Is the Unconscious Mind My Fate?
A number of readers have asked me about a certain quotation, and so I thought that I would write something about it. The quotation is short, but it contains some important things. Jung writes:
“The psychological rule says that when an inner situation is not made conscious, it happens outside, as fate. That is to say, when the individual remains undivided and does not become conscious of his inner opposite, the world must perforce act out the conflict and be torn into opposing halves.”
C, G. Jung, in Aion, CW 9ii
Jung is here writing about the shadow and the unconscious, and he is opening up for us the psychological situation in which an individual remains unaware of his or her unconscious motivations and attitudes, and of that whole part of ourselves which is unacceptable or unacknowledged by the ego.
Take the example of someone who is unaware that they have certain unconscious characteristics. Perhaps those characteristics draw that person into relationships with people who take advantage of them, or who are hopelessly emotionally unapproachable. The person might go through relationship after relationship, repeating the pattern of attraction and ending up in relationships that are hurtful and destructive.
Let’s imagine that the person goes through several situations, and, despite the painful nature of such experiences, fails to gain insight as to why he or she always ends up in relationships that end badly. The person might experience it as “just my luck to always end up in rotten relationships”, or even to feel that “life has it in for me”. It would feel like fate, something inevitable and ruthless that just “keeps going on and on in my life”, about which I can do nothing. How grim!
But what if the key to a different outcome lies in the unconscious part of the person’s personality? If the person could bring that insight into awareness, and alter their relationships as a result? Then what had previously seemed like “just my lot in life” could be changed.
There are things that lie in the unconscious that lock us into certain patterns. If we can make them conscious, if we can become conscious of our “inner opposite”, the part of ourselves that may even be in complete opposition to what we say is our motivation or our attitude, then we could escape what seems like fate, and find a new relationship to ourselves and to the outer world.
Are there patterns in your life that you seem “fated” to repeat over and over? What might you learn by opening these areas of your life up to fuller insight and awareness? Such questions are at the heart of the journey of therapy.
I wish each of you who reads this a new and deeper relationship with the Shadow, that unacknowledged “inner opposite”, who so often contains what we need for our healing.
Thank you to those who wrote to me, asking me about this particularly insightful quotation. As always I welcome your comments.
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