Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Life as an Elephant, aka...

review by Mel Mathews

This wonderfully warm, humorous, entertaining and beautifully written book gives an overview of Jungian Psychology. That’s right, warm, humorous, entertaining, beautifully written, and a psychology book. Jungian Psychology Unplugged: My Life as an Elephant is comprised of six chapters. Chapter one addresses Jung’s Basic model of Psychological Types. Chapter two deals with ‘Getting to know Yourself’ and explains the basics of archetypes and complexes, persona, shadow… Chapter three, ‘The Unknown Other’ is about projection and identification, including the challenges involved with intimacy and relationships. Chapter four deals with the ‘Anatomy of a Midlife Crisis’ which is most often fueled by the need to develop a relationship with one’s self, or with the unexpressed aspects of our personalities that have not been honored and given a voice earlier in life. In chapter five Daryl Sharp writes about 'The Analytical Experience,' including his own, which I found most refreshing. All to often, one will pick up a psychology or self-help book in hopes of finding a recipe to improve one’s life. That’s not what happens in Jungian Psychology Unplugged: My life as an Elephant. Instead, in vulnerable fashion, Daryl Sharp shares some of his more personal moments during the period when he was seeking council. The author well knows that another person’s recipe is worthless when it comes to finding one’s self and living an authentic life, and he doesn’t pretend to be an authority and try to prove otherwise. Chapter six is about 'Psychological Development,' the process of becoming more conscious by developing a relationship to one’s soul. Sharp addresses the need to be true to our vocations, our true callings in life, and venerates those who have the courage to do just this—listening and being true to one’s inner voice. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in living an authentic life, not just those who have an interest in Jung or psychology.

Daryl Sharp is the author of 17 books. He is also the General Editor of Inner City Books: Studies in Jungian Psychology by Jungian Analyst. 

Mel Mathews' book reviews have been published in USA Today and many other notable publications. Mel is the author of several novels, including the Malcolm Clay Trilogy (Fisher King Press). His books are available from your local bookstore, a host of on-line booksellers, or you can order them directly from his website at:

© Mel Mathews - permission to reprint granted with a link back to

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Tree of Life: Opposites Reflecting the Center of Soul

I've been spending an awful lot of time editing other people's manuscripts and promoting their publications at the expense of having my own work fall by the wayside. It's not that the other work isn't valid or valued; it's just that once again, I'm lopsided, a little bit like this painting, which in reality isn't lopsided at all. It just looks a bit out of kilter because of the way it was scanned, but if you were to view the 'real thing' you'd find this mandala far more balanced.

Since I haven't been tending to my own work as of late, it felt right to pay attention to this ten year-old painting, to sit and meditate on these most necessary opposing forces. The first thing that came to me . . . the thought was that my parents have just celebrated their 49th wedding anniversary. At 47 years of age, I suppose that makes me a legitimate child. Isn't that really a funny concept, being legitimate, or not. How can one be legitimized by religious or social standards? Hell, that’s a crock of crap! One is legitimized by the fact, or better yet, in the mystery at that very moment when we were conceived, the moment when two opposing forces were mysteriously unified. To contemplate how I am comprised of what was once two, the sperm and the egg—that simply blows me away. Sure, there are millions of us walking the face of this earth, but each one of us is in fact a unique miracle, no matter how modern day science might like to slice and dice, and categorize us otherwise.

Anyway, back to Mom and Dad and their 49th wedding anniversary and to yet another miraculous fact that they are still together after all of these years. Just to have gone through all of the ups and downs together for nearly five decades. I mean, come on, love plus intimacy doesn't equal bliss, and seldom is it as pretty as the happily-ever-after picture that has been painted by a world longing for inner reconciliation within our very own souls.

Intimacy, I get a kick out of people who like to refer to 'sex' as being 'intimate' or 'making love'. Anyone can have sex, or be sexually intimate, or whatever else you might want to doll it up as, but how many long-time 'lovers' can pass gas in the presence of the other or sit on the shitter and have a conversation? That's far more intimate than having sex, in my humble opinion anyway. I’m not suggesting that people need to relate this way, but how many people are free to be this vulnerable, that is without experiencing a deep-seated since of guilt or shame? And what about all of those 'I love yous' that are so often expressed out of habit, duty, or just to keep peace in the home. Anyone can speak such falsities, when in reality they are feeling or thinking something quite the contrary. What about the good old fashion 'F#$% off fat ass' or 'I'd rather shoot myself in the foot than to have to eat another meal with you staring at me from across the table.'

4 days or 49 years of togetherness, neither seems all so easy in my little world. Perhaps I'm just a freak who has never experienced 'true love'? Perhaps I'm just a disillusioned, bitter, narcissistically wounded, selfish middle-age man who has missed out on the loving wedded bliss that so many others have shared? Perhaps; perhaps not? Consciously, or unconsciously, a person who is so-called glued together or socially adjusted most likely entertains a vast range of feelings and fantasies that include lust, jealousy, rage, disgust, hate, discontent, betrayal, and the desire to screw his best buddy's wife if the opportunity ever comes a knocking. One may not have to act on such desires and fantasies, but entertaining such thoughts and feelings may well be part of the compound that binds people in marriage for such long periods. Sure, love and a commitment to one's values and family, the need for home and companionship, not to mention the many psychological complexes that run us from behind the scenes also comprise this binding compound, but dancing with one's shadow certainly must play a great role in long-lived marriages or relationships.

Marriage and legitimacy have always intrigued me. Being legally married versus being married within, just as being legally legitimized versus claiming nature's law and legitimizing one's self are far different things. I know a woman whose father wouldn't claim her until she was eight or nine years old. Although, I think the man's obstinacy had more to do with the mother than it did with claiming his daughter. The couple was divorcing, they had split up and ended up in bed for a one last ‘go’ at things and the woman 'miraculously' got knocked up. I'm not assigning blame to either, but the man wanted a divorce and the woman didn't, and here she ends up pregnant on their very last tumble. No doubt the man felt trapped and perhaps rightly so. The mother spent several years in court, pursuing her ex to legitimize their daughter. Hell, you didn't need a court or 'the law' to legitimize this young girl. It was plain as day that she was his daughter, a spitting image of the fellow, I'm telling you. But beyond that, the very moment she was conceived, nature deemed her legitimate. I dare say the mother was legitimizing the marriage that they once shared, or perhaps the mother was trying to legitimize her very own existence, far more than she was her daughter's.

Anyway, I'm a rambling on and really don't know what I'm talking about. I’m just trying to occupy myself and stay out of my lady friend’s path. She’s really been on a pisser for the past few days, and when she reads this, I’ll probably catch all the hellish furry she’s got bottled up inside. She’s trying to be really nice, trying to pretend that the sun’s shining and life is grand, when in fact, darkness hangs all around her. Funny thing is, the more you pretend it’s sunny out, the darker the day becomes. Normally, I’d hop in my truck and drive and drive and drive. But my truck’s not at my disposal, so I’ll just weather the storm. Perhaps that’s part of what has kept my parents married all of these years, the capacity to weather storms. Some people just drive and drive and drive; some people weather storms. Then again, perhaps it’s a combination of driving and weathering storms. Who really knows?

I recall one visit to my family home a few years back, to the very house I was brought home to after being born. Dad had been retired for nearly ten years and mom was, and still is, working four, twelve-hour shifts weekly. Dad’s always been the kicked back one, solid as a rock and mom’s always been the one running around in circles. Anyway, I woke up there one morning to find my parents sitting just outside on the front porch, one on each side of the door. I walked out between them and before I could say good morning, mom pipes in: “I just don’t know what I’d do if I retired. I mean, what would I have to do. . .” Dad sips his coffee, looks at me with a smirk and says, “It’s not about what you have to do; it’s about doing what you want to do.” I just looked at them both and thought, good god almighty, that’s me, the both of them: Solid-as-a-Rock and Running-around-like-a-Headless-Chicken, and though I no longer live in this home, I cross this threshold countless times a day. And I always will; it’s part of the mystery of who I am—two opposing energies.

Whatever it is that unified my parents and held them together for all these years . . . in spite of my cynicism and all the other quirky things that split me apart and bring me back together again, I am most grateful to these two dynamically opposing forces and the mystery of their existence and insoluble everlasting love.

Now, I better go rub my lady’s back. There’s no way in all of creation that I can rescue her from her dark cloud—that she’ll have to deal with on her own. Sure, she’s gonna blame me for her discontent, just like I blamed her for burning my tongue on a cup of boiling hot tea the other evening. If you can’t crap on the one you love, who can you crap on? Before it’s all done, there will probably be a f#%@ you and a, no f#%@ you, you selfish… truth be told, there may well be a lot more of those ahead of us, along with all those I love yous. But isn’t that how it really is in life, intimacy not always being so pretty.

Mel Mathews, is the author of several novels, including the Malcolm Clay Trilogy (Fisher King Press). His books are available from your local bookstore, a host of on-line booksellers, or you can order them directly from his website at:

© Mel Mathews - permission to reprint granted with a link back to