Day 3 of “30 Days of Jung,” my series, wherein (soon, I will start repeating myself, like now) I take a famous quote of Carl G. Jung‘s and try to make sense or refute or invert or disembowel it or where I turn into a heaping pile of mush because of it in 1,000 words or less.
If you don’t know who Jung is, he formulated the theories of introverted and extroverted personalities, the stages of individuation, the basis of the “Meyers-Briggs” personality (INFJ / ESFJ, etc.) tests. He’s the “father” of modern-day psychoanalysis. In short, he’s a badass. But he’s dead, so he can’t be with us today.
Today’s quote (is very different from yesterday’s which I
hated loved) is:
“Your visions will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.”
― C.G. Jung
Let the 1,000 words begin:
I have three boys. They are spaced about 33 months apart, save for the “bookends” as I call them, who are 5.5 years apart.
Our middle son, Thing 2, is 12. He is understandably feeling an urge, as he has all his life, to differentiate himself from his two brothers. Jung would calm me down and consider T2’s “behaviors” completely normal. I get it.
The “issue” with T2’s explorations to find and follow his very young but important vision of himself and his successes is that it seems to be coming mainly from outside. He wants Likes from YouTube, a Facebook account, Instagram hearts… All these false validations. Sure it’s nice to have “friends” on social media, but when I was his age, back in 1884, I had my stick and hoop to play with and my bible studies and real people like Scratchy McFarland down at the water hole t’wrassle. Real shit.
I know this “social preening” is perfectly natural for his age, but I have seen full-fledged supposed mature adult grown-ups (Kardashians, Lindsay Lohan, _____ _____ person I know) behave similarly: turning to self-desctructive behavior, drugs, and risk taking — while looking outside themselves for approval, validation, and success — for relief from the constant pressure of looking outside themselves (comparing) for validation. What’s the phrase, “compare and despair”?
Jung is very concise in what he talks about. This quote is very clear: “dreams” and “awakes.”
When we look outside ourselves, to others, for our success and our triumphs, we are simply observing others, watching others succeed, watching others apply their vision and their determination and their ambition to do all they can to reach their full potential. We are dreaming, “If only I could be like him… If I could have that six-pack or her thighs or his film career or her doctorate…” those ambitions have nothing to do with us and they never will because they have already happened to other people. Our successes are still waiting for us. Capiche?
When we look inside, really inside, we face lots of stuff: fear (huge stuff), ambivalence, doubt. We have to go in, bring a shovel (I can feel my stomach churn a little at this proposition right now) and get through that stuff in order to be OK with our own true abilities to be That Person We Are Waiting For. We can be audacious! We need to be audacious! There are 7 billion of us out there, the deeper we go to face the yuck the better.
The more we look to others for our path, the more we will be led astray. I’m not explicitly saying it’s wrong, it’s just not our path. It’s their path. Do you want to be the next Robert Downey Jr., or do you want to the next YOUR NAME HERE? You want to be the next YOUR NAME HERE. I have no confusion that RDJ said, “I want to be the next Harrison Ford, Cary Grant, Montgomery Clift.” He wanted to be the best RDJ he could (and I’m so so SO glad he did, he’s a genius). But we almost lost him, didn’t we? He almost died of a drug overdose because of the pressure of looking outside himself for his success. He was dreaming, he was asleep. Ironically, it took a near-fatal drug overdose to wake him up. Let’s not do that to ourselves.
Visions. We all have them, right? I want to be a happy and great writer. If I compare myself with Cormac McCarthy or Dorothy Parker or Erma Bombeck, who am I tormenting? Me. And who wants another one of those people anyway? They have cut their own cloths. Is it foolish of me to aspire to their greatness? No, I don’t think so. I think it’s smart and good to have role models, but that’s all they can be to us. They can be our muses, our sparring partners, but we must do the work.
We watched “Rocky” over the weekend. Other than it being a terribly slow movie in dire need of a remake, the basic lesson was that Rocky had to dig deep, beat the crap out of cow carcasses, wake at 4:00am, run in the dark, eat five raw eggs every morning and train like a fother mucker to simply go 15 rounds with Apollo Creed just to have a rematch. I digress. He had to look inside, work hard, trust people and get his head on straight. Once he did it, he was amazing. We all have this potential. A better boxing story, and a true one at that, is “Cinderella Man.”
So what to do? How do I make sure my son is looking inward, eating raw eggs at 4am? How do we remember to keep our eye on the prize? To keep our focus on our vision when we are awake (looking inside) and not be lulled into dreaming (looking outside)? And how, as a mother, am I supposed to instill in him a sense of service to and awareness of others if he is being told to look into his own heart? How do we not get tripped up by our own drama: the ego? I guess we just need to only compare ourselves to ourselves and really stay inward with that vision. But then, how do I make sure that I’m not / T2’s not looking so much inside that we forget the world and become too self-involved??
OAMAIGAAAD! WHAT WOULD JUNG SAY ABOUT THAT?!
I suspect that this looking inward to our own hearts to clearly find our own visions requires not only an awareness of others and the potential traps but also a HUGE awareness of ourselves: our pitfalls, our flaws, our strengths. Yes, our strengths. Once we find those strengths we can better know our weaknesses, and knowing our weaknesses can then become a strength as well. (I know. That was a bit much. I’m sitting down. But it’s true….)
So we must become better acquainted with ourselves, our hearts, and our weaknesses to better understand our gifts: our strengths to stay awake so we can keep looking into our hearts.
Damn. Activate “heaping pile of mush” sensation.