jungian analysis analyst john betts

The Belly of the Whale, part 2

What do we do when we find ourselves in the belly of the whale?

The crucial idea to remember is that you cannot solve your way out of the problem. By this I mean you cannot work harder, take pills, or think differently, to get yourself out of the situation. You have to wait.

It is what we do while we wait that makes all the difference.

Think of this time as a gathering in of energy. We need to be able to sit quietly, contemplate, and work with the inner world. The outer world, at this point, is relatively inaccessible to us. Remember we are in the belly of the whale.

As all of us know, when we find ourselves in a state of depression, there are characteristic behaviours and actions that we take. We tend to withdraw from the world, isolate ourselves from other people, switch off our technological connections to the society, and stay in a quiet space. We draw the blinds, and stare at the wall.

The key to being in the belly of the whale is to make sense of what’s missing or what’s wrong with the way we are living in the world. Start with the most obvious. Write down what you are thinking about. What issues have strong emotions connected to them? Have you made serious errors in the manner in which you’ve dealt with other people? Are you following a lifepath which was not of your choosing? How else would you like to live your life?

For some people in the belly of the whale, simply asking these questions initiates change. If you are able to seriously ask these questions of yourself, and have an honest answer to them, you may have begun to solve the problem of your life. But what if this approach runs dry?

You can try another method. This is the use of art. By art I do not mean something that hangs on the wall, but simply marks on paper. Get some paper or a sketch pad and some basic crayons or pencils and simply start to make shapes. Nobody cares what the shapes look like. Remember you are the only one who will ever see them anyway.

As you draw or paint or sketch, you’ll notice that time becomes elastic. What you thought was 10 minutes now becomes an hour. If you truly let yourself go in the art making process, you’ll notice a quietness come over you. It is as if you art making quenches the angry fire that has been stoked inside your soul. As you continue to use the paper, clarity begins to rise. Just as with the writing for the journalling technique described above, you begin to understand what’s wrong in your life.

Yet another process one may use in the belly up the whale is to interpret your dreams. This process has been described in detail in other sections of this website, and in the Jung podcast, available through this website as well. Another process one may use is active imagination, again discussed in detail in the Jung podcast.