A Christmas Carol is up there as one of my favourite festive season stories… There have been many versions made based on the 1843 Dickens novel. Indeed, there is a brand new film (2009) starring Jim Carrey as Mr. Scrooge which I haven’t yet seen. On Christmas Eve here, while we were readying ourselves to go out, on the telly in the background was a modern adaptation made by ITV starring Ross Kemp as Scrooge the modern day money lender and it makes for very good viewing.
Following traumatic losses as a boy (his mother died bringing him into the world) and abandonment by his bereaved father, lonely young Ebenezer later takes a fatal decision to walk away from the woman he loves and who loves him, choosing instead a life devoted to materialism and making money.
He turns into a wealthy, successful but bitter old man, alone and alienated from intimate relationships, friends and family. His is a deeply cynical, embittered, defensive posture driven by underlying anger, rage, resentment and severe narcissistic wounding.
If we were going to look at this tale in Jungian terms, we could say that his unconscious Self starts speaking to him on that cold and lonely Christmas Eve via his dreams. Dreams, as Freud used to say, are the via regia or regal road to the unconscious, and can be understood as forms of communication from the unconscious. The unconscious, as Jung pointed out, is always compensatory to the conscious attitude. So it is high time for Scrooge to change himself and his embittered attitude toward life, to become the man he was meant to be. His vivid and very real nightmares – with their harrowing visitations and visions of his childhood, current life, and inevitable mortality – show him the way. But it is still clearly his decision, his existential choice, as to heeding their insight, dire warnings and healing wisdom or not.
This is very similar to what happens during the course of psychotherapy for some patients, though the process and time-frame typically tends to be somewhat longer. Nonetheless, suddenly life-altering epiphanies can and do happen both in therapy and without. Scrooge, materialist that he was, at first dismisses his dreams as merely the meaningless product of a bit of undigested meat. But he later becomes convinced of the reality of these dreams and their profound spiritual and psychological significance. So in that one life-changing night, the old Scrooge dies and is reborn on Christmas day. Scrooge is transformed – and the story suggests this change was permanent–from embittered, stingy, hard-core materialistic misanthrope to a loving, generous and much happier man.
Some may not go for all that stuff about the unconscious mind… Maybe the more cognitive behavioural amongst us may think that the shocking interuption of his prvious patterns caused by the arrival of ghosts and there revelations force Scrooge to build a new pattern of behaviour… maybe he is just disputing his entire old modus operandii?
Well, having eaten far too much, drunk far too much… My brain may not be welcoming such intellectualisising about Scrooge and his therapeutic developments of that famous Christmas Eve journey… So I’ll leave it there and go get on with the Bank Holiday… 🙂