Alice in Wonderland

alice with caterpillar

Alice in Wonderland & Depth Psychology
One of the themes of Alice in Wonderland is that of Identity. Once Alice is down the rabbit hole (entry into the unconscious?) she constantly changes size. She literally doesn’t know where ‘she fits in.’ The theme is further highlighted when the caterpillar asks who she is. Alice replies, “I hardly know. I can’t explain myself because I’m not myself.”

Alice is not so much frightened by her identity-crisis as puzzled and ‘curious.’ ‘Curious’ is a linguistic leitmotif occurring throughout the narrative.
She says, “I almost wish I hadn’t gone down that rabbit hole. . . and yet. . it’s rather curious. . this sort of life.”

Her ‘elastic’ out-of-focus identity is mirrored in the topsy-turvy world she finds herself in. A world where croquet balls are hedgehogs, babies turn into pigs and a cat leaves its grin in a tree canopy! In the Caucus Race everyone wins and Alice is solemnly presented with a prize of her own thimble. Perhaps this illustrates a psychological truth; that we don’t need to look for approval from others to know a sense of our identity. The thimble was in her possession before the race – which wasn’t even a race as ordinarily understood.

‘Everyone is mad’ in Wonderland – according to the Cheshire Cat. At the tea-party Alice is told it is ‘always six o’clock’. Even time itself has distorted and cannot be relied upon.

At one point in the narrative Alice reflects on her childhood when she read fairy tales; this is where she thought impossible things happened. Now she says she is in the middle of such a tale. This has echoes of the dream-within-a -dream motif.

Now, where else do we find impossible events happening? Yes, in dreams! And of course the unconscious is rampant in dreams. (And the unconscious is a source for creativity!) Could the unconscious be where we should all look to ‘complete’ our identities? After all, our conscious selves (personas) are only a part of who we are. Jungian psychology recognised that it is only by embracing our Shadow that we truly integrate. For example if we don’t recognise that we have unresolved ‘anger’ inside, it will most likely surface (embarrassingly) when we least want it to. This applies to all the impulses and habits of thought and feeling we have hidden away; imps and goblins such as envy, spitefulness and paranoia.

Here is a quote from Insearch by James Hillman:

Loving oneself is no easy matter just because it means loving all of oneself, including the shadow where one is inferior and socially so unacceptable. The care one gives this humiliating part is also the cure. . . Loving the shadow may begin with carrying it, but even that is not enough. At one moment something else must break through, that laughing insight at the paradox of one’s own folly which is also everyman’s.

This inner work may take decades of perseverance and may often be a case of ‘falling seven times and standing up eight’ – to quote a Japanese proverb!

Both Alice narratives, although written for children, are examples of books which can be read by adults and reveal hidden depths!

Almost human


Almost human

They left something behind
to be remembered by
but we’re three million years too late
to meet them face to face.
Fifty four steps across the cinders of time;
a couple walking side by side. She hesitates,
perhaps a predator – or the volcano
which preserves her doubt. Down from the trees
to start towards the radiant light.





Note: In 1976 Mary Leakey discovered a set of hominid footprints preserved in pumice in Northern Tanzania. Known as the Laetoli footprints, dated at around 3.5 million years, whatever creatures made them, they definitely walked upright.

National Poetry Day

bruegel mad meg

It is National Poetry Day in the UK. Here is my contribution. Click on the image if you want to see the details.

Bruegel comes to town

Before I realise   how time flies      I’ve been poring over Bruegel
for more than an hour      I pick up my shopping list
twenty minutes later     sees me in the high street
peasant faces everywhere I look     The Big Issue Seller
is a strolling player    but has the use of both her legs and sight
Cheese    bread and earthy vegetables are on my list
I can barely make out the scrawl     A merchant
drops a sack of something on the floor    The girl at the till
leers and makes a crack     The tomatoes are Dutch    no English
apples anywhere I search    I glimpse a proverb over there
something about a man without money is a corpse    coins chink
in the till     On my way out I pass a crazy woman
clad in iron armour   wielding a sword              striding into the shop