Last week I wrote story, ‘Shani’, and shared it for #WickedWednesday. It was the first time I had participated in this meme, the first time that Elk Vilianni had shared her writing in public. It hadn’t occurred to me that people might read it as a true account of my own experience. But more than one person responded to the story expressing empathy for the situation of the characters in it. It wasn’t unreasonable for them to do so; I had written the story in the first person and I’d tried hard to make it believable. Even so, I wasn’t prepared for how it made me feel when people responded to me believing the story to be autobiographical rather that fictional. In short, I felt as though I had perpetrated a fraud; I felt like a con artist.
This experience got me thinking about why I wanted to write fiction; more specifically, why did I want to write fiction in this way, as though it could be true, with no ‘Once upon a time’ to make it clear to my readers that it was ‘make-believe’. Although ‘make-believe’ was exactly the game that I was playing, wasn’t it, and I had to admit that part of me was quite proud that I had made people believe in my story. I had told it with sufficient confidence for it to be believable; I was right to feel as I did, I am a confidence artist!
So when I read that this week’s prompt was ‘Self Control’, my mind carried on further down the track of asking myself why I had written ‘Shani’ in the way I had. This thinking has taken me down so many rabbit holes, bringing me back up in strange places – that’s the way my thinking works; it’s rarely conclusive or productive. So I can’t give you any clear answers but I can tell you this: fiction is, for me, a form of Self control. A more accurate term might be ‘Self restraint’; by presenting a fictional self to the world, I restrain and withhold the autobiographical self… or so I thought.
Carl Jung would say that’s my ego-consciousness repressing my Self. For Jung, the Self (with a capital S) was our deeper essence, beyond consciousness, even beyond our own personal unconscious (the experiences we’ve had and the memories and feelings we contain without being aware of them), to encompass the collective unconscious, the shared reservoir of primitive, ancestral experience and wisdom.
Jung identified the Self as the source of our impulse towards Individuation, the process of realising our potential to become uniquely and fully human to the greatest capacity that we are able.
So then I popped up out of another rabbit hole thinking, maybe storifying isn’t the way I keep my Self locked up after all; maybe writing ‘Shani’ is the way my Self circumvents my censoring ego to reveal more of who I am, more of the archetypes that, according to Jung, make up our psyche (meaning spirit or soul)…
Now I’m looking at this little erotic fantasy in a whole new light and it appears blatantly, almost comically, Jungian! So much to analyse, so many questions to ask!
- Shani – the ‘big sister’, the ‘badass’ who seemed to have ‘magical powers’ and just knew things. My animus (‘masculine’) archetype and/or my shadow archetype? What then to make of our separation and disconnection and the fact that we ‘never acknowledged that I knew that she knew that I knew that it was her’? That, perhaps, I was she?
- The story is set on an edge of the world (Vancouver Island), beside the vast ocean, a place that is, to me, as remote psychologically as it is geographically.
- There is a mysterious repressive force (‘the community’) mentioned, from which Elk and Shani escape by climbing out of their bedroom windows to meet at the big oak. What is the significance of the ‘big oak’? I didn’t need to mention the big oak!
- Who or what do the ‘cool young parents’ (and the ‘cute little sleeping child between us’) represent? They are the means by which we are transported from one world to another, from one life stage to another.
- At the party, we are anonymous, unnamed, as is everyone else.
- We go upstairs in ‘the three-story house’. Jung used the metaphor of a house to talk about the different levels of consciousness. Ah, but look, I’ve misspelt ‘storey’ (I generally use ‘British English’ spelling) – I wonder what the three stories are?
- The darkness, the old wardrobe filled with dresses that smells of lavender and old wood… we’re definitely in the dark depths of the unconscious now!
- And there in the dark is softness, warmth, gentle caresses, a mirroring of ‘breasts lightly touching’. I am face-to-face ‘looking’ into the eyes of my anima (‘feminine’) archetype, exposed and vulnerable but unseeing.
- This moment of perfect connection is violently interrupted – ‘some kind of trouble or other but I didn’t know what’ – and it is Shani who finds me, takes control and tells me, ‘we need to go’. We cannot stay in this transcendent moment; we must return to reality… but ‘She was my best friend. She was my first lover. And I’m still standing in the dark, breathless, waiting for her touch’…
Forgive me, this has been very Self indulgent! But, if you write fiction, maybe it will encourage you to look closely at your own stories – both the stories you write and the storeys of consciousness that you inhabit – and wonder upon what your Self is asking of you.