A continuing conversation on ego, the soul, dreams, and being human between two friends.  Jungian analyst Dr. Weyler Greene holds a Ph.D. in Psychology from UCLA, was born in 1925, and is a WWII veteran.  Rebecca F. has an M.A. in English Literature from DePaul University and is a songwriter. 

Weyler Greene reads Rumi's "The Guest House"


F:  Let’s start with trust, an elusive concept.  What is trust?

W:  Trust is one of the most important things in a good friendship.  Trust is feeling it's safe to say whatever's in your heart to say, and feeling that the person won't laugh at you, get judgmental, or go away.  Trust goes both ways: you can say anything to me, and I can say anything to you.

 F:  Interesting.  So not being laughed at, or mocked, is crucial in good relationships.

 W: Erikson felt that personality developed through a series of stages, like a child's building blocks, piled on top of each other. Basic Trust was the block on the bottom, so if trust doesn't develop, the whole pile is messed up. Consequently, all relationships are going to be messed up.

 F: To paraphrase, mockery, being judgmental, and threats of abandonment destabilize relationships.  And we carry expectations about relationships from childhood into adulthood. 


W:  I woke up this morning not with the word "trust" on my mind, but with the word "intimacy.”  To me intimacy isn't about sex, but about relationship. Somewhere, someone thought intimacy could mean "into-me-see.”

 F: Hmmm...intimacy is "seeing into me."  Wow!

 W: I like that because to me intimacy does mean seeing deeply into some one, and being seen deeply in return.  Obviously that requires a hefty amount of trust. No trust, no intimacy.

 F: What’s sobriety’s role in intimacy?  I'm reminded of this weekend’s Chicago St. Patrick’s Day celebration, mind-boggling for its sheer magnitude of drunkenness. 

For instance, as I biked back from the gym, a woman, zombie-like, stepped out in front of me and onto busy Division Street, almost getting creamed.  When I called out to her, she stared at me with dead eyes.  She was awake, but she was asleep.  How much of our life is lived in this state, metaphorically?  And what does this have to do with trust and intimacy?

Trust and Addiction

W:  It seems to me that trust, developed in an individual relationship, has to morph out into a trust in life itself. Without that trust in life itself, it gets too scary.  People turn off their anxiety with drugs, alcohol, food, etc. I think all those addictions are fear-based.  

Maybe 12-step programs offer an alternative way of dealing with fear. Those folks call it a Higher Power, but you could just as well talk about trusting the Self, the Universe, Life...whatever works for you. But I think the development of that trust has to start with a personal relationship.

F:  It's interesting that you say addictions are “fear-based.”

W: Yes.

F: Because media portrays addiction as a "badass" response to a fucked-up society.  Addiction as the ultimate revolution.    

Demographically speaking, today's youth generation is the same size as the protester generation of late-1960s civil rights movement.  There are 80 million Millennials, and there were 80 million Baby Boomers.  I thought about this on St. Patrick's Day watching the green plastic hats and the annihilation in Chicago's loop.  Advertisers portray guzzling beer and partying as "cool."  But twenty-somethings assembling for societal change – like the youths of the 60s – seems to me much more badass.  You can't argue with the fact that shit got done in the 60s.  Today, we're burning up the environment and no one seems to care.  

Perhaps I’m not being compassionate here, but alcohol use for the sake of alcohol use/drug use for the sake of drug use seems to be one of the greatest problems of our generation, and it’s killing change.

Trust, Intimacy, and Addiction

W: Well, I agree with you that the addictive use of drugs/alcohol can kill change...or at least put it on hold. Intoxication lets you zone out, but nothing happens! And it sounds like you're suggesting DA (drug/alcohol) use is reaching epidemic proportions and I tend to agree. Has it anything to do with life in the age of technology?

While waiting for a train on the El platform I saw a Verizon add which said that with their new mobile phone "You won't even have to make eye contact."  Jeez! Is eye contact becoming that threatening?  Is technology diluting human relationship?  Allowing factual content but filtering out feeling?  Much which can be conveyed by the human voice can't be conveyed by text. It is the sound of the mother's voice that comforts the infant, not the verbal content.

Now if all that is true, that would imply the loss of a certain kind of intimacy, the intimacy I was saying was necessary for the development of trust.  And exit trust, enter fear/anxiety and the need for some kind of "medication."  You can get it from a psychiatrist or buy it in a bar. 

Eye Contact

F: I have noticed that eye contact feels increasingly sexualized.  Is that what happens in the absence of other types of "safe" love?  And if texting makes us less trusting of eachother, like you suggest, and addiction is related to feeling unsafe, or not trusting life/others/ourselves, aren't we in trouble?

You've said: "The development of that trust has to start with a personal relationship."  Can you explain this?

W: When I wrote that Basic Trust depends on relation I meant that it is rooted in the mother-infant relation, but I feel that it can only be maintained and deepened by one's on-going relationships throughout life. That's why I was concerned about the feeling-filtering potential of tech-based communication.

I once asked a teenaged girl why she texted her friends when she could easily call them. Her reply: "Well sometimes you don't really want to TALK to them!" A point well taken I suppose. But when is a communication a promise of communication which isn't really a communication? And what does that do to the level of trust?  You mentioned sexualized eye contact. Could that also be a promise of communication which isn't really a communication?

You wondered if we were in trouble. I don't know for sure. Or maybe we're in crisis. Does the tech age challenge human experience to rise to the level of its intellectual achievement? 


F: That's a pretty big question, Weyer.  I'm still on the "mother-infant relation" aspect of trust and addiction.  Do you mean to suggest that people with addictions were ignored by their mothers or something?  Where does Pa fit in?

W:  No, I definitely do not have an explanation as to why people are addicted. Still, it's hard for me not to believe that Mom is involved somewhere, somehow. But you could argue it either way, too much or not enough. So Mom can't win!!

As to Pa, there are so many fathering styles, that it's impossible to be definitive. Still I think the fathering style has a lot to do with how the child is able to relate to the outside world. Maybe Father is a symbol for the outside world that the child is going to encounter.

And anyway, I'm not even sure parental relationships are the ultimate determining factor! James Hillman, the best known of the post-Jungians, wrote a book called The Soul Code, suggesting that the soul's intents really trumped childhood influences. But that opens up yet another huge area doesn't it!

F:  Last night I read that addicts confuse intensity with intimacy.  Whatever the soul's intents, it must overcome childhood conditioning first.

A high percentage of addicts grew up in abusive and/or addicted homes.  In families where chaos, terror, unpredictability, and high levels of caretaking predominate, children learn that "exciting" and "intense" feelings are love.  They also learn to put the needs of others (the abuser or addict parent) above theirs.

In abusive or addictive families, then, children are not seen. No wonder as adults they seek out relationships where they will be neglected, ignored, or used as an object (of caretaking, etc.).  These types of "relationships" (if you can call them that) feel natural.  What they lack is reciprocity.  And that's the crux of healthy relationship, I think.

So how do you change childhood conditioning?  What are some ways to make intimacy feel better than intensity?  If you've never been seen, how do you start?  Isn't it easier to hide in the cocoon and blame the world?   

Conditioning and Cocoons

W.  Well, I'll start at the end. It is easier to hide in a cocoon.  But let's get back to nature.  The real purpose of a cocoon is not to be a hiding place, but a place of transformation.  Problems would only arise if the butterfly didn't want to emerge...i.e. was too fearful to move out.

So I'm wondering if cocoons are like family conditioning.  It well may facilitate growth and development.  But at a certain point you have to "get out," even from the best of families.

And that is where "soul intent" comes in, I think.  It breaks the cocoon.  Now we come to the big issue.  Why does it happen so infrequently?  Why do people stay so stuck in dysfunctional patterns like addictions, co-dependencies, or cycles of abuse?  I am more and more convinced that our culture trains us NOT to listen to our inner voice, our inner guidance.  We are literally taught to depend on what we read and what THEY (parents, teachers, priests, preachers, etc.) tell us.  We are literally taught to dis-able our inner guidance system.  No wonder we get stuck.  No wonder we don't feel safe being seen.

And intimacy.  It only is possible when we don't discount ourselves.  If I feel I'm going to lose myself in the process, intimacy begins to feel dangerous.  So intensity of feeling fills the hole scooped out by the fear of intimacy. 

Kissing the Cocoon

F: That's why I think it's so important for people to talk to good therapists, counselors, or analysts.  Because it's the job of a good professional to *see* you.  For some people, the inside of a therapist’s office is the first place they've ever felt free to be themselves, or had an inclination that they are okay – great, even – just as they are.

If we choose to cut ourselves off from connecting with others and instead wander in fear, filling ourselves with intensity (addictions, drama, abuse) we’ll stay in our cocoons.  

A few weeks ago when I said you "kicked my cocoon" to get me out, you responded in an interesting way.

"No," you said, "I kissed your cocoon."  

W: (laughs)

F:  There is something lovely about this image.  Kissing a cocoon is gentle, kicking is rough.  But that’s how change mostly happens, it seems.  Gently.  Surrounding ourselves with loving people, one day we wake up to find kindness and admiration – instead of criticism – in our heads.  So who we expose ourselves to becomes essential.

W: Indeed.

F:  For me, this harkens back to childhood.  People raised by critical elders learned to tear themselves down.  So we go about shredding ourselves in our minds, then, anxious and miserable, we spread the mess, preemptively ripping into others before they can do the same.  Or we hide from the world, licking our wounds in a cocoon where the attacker is in our own head.  A known enemy, at least.

Yet, tearing people down only…tears them down. “Kissing the cocoon,” being kind and gentle, brings people up.  As a culture, how did we get so confused about the nature and uses of criticism?  How can we kiss each other’s cocoon more often?

W: Seems to me like a crucial question, especially when it comes to parenting.  I've been trying to learn improv comedy the last couple of years. And one day it occurred to me that life imitates improv exactly as it does art!  

F:  Ha!  

W: In improv there is both me, the actor – my personal identity – as well as the role I am trying to perform.

Off stage, there is me, my real self, my soul, and there is also the outer self, the ego role I am trying to enact (its nature depending on the particular situation I find myself in). 

So I wonder if parents realize that distinction, that their child is not just an ego but a soul? Because the issue then is to whom is the criticism directed. It is one thing to criticize performance. Vastly different to be criticizing the essence of who one really is.  One promotes personal development. The other smashes it!

F:  Criticizing the performance or act (ego role) kisses the cocoon, criticizing the person him/herself (his soul, or essence) kicks it.   

W: Exactly. 

Being a Soul 

F:  But is it even advisable to identify mostly with soul?  Sometimes soul seems so fragile, so vulnerable, so weak.  If I “wear my soul on my sleeve,” so to speak, it leaves me open to every con artist around.  Sure, trust, love, and hope abound – but there are those who would capitalize on my optimism.

Is being a “soul” versus being an “ego” a dangerous choice?  And what IS a soul?

W:   Not in fancy psychological jargon but in a way that would make sense to ordinary people?  If some ordinary, real person asked me what the soul is, I would say "Well the soul is who you really are, who you were before you were born, who you really are now, who will continue to be long after you have died".

I know this is not a popular point of view among psychologists (even though the word for soul is "psyche" in Greek) not even among Jungians, who really should know better! I feel that both material science and traditional religion have conspired to marginalize this point of view. But I think there is a lot of experiential evidence that substanciates it. I think that a consideration of that kind of evidence could lead to the beginnings of a new kind of psychology, a genuine soul psychology. Perhaps even a psychology for "real" people...  

F:  Yes, that's an interesting point. And the more I read about psychology, the more I realize there's very little "proof" about it. Mostly it seems good therapists hear their clients' troubles and restate them or paraphrase them or ask guiding questions in a way to help the person "climb out" of whatever rut he or she is in (you described this once to me by making an alteration to poet James Broughton's "Take the Whole Kit" poem, advising not to "re-[sic]upholstering the rut").

What, really, do any of us know about anything? The Earth? The stars? The universe? Inner trauma? Pre-conscious trauma? The only things I've ever known to be true "resonate" with me, or "just feel right." That's how I feel about your definition of the soul.

Incidentally Plato defined it in much the same way.

The Gut 

W: You raise an interesting point. What DO we know, and how do we know we know? To me, there's two kinds of knowing: outer and inner. I would see science as the main arbiter of outer knowledge. How do they know they know? Mainly by prediction. If you can predict  where a certain comet is going to be this time tomorrow...you know something about astronomy, etc.

Inner knowing seems to depend on inner feeling...what I would call "gut feeling" That makes something true for me, but it doesn't make it true for anybody else. That raises a big issue. I need some feeling of inner certainty...SOME feeling of it. But that's nothing I can impose on anyone else. If I share that inner knowing with someone else, it might or might not resonate. So good therapists try to get a sense of what will resonate, because only what resonates will really help. But it's still "subjective." Shared by two people, but still subjective.

F:  Interesting.  The “gut” is not always going to take us to great places, either.  Recently I read an interesting take on mistakes, the idea that mistakes aren’t “bad,” because if we’re making them, at least we’re learning something.

And what about habit energy that makes our “gut” feel we should do something that’s not exactly in our best interests?  For instance, the abused wife whose “gut” tells her to take back husband, that this time he’s “really” sorry.  Where do we draw the line between listening to our guts and being idiots?

W:  So listening to our feelings is tricky! Can we distinguish between feelings which are a reaction to bad conditioning and feelings which are an expression of our own soul? It may be difficult, but I think it is possible. Learning to listen to one's own soul, learning to listen to genuine inner guidance, not disingenuous outer conditioning, is perhaps the most important thing we will ever have to learn!

I think that is where close, intimate relationship comes in. It provides a resonance for the soul to be heard. Then the soul can guide us out of those destructive ruts, those traumatic experiences we can so easily fall back into. 


F: You've talked a lot about resonance, and this concept excites me. Nothing feels quite like connecting with another, feeling that exciting squirming energetic burst that tells you "Yes! Something is happening here! I don't know what it is, but it feels great!" I live for this feeling. I am at my best when I surround myself with holders of this energy, The Resonators I'll call them.

I think I was raised on the notion that feeling "good" or "happy" or "excited" is dangerous, bad, or sinful. Those masochistic Catholics. But I am at my best, being most productive, and certainly most creative and alive when I feel like this.

What's the best way to give oneself permission to be around positive energy – "happy" and "good" vibrations – to get oneself to feel like one deserves to be surrounded by such energy? 

W: You put the question so clearly and beautifully that it almost answers itself! We get raised with injunctions about how we should be. Above all, we must be good, obedient. and humble. Be good, not feel good! Any thing connected to the instinctual was sinful!

And then there are the Resonators. I love that term! Yes, being with them can indeed feel "dangerous, bad, or sinful". Maybe we can also talk about the "Dissonators"! Demanding, abusive, controlling. Past conditioning teaches that we should shun the Resonators, and learn to adapt to the demands of the Dissonators. And that choosing the relationship that feels right to our Soul is sinful.

I think it comes down to a big choice. Do I listen to "their" teachings or to my Soul?

F: Thank you, Weyler.  That makes me feel so good!  You write, "Past conditioning teaches that we should shun the Resonators, and learn to adapt to the demands of the Dissonators. And that choosing the relationship that feels right to our Soul is sinful."  

Perhaps because the Dissonators can be so attractive?  People who feel are ugly; their faces get wrinkled with worry and love lines; they're not so into appearance.  They put others before themselves, they concentrate more on how others feel than on what they look like.  At least, that's what it seems to me.

Dissonators are appearance-, or surface-oriented.  So they come across as "normal" because they look like men and women in magazines.  They don't "stand out."  Do Resonators "stand out" from a frequency perspective?  It seems to me you can feel a powerfully loving person who enters a room.  Maybe I'm getting off topic here.  

W: Oh dear! When I was writing about Resonators and Dissonators I think I had something different in mind, or rather I was thinking about them in two different ways. Confusing you and me. What you were writing seems very much on target. But I wasn't so much thinking about them as types of people (though clearly they are) I was thinking more of my connection with someone..or lack of connection! 

From this point of view, someone who feels very dissonant to me, might resonate beautifully with someone else! So I think this goes deeper than "like" or "dislike". I might really like someone...but it just doesn't happen. Not a matter of gender here either.

I remember meeting a man, a colleague, at the hospital where I first worked after becoming a psychologist. I really disliked him. A year later he was my best friend! So this resonance business is happening at a much deeper level, than the level of ego likes and dislikes. What do you think?    

A Clash Between Ego and Soul?

F: Interesting.  Perhaps you disliked him initially because he reminded you of yourself?  This happens to me.  Then the "me" in the other person grows on me.  Ha!

Yes, twelve years indexing has left me a bit of an asshole.  Classifying everything into types, as if this is possible!  Guess I'll have to unlearn this ego-oriented trade.  I used to be a poet.

So...let's see: you're saying we "resonate" with people when they connect with our souls, not our egos.  Is that correct?  Is there a clash between ego and soul?  I seem to experience this very often, where I initially resonate with someone's soul, but then the ego takes over and the relationship goes bust.  How can we keep the soul at the forefront?  

  © Rebecca F. 2015