Interview : Astrid Berg (Response)

Response to Interview with Astrid Berg

John Gosling, M.D. (NYAAP)

I am of Anglo Celtic ancestry but born in South Africa and now living in the U.S. for the past 20 years. What is my "tribal identity?" Where do I call "home?" I have a merged identity. When I step onto South African soil, my soul recognizes that I am "home." The colors, smells, sunsets, flavors, foods, trees, towns and "my" people - they are familiar and my soul "knows" them. Despite the meaningful friendships and roots I have developed in the Untied States, despite my own personal and professional growth that has occurred here, I remain an alien, an outsider. This is a blessing and a curse. It allows me to resist collective activations currently constellated in this country such as the current fervor for war, the blind yet seemingly ubiquitous "patriotism" and almost unconditional support of a despotic regime. However, it also leaves me feeling estranged with no sense of belonging. My roots can only go so deep in this "foreign" soil, and no further.

Like Astrid, I grew up in South Africa during the apartheid era with the threat of the imminent "black danger" drummed into my psyche. I recall my incredulous reaction on discovering in my late teens that we whites were in fact the minority in the country. The government had very cleverly managed to hide 38 million blacks from our four million pairs of white eyes in black townships and "homelands" (except for the relatively few domestic workers that served us whites in the cities). Like Astrid, I too was not very involved in the liberation struggle. In retrospect, at that time I was too preoccupied with my own inner struggle in an attempt to remain functional to pay much heed to the atrocities being perpetrated by the oppressive apartheid regime. Once I had discovered Jung's ideas, I knew that I had to pursue them in order to save my own soul. My quest brought me to the New World where I subsequently engaged in my own Jungian analysis and then training as a Jungian analyst. Of course, this meant leaving my "mother country."

Looking back now, I realize that this was part of my hero's journey. I needed to leave the relative safety and womblike comfort of my homeland to embark on my own individuation quest. For me, the physical separation and the challenge of the unknown proved to be a pivotal part of my life's journey. I had to uproot myself from my mother/fatherland and from my very dear friends and family. Yet, I am often greatly conflicted by my feelings of indebtedness to my birth country. I received so much from her - I was nourished and nurtured by her. I received an excellent medical and psychiatric education there that has greatly supported me in becoming who I am today.

Those, like Astrid, who remained in South Africa, have challenges to confront related to what it means to be living in a country in transition. She makes reference to the frighteningly high crime rate, the unmet expectations of the masses after nine years (that may ultimately result in unrest and possible revolution), lack of employment, the unrelenting refusal to appropriately treat HIV, corruption in the government, and incompetence in the bureaucracy. However, the economy is sound and there appears to be a concerted effort to foster the good will engendered by the dramatic changes that have occurred in a country that is attempting to be one of the first pluralistic democracies in the world. Astrid describes her involvement in mother-infant care in Khayelitsha (where she serves the poorest of the poor) and at the Red Cross Children's hospital. This is her direct contribution to the struggle to assist in the reconstruction of this emerging new order.

Since the liberation of South Africa from the oppression of the apartheid era in 1994, I have followed with keen interest the unfolding events there. I am aware that part of me feels a tremendous urgency to return to South Africa to contribute to the developing new order there. I have a burning desire to give back some of my skills and expertise to the country and its peoples as a expression of my gratitude for what I have received. I am aware of the vast needs of a huge proportion of the people there and how my services would be of inestimable value. Yet, I also feel terribly conflicted: I now have a life in the US. Uprooting myself would pose a significant challenge on many levels. Not a day goes by that I do not find myself grappling with this conflict: to stay, or to return.

Some of us, like Astrid, remain in our country of origin. Others, like myself, end up traveling to far off lands. "The person who is traveling, the tourist of life, will touch them all (many communities) but remain rooted in none," says the I Ching in hexagram #56, "Traveling." (Wing 1979) Of all the hexagrams, this particular configuration has shown up most frequently for me through the many years that I have consulted the I Ching. Perhaps this is my fate. "Strange lands and separation are the wanderer's lot," is a comment by Richard Wilhelm on this hexagram. (Wilhelm 1968, p. 216) Whether it is my lot to remain a traveler or whether I will find a way to appease the gods that haunt me and call me to be of service in my country of origin remains to be seen. "That evidently is the way human life should be," says Jung. "It is the old game of hammer and anvil: between them the patient iron is forged into an indestructible whole, an 'individual.'" (Jung 1969, Vol. 9i, par. 522)

Bibliography

Jung, C. G. (1969). The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious. Princeton, N.J., Princeton University Press.
Wilhelm, R. (1968). The I Ching or Book of Changes. London & Henley, Routledge & Kegan Paul.
Wing, R. L. (1979). The I Ching Workbook. Garden City, New York, Doubleday & Company, Inc.

Brief Bio

John Gosling, MD was born in Bloemfontein, South Africa in 1948 of Anglo Celtic immigrant grandparents. He studied Medicine at the University of Pretoria and Psychiatry at the Universities of Bloemfontein and Cape Town. He trained as a Jungian Analyst at the C.G. Jung Institute of New York, graduating in 1994. He is a member of NYAAP (New York Association of Jungian Analysts) and currently serves on the Board of the C.G. Jung Institute of New York as well as on the NAAP (National Association for the Advancement of Psychoanalysis) Board of Trustees. Dr. Gosling maintains a private practice as a Psychiatrist, Naturopath, and Jungian Analyst in New York.