This makes me laugh. Yesterday’s quote was about our inability to change something until we accept it. Today’s is about the terror one feels when accepting oneself completely. Knowing me, I’m going to try to tie it all together and make fun of Jung at the same time. ‘Cause he’s dead and he can’t fight back.
Welcome to Day 24 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.
“The most terrifying thing is to accept oneself completely.”
― C.G. Jung
Ya wanna know something really hilarious? I screwed this up royally when I read the quote the first time. I mentally replaced “accept” with “love” and I was off to the races quoting Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, and going all wedding “love is patient, love is kind” on us all and about 3/4 through I was stuck. I got to writing about my mom, how she’s aging and how it’s been hard; I felt she never really loved herself and then I wrote about unconditional love and I got sick of it all and so I looked at the quote again and saw accept and I picked up my laptop and hurled it across my backyard, pulled a shotgun from my sleeve and made like I was skeet shooting. I blew my MacBook Pro to “smithereenies” as Yosemite Sam would say.
Then I reached into my silk pajama pockets, pulled out another laptop and started this post. Just like they do on Looney Toons. Y’know how time flies on Looney Toons (I’ve written about this before) when Bugs Bunny orders something and puts the order envelope in the mailbox and a second or two later a truck from Acme Earmuffs screeches up and the driver yells, “Daaah, package for Bugs Bunny!”? That’s how it is with me and my laptops.
So I’m back on my laptop. Let’s stop the count at 1400. I’ve taken up enough of your time.
I’m 45 now. I’m nothing like I used to be about myself even five years ago. I was relentless on myself, physically demanding and constantly self-critical. That’s what kept
me feeling alive; that’s what kept the engines running chaos flowing. I admit, that my kinder, gentler opinion of myself is easier on the knees and lower back, but I believe for me anyhow that the most terrifying thing would be for me to be completely complacent with myself and never want to be fitter, healthier, smarter, kinder, gentler again. I just don’t think I’m genetically engineered that way. I always see room for improvement, but I don’t mean that in a critical way, I mean it as a term of growth, of wholeheartedness.
I realize that there are thresholds, that we have age categories now for athletic events: masters, seniors… dead. But, I really think that for me, to be completely accepting of myself would be a mistake; it’s not terrifying to me to consider it. It just feels too close to giving up.
I do accept myself: I’m slower than I used to be; my hair is finer and grayer than ever; I still have time until my boobs resemble the “golf ball in the tube sock” as a good friend once described her own years ago and she made me almost pee from laughter; my skin is more loose than I’d prefer, my up-close eyesight is going; parts of me jiggle without me moving; sometimes I don’t sleep well at all anymore; all of these things are happening and I accept them. I don’t adore them, but this is part of my acceptance that I’m human. Maybe that’s what he’s talking about — our humanity, our mortality, our universality and connection with one another… that in order for me to accept me, it would follow that I accept you … all of you, even the Osama bin Ladens out there… I know that would be hard, to let evil continue with acceptance. That my fight against evil is finite, as finite as my heartbeat. That’s terrifying, I suppose, that when it comes to putting up a good fight that I might be inert. That I can’t protect my brood from evil and harm. That terrifies me.
I see myself in the mirror and sometimes I look like a headline: “45-year-old Virginia Woman Wakes Up” but what can I do? I will continue to stay fit, push my cardio threshold for a few seconds longer, eat well and care about my health, but I get it: I am on the downhill slope now; only one of my relatives has made it past 90. And the one who’s still here, she’s a firecracker, but in my family, she’s an anomaly.
I see it as a good thing that I’m on the descent now — not so much that my best years are behind me, but that my most stressed years about my appearance, about my competitiveness, about my rightful place in the sun… those concerns are still there, but they don’t matter so much anymore. It’s about health now, not super-awesome fitness and trying to look good in Lycra.
My heart is softer, my emotional reactivity is slower, I’m less prone to raise my voice, but my wit is sharper than ever I think and that’s probably because I have less bandwidth taken up with worries such as “Do these jeans make my butt look big?” and “Is Helga VonSchmidt going to be at that party? She’s so nasty…” I’ve confronted enough Helgas to not care anymore.
I am secure with who I am; now if I can just be secure with where I am; but I think that’s good: the book, the yoga certification, the writing, the rowing club stuff, the parenting — heck, that’ll never go away.
Good God, there will always be something else to do, and I’m so grateful for it. What I’m waiting for is the time when I can go to Ireland because it’s there; when I can let the laundry go and no one will yell that they’re out of socks; and when I can eat my Cap’n Crunch in peace. I will miss my kids when they grow up and move out, but I don’t know if that’s going to happen; they’ve all told me and their father that we’re too cool and they don’t ever want to leave us. I knew we shouldn’t have gotten the hot tub…
Yesterday Jung said we can not change things unless we accept them; now he is telling us that accepting ourselves is terrifying. Why? I don’t know if these quotes are from the same book; I provide the name of the source material whenever it’s provided to me. If we were to follow these quotes in a quasi-logical order (just go with me here for a second) it would be that Jung is supposing that we’d be able to change ourselves once we’d accepted ourselves, but that accepting ourselves is terrifying and hence, change would be unlikely.
I want a new wagon. Skippy stole my rainbow crayon. Can you drive cars on Jupiter? Pad Thai smells like peanut carrots.
Jung… stick with the program. Don’t make me go all posthumous on your ass.
I think people are better about accepting themselves these days; no. Strike that. We have more anxiety, depression, addiction, suicides, divorces, unwed births, wars, people in nursing homes, sadness, self-mutilation, abuse, murder and isolation and people on this planet than ever before. Plenty of people are terrified of accepting themselves. I just wish I could help.
What a bummer this one turned out to be. Yes, he’s right. People are terrified of self-acceptance, because maybe what they’d see –their impotence, their fragility, their connection– they’d want to change. This feels like mortality to me. Or maybe the contrast of how much we’ve changed from our beginning of being made of light and energy; that once left to our own devices, this is how we’ve turned out. But that assumes that everyone’s miserable.
Is everyone miserable?
This one’s tough. What do you think?