Jung sought to capture both the stable core part of self in the house, the abode. The various depictions of the figure were inspired by the transient emotional states Jung experiences in a given day. As an adjunct professor at University of San Francisco discussing emotion and motivation with my students this week, and as a therapist, it is powerful how emotion can serve as both a catalyst and a barrier. On a meta level, emotions drove Jung's attempts to capture his emotional world in a concrete form to better understand the operation of it.
It is said that positive emotions such as happiness and joy broaden one's world. This is seen on a neurochemical level with the release of dopamine during anticipation. In experiencing an eagerness for something to happen, activation in the limbic system increases the likelihood of behavioral engagement towards reward. Yet the daily hassles to living can short circuit access to reward on a behavioral level and on a brain chemistry level.
When we begin to attend to the negatives of daily living rather than the positives, the impact of daily hassles can take over. Research finds that hassles such as bad traffic and long lines can lead to psychoneuroimmunological impact akin to chronic stressors: impact on perspective, brain synapses and neurotransmitter levels, and on immune system functioning. To retain a point to living, a joy to living, focus daily on what one is grateful for: attend to the positive. Work through the hassles of life, the cruel ironies, the senselessness, with art and humor and conversations with good friends.
Separate from the impact of daily hassles, emotions can also serve a darker role directly and indirectly. Avoidance of uncomfortable emotions can drive unhealthy behaviors like alcohol use, poor food choices or procrastination. Fear, frequently a reflexive emotion, can drive the very actions that induce what is feared. For example, when fearing social rejection people might avoid social situations or a needed assertive conversation, thus creating a scenario ripe for rejection.
Metaphor can serve to de-personalize life experiences to make them more manageable, more accessible, and even allow for needed re-interpretation. Art is one mechanism by which to access metaphor (either in the viewing, listening, or creation). Metaphor, in creating links between seemingly unrelated objects or events, increases flexibility in thinking and a fluidity to navigating emotional states and life. It can become easier to attend to the positive and to accept the negative for what it might promote in terms of resiliency.
For today, take on a novel task. Draw, make a list of five things you are grateful for, stop by a museum, call an old friend.... These are all tools that will capture a new perspective on the daily grind. Release some dopamine by generating anticipation and hope. Take a step in approaching what you might fear. And good luck!