confrontation with the unconscious

No. 4

I’ve been in a closed rebellion– a rebellion against the mind. I’ve had a fraying sense of belonging— trying to gauge as to where my allegiance lies. I’m speaking about the belonging that happens when you’re living within, amongst, and next to your psyche. I’m living within the conscience of my consciousness. This is all too difficult to explain, because it is all too eerie, all too complex, and seemingly innocuous. And, still, to acknowledge that I’ve been feeling this split in my psyche is to acknowledge and tap into greater feelings of hope, joy, and most importantly harmony.

When I was in elementary school I used to sit in class and watch my classmates exist. Johnny would always come to class and fling his backpack across the room and giggle. Sarah always came in early to sharpen her pencils. Adam would purposely sit in an unassigned seat knowing that the teacher would come in and force him to move. I watched all of them, and wished that I had the powers to climb into their beings and experience the world from their perspective. I realized I could do with this with myself.

I started paying more attention to things that I said, and more interestingly the things that I didn’t say. I started bearing witness to my own actions and behaviors— mostly watching in confusion and awe at the ease and quickness in which they occured. It was in these moments where I felt a split had developed between me and myself. There’s the “me” that displays instinctual behaviors and actions, and there’s the “me” who observes those things I do (whilst the other “me”is actively doing them) and becomes severely perturbed as to why I am doing them. And to add another layer of complexity, there are ways in which I behave that have been placed as survival mechanisms. I then evolved into the “me” that knew why I was doing something, the “me” still doing that something, *and* the “me” observing and feeling perturbed. I was all of “me” at once, at the exact same time.

It was at this point where the rebellion against the mind began. I began wrestling with who I am and how it could be “fixed”. However, I soon realized that there were no separate “good me” that could fix “bad me”. That notion is absurd. I wasn’t broken, I was acting within the realms of humaneness, and  by trying to “fix” it, I was judging myself, and then running away into self righteous behavior without acknowledging the contradictions of what it means to be human, and what it means to have a mind, body, and soul. I was playing right into the hands of my own ego. And it was then where the wall between me and what analytical psychologist Carl Jung calls “the shadow” began to fall apart.

The idea of the shadow self was discovered by Carl Jung, a 20th-century psychologist from Switzerland. The concept of the ‘shadow’ refers to hidden parts of our being. These may be parts of ourselves we try to repress because they make us feel sad, wounded, or less than. This is the side that we don’t show society. This is the side that can indicate how we internally perceive ourselves. Jung believed in the integration of the shadow self so that our full self is acknowledged, and we can live in a balanced, harmonious way.

Integrating the shadow into my understanding of self made me think more about the perceptions, narratives, and behaviors that shape our view of the world. If these things aren’t challenged (as they should be), we become definite, forming barricades within ourselves, and with the world around us. It’s within these barricades that we become isolated, and absorbed in our own shit (for lack of a better word). I’ve come to learn that life is a multifaceted experience, and we are multifaceted people and we must experience life and ourselves from all angles. This means the good, the bad, the ugly, the dark, and all of the grey areas in between. If we continue to run from ourselves, to push away at our shadows, to live in a binary understanding of humanness we feel fractured and compartmentalized. 

Detangling myself from chaos is made much more bearable by being able to observe my thoughts (this time without judgement),  and made more bearable because of the awareness of my shadow and my light. It’s easier to rewire my behaviors when I am not holding judgement towards them. Self compassion and loving kindness goes a long way. This has to be our everyday practice.

‘Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.’

Carl Jung

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