Do you ever just want to punch a dead maverick psychologist in his dead maverick psychologist face?
Welcome to Day 4 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.
This is today’s quote:
“I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become.”
― C.G. Jung
And we start the word count: at 202 to 1,202:
‘What I choose to become’?!
Where is the fairness in this?! How can I blame everyone else and especially everyone else and stay snarky and mean and unpredictable and lash out at people and be uncool and just plain random because I had a tough break five minutes ago in the cereal aisle?!
The space between my eyebrows is forming seriously deep “elevens” right now. I wanna go back to the Piggly-Wiggly and ram my shopping cart into that little old lady I saw by the yogurts and knock her and her Kashi Go-Lean right into next week.
So Jung is saying that if I grew up fantastically wealthy, with all the Cap’n Crunch I ever wanted at all times and my mommy and daddy gave me everything I ever wanted and I had a stable, loving, predictable and safe home and I went to an awesome college where everyone loved me and I had all sorts of fantastic cosmopolitan friends and one of them is from, say, Portugal where they don’t have Cap’n Crunch, and I go to visit her family and they don’t have Cap’n in her terra cotta beach villa that I can’t justifiably pitch a FIT because I DON’T GET TO HAVE MY CAP’N CRUNCH WHENEVER I WANT — EVEN ON THE BEACHES IN PORTUGAL?!? And that I don’t get to pout without cause?
But my cause is not getting my waaaay, y’know: no Caaaaaaap’n….No Cruuuunnnnch….
“What fresh hell is this?” said Dorothy Parker, who is also dead (I shoulda done 30 Days of Parker… secretary, file that one away…).
So Jung, that dead psychologist, is saying that in order to live my life as a rational and actualized human adult, I need to live based not on what happened to me, but instead make a choice, a conscious choice about how to integrate what happened to me so that I can live… healthfully…? What if I want to execute double standards, and be sanctimonious and self-righteous and indignant and blame all my sense of entitlement stuff on the fact that my parents never disappointed me? And more importantly:
WHAT IF I DON’T WANT TO LIVE HEALTHFULLY?!
Then I don’t get to have many friends?
Then I don’t get to blame my past for my present and my future?
Then I don’t get to harbor resentment and anger against my parents who never prepared me for a world >HORRORS!< WITHOUT Cap’n Crunch?
Here’s a shocker: even growing up with every need met can become a mechanism for disappointment.
As you might’ve guessed, I like this quote. I like it because it flies smack in the face in the person who wants to blame others (or his past) for his current life. Barring intractable mental illness, everyone’s mental disposition (happiness or woeful, peaceful or anxious) is mostly a combination of outlook on life (choice) and action.
The “what happened to you” needn’t be 40 years ago. It could be just ten minutes ago.
I know lots of people who boo-hoo their past, their treatment and experiences. I get it if you’re 12 or eight: YOU WANT THE PONY. But when you’re 45 and constantly blaming your situation, or the fact that you have to pay your utility bills at the bank, or that you had to cut off that jerk driving the Mazda because he deserved it, or you’re rude to the teller who is just doing his job when he asks for ID… uh, it’s not about your parents anymore. It’s about you and the choices you’ve made to perpetuate the discomfort of choosing to actively separate from an ancient past.
Dare I say you’ve come to like it? It gets you attention. It keeps people wondering about you. I was one of those people. I liked to be pissed all the time and blame my problems on my past. It’s all well and good until you meet someone like me now who after lots of couch time has come to understand that not only am I not what happened to me, but that neither are you what happened to you.
This is easy for me to say. I’m sitting at my laptop in my home. My kids are all safe and my husband is happy with his work. But if my world came crashing down, how would I be? I’d likely be pissed, that’s for sure, but I know well enough now that if I stay pissed, I’ll stay pissed. If I feel like my life sucks, I’m gonna feel like my life sucks… y’follow? It’s up to us.
Sometimes circumstances might be bleak, but we can choose to not identify with our circumstances and just let them be separate from us so we have the emotional freedom to move around and make a choice. (Go back to Day 2 if you want to know about ‘identifying with something.’)
So when it comes to this yoga training I’m going to in about a month, if I am forced to eat sea kelp and hemp cereal sprinkled with essence of cucumber juice, I have a choice: 1) to buck up and eat the sea hemp because it’s only for 16 days, and that I might actually learn something about myself if I just go with the flow; or 2) lose my mind because no one is giving me what I want and the sea hemp cereal world is against me; it’s a breakfast cereal conspiracy.
There are people, we all know them, who focus so much on the stuff that happened to them that they forget who they can be. They unconsciously lash out at others. Something happens which activates a trigger in them and they have a need to control, or be bitchy, or point fingers or blame others — it’s likely all fear-based behavior, after all, “What’s worse than a bear? A wounded bear,” said my brother, who is not dead. ‘Cept a wounded bear doesn’t bitch about its childhood.
We waste time; we have so precious little of it on this planet to be fully independent — what, ages 22 – 75 when people are telling us we should stop driving or we might want to look into retirement communities… Don’t think, harbor, harp so much what happened to you. Focus instead on who you can choose to BE. Get beyond the cereal aisle. Choose become something different; choose to become who you really are.