The Importance of Self Awareness: A Jungian Perspective – 1
The importance of self awareness: these days, you can find a lot in the media on this subject. The world seems to have woken up to the importance of being in touch with what we really feel, and our deepest reactions.
Self-awareness has certainly become something of a buzzword. The importance of self-awareness is stressed by the most diverse range of people and voices imaginable. Your neighbourhood yoga instructor may exhort you to be more aware of yourself bodily, while the pages of the Harvard Business Review stress the importance of self-awareness for the effective manager. Just what IS this illusive beast we call self-awareness?….
New York Times columnist David Brooks highlights the importance of self awareness in a passage of startling, and even painful clarity:
One of the most unsettling findings of modern psychology is that we often don’t know why we do what we do. You can ask somebody: Why’d you choose that house? Or why’d you marry that person? Or why’d you go to graduate school? People will concoct some plausible story, but often they really have no idea why they chose what they did.
David Brooks, “Is Self Awareness a Mirage?”
Going Through Life Without Being Aware
“[O]ften they really have no idea why they chose what they did”—what a stunning statement. Yet, if we are honest with ourselves, it can often be true. We can easily go through the stages of our life somehow moving from one thing to the next, often without really being aware of what we are choosing or why. I’m reminded of the lyrics of a popular song from some years ago:
And you may say to yourself, “Well… how did I get here?”
—By letting the days go by.
The Talking Heads, “Once in a Lifetime”
Lack of Awareness Doesn’t Have to be Fate
A Jungian approach to the personality and to the psyche strongly asserts that this kind of lack of awareness is not inevitable. It is not fate to be unconscious. It is possible for us to become aware of our deep emotions and motivations and the things a that really drive us. This involves the process of becoming conscious of oneself as a unique individual, which Jungians call the process of individuation. Jungian analyst June Singer helps us to understand this process in more detail:
The individualation process moves along two tracks. The first is designed to help people recognize and fulfil their own unique potentials. This involves differentiating the self from the constraints of the conditioning that are imposed by family and other external influences. The second track requires differentiation from one’s environment: one asks, How am I part of that which surrounds me, and how am I different? Put another way, it is the development of an ability to discriminate between the “I” and the “Not I”.
June Singer, Boundaries of the Soul
“I” and “Not I”
Discriminating between the “I” and the “Not I” can be a crucial, life saving thing. This can be particularly true when we go through the crises often associated with major life transitions.
This post is the first in a series examining the importance of self-awareness. I will be specifically looking at what a Jungian /a-midlife-transition approach can contribute to our understanding of self awareness. This is a vital topic, if we seek to take ownership and responsibility for our lives. It is also essential to developing a self-compassionate attitude to ourselves and our own precious life journey, a task that is at the heart of Jungian therapeutic work.
Wishing you every good thing on your personal journey,