Wednesday, January 01, 2020


The Jungian psychologist James Hillman talks about the importance of the odd uncle or aunt. We may not know them very well, we may only have ever met them once or twice, but they can nevertheless occupy an enduring and important place in our psyches. What they stand for is the possibility of a different life, a different way of being amidst the particular set of values with which our parents have brought us up. The possibility of living by the call of the outer planets.

It is inevitable, I think, that there will be rigidities and narrownesses in our parents, because that is the human condition. And, as we grow up, we may feel restricted by those values, because they do not reflect who we are. So the 'odd' uncle or aunt, who does not fit in very well with society, says to us by their very presence that there are alternatives, we do not have to be like our parents. And this is a powerful thing, we will probably remember that odd uncle or aunt strongly for the rest of our lives.

If you are on this site, the chances are that you too are an odd uncle or aunt :) So remember the unspoken impact that you have. And that the black sheep is often in reality the white sheep.


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And that we probably have our own journey to make around feeling OK with our families. I think the main point here is to stop being critical of them, stop needing them to be something other than they are. Once I accepted that my Dad was essentially a simple materialistic guy, and couldn't help but see and judge things the way he did, then that freed me to become happier with who I am. When we are younger, we may need to fight our way out and be very critical. But then I think we reach a point where we need to let go of all that and just let them be who they are, and that enables us to be who we are. It is a relief. That took me until my fifties, but it was very easy once I realised all I had to do was accept him for what he was.

Meanwhile my Dad had an older sister who had a degree in literature. She had some education in the real sense, she knew things and was interested in things for their own sake. I grew up with money around me, and with a lot of pressure to be like that myself, but it was at the same time a cultural desert. This aunt was also quite troubled, but when I was talking about her at another relative's funeral a couple of years ago, I found myself in tears, because what she stood for to me when I was a child was very important. I was hungering for something richer and more cultured, and she embodied that possibility. And as an adult I have repeatedly put myself in situations that starve me, because that was what was familiar to me as a child, I do what I 'should'. But then I listen to that voice of something else in me, that my aunt stood for, and I get out, and I am one more round up the spiral of finding the centre of my wheel, of living closely to my Spirit - which is what this whole thing is about.

I think in a saner society there would be more elders around to take by the hand the children who have something else going on, so they don't have to go through so much of a journey of self-doubt. It is maybe the inevitable result of a large society that we end up living by rules instead of relationships. And that way tends to be more rigid. Though we do also have our freedoms in our current society.

So give yourself credit for the struggle you may have been through to become who you are. Yes you have a shadow side that maybe feels like a miserable worm, but we need that shadow: value that as well, it keeps our feet on the ground, keeps us humble and human, and keeps us learning. It will always be there. In your 80s you will still have sides that are problematic to you.

Meanwhile, don't undervalue what you stand for to others, not just nephews and nieces. The possibility of escape from the self-imposed strait-jacket (there is no evil conspiracy forcing us to be like that) that large societies seem to need to give its members a sense of certainty and security. We are the shamans, the medicine people, because we serve the outer planets. We do not need those certainties and rigidities. And because of that, Spirit can flow freely through us. That is where our power to help and heal comes from. And remember, we are not truly the 'odd' ones, we are the sane ones.

1 comment:

Faye said...

Glad to see you back here Barry - great post. very moving. I can relate to being a weird Aunt as in 2019 I got back in touch with a niece and her 22 year old daughter - someone I had never even met. My niece thanked me for being the one who could confirm some of her past - suspicions on her difficult upbringing. I was very touched to be the 'good' outsider. I agree with you - these links are important. Thanks.