For some reason, I want to leave my home, RIGHT NOW, drive to wherever Jung is buried, exhume this dude and scream at him. Then compose myself, promptly apologize, smooth over any wrinkles I might’ve made in his dead suit lapels and gently put him back.
Welcome to Day 6 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.
Here is today’s:
“Knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with the darknesses of other people.”
― C.G. Jung
Really? So I am feeling a LOT like I was on Day 2 (Lisa Loopner day). You know, that whole “takes one to know one” theme. But today’s is actually more pointed, more intentional, more intense, more… dark. I’ll likely ruffle some family feathers in this post, but here’s me, “it’s nothing personal” and their reaction is not my responsibility; it’s theirs (day 2 as well).
Alright, let’s do this. Count: up to 1,265.
Darkness. Darth Vader: he knew it about himself and maxed it out and he imploded. Heart of Darkness: war, deep stuff and violent; this is irrefutable, craven darkness, in-your-face, hard-to-admit-about-ourselves stuff. Dracula: a metamorphosis after deceit. Screwed-up as all get-out, a little puerile (honestly! — biting?! talk about id issues!) but a great metaphor for how we can infect people with our obsessions and darknesses. Don Draper — there’s a dark dude. I’m gonna wax etymological on Don one of these days, I mean it’s full of potential: don and drape. I’ll be gender fair: Medusa, Lizzie Borden, Mommie Dearest.
I’m feeling oogey. I am reluctant to write about this quote because I have spent a lot of time in the darkness. I grew up witnessing and partaking in some crazy dysfunctional stuff and I was disappointed and terrified and lied to a lot as a child. I Work Very Hard these days to credit my past for whom I’ve become. (Jung would high-five me and you about that reframing.)
I prefer to talk about resilience, perseverance and the benefits of soul-crushing Hard Work of awareness and release about my childhood during my adulthood to make the little triumphs in my adulthood all the sweeter, once I allowed them. Those childhood disappointments made me industrious (which is good) and hard (which isn’t so great). Say I’d won the “Best Person Ever” award. My response, “Meh. It’s ok. You want it?”
When you grow up in a world where the people you were given to by God hide, deny, project, compartmentalize and rage through their issues, you see a darkness that at times can warp your brain and your outlook on life. I will release my memoir one day and people might say it’s not true; that it’s an angry vitriolic slight and slam at my parents; it won’t be. It’s not. It’s about growth and forgiveness. Take Running With Scissors; aspects of it are very close to my story. People talk about how it’s fiction; that no one treats their children that way or the way I remember being treated. But then there will be people who silently nod and they will know. They’re in touch with their own darknesses, and so we can relate. (HAY! I’m still on topic.)
But despite this quote, I’ve never been able to endure having darkness be the foundation upon which I can build my relationships. It’s unbearable for me. It has happened and it has FAILED MISERABLY. I always want out. Eventually, I want to go back to my (our, yours too) essence. I want to return to the state that created me: pure energy and light. I employ that darkness to know light; I use lies to know truth; I use fear to know confidence; use chaos to know peace; and use mindlessness to know mindfulness. All that stuff I can’t seem to find in a box of Cap’n Crunch.
What’s the hardest for me at times in all of this is coming to terms with my capacity for my own darkness. I absolutely possess it; and that’s what makes my ability to see right through others’ bullshit façades like a TSA agent working the conveyor belt at Dulles. They can’t hide from me. I’ve been there. Will I call them out? Not likely; it has to be rampant. I just take notes. I’m starting to blossom a little: I’ve delicately called out hypocrisy and self-righteousness when I see it. It will make me unpopular. I don’t care. People won’t die from being made aware of themselves and their patterns. That includes me too.
It’s almost like an ill-begotten superpower. Like that dude in “Powder” whose mother was struck by lightning (don’t worry, in typical style I’m about to turn Jung upside down again) when she was pregnant with him, he could sense things (secrets, feelings, thoughts) in others and that made him a threat. I am not bald and messed up like he was; I can still grow hair out of my head, but I do know that everyone EVERYONE has been hurt and no matter how brave and how strong and how funny and how smart and clever you might think you are: I’m on to you.
I’ve been there, I know the capacity for darkness in myself and even though I’m not in your shoes: I get it. That makes me your cheerleader. That makes me proud of you, that you’re still here, swinging for the fences. It also makes me aware that you are liable to pop at any moment. Because all that bravado spills over and starts to burn and there’s only so much tough, funny, dedicated, smart guy or gal your pot can handle. Trust me. Even when you think you’ve got it all together, that’s the moment you really don’t. I’m laughing at this actually, because it reminds me of Kevin Bacon in “Animal House” just a few seconds later after Flounder’s enthusiasm became unbridled (same scene as yesterday):
He had to get run over by a stampede of panicked Faberians to be convinced that all hell was breaking loose.
Don’t be like Bacon. Don’t get fried. (Yuk yuk yuk – that was insanely hard and impossible clearly for me to resist.)
So I want to invert this because despite all my crap growing up, I’m an optimist.
We can not know our own darkness without having an appreciation of our own light. We know, even in our darkest, deepest moments, that it’s no way to live. We know that we deserve better thinking, better behavior, better coping and better lives. The question is: do we have the guts to do something about it? I know we do — simply because we are still here. Personality disorder? I get it. Practice some self-awareness, get your act together. Be cool, tone it down, APOLOGIZE.
So to get back to the quote: I know yours because I know my own. Do you know your own to deal with someone else’s? And at times, it is “dealing”; it’s a negotiation just to survive it sometimes.