Everything is Broken

There’s a great article in Pajamas Media about Mr. Zimmerman. The link is here:

How Bob Dylan checked out of the culture war.


I started listening to Dylan around the same time that I was reading Jung. Dylan’s lyrics are interesting in many ways, but surprisingly in light of Jungian thought. Bob’s earlier stuff is often times less personal, more collective. Blowin’ in the Wind, The Times They Are a Changin‘, A Hard Rain’s A Gonna Fall, all touch upon cultural issues of their day. Yes, there are songs from his earlier writing that are more personal, but they aren’t nearly as personal as any of the songs that would come a few years later in the Blood On the Tracks period and thereafter.

One of the things I truly admire about Dylan’s writing is that when viewed chronologically you get a sense of the personal transformation that was and still is ongoing through the years of his life. Gradually his youthful protests that once so easily placed blame for the state of the world at authority figures (i.e., the mothers, fathers, senators and congressman he tells us about in The Times They Are a Changin’), who exemplify corruption and greed have been transformed into wrestling matches with personal deamons.

His later writing displays a much greater willingness to expose his own personal shortcomings and limitations that are a part of the human condition, and he gradually moves into a place where it is possible  to make one’s peace with the past as well as the human condition. Every Grain of Sand expresses very well the direction Bob is going by the late 1970’s.

I don’t know how true it is but I read that Bob underwent a Jungian analysis sometime after the breakup of his marriage. More to the point is that Bob, as many of us have, has gone through some sort of personal transformation, and happily for us has a wonderful gift for displaying his reflections through his songs.

The point of comparison to Jung is to acknowledge a big debt that I owe to his ideas. Jung’s differentiation between a collective unconscious and personal unconscious were very helpful to me for gaining insight into my inability to make clear distinctions between what was and was not within my power to choose, change or ignore; what was me and not me.

In his own words here is a definition of the terms:

“The collective unconscious is part of the psyche which can be negatively distinguished from a personal unconscious by the fact that it does not, like the latter, owe its existence to personal experience and consequently is not a personal acquisition. While the personal unconscious is made up essentially of contents which have at one time been conscious but which have disappeared from consciousness through having been forgotten or repressed, the contents of the collective unconscious have never been individually acquired, but owe their existence exclusively to heredity.”

Whether or not it can be proven that the contents of the collective unconscious “owe their existence to heredity” in a literal genetic sense, the idea is most useful. The collective unconscious is made up of archetypal contents. Archetypes can be understood as impersonal aspects, from Wiki:

“innate universal psychic dispositions that form the substrate from which the basic symbols or representations of unconscious experience emerge.”

What I eventually came to realize is that ideas are bigger than me and not only inside but outside me as well. Not every thing that enters your thoughts and feelings and ideas about life is a personal creation. Many, if not most ideas and influences come to us from outside our personal existence. It is as if we are born with the ability to carry within us psychic content that influences us in not so conscious ways. Jung had names for what he thought of as primary archetypes: self, shadow, anima, animus, and these too are useful ideas. I think though that one does not have to study specific archetypes in order to appreciate that psychically we are influenced by archetypal shapes, or rather, that an aspect of our reality is archetypally shaped.

From any understanding of Jung’s ideas along with some time spent with a depth psychologist what I became aware of was a consistent and crippling failure on my part to be able to differentiate between what and who I perceived others to be from who I was, which kept me from developing personal authenticity, and a clear sense of self and other. It was as if I was constantly trying to be everyone else, in order to know them and as a result absorbed all of the fear and hostility that I so easily sensed in people and the world around me into my being.

My life had been so shaped for such a long time that I was utterly defenseless. Somewhere in my early 30’s the only thing left for me to do was hole up in my room where I did much reading and writing, trying to make my peace with being alone. This was not to last for too long though. After a three year old relationship ended, the bottom fell out.

So, I ventured back out into the big old world and did what I had always done, I joined another church.

3 thoughts on “Everything is Broken

  1. Blood on the Tracks showed up on my radar in my early twenties. He is a Gemini with Sag Rising and the degree of his Sun falls on my soul point. He remains an important touchstone and Blood on the Tracks is a timeless soundtrack to my journey.


  2. Simply fascinating. But I’d expect no less from you, D. The world would be a far different place if we all considered this. Sadly, most of us do not even realize this is something to look at:

    “to make clear distinctions between what was and was not within my power to choose, change or ignore; what was me and not me.”

    That is some testimony, how you chameleoned yourself so much, allowed others to push past and into your boundaries so that you ended up absorbing their fears, much of their essence. The trick is to be able to serve and benefit others without losing our own definition, right?


    1. Thank you so much Diana for your note.
      Yes, the struggle to differentiate between self and other is so vital to be able to stay open to others needs and see both myself and others more clearly, enough to love without expectations.


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