THIS. This is why I’m still doing this series; this is why I started in the first place.
Welcome to Day 9 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.
My first exposure to Jung was in college, naturally, when I pronounced his name with the hard “J” sound; I also pronounced “Goethe” as “Goy-thee” and was summarily laughed out of English 101. I also pronounced “Tucson” as “Tuck-son” when I was little and was also laughed at by
assholes scholars. Did I say that? Anyway, when I read Jung’s “What irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves” back in college, I was in. Jung, to me, was the one badass who was willing to Call People Out for their crap; he was like the “Oh Yeah?!” guy who you need just before a knife fight in a darkened city parking lot.
So today’s quote is this stuff, this heady stuff which is why I love Jung so much:
“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”
― C.G. Jung
BOOM! Jung drops mic, walks off the stage.
End the count at 1,290.
I’m a woo-woo person; I like to believe that fate guides us. I also like to believe in free lunches, Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy and Cap’n Crunch. I know that the “I am where I am meant to be” mantra helps prevent overwhelming angst, but I also know that those concepts, while stress-relieving for the most part (and that’s where for me their benefit lies) are also … sort of … well sometimes a load of crap.
For example: My son has a guitar lesson. It’s a five-minute drive. I can choose to leave eight minutes ahead of the start time to give him a chancy 3-minute cushion (a segment of which I can blame on ill-
fated -timed lights, a car accident, or a Kashi Go-Lean -filled little old lady who drives 15 miles per hour in a 40) while waiting for the lesson to start. Whatever the scenario, the choice is mine. I can continue to give me that possibly stressful 3-minutes, thereby making my son a nervous tic for the first ten minutes of his lesson or I can consciously decide to leave ten minutes early and get to the lesson several minutes early.
I know what I need to do. But here’s Jung hissing (’cause he’s dead) over my shoulder: “But what do you want to do?”
Another case in point: I’m a little hungry and I’m writing most of these posts 12 hours in advance and so just now, I wanted (unconsciously) to go eat a brownie, but as I approached, I actually felt the shift in my consciousness, and I chose a cheese stick and water instead. I heard myself say to myself, simply because I am writing this post, “Self, if I eat the brownie, I will regret it because it’s all sugar and I’ll be pissed later because it certainly won’t help me stay healthy.” So I growled at myself and got the cheese stick (pepper jack, thank you very much) and a big bottle of water and while I’m not exactly thrilled I chose against the tastier treat and I know that the cheese will satisfy me longer, I am psyched that I noticed the shift in my consciousness and chose the healthier option.
Basically this quote to me is the “prove it” quote. As far as I’m concerned. it only applies to adults, by the way. We all have stories. We all have suffering and we all have joys. What this quote means to me is that we have a choice, again. It also feels like it’s also about fear, again.
In order to grow up, pull up our big people panties and stop blaming “fate” for our lives, we need to wake the hell up and take stock of our lives and commit to living the best possible way we can. If we are asleep / unconscious, we continually focus on fate as being what we’d rather use as ammunition to blame our current predicament on (obesity, bad marriage, bad job, crappy relationships, parenting challenges, addiction, etc.).
Say there’s someone who complains about their second marriage and troubled relationships with kids and friends and that the lack of self-esteem is blamed on a crappy childhood and sexist parents and everyone else is the problem. Let’s say this person drinks a bottle of wine every day, during the afternoon with lunch, y’know, because we all do that, either with friends or alone and then more with the spouse at dinner despite it being against doctor’s orders. Add in some inappropriate emotionally adulterous relationships with other, much younger people even though the spouse is bending over backwards to give attention and by all accounts from this person, demonstrations of love and support, even if somewhat controlling (due to worry). This person continues to see the patterns, even suggests depression but stops therapy because it’s “too hard” and continues the obsessive bad habits and unhealthy relationships. These behaviors all sound like unconscious desperate attempts for attention because they are regardless of the interventions and psychiatric help. So one day I posit: “If you were reading about this person in People Magazine, what would you think? Does this story sound like someone who’s got it together or does it all sound a few DUIs and a custody battle away from a ‘LifeTime True Stories Original Movie’?”
The answer, “I know, but…”
So it continues. That person is unconscious and is calling this fate.
I shrug. If I’m not careful, my unconscious could take over and ignite my addiction to chaos (which I’ve written about extensively) and I’d be in the movie too. So I walk away.
Speaking of walking…
I just watched Nik Wallenda cross the Grand Canyon from 1,500 feet up on a tight wire that was two inches in diameter. It took him 22 minutes. Doing anything consistently for 22 minutes without a break is hard, I can’t imagine it on a tight wire in the wind. He was carrying a 45-lb, 30-foot-long beam held by a yoke across his shoulders. That dude? He wasn’t unconscious; he wasn’t calling this his “fate!” He was aware, focused, determined and quite connected –in every possible way– to the elements: he was aware of the wind, he was wearing leather booties, he was wearing skinny jeans (!?) and he was praying and praising Jesus like an Olde Tyme Preacher, but maaaan… he was conscious.
Do you think he blames “fate” for his ability to cross? Do you think he’s any different from me and you? Sure, he has tons of training, but other than that, he looks like any average American middle-aged man who’s spent his Saturdays at the ball park. He wasn’t a beach body, he wasn’t super tall or fabulously handsome. He wasn’t even charismatically fantabulous; he’d probably bore me to tears at a picnic, but:
THE DUDE HAS CHARACTER and consciousness. We all have that potential. We all can be conscious and take control of our lives and stop looking for things to blame, which until that day we choose otherwise, have been our main reason we might not be truly happy.
In my life as a clinician, and my duty as a parent, and support as a friend, and resident ass-kicker of myself, I find the one thing that I have stressed above any other is that CHOICES are everything. I sympathize with those who have a shorter list of options to choose from in a circumstance than someone else may have, but they STILL have them. No one is really ever forced into much (of course there are exceptions), and even then, the time afterward is usually up to choice. The problem lies in when the person becomes aware that they are a product of their own volition and the inevitable guilt that follows. When you only have yourself to blame, well, then you only have yourself to blame. The process in which we turn that guilt in to a positive conscious awareness to make better choices, less mistakes, and have more accountability is a truly beautiful one. I think that has what has shown more evidence of progress and actualization in myself, family, friends, and clients than anything else.
Loved this installment.
CLINICIAN?! That explains so much about your awesomeness. I’m thrilled then, that you’re digging this series as much as you are. It means a lot. Even the crappy quotes are good to mull over; I have to be willing to do the uncomfortable as well as the comfortable in order to fully appreciate what I am asking of any reader: patience.
The guilt. Yes. The guilt. I’m in EMDR to deal with some of that. I was conditioned by one parent to perform in a way that the target parent only reinforced. Then as I got older… I may have been conditioned, but I did have a choice. The re-programming has been devastatingly hard and gut-wrenching. The tables are turning: the target parent now (in my mind, I’m not ready to practically or openly embrace the perspective change) has my sympathy and the aggressor (coward) now bears my disdain instead of my fear / motivation for his favor. It’s mind-boggling and has turned my intellectual world upside down while helping to settle the turgidity of my emotional world.
You are awesome.
Why thank you for the decree of awesomeness and yes, it takes one to know one :P. I stay at home now, which is another reason I love your posts because besides reading journals and books, I don’t get much in the way of exercising that portion of my brain anymore. I tell everyone that after 7-9 years of school (including breaks to raise my oldest), and 6 years on the job in various faculties, I learned as much or more from my 12 years on the couch. My time spent at the Mental Health Authority was the most diverse and the most educational. And what I saw time and time again from most of my clients was a lack of accountability. About 1/3 of my population was considered very seriously mentally ill and they honestly did not have the capacity for accountability. It was a struggle just to keep them stable enough to be quasi coherent. But the rest were just unwilling to hold themselves accountable. Frighteningly (but obviously), it was the worst with the children/adolescents in the juvenile court program. Which tells you right there where blaming everyone else can lead you. It always boggled my mind to see people receiving every single available resource towards their mental health (much more so than Average Joe with mental illness), and still refuse to do their part. I think many were scared of mental wellness. Because taking responsibility can be a daunting task. And then if you arent “deemed to need help” you dont get as much help. That can be scary for anyone but can be downright terrifying for someone receiving the kind of help where most of their daily life is externally managed an monitored. And far too many people in all walks of life are refusing the accountability. As with many things, I feel that it falls the hardest on the biggest influence we have: parents. The more parenting becomes a tool for glory, a whipping post, a vicarious endeavor; and the more those in question refuse to be responsible and accountable and pass those traits on to their offspring, the more we tumble into mess. And I agree with Wayne that there was this surge of self esteem training that has now backfired into creating narcissists because people have ignored the balance needed in all things. We go so far one way that we forget about the inevitable pendulum swing that is surely to follow.
I’m gonna throw out a half baked theory. It goes like this: There are two basic approach to life. The first Is to blame fate, growing up in a poor/dysfunctional family, being the wrong race, the wrong sex, whatever. Hence, you refuse to accept responsibility for your life. You should be compensated for your suffering. It’s becoming more and more popular in America.
The second which is more painful is that everything is your fault. You always say the wrong thing, dress the wrong way, marry the wrong person, take the wrong job and you get to be depressed and feel guilty/ashamed about everything. You are a miserable worm and you should suffer.
The question is, is what is the payoff for both of these attitudes? More importantly, what is the cost?
There is no payoff for either of these attitudes. They both perpetuate the suffering and the false story and the false self. We are all created out of pure light and energy; I am lucky, I suppose: I am white, a female and born in America to an upper-middle-class white collar family. That “benefit” ends there. That’s a lot of benefits already; but the dysfunctional family stuff: I hate talking about it, but it calls me back, if only for a reference now, as far as I’m concerned: to remind me that I must stay aware in order to stay aware. … I can feel the lapses when I don’t stay aware: I am reactive, I am angry, I lash out. That’s the false self living in a false place… I have no history there anymore, unless I create one.
The cost? Plenty: our souls’ freedom and the health of anything we leave in our legacy. Look, I’ve got three kids. If I don’t get my act together — and allow lapses but sincerely apologize for them (which I NEVER got from my parents other than the “I’m sorry for whatever it is you say I did…” <– no kidding) and learn from them and teach my kids that we all screw up from time to time but it's what we do with that screw up, then I've lost the game. My kids will end up thinking I'm a shrew and a coward just like I did about mine.
I don't think there's a greater cost than that.
I just got finished reading a recent article in time magazine about the 18 to 30 year olds of today. The conclusion of the article was that a high percentage of the group are best described as narcissistic, having strong feelings of entitlement, and lazy!! It’s scary to me because any feeling of obligation toward this country seems foreign to them. No more “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” (JFK) Having worked in public education, part of this arises from the Self-Esteem movement when kids were told “you’re special!” whether they had achieved anything.
I agree that not apologizing (and meaning it!) is pathological. I can’t remember any of my parents apologizing for anything. I guess they saw it as a sign of weakness. After all “Father Knows Best” as some of us may remember from the old T.V. serial.
I fear for the world, honestly. I try lot to think about it too much; it honestly keeps me awake at night.
My kids are not perfect, by any stretch, but my husband and I work to instill service in them although I feel like we could be doing a better job. My goal for the time being is to just get them to stop talking back and cleaning their rooms. I could’ve turned out more narcissistic than I am, but I try hard to be of service as much as I can.
I volunteer a lot, I help out in ways that I enjoy rather than do lots of public service, but I would be hard pressed to argue with someone who would tell me I could do more.
The apologies: two words go a long way toward mending a broken heart, Wayne.
Thanks for being such a great contributor to these discussions!
Oh, one more thing: the peeps I know in their late 20s are very service oriented. But these kids I’m talking about are children of military officers or teachers or other public service. I can’t help but feel as I age that j just want to give back and help others. Despite my boo-hooing, I have lived a good life. I recognize this and I often feel a tug on my spirit to do more. So I do. But as long as I feel safe and that it speaks to me. Giving bread at the shelter was a big moment for my son when I took him there and doing the yoga for the domestic abuse survivors was fantastic for me (see “No Ordinary Day”) and giving back to the community in the task forces and PTA and other stuff works. But yes: we can always do more because three is always more to do!
I hope things turn around for our young adults. I feel like the instant social media stuff is a lot of the problem.
Molly I’m right with you on this one. I think the kids of military officers probably turn out better than the ones seeking fame trying to “friend” a celebrity or some other stupid waste of time. In some ways I wish they’d reinstate the draft and get some of these wooses forcibly detached from their stupid ipads. Teachers sort of have their hands tied by dunderhead administrators and helicopter parents.
Social media in my opinion has taken the place of having to slog through reading and understanding the classics. A pity indeed 😦
I tend to agree with you, Wayne. I obviously don’t want a draft for war purposes, but it would be great for kids who are lost to really consider the military. Jack Donaghy, a fictional character on one of my most favorite tv shows of all time, other than The Mary Tyler Moore show, is a hard-boiled younger Lou Grant republican from a single mother who raised him in working-class Boston said this one time on the show, “the first generation works theirs fingers to bone and innovates, the second generation goes to prep school and builds business and the third generation snowboards and takes improve classes.” The show is an Emmy-winning show called “30 rock” and it did not renew it’s contract.
I’m on a roll! Here’s a quote from Twain that speaks well to this subject: “It is better to deserve honors and not have them than to have them and not deserve them.”
Oh yes, definitely. Twain… Sigh.
Last night I was thinking about how I want to be more fit. I want to lose some flab. I want my old body back and yet I am doing almost nothing to get there. I was wondering why I was willing to work so hard at some things…my art, parenting, etc., but work so little for my health (something that would improve every other area of my life). Instead, I work really hard finding excuses or paying attention to obstacles in my way. I should be choosing to remove those obstacles. I think sometimes, the payoff is having a clear, strong identity versus the sort of unknown one. I’m the mom who is home with her kid, with little help, little sleep…blah, blah, blah. It’s a way to belong to a club. I am one of “those” moms. In a way I am choosing to be this miserable(ish), tired, martyr of a person because it is easier, it is acceptable…and it is better than being “nobody” which is probably what I fear the most. Not my brightest moment. Now, I have to decide to let go of this charade so I can live my life more consciously. I think I am choosing health more and more so I have high hopes for myself 🙂
Be unique. Be one of those moms who breaks the mold, Lil. I have turned this writing Jung thing into an incentive for after I work out.
Working out clears my head. I’ve written something, gone for a run and come up with something completely different but still just as good. (I hope).
One of these days j want to do a before a run and after a run post on the same prompt.
It’s hard to fight out of that box, we want to belong… But at what cost? Our needs? Our health? Our knowing better and disregarding it in spite of it…just to fit in?
Nope. You’re an artist. Claim it. Own it. Wear it like a Boss, LC. Choosing health was one of the smartest things I’ve ever done. Our bodies want to be well. They show us this all the time.