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www.anngimpel.com

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Do You Believe in the Paranormal?

I wrote this post for P.W. Creighton's Paranormal Perceptions Series a couple of weeks back. Thought I'd give it a bit more airtime on my own blog.

Musings on the Paranormal Genre

I believe in paranormal phenomena. I actually believe it’s a prerequisite for anyone writing fiction with paranormal elements.

Let me kick this off by sharing one of my experiences. About twenty years ago, I was living in Shingletown, California, a small community a few miles east of Redding.  I took a shortcut one morning on back mountain roads to drive to Burney where I was scheduled to do a radio broadcast. Coming down Highway 44, the steering wheel of my Volkswagen Rabbit ripped its way to the stops. My car spun a few times and slammed into a snow bank leaving me shaken. I looked at the clock: 7:58 A.M. I hadn’t been speeding. The pavement was bare and dry. I was worried I’d developed a mechanical problem in the steering mechanism, but when I fired up the car and drove the rest of the way to my destination, it didn’t misbehave. I found out later that day a very, very close friend of mine—basically the brother I never had—died at exactly 7:56 that morning. I figured Don was trying to take me with him.

I’ve had other experiences over the years that defy rational explanations. I’ve also had many, many patients over my long years as a therapist relate fantastic events. One of the reasons I was drawn to Jungian dream work is its emphasis on the paranormal. It’s not widely known, but Jung was a mystic. Before he’d accept a patient, he insisted they have their astrological chart done. He’d look at his chart next to theirs (synastry) and decide whether he could work with them.

Dreams speak to us in symbols. But it goes far deeper than that. Symbols have archetypal value; they’re also unique to the dreamer. So, for example, snakes in my dreams might mean something entirely different than snakes in yours. This is why “kitchen table” dream books that list symbols and their meanings are almost less than useless.

I had a bad climbing fall once. Fortunately, I wasn’t injured beyond contusions that started with my forehead, extended to a very black eye, and covered one arm and both legs. It took a couple of months for the bruising to totally resolve. At one point, I dreamed I was standing by myself in the middle of an empty plain. It was twilight. A phalanx of snakes slithered toward me from every direction. They crawled up my body and wound around it. In the morning, I felt like I’d turned a corner and was well on the way to having my body mend.  In my dream, snakes were a positive factor. In many of my clients’ dreams, they’ve been portents of disaster. That’s what I mean by symbolism in dreams being unique to the dreamer. Interestingly, when I told my own analyst the dream, he clucked at me, went to a closet, and drew out a painting. It was an almost exact depiction of my dream, except instead of snakes, it was sea serpents swimming toward the central figure. One of his other patients had painted it years before. That would be a good launching point for a discussion of the Collective Unconscious, but this blog post isn’t the place for that.
If you pay attention to your dreams, over time you learn the language unique to your psyche. Years ago, Marie Louise Von Franz and Fraser Boa made a movie called the Way of the Dream. It’s available in DVD (4 of them) and some clips are even available on You Tube. If you’re truly interested in Jungian dream work, this is a must see. It’s clearly dated since it was made in 1995, but Von Franz was Jung’s primary disciple. She joined Jung an analysand when she was 18 and never left. Oh, she attended college and graduate school, but she lived all her life at Bollingen, Jung’s retreat in Switzerland.

This blog post is long enough. I usually like to cap them at 500 words. If you have any questions about Jung or dream analysis, I’d be glad to try to answer them. I’d also love to hear about your paranormal experiences. Really, I would.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

What Will You Do With Your Brand New Year?

Yes, indeed. It is the dawn of another year. Something about January, maybe the cold temps, maybe the short days, makes me introspective. I wonder about what the coming twelve months will bring, what changes they'll create in my life and the lives of those close to me.

One thing I'm abundantly clear on is we make our own fortunes, for good or for ill. Attitude has ever so much to do with that. There are a few things I'm letting go of this year--for good I hope. How does one do that, you might ask. Well, for starters, when I fiind myself dwelling on something I have no power to alter, I make an effort to redirect my thoughts. It sounds too easy to be truly effective, but I force myself to focus on something else. It may not work in the first few minutes, but eventually I'm able to clear my mind.

Writing is a great panacea. It gives me an alternate universe to lose myself in. Each of you can certainly find things that sing to you, that soothe your mind and feed your soul. Being outside also works wonders. And yeah, I understand not everyone lives in an outdoor wonderland, but even when I lived in the Sacramento Valley, I found out of the way places to let nature soak into my brain. We all need a break from elecctronics, so you might leave the phone home. If that suggestion got your dander up, take a good, hard look at your attachment to electronics. It really is okay to be unavailable for an hour--unless you're an MD on call. Your friends can wait. If they write you off because they don't hear back from you instantly, they're not as good a friend as you thought they were.

Perhaps I'm an old fogy, but I worry about my attachment to my iPhone. It actually feels good to take breaks from it every day. When I grew up, all we had were landlines. No answering machines, either. Imagine that. Wonder how we survived? While I'm on that track, work got more difficult in the computer age, mostly because of having to be instantly available 24/7. Vacations have gone the way of the cell phone. The only way I was able to get away was in the backcountry. Maybe it speaks to my incompetence as an administrator, but things never fell apart if people couldn't talk to me or text me for a week or ten days.

What are your resolutions for 2013? Is there one thing you want to change? This is a pretty anonymous forum. What is it? I'd like to know.