In the show, Jukebox Paradise, Deloris Keller sings the song Come Home Again. In the story, this song was a big hit during World War II and far away in the thick of the action, a wounded soldier named Fred is listening to the radio and the sound of her voice. It is this song, coming from so far away, that gives Fred the will to survive and to eventually come back home and build a new life.
The obvious meaning of the lyrics of Come Home Again is as an encouragement to the boys in the war reminding them that there is a life after the war, no matter how dark everything seems at the moment. People back at home haven’t forgotten them. They are still loved and remembered and the people back at home are still with them in their thoughts and hearts.
“My, it’s been so hard for you
You’ve been so long away
I’m not even sure how long it’s been
But I miss you every day
When you think you can’t go on
Just whisper on my name
I’ll be there, no matter where
I love you all the same.”
At another level, Come Home Again is about something much more universal and meaningful to every person. When I wrote the song Come Home Again, I was immersed in the work of Carl Jung and related therapists. Along with Freud, Jung was one of the first to clearly discuss how our psyche is not a single entity. Rather it consists of our conscious mind (the ego-conscious), and the unconscious.
Freud generally viewed the unconscious mind as a dark and dangerous place with little of positive benefit to offer people. In contrast, Jung saw the unconscious as a repository of both positive and negative facets of ourselves. Jung suggests that the unconscious mind has separate complexes or parts. Sometimes these parts come forward in dreams or in psychosis, or even in normal times when one of these parts is needed to balance the ego-consciousness. Anger, fear, unwanted memories, or strange compulsions may all emerge unbidden from the unconscious mind.
Jung saw all of these responses as being a calling from the unconscious mind for balance within the whole person. For example, the anger might represent a need for better boundaries. Jung also saw these responses as being archetypical patterns that arise for all humans. For example, the animus (male) who appears in a woman’s dreams or the anima (female) who appears in a man’s dreams are both attempts to balance the male-female dynamic that exists in every person.
Later, the family therapist, Virginia Satir, called these complexes ‘parts’ and she utilized them extensively as a form of therapy. She recognized that the conflicting parts within our psyche are at the root of most people’s psychological issues.
Of course, from everyday experience, we all know that we contain within us conflicting parts. For example, one part of us wants to lose weight while another part of us wants to eat that delicious chocolate cake. We can call these parts ‘Adult’ and ‘Child’ or alternatively ‘the long-term part’ and ‘the short-term part.’ From a modern neuroscience perspective, we would view a ‘part’ as a neural network. Within our neurology, we have many neural networks that may have been established at different times in our lives and it is no surprise that a neural network representing our ‘Child’ part might conflict with another neural network representing our ‘Adult’ part.
In different therapies, these parts have different labels, but the labels are not so important. What is important is that these parts of us sometimes conflict and cause some tension within us. Indeed, people are complex creatures, and having multiple parts is not necessarily a problem and may be a great source of richness in life. While some therapists will try to integrate all the parts using various techniques, the problem lies not in multiple parts, but rather lies in the conflict between them. And even conflict is not necessarily the problem. As the American President Ronald Reagan said, “Peace is not absence of conflict, it is the ability to handle conflict by peaceful means.”
Different schools of therapy or counseling offer different techniques by dealing with these conflicts for achieving this peace within a person, but my favorite is perhaps that advocated by Stephen Gilligan. Gilligan uses beautiful creative and poetic use of language, hypnosis, and state management to help people to regain appropriate balance between their parts.
Fundamentally, Gilligan’s ideas suggest that we should sponsor the part. In other words, we should help the part to come home again, just like the soldier, Fred, in the war. If the part is angry, we can create a space within ourselves to accept that angry part without criticism and allow it access to all of the resources of the whole person to begin to become reintegrated meaningfully back into the whole psyche. The part probably represents a younger hurt part of ourselves and just like a small child, we can sponsor that part by nurturing it in a space where it can truly come home again and be a part of the whole family.
One metaphor that Gilligan uses to achieve this sponsorship is the Hero’s Journey. The Hero’s Journey is the classic narrative structure that appears in so many movies like Star Wars and Avatar. The story begins with a calling that leads to the hero stepping out from the village.
In parallel fashion, in Jukebox Paradise, Fred has left his country and gone to fight in a war far across the world. In the same way, the angry hurt part within us has been separated from the rest of us in some way and is fighting a war within our unconscious. Like Fred, the part is lonely and scarred. Our job is to embrace and nurture that part so that it can come back home and move forward in life with the whole community again.
As in the movie, Avatar, a classic hero’s journey structure, we do not kill the dragon – we sponsor it and become friends with it and it eventually becomes our strongest ally. Similarly, we do not condemn the part or try to excise or kill it.
Instead, through sponsorship, we accept that angry or hurt part, and by doing so we transform the shadow within us into a light that can support us. We transform the negative energy which was expressed as anger or fear or some other negative characteristic into a positive force.
When Deloris Keller sings Come Home Again in Jukebox Paradise, it is the beginning of sponsorship for Fred.
“When your thoughts are getting dark
And you’re feeling trapped and cold
Just think of me and I’ll be there
To comfort and to hold you
You’re so much stronger than you know
And I will touch your heart
And lead you back from where you are
To a beautiful new start.”
When you can sponsor those hurt parts within yourself and as Buddha said “be a light unto yourself,” that is the time that the part can come back home and be integrated in a way that can transform it from a problem into a resource. So next time you recognize that hurt part within yourself, try reminding it that…
“You can always come home again
Like the prodigal son, come home again
When the journey is done
Come home again
Come home again
Come home again.”