Allow me to share two difficult stories around the theme of re-integration this week. Carl Jung recognized three stages in the process of psychological individuation that are closely tied with the three phases of the hero cycle or the three stages of rites of passage cycles. For Jung these three stages of individuation include: integration, disintegration, and reintegration. The story of Isis descending to retrieve and reassemble the dismembered parts of her brother-husband Osiris well illustrates this process.
We may feel as if we are whole until some disruptive experience dismembers us and we feel we have “fallen to pieces.” Then we must “pick up the pieces” and “put ourselves back together again,” resulting in a new self with regard to difficulties we have faced.
On NPR on Saturday, I listened to a story that reminded me of this theme of Jungian reintegration. A mother, Sarah, was dealt the worst blow life has to offer: one of her two twin sons, Caleb, died from a genetic illness. Sarah donated Caleb’s body to science. Yet she found she could not leave it at that; two years later Sarah followed up on where various body parts of her beloved son were delivered and to what use they were being put. She found that Caleb’s cornea was still in use in studies of infant blindness; DNA studies comparing her two twins’ blood samples had revealed thousands of discrepancies of an epigenetic nature; and Caleb’s retina was a valuable resource in a Philadelphia study of infant illnesses.
In tracing what had happened with her son’s donated parts, Sarah was re-integrating her very memory of Caleb. He had not died without purpose or consequence, and Sarah’s decision to donate his young body to science had served more than to alleviate her own suffering. Sarah summed it up nicely:
“The choices you make affect others.”
images are from pixabay.com
The second story I wish to share is as grim as Sarah’s. Just yesterday while driving on an interstate highway to Denver, I passed a male deer which had just been struck by a vehicle. It was terrible. The deer had been impacted at its rear so that both of its rear legs were broken. I pulled off The highway to call the state police. That poor deer was scraping itself off from the highway shoulder, in terrible agony. He could not survive for long in that condition. The state troopers would euthanize this Soul’s mortal body. I knew this was the only way for this Deer Soul to return to wholeness spiritually, though it could never return to its physical family. I stayed until the troopers arrived, sending what peace and love I could to the struggling animal.
Reintegration is a reassembling of parts of the Self which may have been lost or dismembered through crisis. As we pick up the pieces we go forward with what we have left, hopefully contributing to others from the lessons we have gained from our ordeals, so that others may suffer less down the road.
These stories are grim indeed. But they remind us of how life may also deal harsh experience. Yet, the hero cycle or rites of passage allow the process of individuation to be always an upward spiral of growth and purpose.
I welcome always your comments and stories.