Negative Space


Negative space always stirs for me a recollection of the “Negative Capability Letter” of John Keats, wherein he identifies the qualities of genius that distinguishes a writer like Shakespeare from the rest, namely his being “capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason.”

It is easy to overlook this tendency in ourselves as the pattern is so deeply embedded in the coping mannerisms of at least the last five hundred years. We so want to explain things that we pave right over vast areas of experience which defy explanation.

Jung’s recognition of synchronicity can be seen as his ability to exercise negative capability, for it led him to see in the fabric of reality events which operate outside the prevailing cause and effect frame we place on reality through the education system. Though few have read far enough into this aspect of his work to recognize the implications of his acausal connecting principle, it leads to a unitary theory which emerges in his writings as the unas mundas, the one world, a place where Jung’s work was beginning to tunnel from the perspective of psyche into the insights of the physicists.

When sitting with others in the context of psychoanalysis, much of the effort of the analyst is directed toward identifying the unspoken opposite, the aspect of the whole not seen by the conscious attitude of the client, and attempting to make space for it in the field generated by the process.  This too is a working into and with the negative space.

Author: Richard Reeve

I'm the Senior Director of Development at Panthera, a global conservation organization committed to stemming the population decline of cats in the wild. I enjoy rural living with my wife Judith and our two children in the Catskill Mountains of New York.