How often do we get the feeling that we are on the wrong path in life but then we do nothing about it?
These past couple of years have been difficult for me after I recognised and acted upon my need to change direction and be more selective of the people that I wanted with me on my journey.
Jung wrote on the possibility of finding the right path for ourselves: “We are often gripped by fear, by the comforting powers of the old adaptations whose chief virtues were anxiety management and protection, or, alternatively, the path ahead is blocked by familiar apprehensions about stepping into the unknown on our own. No wonder we tend to abide by the familiar, stultifying as it may be. Yet something within us always knows, always protests always begins to withdraw approval and support and we ratify our old inner divisions.” (Volume 14, Mysterium Coniunctionis).
Jung also wrote, “You can only feel yourself on the right road when the conflicts of duty seem to have resolved themselves... From this, we can see the numinous power of the Self, which can hardly be experienced in any other way. For this reason, the experience of the Self is always a defeat for the ego.” (CW 14, para. 778).
In other words, the ultimate decisions of our lives are made by some higher agency than the ego. However important ego consciousness is in the governance of daily life, when ego consciousness can accord itself with the will of the Self, there is a profound sense of rightness, peace, and wholeness. I see the Self as the manager, able to take in all the information that is fed through it from the conscious and the unconscious, and able to make sensible decisions on what is the best way forward, remove anxiety, have confidence, and choose our emotions.
Jung challenges us to consider that within each of us is a centre (our Self) which is wiser than our knowledge, deeper than our learning, older than our chronology, and more durable than our calcified convictions. From time to time, life humbles us, calls us to account, leads us back to the drawing board, and asks us to start over. Isn’t it nice to think there might be some resources available to us to help us when we think we are bereft and have no hope when we have exhausted our conscious tools when we have lost our way?
The Self is the archetype of wholeness and self-transcendence. A Wise Old Man or Woman often represents this universal image. Jung borrowed the concept of the Self from Hindu philosophy. He described the Self as the “totality of the whole psyche,” distinguishing it from the ego.
In 1939, when he addressed the Guild for Pastoral Psychology in London Jung noted that we all need to remember what our ancestors knew, that if we wait upon the silence, it speaks, and wait upon the darkness, it illumines. But the idea of waiting, listening, attending is an antithesis to us in our modern lives. Most of the time we are ego-driven, time-bound, impatient. This is why we are so lost, and adrift, so distracted, and so much at the mercy of any folly of the moment. But this timeless part of ourselves is there for us in our troubled hour. When the day arrives in the life of any of us that we can remember this invitation, then the encounter with the Self will not be defeat but a resource, not overthrow but transformation.
*The ego represents the conscious mind as it comprises the thoughts, memories, and emotions a person is aware of. The persona is the mask we present to the world.