Dissertation Topic: Bowen and Vipassanā

My idea for a dissertation topic is a conglomeration of ideas that make up my world view and personal psychology. It is an integration of what seems to be the most important forces governing our lives.

The idea is simple: to find a literary correlation showing that Murray Bowen was getting at the same thing as the historical Buddha. Bowen’s construct of differentiation of self in Family Systems Theory could equal the Buddha’s construct of equanimity in Vipassanā. If true, this could provide a key bridge between the science of the West and millennia of wisdom of the East. The implications are vast, and worthy of a book let alone a dissertation.

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Attachment and Differentiation

I’ve always wondered exactly how attachment theory fit into Bowen Theory. For example, how does Bowen reconcile the similar sibling attachment styles described in Attachment Theory? How would Attachment Theory describe “unresolved symbiosis with the primary caregiver?” Writing this paper gave me the chance to find out.

EDIT: This paper is followed by Accounting for Varying Attachment Presentations, which follows up with a tighter examination of the topic using peer-reviewed studies and includes more details about what can and cannot be compared between the two theories.

Attachment and Differentiation: The Role of Attachment in the Pathological Family System

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Tolkien’s Depths

How Jungian of him. This, the “Hithlum passage,” from Morgoth’s Ring as well as Quenta Silmarillion:

But the cry of Morgoth in that hour was the greatest and most dreadful cry that was ever heard in the northern wold: the mountains shook, and the earth trembled, and rocks were riven asunder. Deep in forgotten places that cry was heard. Far beneath the halls of Angband, in vaults to which the Valar in the haste of their assault had not descended, the Balrogs lurked still, awaiting ever the return of their lord. Swiftly they arose, and they passed with winged speed over Hithlum, and the came to Lammoth as a tempest of fire.

There are other passages in QS that echo this reach into the depths. But I can’t remember them now.

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The Process of Spring

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I hope I don’t get in trouble for copyright violation with these little snippets. Hopefully this site will get such little traffic that the message will get across to interested parties without causing problems!

I like this little passage from the forward of The History of Middle Earth part three, where Christopher is pointing out a period of pronounced creativity for his Father, followed by a satisfaction of a job well done having completed a part of his “task”. So what was the task? Why pour hours and weeks and years into such a rich and deep project? Surely there is something in the process that yields more than just a nice story to tell your kids? In the same way, why am I constantly pulled back to reading the majesty of the Valar and tragedy of the elves and mysteries of Men? So far, reading The History seems to give a little more insight into that process.

I am interested in Tolkien’s process and purpose of writing as much as the content of his stories. For me, finding the underlying meaning of the images and their effect and applicability in my life is really what it’s all about. Although I confess that reading Tolkien also provides a nice and entertaining break from other psychological reading while retaining plenty of fuel for intuitive analysis.

It takes a lot of extra energy to extract answers to those questions from the Tolkiens’ work while Jung and Campbell address them directly. But for some reason Tolkien senior seems to provide the best content for practicing the type of dissection and analysis that can be learned from people like Jung and Campbell.

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Creation as Awakening

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Eskimo, Greenland. From the book Light On Land, pp 65.

Tolkien’s Ainulindale immediately come to mind. The insertion of subordinate consciousness into primordial darkness. The feeling out of the world by the first being(s). The original rejection of evil. The creation of the stars from an earthly source, and finally the awareness of the origination of darkness and the majesty of the light.

The Elves being born in middle earth under the stars is possibly my favorite concept of Tolkien’s stories. There’s something about their existence in the dark and the sensitivity that comes with it that speaks to me heart. It’s as if they were born into the unconscious with a deeper awareness of subtle things. Maybe it’s because I am from Alaska and no summer or daylight experience is as vast as the darkness of winter, or maybe there is a more collective archetype at work here. Either way, the star-lit origin of the elves, and the persistence of the dark elves in particular, speak to my heart.

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In-finite Water

Then the Ainur marvelled to see how the world was globed amid the void and yet separated from it; and they rejoiced to see light, and found it was both white and golden, and the laughed for the pleasure if colors, and for the great roaring of the ocean they were filled with longing. Their hearts were glad because of air and the winds, and the matters whereof the Earth was made – iron and stone and silver and gold and many substances: but of all these water was held the fairest and most goodly and most greatly praised. Indeed there liveth still in water a deeper echo of the Music of the Ainur than in any substance else that is in the world, and at this latest day many of the Sons of Men will hearken unsatedly to the voice of the Sea and long for they know not what. – History of Middle Earth I, pp 56 – The Music of the Ainur

This passage is very similar to the version in the Ainulindalë (Silmarillion, ch1), and has always stuck out for me. Why the water? Because it is seamlessly fluid, and so most like the ultimate reality of all things? Or because the sound itself is so intricate and full of clean noise (in the sound design context). After all, the sound of water might be considered close infinite vibrations sounding on infinite particle impacts at infinite angles, whereas the sound of a sharp metal pin hitting a flat metal plate is closer to a single vibration from a single impact.

I wonder what this means for Ulmo, Lord of Waters? Does Jung have a water, and an Ulmo?

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Snow On The Desert

This morning I was visited by a memory of watching the movie Jeremiah Johnson as a kid. Something that stuck with me was how there was snow in the desert. Until then, I imagined the desert as a hot place with snakes, spiders, and sand dunes. Finding out that there is snow even in “the desert” hinted at the fact that there was more to the story. I was compelled to look deeper.

…which somehow reminds me of the beauty and spirit of ‘merica. “The greatest country on earth.” Hmmm. While I am not a fan of a building the collective ego, there are strains of truth to that label as there are in the soul of every person that loves their heritage. It seems like the feeling of those real, pure, and truth-full values are just what the world needs.But stagnation is always a danger. I might rephrase that proclamation to “Loving your heritage is one of the greatest things on earth.” The kingdom of heaven within, yada yada yada. After all, a political state is just a blink in history’s eye, while love for one’s heritage endures well beyond the person’s death.

AMERICAN VALUES
  • Forging one’s own destiny. Work hard, be honest, and you will succeed. ADD: Owning the responsibility of your own experience. Loss (an fear) of community. FAULTS: Egocentricity; The belief that “we’ve made it”. Inability to rely on (and trust in) others.
  • The vastness of the West. Expanse of the unknown. Charging into darkness. Opportunity. The wild west and ADD: It’s easy to get comfortable. Snow in the desert (of the west); Watching Jeremiah Johnson. Alaska is the new west FAULTS: Loss of the past. Less than 3 generations of cultural memory.
  • The “United States”. Connection, Unity, Harmony. ADD: Islam also means ‘Peace’.
  • Simplicity. Country. “Folks” ADD: Less is more. Stick to the core.
  • Demanding Proof. “Show me the money”. ADD: FAULTS: Stuck in the concrete. Loss of the irrational.

Some soul:

    http://tinyurl.com/o954t2f


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ExAM8D7cfbII find it entertaining and heart-warming that the topic of American soul always brings me back to Hunter S. Thompson’s search for the American Dream in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. While his search was tragic and sometimes nauseating, he was looking hard for the truth.And boy, I’ll buy that for a dollar in a styrofoam cup….

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Eärendil, nexus of the times

I seem to gravitate toward finding the most significant character in Arda, and there are quite a few. Is it Beren and Luthien, as they represent the last trace of light in the darkest time of Middle Earth? Or Feanor, as the greatest of all the Children of Illuvatar? Or Turin because of his Christ-like suffering and right of meeting Melkor in battle in The End at Dagor Dagorath?

Who knows, but at the moment, I am placing my attention on Eärendil. He was the original character that Tolkien began with in The Cottage of Lost Play (History of Middle Earth 1), and represents all bloodlines (Men, Elves, Maiar) that sits at the nexus of the old and new worlds at the end of the First Age.

It will be fun to uncover the symbolism of Eärendil and look for traces of this character in other myths.

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