Helen WalkerI bribed my best friend Ellie Morgan to come visit me in Brunswick Maine with a workshop ticket at the Maine Jung Center. The ticket was for an excitingly relevant workshop on Brazilian Myths and Fairy Tales, relevant because of Elle’s upcoming Brazilian retreat and her gorgeous baby Brazilian grandson. So we chose that over a sunny afternoon beach walk--and we both held our breath for 2 straight hours! Well, I did and she seemed to. Celia Mantovani (a practicing Jungian psychoanalyst) showed us her country’s and her own cultural, historical, and religious evolution--using stunning images, her own childhood story, and her incredibly clear storytelling. She called her story “The Mutilation of the Brazilian Soul.”
As I sit here writing, I am filled with deep sadness, but what also comes now is gratitude for this great passionate swath of truth I personally experienced on Saturday, and also gratitude for the new hope I have! Hope may seem crazy given the sense she gave us of the depth of the problem of the extreme poverty and even extremer violence. But she showed us her understanding of the way through this “unconscious stagnation” to arrive at the transformation of a culture. I believe her.
Three things affected me the most. They translated directly to my own life, and our own country’s possibilities despite the messed-up place the U.S. is in right now. I also include the rest of the world in her problematic picture that ends in positive transformation.
The first awesome thing was how she discussed the powerful force of the national fear bred from cultural archetypes in the Brazilian unconscious. The fear, stuck there, has led to deep feelings of powerlessness and finally stagnation, numbness, with no tools to change the problems. Her own childhood bedtime stories, told to all Brazilian children, still scare her she said. They scared me! They also explained how deep fear could become planted deep in a national psyche. The mutilated evil characters lurking in the jungles; the nightmarish headless mule sucking off her fingers and her eyes; the ghost of the dead blond woman appearing in her bathroom mirror were not pretend; they were as real as her school history lessons.
The second thing still affecting me is the power that cultural heroes have to create a strong, healthy nation. She showed how Brazil’s early history had no national heroes, as models and mentors. In contrast, U.S. history gave us heroes, who led us to freedom, who showed us that standing up and fighting for beliefs pay off. At this point in Celia’s workshop, it was an easy leap to think of our own lack of principled national heroes right now, and how this can and perhaps is allowing us to slip into this same fear and thus powerlessness if we let it get stuck in our national unconscious. What a gift and a necessity to see this clearly!
And finally, she told us just briefly of her theory of hope--coming from her belief that we the people, her people in Brazil and us in the U.S., can “transform our culture” through “sacrifice.” On a spiritual level, this made sense to me, just as much as the mystery of Christ makes sense. True it is not understandable, yet even so it can be true! She explained just enough to get my
hope roaring, and my imagination going into overdrive. Where there is a will, there is a way. Right?