Today’s quote is … brutal. Its stark, unvarnished truth has helped me appreciate my role in my own growth as well as my relationships more than ever. I’ve never seen it written, but God knows I’ve expressed it.
It’s the Jungian version of “I know you are but what am I?” That oft-cried reply of the schoolyard macadams and hillsides of my youth.
Welcome to Day 13 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.
“People will do anything, no matter how absurd, to avoid facing their own souls.”
― C.G. Jung
I’ve written thirteen of these things so far. That’s about 13,000+ original words devoted to a man I’ve never met and an -ology I find tremendously fascinating but one of which I hold no accumulated formal education of study, other than the study of my own well-being. I really saw this one about a week ago and when I first reviewed the list of the quotes, about two weeks ago, there were a few that gave me pause. This one is in the top three.
When I saw it last time (as I was preparing this list for offline access while on vacation) I remember thinking, “hooooboy, it’s gonna suck when I have to do that one.”
I looked at it earlier today, when I was writing yesterday’s — that super-optimistic one about having our entire lifetimes to become who we truly are. I didn’t want to touch this one. I thought I’d just pretend I dropped something and when it rolled by, I’d just keep my head down, tie my loafers, clean up some Cap’n Crunch… something like that.
You know, avoid it completely.
I know that’s impractical and it’s not the deal I made with myself. The deal I made with myself was that I’d take these quotes as they came and I’d deal with them, no matter how banal or out-of-context they seemed.
But the guys are out fishing, something I will never fake enjoying, and the weather is crappy (cool, cloudy and humid) and so I thought I’d get this over with.
I know this quote well.
I lived for a long time in the dark, intentionally. No one would’ve suspected it because I am an affable, sociable and involved person. But my heart was heavy with guilt and shame for how I’d behaved in my youth. What that guilt and shame did of course, was simply create more guilt and shame. When I couldn’t handle that anymore, I blamed other people. When that didn’t work, I kept it up. You know that saying, “If it doesn’t work, try harder”? Yeah, that was me.
While the fact of the matter is that we can’t change where we came from, we can only change where we are and where we’re going, I wanted to think more and harbor more about the past. I wanted to bury myself so deeply in it because doing that enabled me to keep blaming others, keep singing my ballad, keep from doing anything remotely close to taking stock of my emotional and spiritual health, let go of shit I had no business hanging on to in the first place, and moving on — truly moving on. I took a lot of my anger or whatever it was out on people who were blindsided. I was a studious intern of transference.
It’s like the student and the report card thing: “I got an ‘A’; she gave me an ‘F’ ” crap.
All I wanted though, was some normalcy. Ironic, huh? It was right there, with those other people (for the most part). Some people, an old boss of mine, were really nuts. I had one who’d give cute nicknames to her staffers who performed per her expectations or orders and they got a tootsie roll drop. The ones who didn’t perform up to par? She would ignore us. Sometimes I was “Mahvelus Molly” and sometimes I was an office chair. That behavior was familiar to me, so I didn’t really think it was too toxic until another supervisor started catching on and then we were interviewed. I mean, I thought it was weird, but … worthy of termination…? Really? (I was young.)
But what was odd is that the normal people, the ones with safe boundaries and rational behaviors, they pissed me off. I didn’t understand: “Where’s the passion?” “Where’s the fire in the belly?” “Where’s the silent treatment??” “Where’s the hypocrisy?!” and so I started to distrust those people. They were the weird ones. I talked about them. I tried to smear them, as best I could, with anyone. I didn’t want to accept that my tendencies, my anger, my defensiveness and my fears were the problem.
Therapy has helped. But I didn’t start therapy because of what I thought was my problem. I started therapy because I thought the problem was someone else’s. That was a long time ago. I owe my sanity to that person whom I thought had the problem. The in-your-face introspection, vulnerability allowance, and reflection we must do in order to achieve real therapeutic progress is soul-crushingly hard sometimes.
Soul. ‘Facing their own souls,’ Jung said. Yeah. There’s a lot of “I know you are but what am I?” going on before the couch time gets serious. Those are the “good” days of therapy: when you get to blame your adult rage on something that happened decades earlier. It’s a part of the process, for sure, but as I type all this I remember those days (and every time I have do to an intake: I get to spill my emotional guts all over the office carpeting) and I wince a little at my feeling whatever I was feeling vulnerable. No one likes that. And then there’s the rage from the way things went when I was young.
I don’t think parents realize how much damage their denial does to their kids.
So in those early days with the therapist you get to spill your guts and blame others. The thing is though: you have to clean them up too: that’s the soul-facing part. Doing that makes me reluctant at times to tell so much, because we don’t want to face our own souls, but it’s the only way to make sure we get everything out.
As I got healthier, I started to realize I was the problem. Living in the past and holding your wrist to that flame does nothing but injure you. The test of wills we engage in when trying to prove a point prove nothing to me anymore, save that bull-headedness perpetuates its own stagnation. It creates its own state of homeostasis. It’s those “catches” of my will that cause most of my problems today: feeling unseen and unheard. That’s it. That’s the simple “it” of my story.
Holding anger over my past kept me there. Facing the fact that I was the one who was still holding on, that I was the reason the story still breathed was very difficult. It still is at times. Sometimes I want to scream into the night for the sadness I felt those days — but who will hear me? Certainly not Jung.
yeah. that was deep.