What does it mean when you simply can’t get it out of your head? It might be a thought, a desire, a hunger, a person, an object, or an incident.
The energetic charge of our fixations is experienced as strong emotion and mental perseveration. This is the fire of an activated archetype outwardly projected and inwardly fixated. Some deep need is stirring and we are drawn involuntarily to its projection, the flame of our fixation.
Projection is automatic, that is, unconscious. We don’t choose to project, it happens to us. We are not at fault, for instance, if we are attracted to the wrong person. Attraction happens. Nature is ruthless in pursuit of its aims, in this case, blindly bringing a couple together for union.
Caught in the flame of desire the ego is overwhelmed. The intensity of the energetic charge may at once be both threatening and exciting. After all, archetypes transcend our civilized exterior; they reach down to the primordial core of our being and flood us with bursts of living energy. How do we keep ourselves afloat in such a precarious state?
In the hexagram of The Well, the I Ching makes clear that we all need to partake of the living water that lies beneath the surface of the Earth. The well is the human connection to that living energy below. Humans must build the well. Psychically, the ego is the well. As humans we are charged with building and managing our relationship with our archetypal core, what Jung called the collective unconscious.
In the case of fixation, the ego builds its well through its response to archetypal activation. A hasty reaction may be equivalent to jumping in the well and drowning! An overly suppressive reaction may refuse the bucket that brings up the living water from below.
Often the ego lends its mental manipulative powers, such as through rationalization, to further the aim of the archetype while naively assuming it is doing ‘the right thing’. Only deeply contemplative inner truth will reveal the right action called for.
Often the ego protects itself from rejection and defeat through rationalization turned against the self in some cognitive permutation of unworthiness. Perhaps this is a necessary defense, as the ego hones its ability to regulate the impact of archetypal energy.
We too easily forget that the ego, with its consciousness, is a very recent acquisition for humankind. Before its arrival we shared, with all other animals, life completely directed by archetypes, with no conscious choice available. No wonder we are so flustered when an archetype is activated. How fragile our conscious footing amidst such intensively charged directives!
The ego can choose to bear the tension of the archetype. In recovery programs guidance is given to examine people, places, and things. In early recovery, particularly, the archetypal energetic power of the desired object is respected by avoiding known associations to it. Further, one turns to a trusted sponsor, the program, or a higher power to strengthen one’s resolve to bear the tension vs succumb to habitual addiction.
Spiritual traditions all stress restraint, sacrifice, and detachment as the technology to manage archetypal fixation. Unfortunately, this technology, valuable as it is, does not address the need to fully partake in our humanness while in human form. Yes, we are spirit beings, but we are spirit beings in human bodies with deep archetypal roots in this Earth. We must build our wells to draw our nurturance from that underground river of living energy.
If we can’t bear the tension and either jump into the well or refuse the call we needn’t judge ourselves negatively. All experience accrues, adding to eventual ego enlightenment. When we are ready, when the ego has been sufficiently moulded to be in the truth, we can align our intent with that of the heart, our personal conduit to our higher spirit.
From this place of heart centeredness we know the truth and allow ourselves to be in the Tao. Being in the Tao means knowing that our lives are unfolding to express and fulfill all that we are and that projections are stirrings to find outlets for that fulfillment. However, often projections are simply reflections, not what is actually needed. The heart, in its quiet calm, will tell us the truth.
Aligning with this truth we have the certainty that life will bring to us the real deal. And with that we will be led to draw the water from our living well, our fixations realized in their highest form.
Constructing the well,