Symbol Paper - Rearing Cobra (Part 2/7)

Updated: Jul 31

This is a seven-part paper in the blog series 'What's it like to train as an Analyst? in which I explore the experience of training from a personal perspective.

[Parts 1, 2 and 3 of Rearing Cobra is available as open access. Parts 4, 5, 6 and 7 will be released to #JungianBitsofInformation members only]

The Beginning

I decided to train as a Jungian Analyst while onboard a British Airways flight from New Delhi to London in January 2016. I was returning home after spending several weeks on holiday in India. The decision came to me from nowhere, it was a complete surprise to me. It felt like a shock, maybe a flash of sudden insight, or an epiphany as I stared out of the aircraft window, sipping from a glass of champagne while reflecting on my experiences travelling around India.

For the first time in my life, I had treated myself to a ‘no expenses spared’ luxury trip to India which cost me a lot of money. I bought a round trip business class ticket because as an avid aviation enthusiast and a former trainee pilot, I simply wanted to enjoy life by experiencing business class in what was at the time, British Airways’ brand-new Boeing 787 Dreamliner - Boeing’s latest and most modern aircraft.

Despite the fact that I chose to travel in luxury throughout my trip, my physical appearance at the end almost betrayed the fact that I had stayed in significant comfort throughout my time in India. I looked like I had been ‘dragged through the bushes’, to use an idiom. Mark Twain, an American writer, said ‘The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why’. It was on this flight returning to the UK that I suddenly felt a deep sense of purpose - I knew exactly what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I wanted to be a Jungian Analyst.

My life up until this point despite plenty of outward success was devoid of meaning. I was also recovering from a debilitating depression. Now, seven years later, with over 220 hours of personal analysis, having completed an MA in Jungian and post-Jungian Studies from the University of Essex, and created a blog and podcast called #JungianBitsofInformation in which I explore the unconscious in the workplace, I have achieved my ultimate objective to train as a Jungian Analyst.

So what exactly happened in India that gave me this awareness that I wanted to be a Jungian Analyst? Well, it was a series of unexpected and symbolic experiences including an encounter with a rearing Cobra on a street in Jaipur [Figure 1] that led to the sudden realisation, and a transformation of my personality. The symbolic experiences set me off on a changed life course that I did not expect or even consciously plan for.

For as long as I can remember, I have had plentiful dreams of snakes, I have imagined Cobras in my waking fantasies and even encountered snakes in real life. When I found out that it is a requirement of Jungian training candidacy to write a Symbol Paper, I knew straight away that my Symbol is a Rearing Cobra.

The approach I have taken to my Symbol Paper is multi-layered. On the one hand, I have written my symbol paper to test my hypothesis that my experiences in India were ‘symbolic’ activated through a direct encounter with a rearing Cobra and on the other hand, I have researched the symbolism of the serpent to broaden my knowledge and to find out new information.

My encounter with a rearing Cobra in Jaipur, India

My paper follows ISAPZurich’s Symbol Paper guidelines - First of all, the purpose of the Symbol Paper is to demonstrate an ability to understand an image or motif on the symbolic level and to distinguish between concrete and symbolic levels. Secondly, to show an understanding of the methods of association, amplification (archetypal and cultural aspects) and interpretation. Then illustrate psychologically, with personal real-life examples, how my chosen symbol furthered my own consciousness and transcended the rational. Viewed psychologically, symbols further consciousness and transcend the rational. The paper should illustrate this with examples.

I have also taken this opportunity to research the symbolism of the Cobra from an African perspective. As a person of African descent and heritage, I am keen to find out more about the symbolism of the Cobra in African traditions, myths and culture and to explore it from the lens of Analytical Psychology.

India was a life-altering experience for me. I became acutely aware of the unconscious, and with this new awareness and greater understanding of the psyche, I developed a new attitude which fostered psychological growth in my inner world. And to my surprise, I discovered purpose and meaning in my outer world. And it all began with a ‘big’ dream.

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