A further note on the Thought of Carl Gustave Jung
The goal of life is surely the acquisition of self-knowledge, getting to know who one really and essentially is. This has been variously called “self-realization”, “self-actualization” or “individuation” in the words of Carl Gustave Jung. What I like about Jung is the openness of the man to science, mythology, religions, alchemy, history, story, medicine, indeed to all areas of knowledge. Then, I also love his ability to assimilate and synthesize all this knowledge for the psychological stability and wholeness of the human person. Jung considered personality to be an achievement, not something given. This for me is very important. Though he had very little in common with Jean-Paul Sartre he shared with him the vision that the human being has one project only – namely the creation or development of his or her self.
It is interesting to see how Jung defined individuation. I love these words form my psychological hero: “Individuation means becoming a single, homogenous being, and, in so far as ‘in-dividuality’ embraces our innermost, last, and incomparable uniqueness, it also implies becoming one’s own self. We could therefore translate individuation as ‘coming to selfhood’ or ‘self-realization.’”[CW 7, par. 226; quoted Jung: Fontana Pocket Readers (1996, p. 418)] Also as regards my own personal psychological growth it is satisfying and comforting for me to realize that essentially Jung’s psychology of the individuation process is quintessentially the task of the second half of our lives. According to Jung, and this coincides with my own experience of living, that we spend the first half of our lives developing a healthy ego, so that we can function and perform our duties in society or in the outside world. For me this entailed getting a professional qualification as a teacher and several other degrees and diplomas to help me on my way. When this has been accomplished successfully, we then enter on what we may term a more spiritual quest, one which writing in these pages of my blog partially fulfils. As Dr. Robert Robertson succinctly puts it: “Until we have dealt successfully with the world, we can’t hope to find a deeper spiritual side to the personality.” (Introducing Jungian Psychology, Gill and Macmillan, 1992, p.105).
I also wish to return here to Jung’s own words on what he saw the Shadow as being, as he discovered or invented this marvellously complementary archetype central to our spiritual growth as persons. I always find Jung’s own words enriching. Please note that while the Shadow can be negative in effect, it can also be positive in its eventual “illumination” of the real self. I feel that the Shadow is one of the best ways of integrating the whole self who I am essentially. It is the inferior part of our personality for sure. It comprehends or collects in itself or personifies in itself the sum of all personal and collective psychic elements which we are forced by society to suppress and repress into the dark and shadowy recesses of our unconscious. (Forgive my metaphoric excesses as words fail me here!) In short this repressed personified figure becomes a sub-personality in itself or indeed a “splinter personality” until with much travail we manage to integrate it into the eventual wholeness of self.
I will finish with two marvellous quotes from Jung which I will copy here from p. 422 of the marvellous book alluded to above: Jung: Fontana Pocket Readers (1996):
- The shadow personifies everything that the subject refuses to acknowledge about himself and yet is always thrusting itself upon him directly or indirectly – for instance, inferior traits of character and other incompatible tendencies. (CW 9 I, par. 513)
- The shadow is that hidden, repressed and guilt-laden personality whose ultimate ramifications reach back into the realm of our animal ancestors and so comprise the whole historical aspect of the unconscious…If it has been believed hitherto that the human shadow was the source of all evil, it can now be ascertained on closer investigation that the unconscious man, that is, his shadow, does not consist only of morally reprehensible tendencies, but also displays a number of good qualities, such as normal instincts, appropriate reaction, realistic insights, creative impulses, etc (CW 9 ii, pp. 422-3)