Monday, January 4, 2010

How to make peace with our past.

Post 399 - "Make peace with your past so it won’t screw up your present."

This was the underlying philosophy of Carl Gustav Jung (1875 – 1961), a Swiss psychiatrist who was the founder of analytical psychology. He is thought by many to be the most influential psychiatrist in the twentieth century.

According to Jung, self-realization can be divided into two distinct parts. In the first half of our lives, we strive to separate ourselves from others as we attempt to create our own identities (with the focus on I, myself). Jung believed we then have a sort of “second puberty” between 35-40 where our outlook shifts from an emphasis on materialism, sexuality, and having children to concerns about community and spirituality. In the second half of our lives, we reunite with others and become part of the community again. This is when we start volunteering, building, gardening, creating art, etc. rather than excluding and destroying. We’re also likely to pay more attention to our conscious and unconscious feelings.

Jung said that, “Everyone carries a Shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is. At all counts, it forms an unconscious snag, thwarting our most well-meant intentions.”

The “Shadow” is an archetype, a character with a universal meaning in everyone’s consciousness. We all have a Shadow and it’s essential that we learn to confront it if we’re to develop our self-awareness. We carry around all the disowned aspects of ourselves in our Shadow, that is, those parts of us that are unconscious, repressed, undeveloped and denied. Think about it as a large sack containing things that we don’t accept about ourselves that we have to drag about with us wherever we go. We can’t learn about ourselves if we don’t learn about our Shadow. As Jung said, “As we reclaim our shadow, we shed light in the world.”

Jung emphasized the importance of being aware of shadow material and incorporating it into conscious awareness in order to avoid projecting shadow qualities on others. He believed we should strive to become highly differentiated and highly individualized by first learning to know our limitations, then by moving beyond them. He warned that if we don’t own our own issues, they’ll own us. Highly differentiated people own their issues and have made friends with them. As a result, they’ve become a non-anxious presence in an anxious world. The journey of individuation is from being childish to childlike and involves removing the barriers to true awareness. The more we know about ourselves, the more choices we have. As Jung said, “How do you find the lion that has swallowed you?”

The first thing we have to do in order to begin to see into our Shadow is to take full responsibility for our lives. We project the characteristics we have in our Shadow on other people, those soft targets all around us who cooperate with our projections. What we disown, we project and this causes our inner states of consciousness to be reflected in external situations time and time again. We can learn to recognize what’s in our unconscious through the mirrors of other people. If we’re willing to look at the significance of these repeating patterns, we’ll see the syncronicity of events and situations and ultimately, we’ll become one with ourselves.

“Wanting to be someone else is a waste of the person you are.” - Kurt Cobain.

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