The Four Modalities of Temporality and the Problem of Shame
By Murray Stein
The psychological connection between temporality and shame is not a simple matter, to say the least, especially when one takes the unconscious into account. First of all, the topic of temporality is complex, and the link to shame is therefore also more than a simple registering of shameful things done present and past. Hinton cites Serres as speaking of temporality as a “folded and crumpled handkerchief” (Hinton,365). In this handkerchief, we inevitably find the stains of shame. In this essay, I would like to unfold and iron out this crumpled piece of fabric somewhat and try to look at the threads that go into its construction and see how and when shame enters into its weave and possibly how the problem of shame may be resolved.
Yiassemides begins her study of time and timelessness with the sentence: “Time is an extremely obscure concept,” and quotes the Mad Hatter from Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland: “If you knew Time as well as I do… you wouldn’t talk about… it. It’s him” (Yiassemides, p. xiii). Already we have two metaphors for time: handkerchief and Father Time. Others could be added, such as the great archetypal images of river (or snake), procession (or train) and wheel (von Franz, p.136). Each metaphor offers a perspective on the human experience of temporality. My approach will be more analytical and abstract, however, and will not attempt to answer the question of what temporality is but rather suggest four modalities. Together they can be seen to make up the totality of experiences of temporality in human consciousness.
In this essay, I will offer therefore to contribute a further reflection on temporality itself from a depth psychological perspective and attempt to relate temporality to shame in the complexity that ensues. I am venturing to propose that there are four basic modalities of temporality, each of which may play a role in human consciousness in various ways and at different stages of life: achronicity, chronicity, synchronicity and dyschronicity. For purposes of this discussion, I will arrange them into two polarity pairs as shown in this diagram:
The horizontal axis indicates temporality on a scale from absence to presence of the sense of chronological time. The vertical axis indicates parallel and divergent time lines that exist in real timeii and may fall together in consciousness. All share the term “chronicity,” from the Greek word “chronos,” meaning, “time.”
The Four Modalities: Definitions
The simplest and closest to everyday common sense of the four modes of psychological temporality is “chronicity,” which indicates the normal sense of a pastpresent-future continuum in the waking state once a person has acquired a sense of real time and continuity of memory. Temporality as chronicity is the conscious state of awareness of the regular movement of objects like the sun and the hands of a clock in the world around us. Von Franz quotes Macrobius: “Insofar as time is a fixed measure, it is derived from the revolutions of the sky. Time begins there, and from this is believed to have ben born Kronos who is Chronos. This Kronos-Saturn is the creator of time” (Von Franz, p. 74). From time immemorial, humans have observed and recorded the changing seasons, the movement of the stars in the night sky, the moving slant of light that falls on a sundial, and the changes that occur in the body as the years pass by. Using this chronistic modality of temporality, it is possible to construct a personal narrative based on a time frame with specific dates and related contexts, which may resemble a piece of fabric into which are woven memories of the past and anticipations of possible futures. Memories of painful experiences of shame can leave dark and indelible marks in such a personal narrative.
A related but contrasting mode of psychological temporality is what I am calling “achronicity.” This is a kind of negative mode of temporality, a zero in time, a beginning point in myth and psychological development. This is experienced as timelessness and outside of time frames. Before the number one, which might represent chronicity, there is the number zero, achronicity. Achronicity refers to the absence in consciousness of the sense of objective time (“real time”). All takes place is the present tense, and time, if registered at all in this modality, is gossamer-like, a thin veil draped lightly over consciousness but not leaving a deep impression. Here memory may or may not feature as a factor. While the clock continues ticking on the table, the psyche is unaware of its movement. This is experienced by infants, sleepers, daydreamers, deep readers, meditators and mystics, the aged and demented, creative people at work, in short by all of us. If shame registers here, it tends to be vague and generalized, perhaps not attached to specific objects, events or persons, but rather something more of a mood than a feeling linked to context, and if linked to a specific memory, then to a memory repressed.
Achronicity and chronicity lie on a spectrum with many gradations between the extremes, and they may flow smoothly or roughly into and out of one another. This is depicted by the horizontal axis in the drawing above.
The vertical axis is psychologically more complex. The two modes of temporality featured here are able to create some of the deeper wrinkles in the fabric of temporality and may account for shame felt in a strange and impersonal or transgenerational register. The two temporalities on this axis are made up of a complexity of simultaneous time-lines. To become fully aware of them requires observing and remembering one’s dreams and fantasies, i.e., the themes and storylines in the unconscious.
The upward extension of this axis rising above the horizontal line consists of a mode of psychological temporality that Jung named “synchronicity.” He refers to this as “acausal correspondences, which consist in a parallel arrangement of facts in time” (Adler, p. 46). Synchronicity consists in a surprising and unexpected but meaningful convergence of chronological sequences between either: a) the inner world of psyche and the outer world of material objects, or b) two causally unconnected parallel sequences in the material world (for detailed discussions see Atmanspacher, Cambray, Connolly, Jung 1952/1969, Main, Von Franz 1974, Yiassemides).
Synchronicity creates a fold in the fabric of temporality that brings together two separate time-lines. Shame may or may not feature prominently in this mode of temporality. Because there is no causal connection between the sequences, no blame can be derived specifically from this twist in time. It is attributed purely to chance: perhaps not to random chance, as Pauli surmised (Pauli, p. 127), but to chance nevertheless.
On the extension downward on the vertical axis is the psychological temporality that I am calling “dyschronicity.” This is the contrary of synchronicity, a kind of shadow temporality: two parallel sequences in time are experienced and lived simultaneously but not as convergent. Shame is often embedded here, but often not of a personal character.
The Achronicity-Chronicity Pair of Temporality Modalities
The universe begins from a state of objective achronicity. This is what precedes the Big Bang, when time does not exist (Stein 2016, p. 3). The chronological feature of reality is absent in the temporality modality. It is a kind of God-alone-space, which in the Mazdean book of Genesis, for instance, is called “the unlimited Time… the place and abode of Ōhrmazd. Some call it the infinite Light… The Time of the garment [of Ōhrmazd] is infinite” (Corbin, p. 121). Creation myths tell of the moment when the world came into being as taking place in illo tempore, “in that time” (Eliade 1958/1968, p. 395).
In fact, achronicity is myth’s modality of temporality generally. Myth is not contained within chronological time, but rather it contains a time-like feature as a kind of internal coherence. Essentially, myth is achronistic in that it does not require historical consciousness or context for meaning. Rather, myth stands alone as “iconic constancy,” as Blumenberg observes: “Iconic constancy is the most characteristic element in the description of myths. The constancy of its core contents allows myth to appear, embedded as an ‘erratic’ element, even in traditional contexts of a different kind… Its high level of durability ensures its diffusion in time and space, its independence of circumstances of place and epoch. The Greek mython mytheisthai [to tell a ‘myth’] means to tell a story that is not dated and not datable, so that it cannot be localized in any chronicle, but a story that compensates for this lack by being ‘significant’ in itself” (Blumenthal, p. 149). While myths exist essentially in achronistic temporality, they do enter into chronicity through being told, heard and remembered, and thus they take their place within personal and cultural historical narratives and as such can engender cultural or collective shame as in the case of “original sin.” On the other hand, rituals are able to transform chronological time into mythical achronicity in illo tempore because the ritual, a dance, say, “is a repetition, and consequently a reactualization, of illud tempus, ‘those days’” (Eliade 1959, pp.28-9).
“In the beginning…” (Genesis 1:1), the opening phrase of the Bible, leaves no room for a description of reality “before” the beginning. The Bible begins with the creation of time. Real time did not exist before there were objects in space. Time is a function the regular rhythms of movements of objects in relation to one another in space. At the moment of creation, the continuous flow of real time can begin because objects now exist. Jung put it as follows: “If there is no body moving in space, there can be no time either…” (Adler, p. 45). Only the Divine exists outside of time and space, in illo tempore, in mythical or imaginal time and space. Divinity (singular and plural) resides within achronistic temporality. This is an eternal present. This also applies to the realm of pure psyche, as Jung writes in a letter: “As in the psychic world there are no bodies moving in space, there is also no time. The archetypal world is ‘eternal,’ i.e., outside time…” (Adler, p. 46).
In the biblical account of the beginning, the human sense of time as Adam and Eve experience it remains mythical, or achronistic, even after the six days of creation have been duly counted out and they have taken their place in the Garden of Eden. This indicates the essential difference between human psychic temporality and objective, or real, time. Adam and Eve do not exist within what we would recognize as psychological chronicity, that is, with a sense of time passing continuously from present to future and with a history accumulating in its wake, because they live in an eternal round of day and night without significant change and development. Moreover, they walk and talk easily and regularly directly with God, so there is no division between the human psychic world and the divine archetypal world.
Chronistic temporality has not yet begun. While in the Garden of Eden, Adam and
Eve live in psychological achronicity, and while this prevails they are without shame. History (i.e., chronicity), which is made of the passage of real time with the conscious linear accumulation of remembered incidents, developments and changes, begins only after the “fall” and the expulsion from Eden.
In the development of an individual’s conscious sense of time, this type of temporality prevails in fetal consciousness and well into the period of infancy. In the modality of psychological achronicity, experiences are registered individually, but because memory is not yet in play they remain unconnected to each other or to contexts in which they took place. In neuroscience this is called “semantic consciousness” (Hinton, p. 363). These are moments registered but not tied together in a continuous narrative by memory.
Humans, if they live long enough and fall into certain pathological neurological conditions like dementia, may end up where they began, in the temporality modality of chronic “achronicity.” I vividly recall a scene in an assisted care ward for the demented where two aged men were seated on a bench staring placidly straight ahead into the space in front of them. Across the hallway and in easy eyesight, a clock was ticking and showing the time. Slowly the hands moved on the time-face from number to number. It was early afternoon on a Sunday. The men did not stir from their places. They seemed to be profoundly unaware of time past, present or future. A sign next to the clock showed that lunch was served daily at 11:30 am. It was now 2:30 pm, so presumably the two men had eaten and were now taking a rest on the bench. Their eyes were wide open, but they did not move even to blink. In whatever state of consciousness they may have been at this moment, it seemed to have no relation to chronological time. They were living in the psychological temporality of perpetual achronicity with no clocks or calendars in mind. Memory no longer functioned to string experiences together. They lived in an eternal present. Their mode of temporality in consciousness was akin to myth and infancy, in illo tempore. Throughout normal healthy life, however, we are also constantly moving between the achronistic mode and a registered sense of chronological time. But we are not stuck in achronicity by neurological deficiency. We can slide along the scale from one position on the horizontal axis to another. When we sleep, when we daydream or fall into reverie, when we meditate or do active imagination, when we gaze blankly into empty space or smell a rose, we are momentarily in achronistic temporality to one degree or another. In fact, most of our days are heavily dotted with achronistic periods, and a careful inventory of consciousness makes it evident that much of our lives are passed in this modality. When time seems to escape us, or the hours on the clock get dramatically compressed and we lose track of hour, day or year, we are in this mode or perhaps halfway in and halfway out of it. Generally, while awake we slide between achronicity and chronicity easily enough and can move along this axis by acts of will.
The experiences registered within the achronicity modality may include shame stains, but not usually so. An exception is with people strongly embedded in a system of strict rules, often religious laws and mandates that strictly forbid entertaining certain thoughts or feelings. If these surface in achronistic moments (fantasies, dreams, random associations) before they can be repressed and relegated to the basement of unconsciousness, shame will result. For these people, psychotherapy is not an option because they cannot tolerate their shadow affects and thoughts and therefore cannot integrate them. Fear of shame and guilt block the way. The net result is chronic neurotic conflict.
In the biblical myth, psychological chronicity begins when Adam and Eve are exiled from the Garden of Eden and the easy flow of conversation between creature and Creator is broken off. The experience of time changes from a round of eternal repetitions of easy-going need-satisfaction cycles to a linear sequence of moments in historical time that demand heavy effort and directed consciousness to proceed from need to fulfillment, with long gaps of frustration often in between. A continuous memory of past events and experiences now takes hold and shapes a narrative as the world begins to change and evolve in human consciousness. In neuroscience this is called the onset of “episodic memory,” and it begins for most people around the age of four (Hinton, p. 364). A sense of the future as well, including the awareness of death, takes its place in consciousness. Beginnings and endings take place in chronological time. To live with this sense of temporality is to live in the modality of chronicity.
Adam and Eve, having eaten the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, leave Eden in shame, and soon enough conflict and power struggles enter the picture. Normal human life begins. Envy gathers like a cloud between their sons, Cain and Abel, and shadow enactments ensue. Crime and punishment become features of human history. The mark of shame becomes indelibly inscribed on the forehead of Cain, the criminal brother, and assumes centrality in his identity. Causal links between past and present and the consequences and responsibilities they entail become the law of life in the temporality modality of chronicity.
I clearly recall that I was four or five years old when my father taught me to tell time. It was an Easter Sunday morning, and before going to church my pastor father gave me a lesson in time. He took a clock about the size of his hand and showed me how the pointers moved could be moved on the face. The small pointer showed the hour, he said, and the large pointer showed the minute. The numbers pointed to indicated the time. I knew enough about time to understand these words. So far, so good. He turned the dial on the back of the clock and made the hands move. Then he set the clock at a certain time and asked me to tell him what time it showed. We did this several times, and soon I got the hang of it. Proudly I announced to my Sunday School friends that I could tell time now! It was a breakthrough in learning for me, and it is a moment in time I have never forgotten. It is a permanent and constant part of my life’s narrative. Ever since I have felt that time is my friend, and I rarely lose track of time and am almost never late for meetings and appointments. If I slip up, I feel ashamed. I have a good sense of chronological time and live comfortably within this type of temporality. I am also interested in history that reaches back in time to the origins of human culture and even to the beginnings of the universe, and I place myself within a precise historical and cultural context. Perhaps by coincidence, my earliest memory of experiencing shame dates from about this same age.
At the point in psychological development when chronicity takes permanent hold in consciousness, a separation takes place in the psyche. The emerging ego parts company with the unconscious, and the ego becomes more and more a singular psychic unit unto itself as distinct from other parts of the inner world. The psyche differentiates, in short, and repression begins to occur. Ego defenses form and identity begin to take shape. This birth into chronicity is a kind of second birth of human consciousness, and with this comes the stable awareness of opposites such as good and evil, innocence and shame, success and failure, and life and death. The ego’s time sense now becomes one of chronicity, and the psyche’s timeless achronicity becomes hidden in the unconscious and left to the world of dreams and fantasy. In childhood, achronicity is restored during play, and creativity throughout life continues to depend on making contact with the ability to play and therefore on temporary re-entry into the mode of achronicity.
In some cultures, notably in those of the East such as Japan, the separation of ego from unconscious is much less drastic and “softer.” Myth and history are not as sharply distinguishable, and a normal reality sense may include fantasy importantly in a way that is not the case in the West. Chronicity and achronicity are closer to one another, indeed somewhat intertwined. Here I am following the lines of thought laid down by Hayao Kawai and Claude Levi-Strauss.
It is worth noting that Japan is known as a “shame-culture” in contrast to the “guilt-cultures” of the West. The anthropologist Ruth Benedict made this observation initially in her classic work, The Chrysanthemum and the Sword. This feature of Japanese culture seems to follow from the closer proximity between achronistic and chronistic modalities of temporality in the population. Some people to think that this indicates a lower or lesser level of ego development in this culture because shame is more associated with early ego development while guilt follows more advanced ego development. But in fact shame cannot be separated from guilt as though the latter were a product of greater ego development. As we see in the biblical account of the fall, guilt actually precedes shame, and certainly they come wrapped together in a package. In fact, it is often the case that guilt, as inner self-judgment and condemnation for something done, produces a profound sense of shame.
It has often been argued, too, that guilt is more isolated to a single act in a specific context, whereas shame generalizes to the whole self, but in fact guilt often bleeds beyond the discrete confines of a guilty action and affects the whole psyche-body, including the unconscious. One sees this phenomenon in detail in Dostoyevsky’s novel, Crime and Punishment. Raskolnikov judges himself guilty and thereafter begins to experience excruciating shame in every facet of his being. Paul Ricoeur notes this same development in Kafka’s work: “To be accursed without being cursed by anybody is the highest degree of accursedness…” (Edelman, p. 19). Shame is this “highest degree of accursedness,” and it often comes about as the consequence of guilt.
One could say perhaps that in shame-cultures the bleeding from guilt into shame happens more quickly, predictably, and profusely than it does in guilt-cultures. This may be because the ego, which takes responsibility for actions and therefore bears guilt, is not as completely isolated from the rest of the self. The boundary between ego and unconscious is more permeable, and so the experience of shame is more immediate and total. However, this by no means excludes the experience of guilt.
Shame and guilt are simply more tightly woven together.
Both shame and guilt enter the psychic picture forcefully with the establishment of the modality of chronicity. In cultures where the chronicity modality is extremely recessive, shame may also be relatively light or even absent. This would be the subject for further research by psychological or cultural anthropology. As “semantic consciousness” turns into “episodic memory” in a person, a continuous memory takes form and a narrative takes shape made up of associated and linked memories. Of course, this woven together narrative undergoes constant revision in life, and in a sense it must be recreated every day upon awakening from sleep. It is also subject to a process of radical redesign from time to time as a person’s life passes through the phases of individuation from childhood to adolescence, adulthood, midlife, old age and the approach to death. It is not as solid and intact as it might seem at first glance. In fact, upon close inspection it is full of holes and gaps that get f d in from time to time with what Jung called zurückphantasieren (“retrofantasizing“) (Laplanche and Pontalis, p. 112) where current feelings and fantasies are transposed and taken for (“remembered” as) past events. iii In analysis, constant work is done on unweaving and reweaving the narrative based on new insights and emergent memories. A danger here is that this may become nothing more than a sophisticated form of “retro-fantasizing,” as has been seen when therapists willfully supported or even inserted vague fantasies in the present into patients’ narratives as “memories” of childhood trauma. Early and formative experiences of shame and guilt, of course, naturally take their place in this emerging and constantly transforming narrative of chronicity and assume an important feature there.
The sense of psychological temporality as chronicity is an orientation assumed by consciousness with reference to the material world surrounding us and to our place in it. This is a key function of the “reality principle,” as housed with the ego. This modality is a representation in consciousness of temporality as real time ruling over inner or subjective temporalities, which include achronicity, synchronicity and dyschronicity. When we live with a keen awareness of the clock and calendar and think of ourselves in relation to history, personal and collective, and place ourselves essentially within these contexts, we live in a world where chronicity is king.The ego, o riented by chronicity, is the sun around which all other temporalities revolve. The development in this direction begins early in life and lasts throughout, as long as one remains sound of mind. Mental status tests look to this as a key feature of sanity. Psychosis is a break in the dominance of chronicity within consciousness, when other forms of temporality take over and the ego loses its central place. Then subjective factors like feelings, thoughts, and fantasies assume dominance, and with them come other temporality modalities such as achronicity (dementia), synchronicity (paranoia) and dyschronicity (dissociation) to replace the ego’s grasp on chronicity and real time. The sense of the world and life as strictly determined by chronicity has great advantages for humankind, and it includes a sense of human life as developmental and finite. One is aware of the inevitability of death, and one monitors one’s age more carefully as the probabilities for the end of one’s personal history increase. This psychological temporality mode introduces and holds shame and guilt into consciousness, and along with this come necessarily the appearance of ethics and the elaboration of moral rules. Ethics depends on an awareness of object relations and causality in time and space.
Human culture depends on psychological chronicity as a powerful and indeed dominant fact of consciousness. In a sense, an acute awareness of shame is a price we pay for culture.
The Synchronicity-Dyschronicity Pair of Temporality Modalities
The type of temporality modality that Adam and Eve live within while in the Garden of Eden is achronistic (mythical), but it is also synchronistic: In Eden, there is complete and smooth harmony between supply and demand, between inner need and outer fulfillment, between psyche and world. This is the archetypal template for temporality in the modality of synchronicity, when inner (psyche) and outer (objective world) are in a harmonious and syntonic relationship. In this state of consciousness, there is no sense of shame. Synchronicity in itself is shame-free, but if it is taken up into the chronicity of the ego’s normal experience of life and considered in a different light, perhaps ethical, it may take on an aspect of shame.
Synchronicity refers to an acausal or chance falling together in time of the inner (image, thought, feeling) and the outer (material objects, creatures), and objective meaning is revealed in the event (Jung 1952/1969). It is a coincidental and meaningful confluence of psyche and matter, inner and outer, subjective and objective temporalities. The timing of the psyche, conscious or unconscious, and the timing of events in the objective world by chance simply happen by chance to coincide meaningfully. Two lines of temporality in this instance become intertwined as one within consciousness.
Erich Neumann writes of infancy in terms that imply this same type of syntony between inner and outer worlds. The fetus while contained in the mother’s womb passes this stage of life in a state of achronicity. After birth this gradually passes over into what later in her arms and at her breast becomes a prefiguration of the synchronistic state: “This childhood experience… is the ontogenetic embodiment of the primal unitary reality in which the partial worlds of outside and inside, objective world and psych do not exist… In this phase there is a primary unity of mother and child” (Neumann, p. 11). Here nature facilitates the closely coordinated timing of need and satisfaction, as mother’s acts of feeding and infant’s need to be fed are more or less well timed to coincide. The inner is met by the outer in a timely fashion when infant cries and mother responds. This is a personal prototype of temporality as synchronicity: psyche and world are in a state of syntony. For development, this is a transitional state moving from achronicity to chronicity, and it is, like the Original Parents, without shame.
An early and preverbal experience of shame may occur in this phase of infant development, however, if the expressed need is not met or the mirroring of mother fails to meet the gaze of the infant. Edelman, referring to the work of Kaufman, writes: “Facial gazing is … the earliest form of communion. If the fundamental expectations are not met during this activity, shame is constellated” (Edelman, p. 29). Since this occurs within the psychological temporality of achronicity, however, it does not become carried forward in time and woven into the narrative of memory. It will simply remain an experience of shame unassociated to time or place, and since the context is missing it will be akin to what Bion called beta elements, which do not get psychically metabolized. If repeated often enough, these early experiences of shame may become the foundation for generalized sense of shame, or basic fault (Balint), in the sense of self, a primal wound that does not heal and creates a freefloating and pervasive undertone of shame in a person’s moods later in life. They may become what Jung calls a complex, a complex of shame. This would be attributable to the breakdown of synchronistic meetings of inner and outer, infant and mother, need and satisfaction, in the early developmental process.
The experience of syntony that comes out of the synchronistic match-up’s between infant and mother is objectively meaningful in that it supports the healthy survival of the species. The beneficiaries of good enough mothering are more fit than those who do not have this experience. This will lay the ground for later optimism and faith, qualities of mind that are good for thriving in later life. This foundational experience of syntony in infancy is a personal template for later experiences of synchronicity, which reflects the archetypal Edenic one. The later experiences of synchronicity, which take place and are recorded into memory after the ego has been formed and inner and outer worlds have been separated, show similar coincidences between need and satisfaction, inner and outer worlds, in a meaningful way.
The overlapping of chronicities, inner with outer, that takes place in synchronicity also brings the perception of transcendent meaning to a specific moment in time. The experience of temporality as synchronistic is therefore sometimes referred to as (a kind of elevated or spiritually significant season or period of time) as opposed to chronos (ordinary sequential time). Hinton references Andre Green as speaking of “moments of breakthrough of temporality… or ‘exploded time…’” in which “the strictures of time are ‘exploded’, and a more ‘open ensemble’ of psychic life emerges” (Hinton, p.358). This is a lovely poetic description of synchronicity temporality. Connolly describes several such synchronistic experiences in the clinical setting in similar terms (Connolly, pp. 167ff.). On a more mythological note, Von
Franz writes about this phenomenon that “…kairos signifies the ‘right order’ in time.
The association of kairos with goddesses weaving time alludes… to the idea of a ‘field’ in which ‘meaningful connections’ are interwoven like threads in a fabric”
(Von Franz 1974, p. 256).
Because conscious and unconscious are separated in the human psyche after a point in psychological development, there is a strong possibility that the timing between them becomes disconnected. This is the usual neurotic condition that we confront in analysis. Instead of experiencing a state of simple chronicity in consciousness or one of achronicity or synchronicity, a state of dyschronicity prevails either subtly or blatantly. Two different time programs, instead of falling “together, with” as in synchronicity, form a disconnected parallel sequence and create a mismatch of temporalities in the psyche. They remain apart and are often quite unconnected in consciousness. A contradiction between one aspect of psyche’s time and another occurs, with the result that there is a type of dystonia, a more or less severe lack of coordination, in the temporality system as a whole. There creates a deep wrinkle in the fabric of temporality, which may be registered in consciousness or not. When it becomes conscious, a possibility exists for working with this conflict or dissociation in analysis.
For years I have been fascinated by a passage in Jung’s late autobiographical work, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, where he recounts the experience of living in two different centuries, the 17th and the 20th, at the same time.
It was wartime. I was on the Italian front and driving back from the front line with a little man, a peasant, in his horse-drawn wagon… We had to cross a bridge and then go through a tunnel… Arriving at the end of the tunnel, we saw before us a sunny landscape, and I recognized the region around Verona… The road led through lovely springtime countryside… Then, diagonally across the road, I caught sight of a large building, a manor house of grand proportions, rather like the palace of a North Italian duke… The little coachman ad myself drove in through a gate, and from here we could see, through a second gate at the far end, the sunlit landscape again…. Just as we reached the middle of the courtyard, in front of the main entrance, something unexpected happened: with a dull clang, both gates flew shut. The peasant leaped down from his seat and exclaimed, “Now we are caught in the seventeenth century.” Resignedly I thought, “Well, that’s that! But what is there to do about it? Now we shall be caught for years.” Then the consoling thought came to me: Someday, years from now, I shall get out again.”.. Not until much later did I realize that it [i.e., the dream] referred to alchemy, for that science reached its height in the seventeenth century. (Jung/Jaffe, pp.202-3)
This dream reflects a strange doubling in Jung’s sense of temporality, even an acute disturbance, and it echoes his childhood feeling of living with two personalities, Number One located in the present time, and Number Two in the 18th Century (Jung/Jaffe, pp. 23-83).iv In his waking life at the time of this dream (1926), he was a highly successful middle-aged professional and family man of the 20th century, but in his dream retreats in time from WWI and is eventually locked into the 17th century. There signifies a large gap between the temporality lived in everyday conscious life by the steady beat of a reliable Swiss watch and the temporality of his unconscious as registered in this impressive dream, a discrepant doubling of Jung’s sense of temporal identity into two seemingly disconnected time frames. Inner and outer temporalities are hugely discrepant. It is a dystonic state at first and totally uncoordinated. Later it will become extremely meaningful. This particular dream, which may well have had a long prehistory in his unconscious as indicated in his memories of a childhood with two personalities separated in time by centuries as well, made a deep impression on the mature Jung and drove him to a sense of mission that would take years to complete. He worked mightily to reconcile these two overlaid temporalities in his identity, even into his advanced years.v It was a dyschronicity that made a difference. One can find many examples of dyschronicity in literature and in life. Nostalgia is a form of dyschronicity if taken to the extreme of living simultaneously in two time periods. William Faulkner was a master storyteller of this psychological condition. One found this condition floridly lived out in the American “old south” where many people continued to live well into the 20th century in the long bygone days of wine and roses of the pre-civil war period. Cervantes novel, Don Quixote, offers a humorous and touching example of a character living within two temporalities simultaneously, his current and mundane time period and the romantic days of knights and ladies of centuries before. Like Jung, he lives in two disparate temporalities. Unlike Jung, he does not manage to bring them together in a meaningful way, although he does in the end break out of his delusion. An example from film is Woody Allan’s marvelous comedy, “Midnight in Paris.” By day the protagonist lives in the 21st century, and by night he finds himself in the Paris of the 1920’s where his adventures are far more colorful and concordant than his daytime life. The film brilliantly resolves the conflict that gathers as a result of this dyschronicity. An example of dyschronicity from the manuals of psychopathology is the paraphilia known as autoneplophilia, or adult baby syndrome. Here a person in the body of an adult simultaneously chooses to remain in an infant’s psyche. Adult and baby coinhabit the ego’s sense of temporality.vi Another form of this is the refusal to accept the body’s aging. Cosmetic surgeons thrive on this form of psychological dyschronicity. People live two lives: one in an aging body, and another in the cosmetized body of a youthful psyche. This discrepancy can lead to spasmodic episodes of shame because fantasy images of self and the reality of one’s body do not match. Thus shame gets woven into the fabric of temporality via dyschronicity.
Two Cases of Dyschronicity
In analytical practice we may come upon the phenomenon of dyschronicity as we delve into the unconscious and discover autonomous complexes at work in the psyche. Viktor, a Swiss man in his mid-fifties, told me a dream early in his analysis. He said that he dreamed of being attacked by a group of wild natives, “primitives,” in a far-away foreign country. This took place in what seemed like another century. He was traveling by horse-drawn wagon through a high desert area with a few other people when suddenly they noticed on the ridges above them and up ahead the figures of a large number of threatening half-clad men preparing to attack their party. He awoke in a panic, and he now described this to me as a nightmare similar to others of being attacked he had experienced in the past. He had no particular associations to the primitive attackers or to the setting of the dream, other than from the movies, and nothing in his recent past suggested an image like this one. There was no specific residue from the previous days. It was a strange and puzzling dream, obviously symbolic. I thought about the transference even though this did not fit with anything we had experienced up to this early point in the analysis, but I took it to be a signal of possible trouble ahead. At this point, it was as though this dream belonged to another person, in another time and place, and with no connection to the dreamer, a European man through and through who had never traveled in such areas of the world. There was a time disjunction between his waking consciousness and the dream scene, as though it had happened in an earlier century and to another self.
The dream shows a large discontinuity between the dreamer’s conscious life in the present, where normal chronicity rules and where he was appropriately oriented to reality and generally competent in his various activities, and his inner life in the temporality of the unconscious operating in psychic time. Two distinct and discrepant temporalities are running their programs, the one current in his present life and the other far in the past of previous generations. As further analysis revealed, this was a dissociation that formed as a result of many early childhood traumas. These traumas were largely split off from his ego-consciousness and were hidden behind his upper middle class social identity as a husband, father and active businessman. In actuality, he was living in a psychic set-up that was severely uncoordinated between his ego’s time and his unconscious time and its complexes. As a child, he had never felt safe for a variety of reasons, and so his defenses then and now in adulthood were hypervigilant and ever at the ready to protect himself from abuse and attack. The unconscious scene of being under attack vividly portrayed the difficulties that had brought him into analysis: explosive and sudden defensive rage attacks, violent reactions at little or no provocation, disruptive anxieties of an irrational nature, and frequent breakdowns in relationships with intimate others. The dream image pictures a split-off feeling-toned complex with the usual polarities: a surprised and innocent victim, and abusive attackers. In an uncanny way, this scene would be repeated regularly in Viktor’s life.
An activated complex means that past events can suddenly overshadow the present in the emotional life of a person and often generate highly overcharged and inappropriate reactions. In Victor’s life this would happen when a waiter accidentally spilled a cup of coffee or the housemaid failed to clean his bathroom properly. In these instances, the complex would discharge an amount of affect that would better be used in an extreme situation like the scene pictured in his dream. Suddenly, chronicity would give way to dyschronicity, and what was simply an accident or an oversight would be interpreted as a life-threatening attack.
In time, his dreams became more explicitly relevant to Viktor’s present life and his emotional reactions to situations in the present better attuned to actual temporality in the present. The two temporality systems began to converge, and modulation of emotion could be better achieved. The childhood traumas became memories and could be largely integrated into his autobiographical narrative. Dyschronicity was reduced, a sense of routine chronicity in waking life was strengthened, and synchronicity could emerge in the appearances of meaningful coordination between psyche and world in her everyday life.
An important side effect of this gradual integration was that a sense of shame actually developed and grew stronger as present temporality replaced dyschronicity. The outbursts were no longer dissociated and so had to be acknowledged. As chronicity replaced dyschronicity, shame entered the psychic field and led to the possibility of apology and reparation. Thus we see again that shame is linked to temporality as chronicity.
Another case of dyschronicity, similar to Viktor’s in some respects, but considerably more severe and painful, was that of Gertrude, a highly sensitive German analysand in her 60’s. The relevant part of his story is that she had previously decided to explore a form of intense regression therapy that had left her with a broken sense of self from which she could not recover. What she had “remembered” and powerfully experienced in that therapy was the trauma of being a Jew in Nazi Germany and being sent with her young daughter to a death camp. There she had been separated from her and knew that the girl had been violently raped and brutally murdered. Even though she had survived the camp by some quirk of fate, she was left utterly bereft and did not know how to continue her life in the face of such evil and loss. When Gertrude came to see me, she was still mired in a deep depression. She felt that her life had been irrevocably changed by the experience of a “past life”. She was living in two time frames. In the present, she was a fairly comfortably well-off professional woman with a healthy family; in the past, she was a devastated camp survivor. The sense of this tragic and horrifying past utterly overshadowed her present. She was depressed, anxious, and without hope for anything of positive value in the future. She was suffering from a memory of a life that was not hers, at least not in the chronicity temporality modality of her life.
The telling fact behind this case of dyschronicity was that in the previous generations her parents and grandparents had been complicit in the holocaust. Even though their participation in the events of those times was largely indirect, the collective guilt for what had happened infected them, but largely at unconscious levels. Therefore they could not speak about it even if they had wished to do so.
Today therapists recognize the effects of “transgenerational transmission of trauma” (Schellinski), and this was such a case. The paradox was that the transmission of collective guilt, inherited by Gertrude as a cultural complex (Singer and Kaplinski), had been reversed so that she now experienced the suffering of the victims rather than the guilt of the perpetrators. Shame and guilt had been transformed into the opposite, into innocent suffering, not in order to escape the shame primarily, in my opinion, but to expiate the cultural guilt through vicarious suffering. This was the meaning of dyschronicity in this case. Gertrude had to bear the suffering inflicted on the victims of earlier generations of perpetrators. Dyschronicity had found a permanent home in Gertrude’s consciousness, and no amount of reductive analysis could remove it. It had to be borne as though it were her suffering, added to which was the shadow of survivor guilt since she had escaped execution. Grasping the suffering in this way would make it possible for her to search out meaning in it, for herself and for her generation.
The diagram below shows the four modalities of temporality feeding into a central psychic agency, ego-consciousness.
As the center of consciousness, the ego may register the four modalities, and with maturity it is able to contain them and include them in a coherent narrative. Jung’s autobiography, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, for instance, includes all four modalities in the narrative. For purposes of further analysis, I have assigned a numerical value to each of the temporalities as follows: pure achronicity is given the value of Zero, indicating the emptiness of chronological consciousness in this modality; the chronicity modality is given the value of One, signifying full consciousness of chronological time as a single flowing stream of events from past to present to future; the modality of synchronicity is assigned the numerical value of one squared, again One, but with two parallel chronicities twisted into a single moment of chronological time; the dyschronicity modality is given the value of Two, which indicates two temporalities running in parallel but separated in the psyche. At the center, within an ego-consciousness aware of all four modalities these numerical values add up to the number Four. The ego is the container, too, of whatever stains of shame blemish the fabric of a personal narrative. These stains may derive from preverbal early infancy or other periods of pure achronicity in life (the achronicity arm), from experiences within the chronological memory of the person (the chronicity arm), from transpersonal sources (the synchronicity arm), and from transgenerational transmissions (the dyschronicity arm). All of these stains of shame are collected by the central agency of consciousness and combined into the total narrative of person’s history. This is a person who has faced the shadow and is able to carry it in consciousness.
The problem of complete integration of the modalities remains, however. The ego is able to count them and to reflect on them, but not by itself to integrate them.
Integration means unification, or what Jung in his late writing on alchemy called “conjunction” from the Latin phrase mysterium coniunctionis (“mystical conjunction”), the title of his last major work. For unification or conjunction, a larger and more powerful agency is required, one that can embrace the opposites, i.e., the two pairs of temporality modality, and contain them as facets of a single unit of a superior structure.
This type of deep integration is symbolized by Pauli at the conclusion of his “Piano Lesson” by the golden “ring i,” which is presented to him in the narrative by his female teacher. It is a mandala surrounding the mathematical symbol i, an imaginary unit that opens up new dimensions within mathematical fields so that “complex numbers” can be created, which combine real and imaginary numbers. The symbol i is a sort of magical unifier of opposites, in alchemical terms a Mercurius figure.
The golden “ring i” transforms the center of identity, previously occupied by the ego, and replaces the dominance of chronistic temporality with a synthetic union of all four modalities. “It makes time into a static image,” Pauli exclaims to his teacher (Pauli,p.134), with reference to the symbol i. In other words, it transcends temporality. It is a symbol of the self, the central agency of the psyche as a whole and superordinate to the ego. This diagram (below) illustrates the constellation of the self and represents the installation of the ego-self axis within consciousness.
This introduces the timeless into consciousness alongside the temporality modalities. Von Franz concludes her book, Time, Rhythm and Repose, with the same perception: “…from the timeless God flows the ‘flow of grace’ which creates an ever-present now – so that God is simultaneously stillness and everlasting flux” (Von Franz 1978,
- 31). Von Franz shows the levels of temporality and their arrangement in this diagram, which also indicates the displacement of the ego from the center to the periphery while the self assumes the position of center or “sun”:
“Ego-time” is chronicity in the personal sphere, while “aeonic time” is chronicity extended to larger frameworks of chronological time such as the Platonic year consisting of 2,000 years, which are called Aeons. “Illud Tempus” is mythic time and therefore achronistic, the framework in which the archetypes reside and execute their wills by creating synchronicities in real time. “The timeless centre” is the self and equivalent to Ring i, where time becomes “a static image.” As such, it is a transcendent agency beyond the temporalities but with a creative impact on time through initiating synchronistic phenomena (“acts of creation in time”) via the various lesser archetypal agencies. The symbol of the “Ring i” includes recognition of reciprocity between ego and self such that they interact with one another dynamically and drive an evolutionary process forward in human consciousness.
What is the effect of the constellation of the ego-self axis on the shame stains in the temporality handkerchief? So long as temporality dominates consciousness exclusively, in any of its modalities, shame remains, although in a pure achronicity modality it may tend to fade into the vacuum left by the absence of memory. But assuming that the four modalities remain intact and are subsumed by the self constellation, the Ring i, what happens to shame?
From the biblical myth of Adam and Eve in the Book of Genesis onward through the entire Bible, the problem of shame and guilt (“sin”) remains indelibly a feature of the human condition. Once chronistic temporality takes hold, shame becomes resident in consciousness. The handkerchief is stained, and as time passes it gets more and more crumpled by the fluctuating temporality modalities. In the biblical tradition, the stain can be somewhat reduced by strict obedience to the Mosaic Law and by observance of its vast array of ethical implications, but it cannot be removed and constantly it threatens to expand and deepen. The fall from grace in shame and the consequent expulsion from the Garden of Eden created a radical blemish in humans, who had originally been created in the image of God (imago Dei), and this called for a radical solution.
A dramatic solution is offered in the New Testament when Christ, as the New
Adam, replaces the Old Adam and thereby restores the imago Dei in a singlular
human being to its original state of perfection. The Christian solution to the problem of the stain of shame then takes form in the possibility for mystical identification with the Christ figure. The stain is washed clean in the Christ symbol and this can be transmitted to the believer. Psychologically, Christ represents the self, and by virtue of identification with this symbol, humans can universally participate in its transcendence over shame and guilt. With relief, St. Paul cries out: “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through
Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:24-25). Following shortly upon the Ascension of Christ, the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost and the reception of the spirit into human consciousness created a new spiritual center in the psyche of the believers (Acts 2:4). In the mystical language of St. Paul: “…it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). The Christians, as they now were called, no longer lived out of a chronicity-dominated ego but out of a transcendent spiritual identity associated with Christ. The blemished, folded and crumpled handkerchief of temporality was washed and transformed into a spiritualized fabric. Temporality lost its power, in the view of the early Christians. Christ has conquered the power of temporality, as they would affirm.
In this narrative of release from all modalities of temporality and the shame that becomes resident in consciousness with them, the psyche is seen as having recovered a transcendent center in consciousness, whence it originated as imago Dei, rather than maintaining its primary residence exclusively in the alienated ego that developed in history. Psychologically, this represents an advanced stage of individuation and not a regression, in that the ego-self axis is constellated in the center of consciousness. The ego does not vanish into the void of unconsciousness but rather becomes subordinated to a larger agency, the self. The “transcendent function” (Jung 1916/1969), a reciprocal relationship between ego and self, replaces the ego as the center of consciousness, creating a kind of dual identity with a binary structure. Here time and the timeless walk together, the secular person and the sacred. The problem of shame within the fabric of temporality is resolved, at least in part, by being taken up into the self, which as a union of opposites is able to integrate, i.e., unify, the light and the dark, the innocent and the shameful, and the temporal and the eternal into a unique singularity. This translates into a state of full self-acceptance. As Paul Tillich announced in his famous sermon, “You Are Accepted”: “Accept that you are accepted… You are accepted. You are accepted, accepted by that which is greater than you, and the name of which you do not know” (Tillich, p. ). Many mystical traditions, such as Cabbala, Hasidism, Sufism, Yoga, Zen Buddhism and others, have made identical moves toward transcending temporality. This is the goal of individuation as conceived by Jung and those followng him in depth psychology. All arrive at the position symbolized by Pauli’s “Ring i,” a place beyond temporality and shame and characterized by compassion, grace, and a sense of wholeness realized.
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 I have created this neologism for the purposes of this paper. To my knowledge, no one has discussed this phenomenon before, although it well known among Jungian psychoanalysts. I chose the prefix dys- (from Gr. meaning bad, hard, unlucky) because it indicates a difficult, often abnormal, and sometimes painful state. ii I use the phrase “real time” to indicate time as measured by clocks, i.e., objective time, which exists beyond human recognition of it. It is non-psychological temporality iii Hinton offers a useful discussion of Nachträglichkeit, the revision of memory in light of reflections back on earlier experiences such as early childhood traumas. See Hinton, p. 361ff. iv This perception of having two very different temporal personalities organizes the entire chapter on childhood titled “School Years.” v Jung’s last great work, Mysterium Coniunctionis (CW 14), is the culmination of this project. vi The only instance of a Jungian discussion of this paraphilia, to my knowledge, is a paper by the late Prof. Leland Roloff in his Chicago IAAP Congress lecture.
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