Sunday, October 2, 2016

Reflections On An Anniversary: The Calgary Jung Society At 25

I was asked to speak about Reflections on the 25 year history of the Calgary Jung Society for a gala event held October 1, 2016. While I am only marginally qualified, given I have only been a member for eight years, what I have tried to share is a sense of the impact the Society has had on me personally, my views on it is as a small supportive community, as well as a few thoughts on its place within the broader context of our society.  This is a slightly updated version of the talk.

The reason I spoke at the gala event is because my friend Zeljko Matijevic, who is a senior Jungian Analyst in Calgary and a founding member of the Society, felt that he was not up to doing it himself. I was honoured to be asked to contribute my reflections in his place. Zeljko offered some guidance that I should write from my own perspective. Ask some questions, he said; reflection is by definition personal and unique, and our members all have their own experience and feelings associated with the Jung Society.

So I asked the audience to ‘Reflect’; to take the time to assess, to interpret, and to give careful consideration to the people, occasions and ideas that have been most meaningful to them in their time with the Society.

If we compare our own life history with that of the Society, and ask:
“Where were you in your life 25 years ago?” 
…we get to a notion of ‘what it means’ to reflect. As we ask, and probe, and focus our thoughts on what has happened and where we’ve been, we are bringing to consciousness the events and ideas that carry the most energy for us.

In our case, 25 years ago Cathy and I were fully absorbed in first half of life issues of raising a young family, dealing with challenges of career and finances, and managing our own demanding parents. Our daughter Stephanie was 3 and son Peter just a newborn. I’m sure if someone had even mentioned Carl Jung or a “Jung Society” our eyes would have glazed over and we’d have smiled and nodded with complete, exhausted ambivalence.

Yet, with the passing of years and stresses around maintaining our relationship, facing the death of a parent, and the trials of raising adolescent children, personal growth began to feel a lot less like an exciting independent adventure, and much more like “Man, Do We Need Some Help Here”.

This leads us to a second question worth considering:
“How did you come to an appreciation of the work of Carl Jung?” or, more simply, “What brought you to Jung?” Was it was an academic, theoretical meeting? Perhaps it was through the Arts? Possibly it was an experience in therapy. How did this meeting influence you? Isn’t it interesting that while there may be similarities in our journeys, in our reflections on how we got to this point and how we came together as a community -- each experience is unique; there is not one “Reflection” that one can present here, or say definitively represents our collective history; we each have a different experience.

 Skipping over the circuitous trail that led me to attend my first Jung Society lecture, I would hazard a guess that I am not alone in being drawn to Jung and to the Society by the work of James Hollis, who I first heard speak here in 2008.

Besides getting to know Dr. Hollis (call me ‘Jim’ he said) during repeat engagements in 2011 and 2013 when Cathy and I served on the board of the society, we also had the privilege to host and get to know wonderful characters like Guy Corneau, Inge Missmahl, David Miller, Ginette Paris, Michael Conforti, Lyn Cowan, and Calgary’s own beloved Josephine Evetts-Secker -- among many other distinguished thinkers and therapists. So in a not so subtle pitch to anyone considering working on the executive next year, I have to say that while it’s fun to drop these names, it was way more fun actually spending time with them.

In terms of being part of a “community”, I believe we have shared in the common challenges of personal transformation. We have over the years faced and shared our trials, joys and sorrows together. It has been comforting to see familiar faces and know that we are not alone in our struggles. At its most vibrant times, our community has been about giving and receiving in equal measure.

Beyond our immediate community, there is also an almost fantasy aspect of Jung’s ideas that exists both personally and culturally. Shadow is all over the place, and is always present in our lives. One of my earliest snippets of memory of a Jung Society speaker was of Polly Young-Eisendrath’s sultry “Helloooo Darling!” recognition and acknowledgement of shadow popping up in her life.

As is too apparent, we are seeing Shadow at work in spades in the current political milieu. In his contribution to the recent book “A Clear and Present Danger, Narcissism in The Era of Donald Trump”, Jungian Analyst Thomas Singer writes:

“In trying to piece together some of the multitudinous fragments of our collective trip with [Trump], I realize that I have been stalking a mythical beast. Each time I think that I have understood its nature, that I am close to killing or capturing it, it a reappears in another guise, perhaps even tenfold in number.”

While these might be seen as frightening times, it is encouraging to see the American Jungian community organizing and in short order publishing an important and relevant work with which to help (we hope) shape the future. We do not escape responsibility either. Do we believe that a flimsy border will protect us? And if we see Trump as only a symptom of a larger problem will we also step up and address what Singer calls “our terrible-to-behold mirror image of what we may consider our worst public face”.

An editor and driving force behind the Narcissism book is Stephen Buser, a psychiatrist who is a co-founder of the Asheville Jung Center, perhaps one of the more activist Jung focused organizations in the world. The Calgary Jung Society has participated in Asheville seminars in the past, and it seems it would be useful and important to re-establish some connections there.

 Beyond the present political hand wringing and anxiety, as we look into the future there is doubtless a trend towards the re-alignment of human labour within endeavors we call “work”. It seems possible that through artificial intelligence, robotics and a massive concentration of capital, human contributions to the means of production have the potential to become increasingly obsolete. As the notion of work changes, so we may need to change and adapt in ways we may only be able to glimpse within a very active imagination.

While technology leaps ahead forcing us into change, and as the prospect of getting paid for being alive emerges through a guaranteed income formula, we can hope that perhaps the urgency for cost effective, rapid results oriented mental health care -- typically aimed at fixing the ego and pushing it back into a productive mode -- will subside.

Arguably, in terms of psychological healing our larger society is presently restricted by the dominant worldview of clinical – behavioral theories, treatments and pharmacological therapies. While the scientific modalities are clearly not without their place, it is the Jungian perspective -- the dancing with soul, playing with archetypes, and engaging with a deeper sense of “Self” – which could drive our personal work to become more spiritual, and help more people find meaning and purpose in life. 

In wrapping up my reflections and let you contemplate your own, let us resolve to carry on; to pick up the threads woven by our founders and continue to do good work to the best of our abilities. With a nod to Huxley and Santayana, let us keep an eye to the future, but truly remember and learn from the lessons of the past.

In closing, it is time to acknowledge all those who have contributed to helping the Calgary Jung Society survive and thrive as the ongoing success that it is today. It is the analysts who have been its bedrock, foundation and guiding lights. The analysands who have provided the energy, curiosity and desire for healing and growth to keep us all engaged.

And, it is the generations of volunteers who, through good years and bad, have shared of their time, talents and at times sheer dogged persistence to bring us the extraordinary list of accomplished analysts, authors, speakers, and teachers who have graced our events. Let us reflect in gratitude on all the lives that have been touched by your efforts through your work with the Society over the years.

Thank you all. 

Frank Penkala
Calgary, Alberta

October 1, 2016

Sunday, August 29, 2010

To Overthrow the Darkness: Calling All the New Heroes

(Excerpt with permission of the author):
"Only the boldest among us can acknowledge the role that fear plays in their lives. The bold are like those captives freed from Plato's cave -- they are no longer servants to ignorance. If you are governed by fear -- and who is not -- and if you can acknowledge what it does to you, what it costs you and others for whom you care, and even the world to which you owe your best being, then you at last know, really know, to whom your final obligation belongs.

If you are still afraid, imagine your tombstone: "Here lies one who was not here, one who did not show up!" That is something to really fear; compared to this, our daily fears are trivial.

Every day, dual demons show up to make us miserable. One is fear, as we have seen, and the other is lethargy, a sweet, sibilant, seductive, susurrus that summons us to sleep. How easy to fall back into the sleep of innocence, naivete, fundamentalism of one kind or another, avoidance, rationalization, and self-deception. These demons are the enemy of life.

Yet nature has provided us with an energy greater than these intimidating and seductive beasts, if we but call upon it. What we call "the archetype of the hero" is the specific constellation of energy whose task is the overthrow of darkness. When we see, for example, images of St. George and the dragon, what is he fighting? How many dragons have you seen? What is a dragon? A dragon is an archetypal, universal image representing the devouring fearfulness of life -- that which would destroy you, or swallow you, or take you back to the cave. Sound familiar? Fear, and lethargy! So, the hero energy in you is nature's answer to the diminution and extinction of life. We are called to fight the dragon, slay its power. The dragon shows up every day, no worse for the wear, and ready to scare you back into a corner of your life, to swallow you, and to annihilate the life energy you are supposed to incarnate in this world. Whatever we are running from will sooner or later back us into the corner anyway. Sometimes, the things we fear show up in the flurry and flux of daily life, and sometimes at the hour of the wolf when we awaken to discover that not even sleep helps us hide. As poet Fleur Adcock expressed it:
It is 5 a.m. All the worse things come stalking in
And stand icily about the bed looking worse and worse and worse.
(Adcock, "Things," Poems: 1960-2000)
So, then, now you know your task: to become what the gods want, not what your parents want, not what your tribe wants, but what the gods want, and what your psyche will support if consciousness so directs. A person who can undertake a conscientious inventory will be stunned to learn how much his or her life is driven by fear, as well as the many devices we evolve to manage it. Such a person then knows, really knows, what his or her life asks. The meaning of our life will be found precisely in our capacity to achieve as much of it as is possible beyond those bounds fear would set for us. There is no blame in being fearful; it is our common lot, our common susceptibility. But it may be a crime, an impiety against the gods, when our individual summons, our destiny, is diverted or destroyed by fear. For those of us who can address this inventory, our mantra, summons, and daily discipline becomes: That Life Not Be Governed by Fear. "

Shock and Awe: That Life Not Be Governed by Fear, pages 13-15

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

A Hat Tip to Fred, Charlie, Marvin, Tom and Chris

A hat tip and thanks to Fred, Charlie, Marvin, Tom and Chris -- guys from similar industries and backgrounds, with a common "go-for-it" attitude. These are the guys taking the risks to acquire equipment and build their ventures while all around them businesses are failing, people are being laid off and economic forecasts remain grim.

Whether scrounging for capital, making their own repairs, running equipment themselves or chasing down receivables, these characters make the economy work; they understand that you have to do it yourself. No one instills a work ethic in someone else -- it comes from within. With no business school knowledge to fall back on, no government grants to leverage from, painfully little support from bankers on which to rely, these hardy types are the backbone of what one hopes is an emerging recovery.

I am happy to call them clients. I'm proud to call them friends.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Welcome Them All

Without reference to religious beliefs or political persuasions, Canadians already know what we need to do. Let's get it done.

The calamity in Haiti has led to an outpouring of support from all Canadians. The scope of the devastation has touched us and we have responded in the only immediately practical way possible -- we opened our wallets.

While the cash flow into Haiti will be of use, the prospect of years of rebuilding will mean displacement and stagnation for hundreds of thousands, if not millions of Haitians. Beyond the basic necessities of life provided in camp-type facilities the near term looks grim for health care, education and economic development.

It's time to open the doors to our amazing country. Let's bring in those who most need our help to heal and get a new start in life. With so many seriously injured, orphaned and uprooted, how can we not share our riches and resources to extend a hand up and a way out?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

It's Not 'Just Business' -- It's Personal

How many times have you heard the phrase "It's not personal, it's just business"? Do you remember who said it and how it made you feel?

Reflecting on these few words -- often uttered casually, as if self-evident, justifying or rationalizing a certain style of enterprise -- one has to wonder how much they are part of a stale ethic, a kernel of an ideology that ought to be examined more closely and challenged.

How can your business not be personal? How can it not be a reflection of who you are, what you represent and believe? When -- at what point exactly please -- is the enterprise created and shaped by your personal initiative and vision, nurtured by family financial resources and sustained by individual drive, separate from "you"? How could it be any different for your customers, clients and competitors?

Imagine if a separation between what is enterprise and what is personal were simply an illusion. And what if by 'enterprise' we also include professions, careers and vocations regardless of ownership or corporate structure? Has our thinking been poisoned by a piece of cultural mythology? Is it wrong to think that part of who we are is tied to what we do and, more importantly, how we do it?

As some form of economic recovery unfolds, let's be conscious of the personal nature of enterprise. How we interact with our clients and colleagues may mean more than the immediate success of a particular transaction. Let's be aware of our impact on individuals and families through the services we offer. It's time to engage a new ethic.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Seeking Stimulus: Where is the Support for Small & Medium Enterprises?

Even well established companies are seeing a rapid decline in their borrowing capacity due to the downturn over the last 9 months. As earnings disappear and/or losses mount, balance sheets -- and retained earnings specifically -- erode, destroying the ratios on which bank lending decisions are made.

The rapid erosion of financial statements means many prospective borrowers no longer meet bank lending criteria. Unfortunately, our federal government has funnelled most "stimulus" capital through banking channels (with the exception of BCD and EDC, who with limited additional resources, simply cannot respond in a timely manner):

To my knowledge, there has been no stimulus support at all for the 'B' and 'C' credit markets that accommodate earlier stage companies or enterprises with weaker financial results. These companies are a substantial component of the overall economy and also tend to be drivers of innovation and job creation. Besides the higher risk leasing funds we offer, broader scale funding support and incentives need to be made available to the companies still willing to move forward in this environment; there is an urgent need to find higher risk funds for promising ventures -- before they fade away.

Another concern, based on what we are seeing in the leasing industry -- primarily through the resolutions of principal underwriter Sun Life -- is a virtual moratorium on equipment refinancing. This restriction on lending means equity in equipment cannot be freed up to help operators with current liquidity challenges (including paying taxes). The freeze on refinancing is across the board, regardless of corporate or personal financial strength, or the verifiable equity levels in the equipment. Supporting refinancing of working assets (based on readily available, published liquidation values) would be an easy way to create real stimulus with limited cost and government involvement.

Have you seen any evidence of government stimulus in the small to medium enterprise market? Please let me know -- perhaps I am missing something.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Is it a Sucker's Recovery?

Almost as quickly as value was destroyed in the crash it has come back in an impressive 'bounce'. Beyond just a Sucker's Rally in the stock market will this be a Sucker's Recovery faking out manufacturers and producers who may be starting to consider ramping up operations?

Money "evaporated" during the crash. The objective measure of value of companies and commodities was 'disappeared' by the market. Sure, some of the re-pricing was in real dollars as there were timely counter-trades -- some clever and/or lucky people had options or sold short to protect themselves. The vast majority of value, however, just went 'poof': A complete pricing reset.

A smart government might recognize that to get away with printing money to provide stimulus, it might be prudent to replace the money that was 'disappeared' with fresh, newly minted currency. That is, the government needed to buy into the store of value in the economy (companies & commodities) in such a way as to not create inflation. How? Slowly put a floor under the markets, quietly buying up everything and anything that resembles value. (Markets up 30%, Oil up 80%, etc, etc) A floor needed to be established to enable pricing to come back over the cost of replacement / production. We're close to that now I think.

Short term, is the market over-cooked? Probably... But watch for huge profits at Goldman Sachs and similar gov't instruments over the next few quarters -- they'll always know first which way the breeze is blowing and act in advance of the general market and Joe-the-Sucker. Government is not just supporting the banks as Kessler suggests below. They are using the big bank brokerages to re-establish value platforms in the markets.

Long term, despite likely dips and cooling periods, this may be some smart government coordination that was possibly the only way out of a complete system failure. Another guess? The Harper Crew completely missed the opportunity.

(thanks Peter)

Was It a Sucker's Rally?
You can have a jobless recovery but you can't have a profitless one.
May 12, 2009

The Dow Jones Industrial Average has bounced an astounding 30% from its March 9 low of 6547. Is this the dawn of a new era? Are we off to the races again?

I'm not so sure. Only a fool predicts the stock market, so here I go. This sure smells to me like a sucker's rally. That's because there aren't sustainable, fundamental reasons for the market's continued rise. Here are three explanations for the short-term upswing:

- Armageddon is off the table. It has been clear for some time that the funds available from the federal government's Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) were not going to be enough to shore up bank balance sheets laced with toxic assets.

On Feb. 10, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner rolled out another, much hyped bank rescue plan. It was judged incomplete -- and the market sold off 382 points in disgust.
Citigroup stock flirted with $1 on March 9. Nationalizations seemed inevitable as bears had their day.

Still, the Treasury bought time by announcing on the same day as Mr. Geithner's underwhelming rescue plan that it would conduct "stress tests" of 19 large U.S. banks. It also implied, over time, that no bank would fail the test (which was more a negotiation than an audit). And when White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel clearly stated on April 19 that nationalization was "not the goal" of the administration, it became safe to own financial stocks again.

It doesn't matter if financial institution losses are $2 trillion or the pessimists' $3.6 trillion. "No more failures" is policy. While the U.S. government may end up owning maybe a third of the equity of Citi and Bank of America and a few others, none will be nationalized. And even though future bank profits will be held back by constant write downs of "legacy" assets (we don't call them toxic anymore), the bears have backed off and the market rallied -- Citi is now $4.

- Zero yields. The Federal Reserve, by driving short-term rates to almost zero, has messed up asset allocation formulas. Money always seeks its highest risk-adjusted return. Thus in normal markets if bond yields rise they become more attractive than risky stocks, so money shifts. And vice versa. Well, have you looked at your bank statement lately?

Savings accounts pay a whopping 0.2% interest rate -- 20 basis points. Even seven-day commercial paper money-market funds are paying under 50 basis points. So money has shifted to stocks, some of it automatically, as bond returns are puny compared to potential stock returns. Meanwhile, both mutual funds and hedge funds that missed the market pop are playing catch-up -- rushing to buy stocks.

- Bernanke's printing press. On March 18, the Federal Reserve announced it would purchase up to $300 billion of long-term bonds as well as $750 billion of mortgage-backed securities. Of all the Fed's moves, this "quantitative easing" gets money into the economy the fastest -- basically by cranking the handle of the printing press and flooding the market with dollars (in reality, with additional bank credit). Since these dollars are not going into home building, coal-fired electric plants or auto factories, they end up in the stock market.

A rising market means that banks are able to raise much-needed equity from private money funds instead of from the feds. And last Thursday, accompanying this flood of new money, came the reassuring results of the bank stress tests.

The next day Morgan Stanley raised $4 billion by selling stock at $24 in an oversubscribed deal. Wells Fargo also raised $8.6 billion that day by selling stock at $22 a share, up from $8 two months ago. And Bank of America registered 1.25 billion shares to sell this week. Citi is next. It's almost as if someone engineered a stock-market rally to entice private investors to fund the banks rather than taxpayers.

Can you see why I believe this is a sucker's rally?

The stock market still has big hurdles to clear. You can have a jobless recovery, but you can't have a profitless recovery. Consider: Earnings are subpar, Treasury's last auction was a bust because of weak demand, the dollar is suspect, the stimulus is pork, the latest budget projects a $1.84 trillion deficit, the administration is berating investment firms and hedge funds saying "I don't stand with them," California is dead broke, health care may be nationalized, cap and trade will bump electric bills by 30% . . . Shall I go on?

Until these issues are resolved, I don't see the stock market going much higher. I'm not disagreeing with the Fed's policies -- but I won't buy into a rising stock market based on them. I'm bullish when I see productivity driving wealth.

For now, the market appears dependent on a hand cranking out dollars to help fund banks. I'd rather see rising expectations for corporate profits.

Mr. Kessler, a former hedge-fund manager, is the author of "How We Got Here" (Collins, 2005).