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  • A Coronation, A King and Symbols of the Self

    For Jungians, there are a number of key symbols of the Self, and the King, Queen, monarch or head of state is prominent among them. Given that the coronation of King Charles is about to occur on May 6, it’s worth considering this symbolism, and its role in our psyche.

    Symbols of the Self: Crown on Buckingham Palace gates (PHOTO: Stock Photo Secrets)

    The whole subject of the monarchy, whether we are discussing its symbols or not, can tend to stir up strong feelings in people. Some folks passionately favour our constitutional monarchy, and regard it as a fundamental part of our way of life. Others are just as passionately convinced that the monarchy has no place in our nation or our collective lives. Yet regardless of where you are on the spectrum of feeling about the monarchy, there is real value in recognizing the prominence of the monarchy among the symbols of the Self.

    In a few days, King Charles will travel to Westminster Abbey, and there he will be the center of ceremonies, anointing and the actual coronation itself. All of these rituals are intended to convey to all that, as King, there is a significance to his person that goes beyond that which he share with everyone else. In a similar way, when the figure of the monarch appears in our dreams, or in fairy tales or myth, it has a particular significance.

    The Ego and Symbols of the Self

    The crown, anointing and special rituals indicate that a King or Queen has a dimension and importance beyond his or her day-to-day life for his subjects and for others. The royal person represents the whole of the kingdom. In a similar way, as symbols, the king and the crown are symbols of the Self. Our ego is that aspect of ourselves that, in day to day life, connects an individual with the outer world and handles the business of dealing with outer reality.

    While the ego can often believe that it is the sum total of who we are, symbols of the Self, like the King or Queen, serve to remind us that our personality is much more than the ego. These symbols affirm that there is something greater within us that has a larger awareness and wisdom, and that is striving for a unified wholeness of the personality, and for a rooting in a deeper meaning.

    Why Symbols of the Self Matter

    It is very easy, especially in our contemporary time, to feel that there is nothing more to who we are than the ego. Life can easily seem to be an endless succession of problems or difficulties that we must finagle or negotiate. We can strongly get the feeling that our lives are nothing more than the sum total of all the “fixes” the ego has created and all the exertions we have made. And it can feel that, if the ego stopped with its endless efforts and exertions, there really wouldn’t be anyone there—we’d be nothing.

    This ego focused attitude is reflected in the slogans of the contemporary business world. Consider the tagline of McKinsey, one of the world’s most prominent consulting firms: “Driving impact. Shaping the future”, or of one of its competitors, Deloitte: “Making an impact that matters.” Similarly in the IT world, Intel’s tagline is: “Leap ahead.” Impact, leaping ahead, shaping the future: we can easily feel that it’s all up to the ego and its exertions. If that’s true, what a recipe for anxiety and depression that would be!

    King and the Other Symbols of the Self

    The King and other symbols of the Self point to a bigger and more comprehensive reality in the human psyche than is carried by the ego. IN the outer world, the monarch in the outer world receives a crown, and becomes representative of the greater reality of the nation. Similarly, the symbol of the King when it appears in dream, myth or fairy tale represents the greater broader reality of the personality. In the midst of all of the confusion and off-centeredness of the ego, there is something greater within us that knows what it is doing. That is the reality of the Self.

    The self is not only the centre but also the whole circumference which embraces both conscious and unconscious; it is the centre of this totality, just as the ego is the centre of consciousness.

    ~ C.G. Jung

    In the lead up to the coronation, I have had many clients who have told me that they have had dreams involving the figure of a king. Often this king is just coming onto the throne. Sometimes he is replacing another old and tired monarch. These are the symbols of renewal appearing in our dream life. Often, for us, there is a monarch waiting to be crowned, to be acknowledged in our lives, who represents a figure of revitalization and renewal.

    Wishing you every good thing or your personal journey,

    © Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario


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