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  • The Psychological Meaning of the Chilean Miners

    I had just begun my series on “Stress, Power, Resilience — and Myth” when our attention was again drawn to the fate of  the miners trapped at the bottom of the mine at Copiapo, Chile.  This is a story that embodies resilience, if there ever was one.  The world’s media have been following the fortunes of the miners with tremendous verve and intensity.  Why is it that this story grips us so?

    Frankly, from a symbolic perspective, there is so much that could be said about a group of miners trapped in the bowels of the earth, and finally coming to the light of day again that you could write a very hefty book about it.

    Clearly this story is an incredible embodiment of human resilience.  To wait in a precarious chamber of rock for 66 days for a tunnel to be dug down: could it really get much worse?  It would be a test of any human being’s sanity to have to wait in this manner is such confining and threatening surroundings.

    And the world waited with the Chilean miners.  In an emotional, and even in a quasi-physical way, we experience to some degree what it is that they experience.  With them, we share in their longing for a return to the surface, to the world of light.  Their experience reminds us of all those aspects of human life where things seem to be beyond our control, where the only way to “get through” is to endure, to be patient, to be resilient.  We share in their hope for freedom, and for the restoration of their own lives, because, in their hope we find our own hope, our own need to “get through” in life, that we will some day get beyond the difficult things with which we have no choice but to deal.

    Sometimes human life takes us into the darkness.  We are lost; we are disoriented; we are trapped.  What we need then is to find that hope in which we can endure, and find a way back into the world of the living.  This can be as true in the world of psychological growth and case studies as it is in the mines of Copiapo.

    Do you have reflections or thoughts on the meaning of the events around the Chilean mine rescue?  I would certainly love to hear about them if you do.  Does their story resonate in any way with your own?

    Good wishes to all of you as you make your own personal journey to wholeness,

    Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst


    VIDEO CREDIT: © Russia Today These images are the property of  Russia Today and are used here in the fair use context of critical discussion.

    © 2010 Brian Collinson

    1. jamenta


      October 21, 2010 at 12:48 am -

      A few weeks ago, prior to the rescue of the Chilean miners and the remarkable front and center news media the dramatic story garnered (and certainly around the world there are plenty of comparable tragedies taking place each day that go virtually unnoticed … Darfur anyone?) I had a dream that was strong enough I wrote it down – which is a bit unusual for me during this time of my life (other periods I have recorded hundreds of my dreams in journals)

      The dream was this: I and an unknown woman was trapped in an elevator that was at full stop. The woman was silent by my side. It was claustrophobic but lighted inside. A manmade metal box which there was no apparent way out and I didn’t attempt to get out. There are other details in the dream but I will not digress.

      A few days ago it struck me that my dream was similar to the miners trapped beneath the surface – and by the way, I hadn’t learned of this story or the rescue until the actual day it took place i.e. when the dream took place, I had no idea there were miners trapped nor would have even guessed their particular story would become a huge spotlight on the world stage of news.

      Now I am not going to try to determine if a real synchronicity took place between my dream and this event – I have had other dreams that had far better corresponding details with future events that would require a stronger look at the synchronistic aspects.

      However the dream did touch on the same motif as the outer … world stage like “dream” for all of us. The entrapment motif – by something man made. But not by the individual – but by others, and interestingly enough – much like we find elevators usually in Business/office like buildings – places of work – so to the mine and the place these miners were trapped was also a man made creation for business, and like myself, these miners found themselves trapped inside.

      Perhaps this “world dream” came at this time as a kind of hopeful sign – that despite the lack of safety measures caused by unchecked greed by this Chilean Mining company – help did come and these Miners found their way out to the surface.

      We are living in increasingly dark times I think for many people who feel trapped – disempowered … and not by natural made objects, but by man made objects – objects meant to serve us like an elevator or a mine shaft but instead end up trapping us in a possible life threatening manner.

      In my dream – help did not arrive, but I was able to delay possible other damage that might have been done. In the world dream help does arrive and all are saved.

      There is a warning there and a correspondence. Perhaps awareness of the trap and the walls enclosing us. The Chilean miners had to wait a long time for help to arrive – but help did arrive. Human help along with technology.

      1. Brian C
        October 21, 2010 at 8:39 pm -

        Thank you for your comment, John. I feel that the dream of you and the woman trapped in the elevator does have a synchronistic character, and connects with the “world dream” of the miners in Chile.

        I also certainly hear you on the issues of comparable tragedies going on worldwide. Darfur, certainly, the flooding in Pakistan, and even a mining disaster in China that cost 26 lives over this last weekend. There is no lack of suffering in the world. That is something of which we cannot ever afford to lose sight.

        I agree with you about the meaningful connection between your dream and the miners’ situation in the motif of entrapment by something man made. One feels that this is an expression of the reality which modern people confront, that this is our dilemma, that this is, in some very important respects, the very way in which we are trapped. I find this motif very striking. There are many at this point in the 21st century who do feel trapped and disempowered by the man made. Nonetheless, the hope in the case of the miners comes from an external source, itself the product of human ingenuity and technology.

        There are many aspects of the story of the Chilean miners that cast the mining company and indeed the Chilean government in a less than savoury light. But the basic motif has something of an archetypal character.

        Thank you for sharing your dream, John.

    2. Coinneach Shanks
      October 21, 2010 at 9:25 am -

      I take your point about resilience, but I am now rather more concerned about how we consume the story as news entertainment. There is some kind of pleasure there which I find unsettling. And then here remains the question of how miners are treated by this company. Those workers outside during the crisi remain unpaid by the company. How do we treat each other every day in the everyday world? That is my question.

      1. Brian C
        October 22, 2010 at 6:42 pm -

        Thanks for your comment, Coinneach. I certainly hear what you are saying.

        The story of the miners did come to constitute some kind of spectacle or entertainment. There is something very unsettling about this type of story becoming some kind of “entertainment” that the masses somehow “consume”. I also agree that the role of the particular mining company in this disaster, and their overall treatment of their workers, is a matter that needs to be examined, because it does seem that there are serious questions to be raised there. I also think that there may be similar questions raised about the motivations of the Chilean government. It is very likely that, if this situation had not captured the eye of the media, the resources that were put to the rescue would not have been brought to bear. When one looks at the fate of the miners trapped in the recent Chinese mining disaster, where I believe 25 died, the outcome seems remarkably different. Perhaps because the attention of the media was not so focussed on the disaster? One doesn’t know, but it’s hard not to wonder.

        We should not lose sight of any of these dimensions of the situation. Nonetheless, from a Jungian perspective, it is hard not to see some of the archetypal aspects of a group of miners trapped under the earth for an unbelievably long time in thsi manner (night sea journey? Jonah and the whale?). There is something about their situation that grips us powerfully, and, I feel very strongly, in a symbolic way. It is this dimension of the miners’ crisis that I wanted to focus upon, because I think that it does speak powerfully to the human condition — to our condition — in some remarkable ways.

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