There are other forces in the house (i.e. the psyche) besides the dog’s instincts: cultural and spiritual forces. There are angels and gods, and other varieties of archetype and stereotype. We’re taught to ignore these too, so when we see an “angel” we ignore it for fear of going mad!
There are also intruders, burglars and gatecrashers that have come, uninvited, into the house through a door or window you left open (or someone else opened for you). And even though they don’t belong here, we’ve been taught to accept them as though they were. Shouldn’t we learn to identify them, reject them and guard well the house’s portals?
And have you ever looked upstairs? There a mysterious room filled with toys and colourful paintings. For many people this is a room that is shut off when we reach adulthood, and it gets abandoned. But it doesn’t go away. It is another “elephant in the room”. Hey, the inner child has a life to live, too! 😉
The ego is just the tip of the iceberg, a fragment that thinks it’s a whole; the individual is deeper and broader than the ego, as the iceberg is deeper and broader than the tip. But the ego doesn’t always recognise this, so everything that it doesn’t recognise as “self” must be “other”, and so the unconscious is projected outside. Once the ego learns a bit of humility it’s limits can be punctured and then begins the work of integration.
When we are “educated” (read conditioned) all those unwanted qualities get hidden in the unconscious, and rest there until rediscovery. Perhaps confidence was buried; perhaps gentleness was hidden; perhaps curiosity and creativity were deftly swept under the carpet. And we learn to live with this and get on with our lives, even if we feel unsatified with our lot. We have within us treasures awaiting discovery.
Also, the ego interferes with the unconscious as it tries to impose itself on the world within and also the world without, but cutting itself off from its treasures hidden in the unconscious – until it can learn a bit of humility and learn that it belongs to something deeper, higher and wider than itself. Then the conscious and unconscious can become well functioning parts of a whole that is the Self in the process of Individuation.
One very easy tool I’ve found for self-investigation is questioning my beliefs. It wasn’t enough to have beliefs but to understand why I believed such-and-such, what motivated me? And do I really believe it or is it something that I’ve inherited from the world around me? What are really my beliefs?
I call it easy because it’s a way of looking at yourself without really looking at yourself (it has the appearance of “questioning and investigating belief systems”, but it’s an interesting preliminary step to finding our own motivations behind how we think). Our beliefs are symptoms of the way we think, and so too what ideas we find most appealing or convenient for explaining the world around us.
I’ve also learnt that beliefs don’t represent static statements on the nature of reality (at least not for me) but are simply ideas we have about the world that need testing and updating every-so-often, because as our understanding expands, and experience and reasonings develop, so should our beliefs, aligning more with “what is” rather than “what could be”.
(I’ve been reading up on Jung and analytical psychology recently…)
The (Jungian) shadow is collective, not something we are born with but something that develops out of our upbringing and early social interaction. Some religions describe our personal faults as original sin or past life karma, or, more sophisticatedly, it’s got something to do with the genes that are inherited, which is probably still little more than passing the buck. It doesn’t do much good passing the buck the other way the other way either: “It’s not my fault I have this shadow, my parents/society didn’t do anything about it.” Someone’s got to do something about it, whatever the generation.
When an individual works on their shadow they are doing a collective work, not just their own but a shadow of family, culture and society too. Integrating the shadow is a part of the wholeness of the individual, yet also it is a healing work for the collective from which it is derived, and it can save future generations from inheriting something they don’t deserve.
It doesn’t always have to be unpleasant if you have a bit of humilty and a sense of humour, and it’s not always about dealing with what is “evil” within us, because there are beneficial qualities hidden there that we deny ourselves because we feel they are not “acceptable”, but in terms of self-knowledge it is essential, and whilst we don’t pay attention to it it remains an inconvenient, unused lump of compost in the garden of the psyche. Find yourself a shovel and apply a bit of elbow grease, you may see “bloomin'” miracles.
I’ve just read Where the Shadows Lie by Pia Skogemann, which I’d recommend for anyone interested in Lord of the Rings and Jungian psychology. Just before that I read The Individuated Hobbit by Timothy R. O’Neill. The latter is good to get an idea of some of Jung’s ideas and of how Jungian analisis can apply to LOTR, but I think the former is bit more professional and a much better insight into LOTR as an example of Jungian psychology. If you have an interest in either Jung, Tolkien, or both then I recommend these books! I’ve always appreciated the depth of Tolkien’s work but these have just lent that extra little bit to let me appreciate it more, and how it expresses universal truths relevant to know.
Well, I’ve got so much into the mood that I started reading The Hobbit. At the moment I am crossing the enchated stream in Murkwood! Should I start on LOTR again? Just as soon as I have finished the other ten or so books I have on the go…