fragment encourages imagination and prompts the dreamer's own interpretation. This is one of the key differences between Freudian and Jungian dream analysis. Freud is rather strict about what makes of a "proper dream", whereas Jung argued for including even the post-dream reflective material. But there is no right or wrong method. In the image, a very artificial tree sits in the street. Its only purpose is decoration. It isn't a real tree but it is a real artificial tree. Supposing the dreamer dreams of an artificial tree. We could track down all the symbolism of trees, but it might not take us very far. What did the dreamer feel about its artificiality? Jung (and Gestalt theorists) felt that even Inanimate objects in dreams could represent parts of the dreamer. Perhaps there is something in the dreamer's self that is perceived as inauthentic. Perhaps the dreamer knows unconsciously that he or she is projecting a false self. So there is something more to say that goes beyond "tree".

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Grafton Fire Dreams

I do not know what alarm had prompted the fire brigade to call in on Grafton Street. But the fire engine itself made an imposing presence. We are naturally afraid of the consuming properties of fire and take due precautions - including employing firefighters, surely the most popular heroes of the public services. The fire engine is also enduring and should surely be a recognised symbol because it subsumes many symbols. From the engine's deep red colour to the helmets of the firefighters and the deeply symbolic, pressurised water hoses, the fire engine carries a whole host of meanings. Not to mention the ladders, pumps, the giant wheels and the visible and audible warning systems. Almost all of the elements are thus represented - fire, water, earth and air. A full examination would take more than one blog. But if you dream of fire engines, think of what purpose is being served in the dream narrative. Is the ladder being used to ascend? Or are the water hoses being employed to put out a fire. And where are you in relation to these actions? Were you active or passive? What was the feeling tone of the dream - was there anxiety or elation? Finally, what do firemen mean to you? That said, I was rather pleased with this photograph and the fact that I was noticed and a fireman gave me a cheery wave. Thank you.

Shadows of the Objects

In the morning the light is quite warm and today for a few minutes it picked out this interesting shadow on the wall. I dug out the camera and tried a low shutter speed shot. Not only Jungians talk about the shadow. Indeed, Christopher Bollas published an interesting book entitled The shadow of the object. Many analysts, including Freud, recognised this aspect of the self. The ego, the centre of the self, finds it difficult to either recognise or integrate certain parts of the unconscious. We would rather reject or disown these parts and throw them outwards onto others in a process known as projection. Yet that does allow for recognition. We can learn to become aware of those unconscious parts of the self thrown outwards. But like the shadow on the wall, our own shadow may be beguiling and illusory since, being a projection, it has little in the way of concrete substance. The shadow in the photograph cannot be physically grasped. Nonetheless, even lacking a direct reality the projection's consequences can be very real indeed. If you project unwanted bits of yourself onto others and allow that to determine how you act towards them, what does one say about one's self?

Thursday, October 14, 2010


I think the autumn leaves caught my attention because of their position, silhouetted against the houses. There was a finality about the process of the life cycle as far as they were concerned. They are very much in their decaying period but continuing or even prolonging their attachment. They just don't want to give up the connection to the tree, the mother and life giver. Yet eventually they will end up on the ground and disintegrate. In the rough bit of land underneath, they will inevitably feed the tree and bushes with nutrients. A perfect cycle. But this put me in mind of attachment theory, John Bowlby and of course, Carl Jung. Jungians are very accepting, even admiring of object relations theorists and Bowlby could be considered as belonging to that discipline. Generally attachment is a motivational system that influences aspects of sexuality like drive, cognition and behaviour. But unlike Freud. Bowlby held that the importance of attachment lay not in sex but in security. So consider our leaves metaphor. Do the leaves achieve security in refusing to detach from the tree? What of young adults who are reluctant to leave home. They refuse to give up the parent archetype. And what of the parents who refuse to give up the child archetype and cling to their children. So perhaps it's the tree that is clinging to the leaves and not the other way around.

Solitary Rose

The blog is still in its celebration of autumn. I found this very close by and was struck by the way the rose had hung on to a single bloom. Most of its leaves had gone and all that remained was this nice pink flower. As a flower, the rose is unparalleled in symbolism and denotes life, the soul, heart and love. In India it is the cosmic triparasundari and represents the beauty of the Divine Mother. In the Muslim world, the rose garden is the place of contemplation and in classical Greece roses were scattered on graves as a symbol of regeneration. They called this ritual, the Rosalia. The Christan world adopted the rose around the 7th century. Despite the distinction between white and red roses - the sacred and the profane, purity and passion - roses became the symbol of of a love that was pure. But I rather like the fact that it was a favourite of the alchemists - the Rosary of the Philosophers. In their work, their objectives were characterised by colour. The objective of the first stage was linked to white stone and white roses whilst the red was that of the red stone or red roses. The blue rose symbolically denoted the impossible!

Leaf Street Virtues

The changing seasons bring an environmental diversity that isn't often acknowledged because we are familiar with summer giving way to autumn. In countries where there are only two seasons, wet and dry, there is often a longing for that deft change we take for granted. Symbolically, autumn can be symbolised by the Horn of Plenty or by a hare. I couldn't find a hare for the moment, but there is more than enough to say about life cycles. Stages of development are very important in psychology especially where children are growing up but also in adult life. The cycle of the seasons is much like our progression through life - birth, growth, maturity and decline - a process in which we have little choice but to adapt and progress. Psychotherapist, Erik Erikson presented an analysis of this process, which necessarily encompasses the bleak side as well as the hopeful. Looking at virtues, we start with hope, and move through willpower, direction and competence. As we get older in middle age we exercise fidelity, love, devotion and care. Finally as elders we reach wisdom - the wise old man archetype of Carl Jung. These all have their opposites, which Erikson calls maladaptations. But we try to aim for the virtues.

Good enough shot, good enough plant

Oh yes, the October sky was just like this. The shot is polarised a bit, to pick up the deep hue. When I saw the plant, I just snapped quickly and knew that, for preference, the lens could have been different - or could it? Yet in the end, the shot was "good enough". When psychotherapists talk about good enough, they mean that it is adequate to the job. It is neither supreme excellence, nor in any way dreadful. If this blog aimed for technical brilliance every time, probably the project would fail. Other things would suffer - regularity being one. Some analysts argue that the use of the term "excellence" in current times, compromises what is good about things. Child psychotherapist and object relations theorist, Donald Winnicott argued for the "good enough parent". We cannot demand excellent parenting. What would we mean anyway, or want? Parents are real people with positive and negative attributes. All that we can ask from them, and indeed expect, is "good enough". This rogue plant fighting to live on a stone wall is good enough. The photograph is good enough. And what we should expect from a psychotherapist is that he or she is good enough.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Flags and Brand Loyalty

The display had been up for a while but it drew my attention from the other side of the road. Now I think this is a Guinness promotion for Arthur's Day, which was a success last year. There should be a blog entry! The Irish Party poster is always there at the Lansdowne Hotel, but the triangular display of pennants is recent. Flags, pennants or banners are all symbolically linked and even though this is a commercial promotion, it matters not. The principle is the same. The flag and its insignia protects the organisation. So it can be a nation, lord, general or even a saint for that matter. All these are what Jung calls collectives of one sort or another, since the king, lord or saint stands in for a greater number. In this case it is a corporation - more or less an association of shareholders who have become incorporated. The corporation also attempts to include the consumer of the product under its banner and there, whether we like it or not, is the art. The flag is designed to flutter in the breeze and that is not an accident. Air is associated with movement. Spirit is aroused and moves heavenwards. When customers go out to celebrate Arthur's Day they will be gathering under the flag and insignia, proclaiming some sort of loyalty to the brand.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Sunny Baggot Street

Oh I do like this shot, simply because it's kind of an old fashioned snapshot and there is, of course, a story attached. I was further down the street and noticed that there was potential for a colourful shot with the school girls passing on the pavement. I hurried ahead to the nearest pub, sat in the corner and waited. But they saw me and posed. The group crouched in for the usual snapshot but I had a wide angle lens. I ushered them closer but the second shot wasn't half as good as the first! It's a real sunny October, good-natured shot. Now the sun is a symbol of substance because it makes things apparent by distributing rays of light. Maybe because of the school connection, I am thinking of the rays of light as intellectual knowledge. Heliopolis is the City of the Sun, a name given to primal spiritual centres. That is cosmic intellect, the faculty of knowing. Both Vishnu and the Buddha have the sun as an emblem. And in some countries the sun is regarded as female because there, the female principle is the active one - the Sun Goddess in Japan and in South Vietnam. Because of illumination, psychoanalysis may also view the sun as the symbol of enlightenment, shedding light on the unconscious, or bringing unconscious contents into the light. My thanks to the young women for the shot.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Cross at the Church Gates

I don't normally venture this way but the light was so good for mid-September that I had to try something different. This is the gate of Haddington Road Church School and I'm afraid I surprised one or two walkers since I was lurking behind the gate trying to get the shot right. The scene was extremely contrasty and I did my best (That's the Hibernian Hotel that lies behind on the corner). As I was taking the shot, I was thinking about what Carl Jung says concerning the difference between a sign and a symbol. The cross on the gateway is technically a sign. It points the way to the church of which one might be a member. The cross on the altar is quite different argues Jung. That, he says, is an ineffable symbol denoting the sacred and holy. As a symbol, the cross dates back to the 15th Century BC and is the third of four basic symbols, others being the centre, the circle and the square. It creates a totality - in fact I rather like Soustelle's notion following his study of Mexico, that it is the symbol of the world in its totality. But there is much more to say about the cross.

Thursday, October 7, 2010


I patronise this store quite often and buy the occasional ... gadget. So when the monitor went wrong I couldn't resist an affectionate shot. The word gadget is mostly defined as an small mechanical or electronic contrivance, often unnecessary. I like gadgets and look for useful ones, so I disagree. The etymology of the word is also doubtful with many rival explanations. Some years ago my own psychotherapist said to me "You do like your gadgets don't you?" It was a statement not a question and perfectly accurate. The important quality of the gadget is that it performs a set of operations which bring some quality closer to our needs or desires. It should function independently and be relatively easy to install. That lets programmable radio clocks out I guess. So consider what is your favourite gadget and why? What useful service does it perfom in your life and could you do without it?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Paper and Stars

At the cash desk in the toy shop, I looked down and saw this interesting assembly. With a wide angle lens, I sometimes have to be careful that there are no feet in the shot! Wrapping paper is so nice, yet it's usually discarded following the unwrapping of a gift. Some thrifty individuals open wrapped gifts with care, then save and reuse the paper. Others tear open the paper covering with abandon! The symbolism of paper relates to either the texture or to whatever is written or illustrated on the surface. And the way the paper is folded can be magical as in Japan. But since paper is so fragile, it is said to be, at best, a mere representation of some other reality. The Chinese term, paper tiger, is a good example. That is something like the English saying, its bark is worse than its bite. Yet one reality refers to another, so it's best to remember that there is a bark. A bit like a gift, paper is not entirely harmless.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Chain Gang

These chains wer being used to hoist a marquee framework into place in preparation for tomorrow's match celebrations. Baggot Street was agog because we never see a structure like this in this location. They are usually down at the Lansdowne Hotel which caters for the rugby crowd. It took up the whole pavement so that you could hardly miss it. I thought the chains were interesting and went for a formal shot with angles. In so doing, I sacrificed much of the detail for that structure. Chains are a powerful symbol, all the more so because in some way it's about connecting heaven and earth. But on the more social side, since we are in Baggot Street with the collective, chains symbolise the need for social adaptation. This can be the hardest part of personal development. We need to recognise that our relationships - bonds if you will - are indispensable. Certainly some people appear to feel this part of life as a heavy weight - a burden rather than a joy. Really, it's so much better if bonds are genuinely experienced and accepted. Otherwise these chains can weigh and tie an individual down like the most massive and unwanted anchor.