Monday, July 14, 2014

John Hill on The Orphan: A Journey to Wholeness

by John Hill, from the preface of
The Orphan: A Journey to Wholeness

The Orphan addresses loneliness and the feeling of being alone in the world, two distinct characteristics that mark the life of an orphan. Regardless if we have grown up with or without parents, we are all too likely to meet such experiences in ourselves and our daily encounters with others. Our technological age has enabled us to create networks with many people, but these relationships often fail to meet the need to belong to someone, some place or something in a world that suffers from “spiritual depletion, emotional alienation, and personal isolation.” With numerous case examples, Dr. Punnett describes how loneliness and the feeling of being alone tend to be repeated in later relationships, especially when the earlier attachment patterns have been insecure, disruptive, or intrusive and can eventually lead to pathological states of anxiety and depression.

In an historical survey, Dr. Punnett outlines some of the appalling conditions that parentless children have suffered. One just has to think of 19th century England, as described in the novels of Dickens or the Dying rooms of Asia. Despite Biblical exhortation to care for the homeless and the gradual increased social empathy for orphans, as witnessed in the creation of orphanages and their gradual replacement through foster families, improved outer circumstances fail to bring the kind of healing that makes such devastating experiences meaningful.

A main purpose of this book is not just to stay within the context of the literal orphan, but also to explore its symbolic dimensions, for the author believes that symbols provide meaning to the diverse experiences of feeling alone in the world. Regardless if a child is brought up by parents or not, the orphan complex can be constellated, especially if attachment patterns have been problematic. In order not to remain limited by a purely biographical approach to the psychological orphan, Dr. Punnett elaborates on the archetypal foundations of this complex. She notes that many heroes have suffered abandonment in childhood. Their birth and early development, usually emerging from miraculous circumstances, bear the characteristics of a Divine Child, symbolizing hope and renewal for the individual, for society, and for our culture.

The constellation of this archetype in dreams, fantasy, and sandplay can act as an inspiration and bring transformation to those who have endured the sufferings of an orphan. With the help of amplification and case material, the author shows in a convincing way how the constellation of the orphan archetype with its accompanying feelings of isolation, anguish, and despair can act as a catalyst for the individuation process. Inspired by Jung’s creation of the Orphan Stone in Bollingen, Dr. Punnett’s book has placed the orphan at the center rather than at the periphery of human concern and invites us to explore the creative potential in feeling alone in oneself and the world. This is a remarkable book on a subject that tends to be viewed with attitudes that are too narrow and restrictive. The author concludes that in accepting the orphan within, we begin to take responsibility for our own unique life journey, an attitude that also celebrates authentic relationship with the other.

John Hill
Zurich, Switzerland

Fisher King Press publishes an eclectic mix of worthy books including 
Jungian Psychological Perspectives, Cutting-Edge Fiction, Poetry, 
and a growing list of alternative titles. 

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