Summer, & the Importance of Self Awareness, 2
The season of summer sun may bring home the importance of self-awareness in some ways that are rather different than we might expect.
In my last post, we saw how the summer solstice is a time that, for many of us, may represents the height of our capacity for consciousness, as embodied in the kind of aliveness that circadian rhythm may allow us to experience at the time of the height of the sun. But there is another aspect to these days after the solstice, and that is that the sun starts to decline, and the days start to become shorter.
What happens to our awareness then? Can there be anything good that comes out of this?
The Slow Downward Movement
As the maximum power of the sun is symbolic of the maximum extent of the powers of consciousness, so the shortening of the days and the return to darkness can be seen as a move in the direction of the unconscious — the other pole of the human psyche.
Just as it’s inevitable for the seasons to slowly oscillate between light and darkness, so it is that the human psyche oscillates between two different dimensions: the conscious and the unconscious
The sun’s movement mirrors a psychic reality. At some times we are more aware, more alive, more conscious of who we are, more open to the relatively unknown aspects of the self. At other times, we lapse more into less conscious ways of functioning, and motives and feelings that are often unknown to the conscious mind can actually affect, or even at times, govern our functioning.
So, we have the conscious and the unconscious dimensions of ourselves. And the rhythm of the year symbolizes a fundamental dynamic of human awareness: the ebb and flow of the conscious and unconscious portions of the self. Yet, through using our conscious mind to explore the unknown, perhaps unconscious aspects of ourselves, we can further the process of integration of the conscious and the unconscious self into increased wholeness.
The Nighttime Side of the Psyche
As we discussed in the last post, the conscious self can make the grave error of assuming that it’s “the only game in town”. This is hazardous, though. If we don’t seek to understand what is motivating us in unconscious ways, we stand a very good chance of finding our lives run by the unacknowleged and unknown parts of the psyche.
Example. Consider someone who unconsciously always pursues romantic partners who are fundamentally inaccessible. The individual may continually curse “my rotten luck” in choosing such people, but, in actual fact, they may be choosing such partners precisely because they are inaccessible — and so there is no real risk of trusting them, and therefore being hurt by them, as may have happened in a significant relationship in the past. This is a dynamic noted by commentators including Jung, Freud and Lacan, among others, as Prof. Ian Parker of Leicester notes.
To function in freedom, in ways that give us what we’re seeking in life, we need to understand the night time side of the psyche: and, we need to integrate it.
Solar Consciousness, Lunar Consciousness
Sometimes the sun’s bright light is used to symbolize conscious awareness, while the light of the moon represents a softer, more subdued, perhaps more intuitive awareness, that is closer to the unconscious, and incorporates awareness of elements of it.
For the journey toward wholeness, we need the bright light of solar consciouness, but we also need the softer, less rational, less clear-cut consciousness that is symbolized by the light of the moon.
The Importance of Self-Awareness: Bringing Sun and Moon Together
We can use our conscious awareness to become aware of our unconscious aspects — what Jung and other psychologists have called “the undiscovered self”. We can train our consciousness, in its strength to explore and reflect on the unconscious and unknown aspects of ourselves. In fact, doing so can be one of the greatest adventures in life — and, ultimately, one of the most rewarding.
The importance of self-awareness only becomes more and more apparent as we gradually, increasingly dispose ourselves to it. In conjunction with growing compassion for ourselves, such self awareness is the heart of the work of /a-midlife-transition.
Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst