I recall a college psychology course in which we were discussing Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs,” ranging from being “pinned down at the safety level” to achieving some level of “self-actualization.” A light bulb went off, and I felt I was getting the hang of that college stuff. On reflection, I realized that growing up in a war-battered London, moving to the states and losing my father when I was fifteen, and then joining the United States Navy might be enough to fill the safety level box. Much later I realized that Maslow’s hierarchy sketched a life path for me, irregular and uneven, but always beckoning. My master’s and PhD work opened me to my shadow and unexplored side. My PhD dissertation on “The Catholic Imagination” in a number of novelists was a way to examine religion through another lens.
An equally important contribution to my growth was my embrace of Jungian psychology after my mother’s death. I was overwhelmed with dreams about her and sought help from a therapist. Then I went back to school to study the work of Jung. This encouraged both healing and discipline. Keeping a journal of my dreams and other insights became a daily ritual and an essential part of my fiction, poetry and essays. The very language of Jungian psychology, expressed in image, symbol, metaphor feeds the archetypal imagination.
For me, one of life’s major tasks is toward wholeness, revisiting what I have repressed, ignored, or forgotten and bringing these elements into the daylight. And there is so much I have repressed about my behavior, my parents, and my relationships with my siblings. There is so much that I don’t know about my Anima, my feminine side.
My upcoming novel, “When War Becomes Us,” explores the psychology of war in a family that has remained under “fire” for a lifetime. More than fifty dreams shape the narrative and provide both pain and redemption.
Another novel in the works, “Going Under: The Dream, the Wound and the Prayer,” is built around my personnel stories of trauma and renewal. But there is a bright side. Jung shows up in a cameo.
The work continues.