Wednesday, February 09, 2011

A Short Jungian Interlude 10

Looking at the Individual Psyche

Seagull, Howth, October 2010
Carl Gustave Jung repeats himself often in this short classic The Undiscovered Self, but, like T. S. Eliot, if he does so, it is always from a different and unique angle each time.  Our psychiatrist author argues that we humans are largely unaware of our motivations as we are of our complicity in what happens on a more global scale.  Individuals today, Jung argues, are unconscious of the fact that each and everyone of them "is a cell in the structure of various international organisms," and as such constituent cells we are implicated in the conflicts of these "organisms." (Op. cit., p. 71)  So for the German people who lived during World War II there can be no excusing themselves from guilt.  There should be no blaming others through projecting guilt onto them, by attempting to foist onto others what they cannot accept in themeslves.  If they do so they project their blackest of shadows outwards onto other less fortunate groupings.

Jung goes on to blame much of modern society's ills (bear in mind that he was writing these thoughts in 1957) on the moral complacency and lack of willingness by members of society to take on responsibility for their actions and those of their fellows in that social grouping.  Then, once again he makes an astute and insightful remark that the mutual withdrawal of projections promotes much undestanding among conflicting sections in any society.  However, Jung acknowledges that getting rid of prejudices is hard work and that it takes a very long period of sustained and determined energy on the parts of all involved.  On humanity's failure in this regard, he writes:

Seal grabs a thrown fish, October 2010

He does not recognize them [his prejudices] for what they are, anymore than one does oneself.  We can recognize our prejudices and illusions only when, from a broader psychological knowledge of ourselves and others, we are compelled to doubt the absolute rightness of our assumptions and compare them carefully and conscientiously with the objective facts... The mass State [USSR at the time] has no intentions of promoting mutual understanding and the relationship of man to man; it strives, rather, for atomization, for the psychic isolation of the individual.  The more unrelated individuals are, the more consolidated the State becomes and vice versa. (Ibid., 72)
The phrase that appeals to me in this paragraph is the rather powerful one which runs simply: "the psychic isolation of the individual."  This, for me, is sheer magic - after all awareness of one's own personal unconscious and indeed awareness of the vastness of the "collective unconscious" in each one of us would have a consolidating effect on the mass of people and would thereby take away all the "brainwashing" control exercised both subtly and obviously on the citizenry by the State.

The Call to Recognize our Shadow:

The central call of this chapter "Self-Knowledge," as of the very book, is to each one of us to begin to recognize his/her shadow.  This means that we must begin to be less egocentric and egotistical, less wrapped up in our cerebral and personal concerns, more open to our unconscious motivations, and consequently more accepting of our faults, failings, flaws, short-comings or sins - call them what you will.  This leads to modesty, the opposite of blind hubris or pride.  Jung calls on us to begin to acknowledge our imperfections.

Human Relationships: 

Once again Jung has some interesting and unique thoughts on the subject of human relationships.  He argues that a human relationship can never be based on differentiation and perfection, because these qualities only call forth stagnant sameness and imperfection.  Strangely and paradoxically our psychiatrist author argues that good relationships are based on imperfections and the mutual acknowledgement of them by each partner.  Our imperfections make us lovable.  They are what make us weak, helpless and in need of support.  In short, the perfect has no need of the other because by definition the perfact has all.  On the other hand, weakness has need of the other.  In such a relationship there is no mutual humiliation, no inferior or superior partner.  This question of human relationship is very important, Jung argues, because in the Mass State there occurs what he calls "the atomization of the pent-up mass man." (Ibid., p. 74)  To counteract this deliberate atomization of individuals in an anonymous society what is needed is a spiritual power which will enlighten, enliven and lift up and fuse together the souls of individuals into an ebergy which is essentially love or "caritas" as the Vulgate Bible and the Catholic Church puts it.  This love for one's fellow man and woman is a most important binding principle in society (the exact opposite of the atomization principle).  

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