Journeying Toward Wholeness

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Saying No: Jungian Psychotherapy, the Self, and Compliance

February 9th, 2011 · 4 Comments · ego, Jungian, Self, The Self

In Jungian psychotherapy, the Self is something greater than, and distinct from, the ego, and it is something that plays a very active role in the psychological life of the individual.  I often see it at work when I have the experience of working with individuals who have simply reached the point where they cannot accommodate the inappropriate needs of others any further.  It isn’t that they have “decided not to”.  It’s more elemental: something in them will not allow them to bend themselves any further to the will of other people at the cost of their own needs and identity.

People Who Please

Often these are people who, at earlier points in their life have been extremely accommodating of others and who have experienced great pressure, often early in life, to be compliant.  However, when these people come to see me,  often in an agitated state, they make it very clear that they simply can no longer oblige others by being who that Other expects them to be.  It’s over: they can’t do it.  Or, at least, they can’t do it without paying an extremely heavy price, such as possibly lapsing into some form of serious physical or mental illness.

The End of a Certain Road

Often this experience comes at the end of a very long period in an individual’s life of suppressing his or her own wants and needs in favour of others’ demands.  In many cases, the individual may be suddenly confronted with one or more new and extreme self-denying demands, often with the difference this time that the individual is simply incapable of assenting to the wishes of others.

Astounding Self Revelation

Such people are often astounded at their own reactions.  They possibly find themselves feeling great anger or resentment, or overcome with a malaise or apathy not at all characteristic of their usual “sunny disposition” social selves.  They might find themselves in states of intense fear, or even despair.  What it all comes down to though, is this:

I have jumped through the hoops of others’ expectations so many times in the past.  I realize now the incredible price that I have paid in myself for doing it.  I can’t do it any more.  I can’t go back to that…NO!!!”

The “No” That Contains a “Yes”

That NO the individual gives to the demands for compliance contains within it a huge YES to the individual’s selfhood, and to their own real life.  At this point a new adventure begins.

I’ve had experiences like this myself, at several key points in my life.  At one point, in a time of genuine crisis, I made a decisive choice to move my life in a different direction.  Not because I had a choice about it, but because I didn’t — not if I wanted to continue to be myself, rather than a burnt-out remnant.  In the words of Robert Frost, “and that has made all the difference”.

Have you ever had an experience of this type?  Would you recognize it if you yourself were to come to this place?

Is Your Own Deepest Self Saying “No”?

I have no doubt that, among those reading this, there are some of you who have had the type of experience that I describe.  I suspect that there may be others among my readers who are undergoing this type of experience right now.  If you are, please remember that the support of a skilled therapist can be invaluable at times like this.  I know that it was for me.

Have you ever faced a situation in your life, where something within you just said “No” in an absolute way?  What kind of situation was it?  Did it relate to your work life?  Your personal or domestic life?   I would welcome any of your comments or reflections.

Wishing you and your potent, living self every good thing as you find your personal journey to wholeness,

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

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© 2011 Brian Collinson

Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario (near Oakville / Mississauga border)

4 Comments so far ↓

  • Jamie Rosanna Dorig

    Brian, I came across this blog entry on Facebook.
    Years ago my husband and I talked about the fact that none of us can say, “Yes” unless we can say, “No.” This is especially true when we are unaware of the inner wounding we have suffered.
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this.

  • Brian C

    Thank you very much for your comment, Amanda. It sounds very much as if, as you say, the change within you is a very palpable “move in the right direction”. I think that we do know at a very fundamental level when we are trying to force ourselves to do something that our instinctual being and our Self at the very most basic level knows is destructive of who we are. The choices are sometimes very hard, and often they come at the end of a very long process. But there is a point at which we are aware of another wisdom in us, that will no longer allow us to violate our fundamental selves. I wish you wisdom and every good thing as you move forward with the choices before you, Amanda.

  • Brian C

    Thank you for your comment, Jamie. Yes! I certainly think that you and your husband were absolutely right. Every “No” contains at least one “Yes” within it, and sometimes, saying a deep-level “No” to something is a key step in affirming something else, such as our autonomy of the value of our unique and individual lives. As you say, when wounds run deep,and often when they are long-standing, it is often easy tobe unaware of the “No’s” that we must make, in order to give the greater “Yes” to our true, real life and selfhood.

  • Brian C

    Thank you for your comment, Jamie. Yes! I certainly think that you and your husband were absolutely right. Every “No” contains at least one “Yes” within it, and sometimes, saying a deep-level “No” to something is a key step in affirming something else, such as our autonomy and the value of our unique and individual lives. As you say, when wounds run deep,and often when they are long-standing, it is often easy to be unaware of the “No’s” that we must make, in order to give the greater “Yes” to our true, real life and selfhood. This is not easy territory, but it is important.

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