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However, the development of our ego directly correlates to the quality of parenting we have received. Then in my twenties, directed by an unconscious desire for healing, I married the angriest man I could find! In relationships there are systemic forces at work that maintain balance. If I could have owned my anger, I could have been the catalyst that triggered our development. Instead, my first husband and I were both stuck, and polarised. Then I became more frightened of anger, and more inclined to suppress irritations, or express them in passive aggressive ways.

It took decades for me to discover the benefits of constructive anger, enabling me to: set appropriate boundaries, get my needs met, and establish my power. A vital concept in PBSP is shape and counter-shape. Life experiences can either be satisfying, fitting us well — like a hand fits into a close fitting, soft leather glove — or not.

Too much coming in, and overriding the ego, such as shouting or violence, is experienced as a trauma. Too little coming in is experienced as a deficit. We are left wanting more, be that more approval, love, protection or support. And although this deficit was formed in childhood, many people spend their whole lives trying to heal those inner longings.

The Call of the Soul

Not only that, but she needs to speak to the child-part inside me that experienced the original wounding. Imagine Jane as a newly-born infant with well-intentioned parents who believed in rigidly feeding once every four hours. For Paul it had been a different story.

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Rather than over-controlling parents, his had been neglectful. Often hungry as a baby, he was left to cry for hours with a soiled nappy. As often happens with couples, Jane and Paul shared the underlying issue of not getting their needs met but coped with it in opposite ways. We co-created an imaginary figure that closely fitted what his soul longed for, and gradually he found that he could believe in her.

Jane needed Ideal Parents who attuned to her needs and were curious to see who she would become. Hillman: Well, it annoys a lot of people who hate their parents, or whose parents were cruel and deserted them or abused them.

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  6. But it's amazing how, when you ponder that idea for a little bit, it can free you of a lot of blame and resentment and fixation on your parents. London: I got into a lengthy discussion about your book with a friend of mine who is the mother of a six-year-old. While she subscribes to your idea that her daughter has a unique potential, perhaps even a "code," she is wary of what that means in practice.

    She fears that it might saddle the child with a lot of expectations. Hillman: That's a very intelligent mother. I think the worst atmosphere for a six-year-old is one in which there are no expectations whatsoever. That is, it's worse for the child to grow up in a vacuum where "whatever you do is alright, I'm sure you'll succeed. It says, "I really have no fantasies for you at all. A mother should have some fantasy about her child's future. It will increase her interest in the child, for one thing. To turn the fantasy into a program to make the child fly an airplane across the country, for example, isn't the point.

    That's the fulfillment of the parent's own dreams. That's different. Hillman: Aptitude can show calling, but it isn't the only indicator. Ineptitude or dysfunction may reveal calling more than talent, curiously enough. Or there can be a very slow formation of character. Hillman: It's important to ask yourself, "How am I useful to others? What do people want from me? Suppose that throughout your childhood you were good with numbers. Other kids used to copy your homework.

    The Calling of My Soul

    You figured store discounts faster than your parents. People came to you for help with such things. So you took accounting and eventually became a tax auditor for the IRS. What an embarrassing job, right? You feel you should be writing poetry or doing aviation mechanics or whatever. But then you realize that tax collecting can be a calling too. When you look into the archetypal nature of taxation, you realize that all civilizations have had taxation of one sort or another.

    So when you consider the archetypal, historical, and cultural background of whatever you do, it gives you a sense that your occupation can be a calling and not just a job. London : What do you think of traditional techniques for revealing the soul's code, such as the wise woman who reads palms, or the village elders whose job it is to look at a child and see that child's destiny?

    Would it be helpful to revive these traditions? Hillman : First of all, I don't think you can revive traditions on purpose. Second of all, I think those traditions are going on underground.

    Harrowing, His Calls to the Void

    Many people will tell you about some astrologer who said this or that to them, or some teacher. So it's very widespread in the subculture. What I try to point out is the role an ordinary person can have in seeing the child's destiny. You have to have a feeling for the child. It's almost an erotic thing, like the filmmaker Elia Kazan's stories of how his teacher "took to him.

    The thought came to me of the great possibilities there in your development. Now that, you see, is something different from just going to the wise woman. Hillman : In Capote's case, his teacher responded to his crazy fantasies.

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    She responded to his absurdities with equal absurdities. She took to him. Teachers today can't take to a child. It will be called manipulation, or seduction, or pedophilia.


    Hillman : Right. James Baldwin is another example. He attended a little Harlem schoolhouse of fifty kids. Conditions were appalling.