Journeying Toward Wholeness

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Summer, & the Importance of Self Awareness, 2

July 6th, 2015 · importance of self awareness

The season of summer sun may bring home the importance of self-awareness in some ways that are rather different than we might expect.

importance self awareness

In my last post, we saw how the summer solstice is a time that, for many of us, may represents the height of our capacity for consciousness, as embodied in the kind of aliveness that circadian rhythm may allow us to experience at the time of the height of the sun. But there is another aspect to these days after the solstice, and that is that the sun starts to decline, and the days start to become shorter.
What happens to our awareness then?  Can there be anything good that comes out of this?

The Slow Downward Movement

As the maximum power of the sun is symbolic of the maximum extent of the powers of consciousness, so the shortening of the days and the return to darkness can be seen as a move in the direction of the unconscious — the other pole of the human psyche.

Just as it’s inevitable for the seasons to slowly oscillate between light and darkness, so it is that the human psyche oscillates between two different dimensions: the conscious and the unconscious

The sun’s movement mirrors a psychic reality.  At some times we are more aware, more alive, more conscious of who we are, more open to the relatively unknown aspects of the self.  At other times, we lapse more into less conscious ways of functioning, and motives and feelings that are often unknown to the conscious mind can actually affect, or even at times, govern our functioning.

So, we have the conscious and the unconscious dimensions of ourselves.  And the rhythm of the year symbolizes a fundamental dynamic of human awareness: the ebb and flow of the conscious and unconscious portions of the self.  Yet, through using our conscious mind to explore the unknown, perhaps unconscious aspects of ourselves, we can further the process of integration of the conscious and the unconscious self into increased wholeness.

The Nighttime Side of the Psyche

importance of self awareness

As we discussed in the last post, the conscious self can make the grave error of assuming that it’s “the only game in town”.  This is hazardous, though.  If we don’t seek to understand what is motivating us in unconscious ways, we stand a very good chance of finding our lives run by the unacknowleged and unknown parts of the psyche.

Example.  Consider someone who unconsciously always pursues romantic partners who are fundamentally inaccessible.  The individual may continually curse “my rotten luck” in choosing such people, but, in actual fact, they may be choosing such partners precisely because they are inaccessible — and so there is no real risk of trusting them, and therefore being hurt by them, as may have happened in a significant relationship in the past.  This is a dynamic noted by commentators including Jung, Freud and Lacan, among others, as Prof. Ian Parker of Leicester notes.

To function in freedom, in ways that give us what we’re seeking in life, we need to understand the night time side of the psyche: and, we need to integrate it.

Solar Consciousness, Lunar Consciousness

importance self awareness

Sometimes the sun’s bright light is used to symbolize conscious awareness, while the light of the moon represents a softer, more subdued, perhaps more intuitive awareness, that is closer to the unconscious, and incorporates awareness of elements of it.

For the journey toward wholeness, we need the bright light of solar consciouness, but we also need the softer, less rational, less clear-cut consciousness that is symbolized by the light of the moon.

The Importance of Self-Awareness: Bringing Sun and Moon Together

importance self awareness

Rare Photo: The Two Lights Together

We can use our conscious awareness to become aware of our unconscious aspects — what Jung and other psychologists have called “the undiscovered self”.  We can train our consciousness, in its strength to explore and reflect on the unconscious and unknown aspects of ourselves.  In fact, doing so can be one of the greatest adventures in life — and, ultimately, one of the most rewarding.

The importance of self-awareness only becomes more and more apparent as we gradually, increasingly dispose ourselves to it.  In conjunction with growing compassion for ourselves, such self awareness is the heart of the work of depth psychotherapy.

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

PHOTOS:  Attribution Share Alike  ©  白士 李 ; Anindo Ghosh ; Ross2085
© 2015 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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Summer, & the Importance of Self Awareness

June 29th, 2015 · importance of self awareness

Here we are at the height of the summer sun; it seems a strange time to reflect on the importance of self awareness, but symbolically, it’s very appropriate.

importance of self awareness

Nordic Summer Solstice Bonfire – “Ligo 2015”

Archetypally, the sun symbolizes conscious awareness, shedding light on things and enabling us to distinguish things and discern what they really are.

Symbolism of the Solstice

The solstice just occured on June 21, the first day of summer, with the sun at its high point in the sky.  The sun’s light is as strong as it gets, and it is the longest day of the year.

In many religious and spiritual traditions, the summer solstice is a high holy day.  Why?

Well, the human organism responds to additional light.  Consequently, midsummer gives many a feeling of physical and emotional empowerment, and increased capacity to start new endeavours, connect with others, explore new frontiers, and to feel the vital importance of self awareness, as it grows.

On the unconscious level where symbols are created, solstice beckons us to use our increased resources to become more conscious, more aware, more fully alive.

Yet, as the ascent of light reaches its maximum, the days slowly get shorter and darker, and we also move toward the decline of the year.

Solstice in Folklore

At summer solstice, the Sun reaches its northern limit.    It’s both the time when the Sun is at maximum intensity, and  when that intensity slowly and subtly begins to decrease.   So, these are two aspects of traditional celebration of the summer solstice.

Traditional cultural practices include round dances and bonfires,  marking the yearly height of the sun’s intensity.  Yet,  in contrast,  it’s also a time of fairies and spirits,  lust and love,  and trickery —  opposites are combined, as Dr. Ismail Wali shows in Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream.   Our consciousness may be at its most intense at the Solstice,  but it won’t remain so.   We should make hay —  or increase conscious self awareness —  while the sun shines.

importance of self awareness

Seeing Ourselves, Being Ourselves

There are two large errors that consciousness can fall into when it comes to dealing with the unconscious.

The first of these would be arrogance of consciousness, which assumes that conscious will and awareness is all that there is to oneself as a human being. Both recent neuroscience, and insights gained from depth psychotherapy show us that this is a hazardous way to think and act. The analogy I often use is to imagine a flea perched on the top most hair on the head of an enormous bull elephant,  crashing through the bush, and congratulating itself on its marvelous rate of travel. Clearly the flea of consciousness would do well to take better account of the huge forces at work which are not under the control of its will.

The second error is lethargy of consciousness. Here it’s as if the flea, despite every opportunity to understand the elephant simply–doesn’t. Given our gift of consciousness, doesn’t it actually make a lot of sense to know what we can about our unconscious selves, especially when it can have a huge bearing on concerns such as anxiety and depression?

Savour the Gifts of Summer

When summer arrives our conscious powers may well be at their height.  Consider what this consciousness might bring to our journey:


Do you feel clear-sighted at the height of summer?

Is there a special “summer place” where you feel your strongest, best, most relaxed?

If you have the chance to get away this summer, and the chance to rest, recreate and perhaps reflect, please take note: what kind of insights or awarenesses start to come into your life?

Depth psychotherapy stresses the importance of self awareness, and seeks to enable the healing such understanding can bring into the individual’s life.

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

PHOTOS:  Attribution Share Alike  ©  Kārlis Dambrāns ; Bureau of Land Management Oregon and Washington ; 
© 2015 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)




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