Journeying Toward Wholeness

Vibrant Jung Thing Blog

Oak Tree… Mandala … My Inmost Self

September 25th, 2008 · depth psychology, dreams, Individuation, Jungian analysis, Jungian psychology, mandala, Meaning, Psychotherapy, The Self, wholeness

Most of the analytical psychology of Carl Jung ultimately revolves around Vibrant Jung Thing Tree for Self Blog   the idea and image of the Self.  It is here that his approach differs from that of so many other psychologies.  What exactly does Jung mean when he uses this term?

He certainly doesn't mean just the ego.  For Jung, the ego is the centre of our consciousness, but it is not the whole of our personality.  Not by a long shot!  As he states,

…the self comprises infinitely more than a mere ego, as the symbolism has shown from of old.  It is as much one’s self, and all other selves, as the ego.  (C.G. Jung, “On the Nature of the Psyche”, in Jung, Collected Works, v. 8, para 432)

It's very hard to describe in a few words exactly what is meant by the Self.  The Self is, among other things, the sum total of what we are.  It's an image of a human's fullest potential and of the wholeness of the human personality.  In the words of Jungian Andrew Samuels:

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The self as a unifying principle within the human psyche occupies the central position of authority in relation to psychological life and, therefore, the destiny of the individual. (Samuels et al., Critical Dictionary of Jungian Analysis, p. 135)

The destiny of the individual.  So the ego is not "running the show".  It may think it is, in the midst of its incredible, franticFaces for Vibrant Jung Thing Self Blog busyness, as it tries to balance all the demands of life, and to pursue its pet projects and seek its goals.  But there is more at work in us than that. 

Most people have had the experience of moments at some point in their lives of a profound truth, where we somehow touch on destiny and on what we are meant to be, and where we get a sense of something bigger than our everyday selves that is at work in our lives.  We can really "feel ourselves" at those times.  Some people may attribute a religious significance to such moments: some may not.  Abraham Maslow in his psychology speaks of "peak experiences".  Sometimes such experiences can come in dreams; sometimes in meaningful coincidences, what Jung calls "synchronicity".  At such times, we can become profoundly aware that something within us is striving to come into being.  Often people have the feeling that we do have a destiny, that our lives are moving toward something that we can only dimly intuit, at best.                                                                        

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September 15th, 2008 · Psychology and Suburban Life

Anxiety is a very common part of the experience of many, many people, and for many people it can be intense enough to really interfere with living life.   Anxiety apple vibrant jung thing blog However, it can be hard to understand just what anxiety really is, although many know its debilitating effects.

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There is often difficulty in "laying your hands" on anxiety, because in one way it is such an elusive feeling state, and yet, in another, it can be so paralyzing.

Sometimes, anxiety can be associated with particular experiences, as in agoraphobia, where someone feels that he or she cannot be in public settings, because the anxiety becomes so intense that the person is afraid of passing out or becoming ill.  Sometimes anxiety is just constantly with a person.

If we had no anxiety at all, life would not be very good, and we might not even survive.  That's because, in many situations our anxiety may draw us into our lives.  So really we need anxiety. 

However, we need the right amount of anxiety.  When we become too anxious, it can have the opposite effect, and can actively stop us from being drawn into life.  It can definitely keep us on the sidelines of our own lives, on the outside looking in — however you wish to put it, overly intense anxiety can be all consuming and debilitating. 

Jung wrote that anxiety is a manifestation of our psychic energy.  When our energy is dammed or blocked, or when we have no adequate place to put it, we can experience anxiety.

However, one of the positive aspects of even severely debilitating anxiety is that it can draw a person's attention to an area of his or her life that just has to change.  So, whenever, you or I are confronted with our anxiety, we are confronted with a choice.  We can either decide to look at the area of anxiety in our lives, and seek to know how it is that it is coming about, i.e., "what is going on with us", or, we can decide to simply not look at it, to live with it, no matter how painful or paralyzing the anxiety may be.

From a Jungian point of view, anxiety may be seen as an avoidance of becoming conscious of suffering.  And, understandably, no one wants to suffer.  However, often it is only as we really begin to understand where the pain in our lives comes from that we can embrace our lives, and move beyond the pain into being ourselves.

This can be much easier said than done.  Becoming more conscious of ourselves can be difficult, hard, painful work.  But the sense of the unity and wholeness of ourselves is something for which we yearn, just as much as we yearn to plunge into the fullness of our lives.  The decision to explore the roots of anxiety, and to free ourselves from those places in out lives where it can cripple us, is a movement towards individuation, to becoming the person that we really, most fundamentally are.

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Individual Therapy & the Unlived Life

September 1st, 2008 · individual, individual therapy, the unlived life, unlived life

 Doindividual therapyAs individual therapy shows, we all live our lives, and in the course of just “getting through” our lives, we all have to make decisions.  With each major decision that we make, we open a door and walk through it.  We also close at least one door, perhaps several.  Sometimes that closing is forever, and we cannot go back and make the choice again.  The river of life moves: we can’t reverse the flow, and head back upstream.

Whatever choices we make, we are closing off options that we could have taken.  Sometimes these options call to us, beckon to us, despite our having left them behind.  Sometimes we leave them behind, and don’t think of them.

But we can reach a point at which our unlived life comes back to us.  Consciously, or sometimes unconsciously, weDoor_unlived_life_vibrant_jung_thin can begin to feel the weight of what might have been if only we had made different choices, if our luck had gone slightly differently, if we had seen things just a little bit more clearly.  When I was at the Art Institute of Chicago, I saw a painting, which seemed to me to capture this feeling with a great deal of eloquence,  American artist Ivan Wright’s That Which I Should Have Done I Did Not Do (The Door).  For me it evoked all the “doors” that we do not open, and all the feelings — hopeful, melancholy, grieving — that are associated with Unlived_life_vibrant_jung_thing_blo them.  As clients remind me constantly, there are so many choices that could have been made, each with the seductive aura of possibility surrounding it.

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