Decoding the COVID Complex with This Jungian Life

Decoding the COVID Complex with This Jungian Life

Nearly three years on and governments worldwide would have us believe the pandemic is over with – health experts such as Dr Norman Swan and Dr Kerryn Phelps however, are telling us otherwise. As counsellors, psychotherapists and trauma experts, we know we will be working with the aftermath of the last few years for generations to come. There isn’t a day in private practice that goes by where the impact of the pandemic and the COVID complex isn’t present in the room.

We don’t have to look too far for medical and health based articles covering the pandemic, however, it has been extremely challenging to find in-depth information about the COVID complex, and the underlying psychological causes and responses to the anti-vax, anti-establishment, conspiracy theory & conspirituality movements as well as the psychology and impact of lockdowns and mask wearing.

My favourite psychotherapy podcast is This Jungian Life so I thought I’d round up episodes that encourage us to dive deep and participate in the deep soul-work required to decode the COVID complex and the potential underlying concerns and responses we have experienced and witnessed over the last couple of years.

Decoding the COVID Complex with This Jungian Life

12: Anxiety

“Anxiety is one of the most common complaints that bring people into therapy. While it can be difficult to differentiate anxiety from healthy fear we all agree that finding an ally to stand with us makes a big difference. We explore the many underlying dynamics that can manifest outwardly as anxiety and consider the value in taking a heroic stance as we face our inner dragons. Inspired by Jung, we can come to appreciate that working with our anxieties rather than running from them gets the best results.”

This Jungian Life

37: Narcissism

“The myth of Narcissus constitutes the archetypal root of the character structure of narcissism. Aspects of narcissism run from the healthy developmental narcissism of a child to the toxic narcissism of the psychopath, but all have in common a lack of empathy, whether momentary or chronic. We offer some thoughts on how to tell if you are in a relationship with a narcissist and what to do about it.”

This Jungian Life

66: Cults

“Although cults occasionally make the headlines through tragedy or scandal, the defining features of cults are inherently human and manifest on spectrums of both severity and size. The word cult is derived from culture. While culture refers to the overarching characteristics of a society, cult refers negatively to a marginalized subgroup. Cults tap into universal human feelings and desires, such as the need to belong and resonance to parental influence. Although as adults we are no longer dependent on family and tribe for physical survival, our psychological needs for safety and attachment remain powerful. Deb, Lisa, and Joseph consider today’s polarized political divisions, the power of a rock concert or Fourth of July parade, and other ways in which the tension between the opposites of belonging and individuation manifests.”

This Jungian Life

79: Grief & Bereavement

“The death of a loved one is a loss that is part of the human condition and is universal. The Stranger — mortality — confronts us with a new need to accept the reality of our loss and pain, a process that can include ambivalent feelings. Relief and anger can be mixed with love and grief. Altogether, we must adjust to an absence where once there was presence, relearn how to experience the world of relationship, and perhaps take on new life responsibilities at a time of emotional turmoil. Ego may find itself first helpless, then bereft of the soul and spirit needed to reweave life and meaning. There is also the need to balance one’s continuing internal connection with the deceased and the task of moving on with one’s life in a fulsome way.”

This Jungian Life

86: Splitting, Polarization & Conflict

“It happens all the time: people and problems split into opposing camps, whether the conflict is internal, between partners, in a family or—as we know all too well—between political parties. When positions become polarized conflict ensues, whether between mind and body, partners and families, or value systems and religious affiliations. What makes it possible to reach across the chasm between entrenched extremes? The Jungian concept of holding the tension of the opposites allows energy, like electricity, to flow between both poles; each can have its full say. Instead of remaining mired in fixity or moral judgment, curiosity may open the way for a new attitude that transcends the polarities.”

This Jungian Life

103: Facing the Fear of Coronavirus

“The word plague derives from the Latin plangere, “to strike the breast as if in lamentation.” The novel coronavirus has visited loss, fear and hardship on many. Nature in her destructive mode can radically disrupt cultural creations and norms and show us how fragile they – and we — are. We may also find new sources of sustenance within. Dreams, bodywork, and the imaginal realm can help us access a new attitude: a reorientation of purpose, meaning, and consciousness.”

This Jungian Life

106: When Everything Changes – Is There Opportunity in Crisis?

“In the Chinese language, the two characters representing crisis are danger and opportunity. Can that possibly be true of these days of pandemic crisis, with physical, economic, and psychological destabilization? Voices of experience and wisdom speak to us about finding potential in desperate situations.

Victor Frankl, imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp, discovered he had the power to choose his attitude toward brutal circumstances. Erich Fromm felt that isolation and fear could lead either to experiencing or forfeiting personal freedom.

Carl Jung valued the human capacity for consciousness: “As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being.” We can be heartened in hard times by those who have gone before, turned inward, and found treasure.” 

This Jungian Life

108: Authority – Who Is In Charge Around Here?

“The dictionary defines authority as the power to “influence or command thought, opinion or behavior.” Authority’s Latin roots are master, leader, author—thus it lives next to its tough cousin, power. Families, organizations, and governing bodies influence and command us, whether slightly or mightily. Authority has legitimacy, from a traffic officer’s directives to a mentor’s wisdom . An authority may reward desired behavior or provide expert advice. We can rebel against authority, be coerced into compliance, or fall into identification with a leader. Ultimately, we must claim our own authority in determining values and making decisions. Jung says, “Life calls us forth to independence, and anyone who does not heed this call because of childish laziness or timidity is threatened with neurosis. And once this has broken out, it becomes an increasingly valid reason for running away from life and remaining forever in the morally poisonous atmosphere of infancy.”

This Jungian Life

113: Lockdown: Decoding the Covid Complex

“Oppressed, repressed and regressed, the forced restrictions of the Covid Complex have us in its grip. We may see friends and family more often than ever, but only on a screen.

Work, school, home, weekdays, weekends—time and tasks slide around like Jello on a hot plate. Loss of structure, variety, movement and touch are destabilizing. Confined to tight physical and emotional spaces, we may collapse into ourselves or lash out at loved ones. We hear contradictory messages on the news and go outside only if masked and defended.

The Covid Complex is both personal and collective—it affects each of us differently and it affects us all. Most of us have been forced inward physically and psychologically; perhaps this time is also an opportunity to rediscover inner resources and experience depth of being.”

This Jungian Life

114: Riots – When the Collective Catches Fires

“How can we understand the psychological wild fire of rioting? Jung, who lived through two world wars, understood that mass movements had the power to manifest archetypal energy. The urge to unleash destructive chaos is depicted in mythologies around the world.

Early Norse warriors attained battle-crazed states as “berserkers,” and Cu Chulainn, a mythological Irish warrior, killed both friends and foe. Eris, the Greek goddess of discord and strife, started the Trojan War, and Kali, a Hindu god whose name derives from suffer, hurt, startle and confuse, also incited war. Riots–contagious states of regressive possession–belong to this archetypal realm. Jung said “collective man threatens to stifle the individual man, on whose sense of responsibility everything valuable in mankind ultimately depends…the true leaders of mankind are always those who are capable of self-reflection.”

This Jungian Life

122: Covered: An Archetypal Take on the Covid Mask

“Masks are the symbol of COVID life, and they have archetypal roots as old as humankind. We ward off evil microbial forces with bandanas, neck gaiters, patterned fabrics, and high filtration medical masks. Masks provide access to our shape-shifting potential, connect us to our instinctual depths, mediate our relationship to the spirits, and open a portal to the mythic realm of story and drama.

Masks waft us into new identities: children become superheroes or face-painted animals; women apply make-up, men craft beards, and everyone wears sunglasses that shade us from more than sunlight.

We also wear a social mask, persona, and present different aspects of ourselves to colleagues, Facebook friends, and family—but if we identify with the faces we present to the world we risk defining ourselves according to fixed and superficial attributes. Masks in all their forms affect the experience of wearer and viewers.”

This Jungian Life

127: Seeking Certainty: The Seduction of Conspiracy Theories

“In times of uncertainty truth is hard to discern, collective cohesion frays, and social factions become embattled. Unmediated shadow then seeks expression through the archetypal realm and takes on extra-ordinary attributes. Persecutory mythologies arise, for big psychic situations need big stories to compensate for big feelings of anxiety, powerlessness, and marginalization.

Insecurities are projected onto the outer-world as clandestine enemies of mythic proportions: alien rulers, government cabals, and other images of secret domination. Understanding conspiracy theories as symbolic expressions of unconscious contents can allow us to take them seriously without taking them literally. We may then respond with consciousness and empathy instead of judgment–and begin to shift the collective psychic field toward wholeness.”

This Jungian Life

146: Inflation – The Challenge of Archetypal Possession

“Inflation applies to balloons, economics–and psychology. Jung defined it as being seized by archetypal energy resulting in “a puffed up attitude, loss of free will, delusion, and enthusiasm for good and evil alike.” Inflation is more than a “swelled head” because the influx of unconscious contents leads to identification with god-like powers.

In Greek myth Phaeton became inflated when the sun god, Helios, acknowledged him as his son. Phaeton then asked to drive his father’s chariot, pulling the sun across the sky. He could not control the powerful horses, scorched the earth, and was killed. Arrogating god-like powers to oneself eclipses self-awareness and disaster ensues. Inflation can be expressed outwardly as power-seeking grandiosity or inwardly as self-sacrificing suffering. It is present in unrealistic risk-taking, frenzied creativity, spiritual illusions, the entitlement of toddlers and teens, and in collective excesses. Mobs are inflated, flouting the constraints of civilization, culture, and common sense. The antidote to inflation is humility, service, and love.”

This Jungian Life

154: Belonging – The Search for Home

“Horses herd, birds flock, whales pod, and people tribe. The need to belong is as intrinsic to human nature as the need for food, touch, clothing, and shelter. We belong to families, communities, ideas, and ideals, yet must also separate from them in service to our own individuation.

As we grow, we belong to teams and clubs and find new homes in school and at work. Is the price of belonging rigid conformity and sameness, or is uniqueness valued and difference supported? We later express attitude and attachment to home in the houses we inhabit: photos and mementos honor connections within a framework of personal expression. Jung built Bollingen, the unique home in which he was “in the midst of my true life [and] most deeply myself.” To be at home in the world and belong to ourselves is the mature manifestation of affiliation, differentiation, and creative endeavor.”

This Jungian Life

156: Exile & Alienation

“Exile and alienation could be considered the external and internal aspects of rejection. Exile is not chosen but is imposed and unwanted: a relational break-up, job lay-off, or deportation. Exile can affect the human spirit so powerfully that the ancient Romans used it as an alternative to execution. Alienation describes an internal state of deadness and despair–an uncanny valley that feels featureless, gray, and unending.

It can manifest as depression, anxiety, addiction, and desperation—which can lead to violence against self or others. A return to feeling heals, movingly rendered in Va, Pensiero in Verdi’s opera Nabucco: the exiled Hebrew slaves sing of their loss, love, and longing for home. Tears transform pain into suffering and restore personal presence in relation to something greater.” 

This Jungian Life

177: Splitting – Understanding What Divides Us

“We seem hard-wired to split the world into polarities: right/wrong, either/or, victory/defeat, Democrat/Republican. Infants and toddlers have not yet achieved the developmental capacity for complexity; they are believed to split their feelings toward caretakers into “good” and “bad,” depending on whether their needs are being met in the moment.

Although it distorts reality, splitting reduces anxiety by locating the problem “out there,” allowing us to reject what we find aversive and affirm our own virtue, self-worth, and blamelessness. The capacity for ambivalence—the ability to hold opposite feelings—requires more differentiated cognitive skills and emotional range. Can we bear anxiety in the face of what seems intolerable without retreating to the fortress of one-sided (usually righteous) certainty? Doing so can increase capacity for objectivity, self-reflection, and ability to bridge the split.” 

This Jungian Life

180: Influence, Connection or Contagion

“We have always been subject to the influence of others—it’s how we learn language, become socialized, cooperate and collaborate. It’s also how we exclude, denigrate, and assault others. Today, we are subject to unprecedented social influences. Multiplicities of media shape our ideas, identities, beliefs, and values–and foster connections and communities around the world. If tulip mania took hold in 17th century Holland – perhaps the original speculative bubble – today we have non-fungible tokens and cryptocurrencies. “Heretics” are now exiled via “cancel culture.” Cultural contagions and psychic epidemics are not new—they just come dressed in the flashy new garb of social media and telecommunication. Amid so many influences, it is newly necessary to engage in the discernment and differentiation crucial to individuation, the fulfillment of our innate potential. Consciousness cannot be held hostage to intellectual simplifications or emotional reactivity. Each of us can uphold social norms that rest on foundations of fact, reflection, and spaciousness.”   

This Jungian Life

200: Reality As Medicine

“The nature of reality may be a complex philosophical question, but from a psychological viewpoint, reality is largely a question of adaptation to the truths of our inner and outer worlds. How well do we manage psychic life and the electric bill? Science fiction writer Philip Dick pithily states: “Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.” Multiple realities challenge us. We live in shared social realities, from embracing niceties to being steeped in beliefs and a need to belong. We also may access the objective realities of verifiable facts and scientific data. And we experience subjective realities of emotion, intuition, and unconscious influences. We can feel our feelings, differentiate between levels of reality, and choose which to apply to a particular situation or decision. Unclouded acceptance of reality is medicinal.”

This Jungian Life

201: Duped – What Makes Us Gullible

“Jung says, “The more one turns to the light, the greater the shadow behind one’s back.” Unacknowledged shadow can increase vulnerability to coercive dealings and regrettable decisions. We may find ourselves scammed, ripped off, and left holding the bag. Why didn’t we see it coming? Mostly because our denied fears and desires create blind spots others manipulate. Advertisers, hucksters, and con men prey on our fear of danger and disapproval and our quest for security and status. Gullibility is marked by misplaced trust and willful witlessness. We may not pause to reflect, research a decision, or seek neutral counsel. It is often relieving to trust an external authority rather than bear the anxiety and responsibility of choosing. When we fail to see our own shadow, we may be unable to recognize it in others.”

This Jungian Life

205: Caught in the Conflict: Holding the Tensions of Opposites

“Holding the tension between opposites was one of Jung’s foundational precepts. Although contradictory views are often a better witness to truth than one-sided conviction, beliefs and decisions often serve to relieve ambiguity, anxiety, and threat. Jung says, “The ego keeps its integrity only if it does not identify with one of the opposites, and if it understands how to hold the balance between them. This is possible only if it remains conscious of both at once. However, the necessary insight is made exceedingly difficult not by one’s social and political leaders alone but also by one’s religious mentors. They all want decisions in favor of one thing, and therefore the utter identification of the individual with the necessarily one-sided truth.” We need to suffer the tension a plurality of voices and views produces. Holding the tension of opposites grows consciousness, wholeness, and soul.”

This Jungian Life

217: Death: A Jungian Perspective

“Awareness of death can help us create an intentional life—one that serves the movement of soul toward wholeness. Jung realized that although we experience death as “a fearful piece of brutality,” the unconscious images death as celebration.” 

This Jungian Life

I hope you enjoy these episodes decoding the COVID complex as much as I did.

Would you like to build a thriving private counselling or psychotherapy practice from the inside out? Come and join your colleagues and I in my free Facebook group, Opening the Door on Private Practice.

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Jodie Gale

Jodie Gale MA. is the founder of The Psychosynthesis Centre, Trauma Warriors TM, The Soul Sessions with Jodie Gale Podcast and Jodie Gale Soul Centred-Therapy for Women. She is a on the College of Psychotherapy Leadership Team at PACFA, is a Clinical Supervisor, Private Practice Business Coach, Trainer, Facilitator & an Eco-Psycho-Spiritual Registered Clinical Psychotherapist® on the Northern Beaches of Sydney & online. Jodie has 20+ years of experience in private pay, private practice and has built 2 thriving practices - in London and then home in Sydney, Australia. Jodie is passionate about putting the soul back in to therapy!
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