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Fight Club: An Example of a Schizophrenic Process


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The following series of posts were written by me elsewhere but I decided to drag them into this space because...

- It may help people who have experienced psychosis to better understand their own experience.

- It may help family and friends who are attempting to support someone who has been through psychosis to better understand that experience.

The beauty of using a movie to help explain this process is that many people have seen the movie or can easily rent it from their local movie store. Also, even though it may touch on some common ground, it's not my experience or your experience and sometimes it can be easier to speak of such things when there's a bit of distance. In spite of which, any readers should be aware that the film contains some disturbing scenes.

I will be using a Jungian method of interpretation so I'll also drag in a few props that can help serve as an introduction to the Jungian model of the psyche. In addition, I'll quote others where it may be helpful and try to leave plenty of links behind that others can follow up on if they wish to know more in that particular area.

It will probably take me awhile to construct this thread in its entirety and it might be helpful if no one else posts in it until that is done. If you do have a question of comment, I'll respectfully request that you hold off on it until I can type: THE END.

Thank you.

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With your feet in the air

and your head on the ground

Try this trick and spin it, yeah

Your head will collapse

But there's nothing in it

And you'll ask yourself

Where is my mind?

Where is my mind?

Where is my mind?

Way out in the water

See it swimmin'

I was swimmin' in the Caribbean

Animals were hiding

behind the rocks

Except the little fish

But they told me, he swears

Tryin' to talk to me, coy koi.

Where is my mind?

Where is my mind?

Where is my mind?

Way out in the water

See it swimmin'

With your feet in the air

and your head on the ground

Try this trick and spin it, yeah

Your head will collapse

If there's nothing in it

And you'll ask yourself

Where is my mind?

Where is my mind?

Where is my mind?

Oh

With your feet in the air

and your head on the ground

Oh

Try this trick and spin it, yeah

Oh

Oh

Music of the Hour: The Pixies - Where is My Mind?

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An Introduction to Some Jungian Terms...

I'll try to keep this simple but it will be necessary to grasp some Jungian basics in order to understand this thread. Unfortunately, this forum doesn't allow the posting of images but clicking this link will allow you to view a basic map of The Jungian Model of the Psyche.

An overview

The Persona: For most of us, if were to try and define "who we are" we would present ourselves as our Persona. To a large extent this is the face we present to the world. It is closely related to what we call the ego -- our sense of self-identity. This sense of self-identity arises out of our relationships with others, the roles we play and our beliefs about ourselves and the world we live in (e.g. wife, father, engineer, Christian, Democrat, easy-going, etc.). This smaller sense of identity is often referred to as the little self in Jungian psychology to differentiate it from the larger Self.

The Ego: The ego is more than just our sense of identity; it also serves as a function that separates our Persona from the remainder of the total psyche. As a function, it mediates what will be allowed to pass through from the deeper personal and collective unconscious.

The Shadow: This is the place where we store all the ugly, shameful, painful bits. In many instances, the ego will serve to keep aspects of the shadow repressed and out of consciousness, such as a past trauma or an emotion you feel ashamed of. This repressed material may relate to personal experience, cultural experience, or the collective experience of humanity. In spite of the barrier put in place by the ego, the shadow works as a very powerful force in our lives. In some cases, it is possible to become possessed by our shadow. We're going to see evidence of Shadow Possession in the film.

The Anima/Animus: According to Jung, every human being contains an inner being that is opposite to its exterior gender. If you are a male, this inner feminine is referred to as the anima; if you are a female, your inner masculine is referred to as the animus. We most often encounter our own anima or animus in the form of projection although the anima/animus may also make itself known through dream and fantasy.

Mana Personality: Mana personalities are very powerful archetypal patterns that are closely aligned with the Self. Historically, priests, shamans, medicine men/women, etc. have been said to represent mana personalities because they possess great, sometimes supernatural knowledge.

The Self: We could compare this part of the psyche to the sun at the center of the Universe; all psychic life flows from it -- it is the center of our psychic Universe. However, just as we once believed that the Sun revolved around the Earth, the little self (ego) sometimes suffers from the belief that the Self revolves around it! Discovering that our personas/egos are not the center of the Universe can be a very humbling, painful experience and one that most of us would prefer to avoid if at all possible.

=================================================

Now, we're going to meet the characters in the film and see where they fit upon the model above.

Jack: Jack is played by Edward Norton who serves as the protagonist and narrator to the film. Jack corresponds with the Persona/Ego.

Tyler Durden: Tyler is played by Brad Pitt. He serves as Jack's Shadow. The larger portion of the film is focused upon this relationship between Jack as Persona/Ego and Tyler as Shadow. Tyler is a dark, ominous, even evil character yet he also adds strength to Jack's psyche and serves as an important teacher to him.

Marla Singer: This character is played by Helen Bonham Carter. Marla serves as Jack's projected Anima. For much of the film, Jack's relationship to Marla is mediated through the shadow of Tyler.

Bob: Played by Meatloaf. It's through his relationship with Bob that Jack begins to relate to his emotional life and inner turmoil. Bob serves as a Mana Personality that will help Jack come into relationship with his Self -- the true center of his psyche. It's important to note that Bob is a male who has undergone surgery and hormone treatment for testicular cancer. Like a hermaphrodite or androgynous being, these treatments have rendered him both male and female; as a result, he represents the opposites united as one.

~*~

With those basics in place we can now turn to the movie itself with Jack serving as the narrator of his own story. Like all stories of this type we should expect that details will be jumbled and muddled together, not even Jack understands what is happening to him. Some of the most important details are spoken as whispers or offhand comments and it can be easy to miss them but as we move through "his story" we're going to begin to understand that Jack's outer world is reliant upon his inner relationships with his Shadow, Anima and Self...

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Establishing a Timeline: Baseline - Meeting Jack

The movie begins with the end and relies on a number of flashbacks that serve to reconstruct the story of Jack's experience. Once we've seen the movie we can establish that at the beginning, Jack was for all intensive purposes, a "normal" person. We know little of his early life but we do learn that his father abandoned the family when Jack was quite young. Later in the film Tyler remarks that fathers are like Gods and if our fathers abandoned us, then what does that say about God?

We can surmise that Jack lacked a father role model in his formative years and further speculate that his mother may have tried to take this on. This may have produced a double form of abandonment if the dual roles of nurturer/provider left his mother with little time to give to Jack. None of this would necessarily be enough to produce significant trauma but like Achilles and his heel, it may have left Jack with a weak spot in the shielding armor of his persona/personality development.

Jack describes himself as a "30 year-old boy" who is a "slave to his IKEA nesting instinct". In the early parts of the movie, Jack's home is displayed to the viewer, including the cost of each item. At one point he ponders, "Which dining room table best represents who I am?" Within a Jungian framework it's important to understand that a house/home serves as a symbol of the self. In displaying his home to the viewer, Jack is also displaying the image he has carefully crafted and invested in. It's a nice home: Clean, straight, orderly, well-orchestrated and magazine-perfect to the point of near sterility.

Jack also laments the materialization and consumer mindset of modern life, suggesting that mass marketing and commercialization is due to soon move into the outer limits of the larger universe -- Starbucks billboards on the moon. Jack sees the shallowness and lack of purpose in his life. This creates a sense of emptiness in him with an accompanying hunger for something more meaningful. This makes Jack discontent and perhaps ripe for a life crisis, but it doesn't make him schizophrenic.

Jack also has a job -- working for a large automobile manufacturer. In a later scene in the film we see Jack surveying a car made by the company he works for. The car had been involved in a horrifying crash and an entire family had burned to death in the interior as a result of a suspected manufacturing fault. Jack lingers over key details of their final anguished moments.

As an employee, it's Jack's task to assess whether it will cost the company more to issue a recall and fix the fault than it will to negotiate a settlement with any remaining, grieving family members. His employers have provided him with an impartial mathematical formula to determine the value of human life which he is expected to use as part of his assessment. We should not overlook that as a result of its prestige and power, the auto manufacter serves as a patriarchal authority figure with the apparent ability to determine the worth of human life. We could easily imagine Tyler's voice here: Fathers are like Gods and if our fathers abandoned us, then what does that say about God?

In most every individual I've encountered since my own experience they nearly all relate a triggering event or series thereof that preceded their fragmentation crisis. In Jack's case, the trauma of seeing that car, identifying with the anguish of the human family it once contained, and the impartial regard for human life exhibited by the patriarchal authority figure of his employer seems to have served as the triggering event that foreshadowed the collapse of his ego...

Edited by spiritual_emergency
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Stage One: Egoic Breakdown

Jack begins to have difficulty sleeping. He goes to see a doctor and begs him for some medication that would allow him to get a good night's rest but the doctor -- almost coldly in retrospect -- dismisses him with the admonishment that he should seek out natural sources of aid. It's important to know that sleep deprivation is associated with psychotic states of consciousness and it's here that we begin to see evidence that Jack's ego is breaking down.

This stage would correspond with the 'prodromal' phase of a schizophrenic breakdown/fragmentation crisis. As the Ego begins to break down under the stress and strain experienced by the Persona it seems to lose the ability to serve as a filter or container to the contents of the unconscious, which now begin to break through. The astute observer will first see Tyler appear for a flash of a second when Jack is standing next to the photocopier at work. In my own case, this was when music or select stages of prose suddenly became of critical importance. I've speculated that people who experience "thought insertion" may be undergoing a similar process as thoughts and beliefs which are alien and do not seem to belong to them are thrust into their consciousness without their conscious consent for a seemingly inexplicable purpose.

What is Schizophrenia?

A good question, with no simple, short, or straightforward answer, since each sufferer is unique and schizophrenia is a complex phenomenon. In general, schizophrenia is an extremely introverted, psychospiritual mode of perception, or way of relating to the world; or state of consciousness involving (what I have called) 'extreme empathy'. This simultaneous blessing and curse is due to a fragile, fragmented, dead, or lost ego, or conscious personality structure. The normal, ego-enforced boundaries between the self and the world have broken down, such that schizophrenia sufferers - for better and worse - find themselves identifying with everything within their scope of perception.

It is because of this ego loss, or 'dis-integration' that psychosis, shamanic initiation and mystical experience are so inextricably bound. The schizophrenic person may appear to family, friends and doctors to be lacking in emotion, but in reality is in a state of intense empathy, such that extreme sensations of joy and fear are usual. Because of their fragile personal boundaries, schizophrenic folk typically see, hear, sense, perceive and understand things that others are unaware of. Secret, or symbolic meanings are seen and heard in everything, and the schizophrenia sufferer typically feels responsible for the fate of the world.

Is Schizophrenia 'Split Personality'?

Yes . . . and No! Imagine, if you will, that a 3-levelled house represents the structure of the psyche. The top floor, consisting of various linked rooms, represents consciousness, in all its bustling, interacting complexity. Immediately below is the cellar, which represents the personal unconscious, or dark 'shadow' side of the personality. The lowest level, the basement, is the oldest part of the house and contains dim, godlike and archaic figures, personifications of what Jung called 'archetypes', universally occurring, powerful energies and forms of behaviour and thought, which make up what Jung called the 'collective unconscious', and which often take on mythological, religious, semi-human, divine, animal or natural forms.

What we call 'split personality' involves the conscious personality forming split off, distinctly separate personalities, so it's as if the upper floor rooms become completely isolated from each other, their doors all locked. With a schizophrenic split, or fragmentation, however, it's as if the house's floorboards (foundations of the conscious personality) are split, or shattered as invading archetypal figures from the basement rush up to inhabit, or displace the upstairs (conscious) inhabitants.

Source: Dr. Maureen Roberts: Schizophrenia - The Soul (Psyche) in Crisis

Jack is exhausted and this exhaustion is further hampered by the travel schedule imposed on him by his employer. He complains that he wakes up in strange places, no longer being certain even of the time-zone he is in. Jack's ego barriers are swiftly eroding; as they do so, his inner and outer realities begin to blend and become indistinguishable.

At some point during his travels Jack falls asleep and has a nightmare that the plane is crashing. Intense fear seems to belong to this stage, as if the ego senses the risk of fragmentation and the potential for collapse. Jack also seems to understand that something is wrong and perhaps fueled by a desire to find some relief and as a result of the former doctor's haphazard suggestion that 'real pain' can be found among sufferers of testicular cancer, Jack heads out to attend his first support group meeting. He is looking for answers. Once more, Tyler appears as a flash upon the screen, his arm around the faciliator's shoulders.

It's here that Jack (Persona/Ego) first meets Bob (Mana Personality) and he doesn't yet consciously know it, but his answers have begun to come because Bob serves as a representative of the Self...

Edited by spiritual_emergency
Tidying
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Stage Two: Ego Collapse

It's on a flight that Jack first encounters his Shadow in the form of Tyler Durden...

According to Jung, one must get in touch with the Shadow and Anima/Animus before one can truly get in touch with the Self. The order is sequential, and as tempting as it may be to try and skip the Shadow or deal only superficially with it, it is here that we begin.

Source: The Individuation Process

Something of great significance happens after this meeting. Jack returns to his apartment complex to discover that his home has been completely destroyed as the result of an explosion that we later discover, Tyler played a role in creating. This explosive scene demonstrates the enormity of force involved in a fragmentation crisis. In a later scene with one of the investigative officers Jack relays to us just how devastating this moment was to him: That wasn't just a bunch of stuff that got destroyed. That was ME!

In an acute psychosis individuals undergo a profound reorganization of the self, effected by a thoroughgoing reintegration through utter disintegration. Dabrowski, who taught at John Hopkins, expounded on this theme at length.

Even more than this, these persons experience a basic refurbishing of their inner subjective culture in terms of the images of society and of the world itself. The world-image and self-image are alike and are represented in the same symbolic expression by a quadripartite circular design; and the flow of associations portrays specific cultural idealogies pertaining to each quadrant of this image.

In this manner, the reforming of the self becomes equivalent to the reforming of one's worldview. Much of the work done by the psychotic process concerns a dissolution of the self-image and its renewal in parallel with a destruction of the world-image and its ensuing regeneration. These concerns and others can be worked with very effectively in psychotherapy, even in the very midst of the acute "psychotic" state.

Source: Trials of the Visionary Mind: Spiritual Emergency and the Self-Renewal Process

Jack may have been "going crazy" previous to this point but he is now fully psychotic because his sense of self-identity (symbolized by his home) has been completely destroyed. It's here that Tyler steps in to take control (Shadow Possession). It's also here that we begin to see the elements of larger culture reflected in Jack's personal experience of ego fragmentation...

Ego controls the psyche, but when ego is disrupted (through Tyler's cutting frames into the film) or weakened through sleep loss or an emotional void (in Jack's case), the Shadow creeps in to take control. The ego is constructed around societal norms and the desire for behavior which "fits into society." However, Post-Modernity challenges these social norms as simply one narrative or structure which is no better than any other structured narrative. The destruction of Jack's ego also parallels the destruction of American hegemony.

The film which exists apart from conventional reality can provide an extasy - an ex stasis allowing the viewer to be taken outside of the domain of normal consciousness and into a reality that is probably most similar to the passive experience of the unconscious dream mixed with conscious memory. The film exists within the inner life of Jack: Listen to this. It's an article written in first person. "I am Jack's medulla oblongata, without me Jack could not regulate his heart rate, blood pressure or breathing!" There's a whole series of these! "I am Jill's nipples". "I am Jack's Colon."

From such statements about the inner body of Jack stem further meditations by Jack about his own inner life: "I am Jack's smirking revenge." "I am Jack's cold sweat." "I am Jack's broken heart."

What may be unique about Fight Club is its self-consciousness about its own medium. The breakdown of Jack's ego is manifest through the breakdown of cinematic form itself...

Read more: Fight Club: A Jungian Interpretation

At this point, Jack has no where to go so he accepts Tyler's invitation to live with him...

See also:

- Kazimierz Dabrowski: Positive Disintegration

- The Inner Apocalypse: Mythology, Madness and the Future

- Gallagher's Song

Edited by spiritual_emergency
Fixed a typo.
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Stage Three: Psychosis - Entering the Land of the Unconscious: The Shadow

The house that Tyler takes Jack to serves as the now devastated symbol of his known self: it's dark, dank, dilapidated, desolate -- much like Jack's worldview which is now filtered through the perspective of his Shadow.

It's here that Jack's repressed rage, shame, pain, fear, shame and other negative emotions begin to exercise themselves. In the case of Fight Club we also see a cultural component, which is not necessarily going to play a role in every schizophrenic breakdown.

The first step is taken towards self-realization {individuation} when you meet your 'shadow'. This is so called because it is the 'dark' side of your psyche, the parts of yourself that you have not previously brought into the light of consciousness. It is, for this reason, the 'primitive' (undeveloped or underdeveloped) side of your personality. It is also the 'negative' side of your personality, insofar as it is the opposite of whatever you have hitherto regarded as making a positive contribution to your well being.

In dreams your shadow may be represented either by some figure of the same sex as yourself (an elder brother or sister, your best friend, or some alien or primitive person) or by a person who represents your opposite (and of the same sex). A clear example of this in literature is Robert Louis Stevenson's 'The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde', in which Mr Hyde may be seen as Dr Jekyll's unconscious shadow, leading a separate and altogether different life from the conscious part of the personality.

The werewolf motif features in the same way in literature (e.g. Hermann Hesse's 'Steppenwolf') and in folklore. In pre-literate societies this 'other' side of the individual's personality was sometimes depicted as a 'bush-soul', having its own separate body - usually that of an animal or tree in the nearby bush or forest. (It should be noted that in such preliterate society the bush or forest or other wide or desert places surrounding the human settlement were powerful symbols of anti-anomianism, that is, of everything that constituted a threat to the established law and order in the human community. There is an obvious parallel here to the way the dark forces of the unconscious may be felt as a threat to the ordered life of the conscious ego).

Source: Myths, Dreams and Symbols: The Shadow

The basement of this new residence is filled with water. Water is a symbol of the unconscious so it's quite fitting that Jack's new basement would be overun with water, much as he has become overwhelmed with contents which have flooded upwards from the unconscious.

Water is a common symbol of the unconscious. In baptism a person is plunged into water and is said to be 'born again' when he or she rises out of the water. This symbolizes the descent of consciousness into the unconscious and the resulting new and fuller life.

The same applies to stories of a great flood which destroys the face of the earth and the recedes, leaving one pure human being (e.g Noah in the Jewish - Christian tradition; Markandeya in the Hindu tradition). If we take this as a symbol of individuation, what is destroyed by the flood-waters (the unconscious) is the persona, that makeshift self-image with which we start our adult life. This partial self must be desolved to make way for the appearance of the whole self {represented by Noah or Markandeya}.

In some cultures there are myths of a diver who plunges to the bottom of the sea and brings up treasure. The water, again, may be seen as a symbol for the unconscious, and the treasure as the new self one finds when previously unused psychic resources are given appropriate expression in one's conscious life.

Source: Myths, Dreams and Symbols: The Shadow

The first task Jack faces is to come into relationship with this disowned and projected part of himself, and ultimately, gain mastery over it.

In order to reach the second stage of individuation you must resist two temptations. First, you must avoid projecting your shadow on to other people. Your shadow, because it is your dark side, may be quite frightening, and you may even see it as something evil. You may therfore want to disown it; and one way of doing this is to make believe it is the property of someone else.

On a collective level this is what leads to racism and the persecution of 'non-believers' (which in this context means people whose beliefs are different from our own). These are both examples of the 'them-and-us' syndrome, where we unload our 'dark' side on to some other group, which then becomes the scapegoat that carries the blame for everything that is wrong in our lives or our society. Commenting on Jesus's command to 'Love your enemy', Jung remarks: 'But what if I should discover that that very enemy himself is within me, that I myself am the enemy who must be loved - what then?'

The answer is that you must learn to integrate the dark side of yourself, which means accepting it and allowing it to proper expression under the control of your conscious mind. It will then cease to be dark and terrifying and hostile; instead, it will enhance the quality of your life, advance your personal development and increase your happiness.

The second temptation to be resisted is that of suppressing the shadow, which means putting it back into the cellars of the unconscious and locking thye doors on it. (If Cinderella never realized her shadow, she would still be locked behind the closed doors which represents her unconscious desires to be free). Says Jung: 'Mere suppression of the Shadow is as little a remedy as beheading would be for a headache.'

Whatever pain or unease your shadow may cause you, it consists of precisely those parts of your total self that you need to utilize if you are to achieve full personal growth. To suppress the shadow is merely to go back to square one; and sooner or later you will be forced to come to terms with this 'dark' side of yourself.

Source: Myths, Dreams and Symbols: The Shadow

Near the end of the film, Tyler comments to Jack, "I will carry you kicking and screaming, and in the end -- you will thank me for it."

There is much that a relationship with our own Shadow can teach us. However there is also a danger in becoming possessed by your Shadow because you may then begin to act out your inner fears and rage upon the exterior world. This is precisely what Jack does and we can learn a little something from the error of his ways. Alternatively, you may be continually assualted by your Shadow in your inner world and will need to overcome those forces so that you can live peacefully and fearfully as appropriate.

Individuals who have experienced a fragmentation crisis seem to also experience a great deal of shadow material on a personal, cultural, historic and even, cosmic level.

See also:

- Shadow Work

- Meeting Darkness on the Path

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If I was to end this thread right here, I'd probably have already covered the majority of complaints and symptoms associated with a fragmentation crisis: triggering events; egoic breakdown; shadow material; ego collapse.

It's usually something that happens in those stages that prompts you or others to make a trip to the nearest ER with you in tow. At that point, you'll probably be given medication that will halt, slow, or numb the experience from progressing any further. The experience will likely have been so painful and terrifying you might prefer to never think of it again. It's possible there will have been flashes of the deeper psyche coming through but chances are you won't understand them and no one around you will understand them either so you'll put the experience behind you, take your meds, and try to get back to the life you once had.

In some individuals however, the process carries on or goes deeper. That's certainly the case with Jack so, I'll continue in that theme...

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Stage Three: Psychosis - Entering the Land of the Unconscious: The Anima/Animus

Like Tyler (Shadow), Marla (Anima) seems to refer to an interior figure and not a "real" person. Jack first encounters her at the support group for men with testicular cancer. Like Jack, Marla is making the rounds of support groups. Initially, he despises her and can easily find fault in her for his own actions. He comments: Marla, that faker! If I really did have a tumor, I'd name it Marla!

At this point the similarity between Jung's visions and schizophrenia starts to waver for two reasons. The first one I have already mentioned. It concerns the fact that Jung's subsequent productions of the unconscious are in the form of dreams and fantasies, and have none of the terrifying, involuntary quality of psychosis so common in schizophrenia. Secondly, according to Couteau, the schizophrenic confrontation with the unconscious lacks the mediation of the anima...

I began to comprehend in a new way the notion of severe illness as a magnifying glass of the soul, from which sometimes the only benefit seems to be insights gained about psyche by the analyst observing "from the outside," for many of my patients, estranged from the mediating function of the anima, were instead confronted directly with the chaotic abyss of the collective unconscious. Yet even for these patients, the presence of a therapist, especially one who could serve as a surrogate anima—a therapist routed in soul-making—provided a vital link to their souls (Couteau 198).

Source: Schizophrenia & Self Disintegration

Water represents the unconscious but it also refers to the feminine and one's inner emotional life. In a guided visualization Jack takes part in at one of the support group meetings he attends, he finds himself in a cave made of ice -- this suggests that his own emotions are frozen. A penguin appears in his vision and tells him to slide. When the visualization exercise is later repeated, Marla appears in the penguin's place and repeats the word: Slide. An association is made between Marla and Jack's inner states of innocence and joy.

Marla is Jack's Anima -- his inner feminine counterpart. It's fitting that he would not encounter this aspect of his deeper psyche until after he had met Bob and found the opportunity to reconnect to his emotions and feelings...

Seeking guidance, Jack stumbles into a group for men with testicular cancer. He finds that a weekly catharsis between Bob's breasts rids him of his insomnia by allowing him to feel. But this apparent solution produces a new dilemma for Jack - crying men.

BOB: We're still men.

JACK: Yes. We're men. Men is what we are.

JACK (V.O.): Bob cried. Six months ago, his testicles were removed. Then hormone therapy. He developed ***** tits because his testosterone was too high and his body upped the estrogen. That was where my head fit -- into his sweating tits that hang enormous, the way we think of God's as big.

Source: Fight Club: A Jungian Interpretation

In its highest form, the anima/animus serves as a guide to the unconscious but Jack (Ego) so despises Marla (Anima) he makes an arrangement with her to split up the support group meetings so they need never see each other. This seems to serve as a reinforcement to the split that has taken place within Jack. Tyler (Shadow) however, does enter into a relationship with Marla. It's not all that healthy and is largely sexually based (union) but even this suggests the beginning of establishing communication lines between the Ego and the Anima/Animus.

Every man has a feminine component in his psyche; every woman has a masculine component in hers. Unfortunately, for centuries, and particularly in the western world, it has been considered a virtue - 'the done thing' - for men to suppress their femininity; and until very recently women have been socially conditioned to think it unbecoming to show their masculinity. One result of this has been man's bad treatment of women. Man's fear and neglect of his own femininity have had dire consequences. Not only has he repressed the femininity in himself; but also, being frightened of women - who are 'the feminine' par excellence - he has suppressed them, kept them subordinate and powerless.

The further consequence of this suppression of femininity in a world dominated by men is war. Wars are the result of the lopsided development of men whose aggressiveness has not been balanced by love and patience and a feeling for harmony: that is, whose anima has been kept under lock and key. The macho male is violent and destructive.

Source: Myth, Dreams & Symbols: The Anima & Animus

Through Tyler, Jack's masculine side begins to come into relationship with his feminine side although this is a convoluted process. It's not until near the end of the movie that Jack consents to speak directly with Marla once more. She is standing at the sink of the dilapidated house and a shaft of sunlight pierces the window to light up her character. Like Jack and Tyler, Marla is also in a state of metamorphosis, transforming herself from the negative anima to the positive anima.

Your soul-image (anima/animus) will lead your conscious ego safely into the unconscious and safely out again. When Theseus neded to penetrate the labyrinth in Crete in order to slay the monstrous Minotaur, the fair Ariadne, with her thread, enabled him to go in and find his way out again.

If we follow Jung and translate this story into psychological terms, the labyrinth is a symbol of the unconscious, the monster is the frightening and threatening aspect of whatever in our unconscious has been neglected and has therefore 'gone wild'; the slaying of the monster means 'taming' that wild, unruly force and bringing it under conscious control. The 'slaying' can be accomplished, however, only by love (Ariadne - the feminine) - only by accepting the neglected thing, honouring it and welcoming it into our unconscious.

Source: Myth, Dreams & Symbols: The Anima & Animus

It's only through developing his relationship with his Anima that Jack develops the strength and courage to overcome his Shadow. In order for this to happen, Bob's character intervenes once more -- by dying. It's not until Bob's death that Jack is able to see just how destructive his Shadow can be...

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And you open the door and you step inside... we're inside our hearts. Now, imagine your Being as a white ball of healing light. That's right, your pain, the pain itself ... is a white ball of healing light.

........ I don't think so

this is your life

good to the last drop

doesn't get any better than this

this is your life

and it's ending one minute

at a time

this isn't a seminar

this isn't a weekend retreat

where you are now

You can't even imagine

what the bottom looks like

only after disaster

can we be resurrected

it's only after you've lost

everything that you're

free to do anything

nothing is static,

everything is evolving,

everything is

falling apart

you are not a beautiful and unique snowflake

you are the same decaying

organic matter as everything else

we are all a part of the same compost heap

we are the all-singing, all-dancing crap of the world

YOU ARE NOT YOUR BANK ACCOUNT

YOU ARE NOT THE CLOTHES YOU WEAR

YOU ARE NOT THE CONTENTS OF YOUR WALLET

YOU ARE NOT YOUR BOWEL CANCER

YOU ARE NOT YOUR GRANDE LATTE

YOU ARE NOT THE CAR YOU DRIVE

YOU ARE NOT YOUR F*CKING KHAKIS!

you have to give up ...

you have to give up ...

you have to realize

that someday you will die

until you know that

you are useless

i say, let me never be complete

i say, may i never be content

i say, deliver me from Swedish furniture

i say, deliver me from clever lunch

i say, deliver me from clear skin and perfect teeth

i say, you have to give up

i say, evolve and let the chips fall where they may

this is your life

doesn't get any better than this

this is your life

minute, minute, spending one minute at a time

you have to give up ...

you have to give up ...

........ i want you to hit me as hard as you can

Welcome to Fight Club

If this is your first night

You have to fight.

Music of the Hour:

Edited by spiritual_emergency
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Early in the movie Jack lacks the courage to confront his shadow. Instead, Jack identifies with his persona, the role the world expects him to play. As the movie progresses Jack gradually begins to become aware of his shadow, and how it motivates his behavior. It is only by doing so that he begins the process of self-realization. One criticism that will be made is that the movie depicts a superficial and incomplete process of self-realization.

Source: Tripping Over the Shadow

In the final scenes of the movie Jack puts a gun to his mouth and pulls the trigger. We must remember that as a character, Jack represents the ego which is a psychological structure, not a physical structure. By no means, should anyone try this at home.

In his book, Mysterium Coniunctionis, Jung says that an experience with the self is always a defeat for the ego but that the death of the ego (the self as you knew it) allows one to be reborn into one’s own wholeness as projections are taken back.

Source: Is it Love or is it Projection?

The initial disordered state that I am describing contains two distinct elements. The first is an experience of dying or of having already died, which symbolizes a dissolution of the accustomed self. The second element, closely related to the first, is a vision of the death of the world. In an acute psychosis individuals undergo a profound reorganization of the self, effected by a thoroughgoing reintegration through utter disintegration. ...

This is a difficult point, for we seem to find ourselves firmly biased against suffering and death as the ultimate enemy, dark and sinister, to whom we give no quarter and show no tolerance. You might say suffering and death are on an equal footing with madness in this respect.

We have seen that the growth process of the psyche, on the other hand, sees all this quite differently. According to the psyche's purposes, in order to break out of the security of solid consensus and convention, one must encounter the experience of the death process in psychic depth, and also at the same time the dissolution of the familiar, accustomed worldview. Though all this demand might seem at first glance overly drastic, it consists actually of the death of the familiar self-image and the destruction of the world image to make room for the self regeneration of each.

Source: Trials of the Visionary Mind: Visionary Experience in Myth & Ritual

Directed by David Fincher, written for the screen by Jim Uhls, and based on a novel by Chuck Plahniuk, Fight Club was released to Americans recovering from the Columbine school shootings in the fall of 1999...

The last image of the film is framed as a vista from within a glass skyscraper. Jack and his lover, Marla Singer, hold hands at the "theater of mass destruction." Two tall towers crumble to the ground. Premiered years before September eleventh, the film serves as chilling prophecy even more profound and ripe with cultural and historical mythic elements than even this author had expected...

Source: Fight Club: A Jungian Interpretation

See also:

- Anne Baring: The Relevance of Visionary Experience to Culture

- Paul Levy: Shadow Projection - The Fuel of War

- Forms of Spiritual Emergency: Ego Death/Dark Night of the Soul

Edited by spiritual_emergency
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To recap...

The stages that Jack [Ego] progressed through were:

1. Baseline: The psychological space he was in just before it all began.

2. Ego Breakdown: The boundaries of the ego begin to crack and splinter allowing unconscious content to begin to seep through.

3. Ego Collapse: The boundaries are overcome by contents from the unconscious and the individual becomes unmistakably "psychotic".

4. Entering the Unconscious: The individual may begin to directly engage with unconscious content including the Shadow, the Anima/Animus and the Self.

5. Ego Death: In some cases, a complete death of the ego may occur. Anyone who has gone through this experience will likely find it helpful to draw on spiritual/religious texts which directly deal with this process.

We don't get to see it in the movie but the next logical step is:

6: Healing: A fragmentation crisis can be very hard on a body and a psyche. We need to heal. Months of quietude/withdrawal/rest can be helpful. During these months, it may often seem as if nothing is happening on the surface but a great deal can be happening in the depths of the psyche.

7. Rebuilding the Self-Identity: Once a sufficient degree of healing has taken place, the next logical step is to rebuild our self-identity. This too takes time because our inner relationship with our self and everthing/everyone in the outer world has been substantially altered. We rebuild our self-identity the same way we did it the first time -- by re-engaging with the exterior world, by resuming social roles and responsibilities, by entering into relationships with other people.

Various forms of therapy and treatment can assist us in these processes.

================================================

As an addendum... the posts above are a condensed version of my original attempts to comb through the movie, make sense of it, and frame it upon the Jungian model; there is far more material and links in the original. If any readers care to review it they can find it here: Fight Club

In addition, I wish to emphasize that Jack did not split into personalities; he split into functions of the psyche. It was immediately recognizable to me because I did the same thing. All the "characters" in my own experience could also be easily mapped upon Jung's model of the psyche. Not everyone gets such a concise presentation, nonetheless, some people may find they can still map some of their experience along Jungian lines. For example...

- Got satan, demons, scary voices or visions? They probably belong to the realm of the
Shadow
. Bear in mind that the Shadow is represented in dreams -- presumably, psychosis too -- as being of the same gender. Likewise, a feminine voice may belong to one area of the psyche, a masculine voice to another but where they belong will depend upon which gender you are.

- Note that frightening voices of the opposite sex gender may belong to the realm of the
Negative Anima/Animus
. Positive voices of the opposite sex gender may belong to the
Positive Anima/Animus
. Some people may not have a well-developed relationship with their inner Anima/Animus so it can be helpful to draw on positive opposite sex relationships in their exterior world.

- Numinous "religious" figures showing up in your experience? Look to place them in the realm of the
Self
. Fragments of the Self can often be seen near the beginning of the experience. For example, Jack met Bob (Mana Personality) before he entered into a full-fledged relationship with Tyler (Shadow) or Marla (Anima).

- What about frightening visions related to death, dismemberment, apocalypse, blood, torture, skeletons, dead people, beheadings, etc.? They may relate to symbolic expressions of psychic wounds as related to ego collapse or ego death. If you understand this, that might help minimize at least some of the fear you experience surrounding those kinds of dreams, visions or waking fantasies.

All of the above should be considered a simple introduction only and if none of the above fits for you, don't be concerned. There are different forms of psychotic experience so your personal experience may be different from that expressed above.

However, if you find the above to be helpful to you, you might consider seeking out a Jungian analyst in your local town/city that can help you work through your own experience in greater depth. A search engine should be able to point you in the direction of some. Do be aware that most insurance programs probably do not cover the costs of Jungian psychotherapy. In my limited experience, Jungian analysts charge about the same rate as any other psychotherapist and may be open to a sliding-fee schedule. Ask if you are not sure and if you think it will help you.

You can also find many free resources on the net as related to Jungian psychology. In particular, I highly recommend the work of Jungian psychiatrist, John Weir Perry. Perry worked with schizophrenic individuals over the span of his 40 year career as a psychiatrist. Regretably, Perry passed away in 1998 but he did leave some very good books and articles behind. At his experimental Diabasis project he also produced an 85% recovery rate among the schizophrenics who passed through that program. That recovery rate was achieved without medication. References to Perry's work can be found via my blogs or through any good search engine. Many of his books can also be found through amazon and possibly, your local library or book store.

~ Namaste

~ THE END ~

Edited by spiritual_emergency
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