Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Bringing It All Together, Part 2

Bringing It All Together, Part 2
by Scott Bradley

In the previous post it was seen that Jung advocated an integration of the relatively autonomous forces that make up our human experience, mainly those of the unconscious, into a larger self.

How do we do this? Here Jung's words encourage me greatly, for they echo what has for me become a guiding principle. "By understanding the unconscious we free ourselves from its domination."

And after understanding them, we accept them. He approvingly quotes a letter from one of his patients: "I always thought that when we accepted things they overpowered us in some other way. This turns out not to be true at all, and it is only by accepting them that one can assume an attitude towards them. So now I intend to play the game of life, being receptive to whatever comes to me, good and bad, sun and shadow that are ever alternating, and, in this way, also accepting my own nature with its positive and negative sides." The integration of the personality comes by way of acceptance.

This integration returns control to the larger self which is ruled by itself rather than by the egoic self dominated by the unconscious. "The man who lives his instincts can also detach from them," Jung writes, "and in just as natural a way as he lived them." This is a profoundly Taoist understanding of the dynamics of freedom.

This 'larger self' of which Jung speaks bears a striking resemblance to the goal of self-transcendence, where the self is understood as the narrow, encapsulated egoic self. "Stepping back", as many ancient Zen masters exhort us to do, or stepping aside, as I sometimes think of it, is a means to being larger than that egoic self and thus achieving rule over it, rather than being ruled by it.

"But if the unconscious can be recognized as a co-determining quality along with the consciousness...the centre of gravity of the total personality shifts its position. It ceases to be in the ego, which is merely the centre of consciousness, and instead is located in a hypothetical point between the conscious and the unconscious, which might be called the self." Essentially, Jung, as psychologist, would have us embrace the totality of our personal experience as a means to being more than the sum of its parts.

As mentioned previously, Jung sees the unconscious as dark, instinctual forces. If these are also human he tells us, then we need to get in touch with them, and this will enable us to control them, for we are able to be greater than they. It is the denial and repression of these dark forces which causes us to lose control.

Unlike Jung, we also believe that there are positive roots to our conscious selves which we can discover and tap.

You can check out Scott's other miscellaneous writings here.

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