A Way of Entry
Years ago, in 1974, analytical psychologist James Hillman introduced a lecture called “Abandoning the Child” in a way that in the age of blogs seems strangely prophetic. Hillman described how he was trying to communicate by strongly emphasizing the subjective, rather than the empirical side of psychology, and how this meant that he was going to have to discover
…a style not yet worked out, where subjectivity is paramount, and yet where subject talking to subject is not conceived by older models of altering something, e.g., preaching, personal confessing or polemical debate, because psychological alteration means affecting subjectivity in depth through the constellation of symbolic and emotional reality. …I shall not be proving something, demonstrating explaining or even informing. …But we shall…be entertaining a theme, rather than answering a problem, hoping [to] our method to move us through a series of reflections on the same subject, like a string of water-colors, evoking insights, perspectives, emphasizing metaphorical speech, aiming to suggest and open, and where the aim is not a conclusion, not to close the subject, but to open it further.
I hope to take the signposts Hillman has given us here, and make them shape the perspective of this blog. I want to take Hillman seriously when he tells us that “psychological alteration means affecting subjectivity in depth through the constellation of symbolic and emotional reality”. In other words, it’s only what reaches deeply, emotionally as well as symbolically, that is going to make a real difference to how we understand and experience our lives.
This throws us back on certain key questions about suburban / exurban reality. First, what is our subjective experience of living in suburbia? Clearly our answers to that question are going to be very individual, although we can expect some common themes. Second — and certainly intimately linked to the first — what are the emotional realities of suburban life? Third, what are the symbols inherent in this way of life? How do we experience them?