Tag | Carl Jung
Do you look at what is different between you and other people? Or… do you look at what you have in common? It is a variation on the glass being half-empty or half-full. Focusing on what is different usually leads to separation and judgement, while focusing on what you have in common tends to lead to connection.
Differentiation is a natural developmental task we work on in childhood and adolescence. We out find who we are separate from our parents by differentiating ourselves from our parents. Carl Jung called this the process of individuation. It is how we find our individuality.
However, after we accomplish this developmental task, differentiating ourselves for others is less useful. It can be of value in discerning how you may process differently than someone else in a relationship. But otherwise, we do not typically need it for much.
But often differentiating ourselves for others becomes habitual. When this is so, we immediately zoom in on what is different. When we say to ourselves and the other(s) involved that we are different, there are not as many places to go from there. There is no common ground.
You and another human being might be extremely different. But if you share even just one thing in common, you have the basis to share and connect.
I once completed an exercise of finding something in common with every employee at my work place at Intermountain Hospital in Boise. It was difficult to find commonality with some people. One person and myself could not have been more different. Watching professional football was the only thing we had in common.
So when I saw him in the hallway, we talked football. And we thoroughly enjoyed our connection. He later told me that he felt closer to me than anyone else at work.
You have to watch Touch on Fox on Thursday nights. It does a fantastic job addressing seemingly random- but hugely beneficial human connections. Similarly, in Man and his Symbols, conceived and edited by Carl Jung, M.-L. von Franz describes Jung’s concept of synchronicity as “a meaningful coincidence of outer and inner events that are not causally connected.”
While I do not want to limit Touch to being about synchronicity, it is the best illustration of this abstract concept that I have ever encountered.
The episode two weeks ago showed one of the two main characters, a gifted boy who does not speak, hold the cross-walk button to alter the timing of a person so she gets on the same elevator with someone. It turns out that meeting each other helps each of them heal. Meanwhile, his loving father, Kiefer Sutherland, keeps trying to connect with his son all the while discovering more of his son’s unexplainable brilliance.
And now back to synchronicity… Von Franz continues in Man and His Symbols with an example, “If I bought a blue frock and by mistake, the shop delivered a black one on the day one of my relatives died, this would be a meaningful coincidence. These two events are not causally related, but they are connected by the symbolic meaning that our society gives to the color black.”
Jung observed that when synchronicity happened, they are was an archetype, or symbolic theme, activated in the individual concerned.
In my Communication with Self class series, I explain synchronicity as our inner consciousness trying to communicate with our conscious mind in a manner similar to when we dream. Why wouldn’t the part of us connected to all of life be able to energetically collaborate with other parts of life to help us understand life? What?
I guess that is why I like Touch. It points to human connections that transcend logic and causality. And I find that downright refreshing.
Sigmund Freud referred to this human tendency almost 90 years ago with the term projection. Psychoanalysts have been referring to it ever since. Wikipedia summarizes this nicely, “According to Sigmund Freud, projection is a psychological defense mechanism whereby one “projects” one’s own undesirable thoughts, motivations, desires, and feelings onto someone else” (link). An example of this would be if we judge someone for being incompetent at something, it may be that we believe we are incompetent at that same thing.
Another variation of this tendency includes someone being threatening to us at the emotional level. If someone is good at something that we believe we are not good at, we often judge them. We seek to find something wrong with them or tear them down in one form of another. This includes our culture’s unfortunate tendency to tear down successful people and destroy beauty.
Once we allow ourselves to become aware that we are doing this, it allows us to change the dynamic from being destructive to beneficial. There are 2 primary benefits that free you when you become aware of judgment. Firstly, we can learn about that insecure or dark part of ourselves. Carl Jung referred to this as our shadow. Whenever we judge someone, it is an opportunity to learn about something we are unable to accept about ourselves or something that threatens us. Accepting this aspect of ourselves allows us to heal the self-hatred associated with it. It also allows us to work on that perceived deficiency or challenge area.
The other benefit from becoming aware of our judgment is that it allows us to accept the person we are judging. This opens up the possibility of creating a positive relationship with them. If it was something positive about them we took issue with, this may allow us to learn about the things we struggle with from them.
Then we could learn from the beauty and excellence in others rather than trying to destroy it.
Matt Damon‘s character encounters The Adjustment Bureau while pursuing the girl of his dreams. Apparently, human-kind can no longer be trusted with free will. The adjustment bureau intervenes for damage control to ensure that our choices have the desired effect on the world.
But Damon’s character is willing to trust his gut. He has never felt anything like what he has felt toward Emily Blunt‘s character. He is not accepting no for an answer when the bureau tells him to stay away from her. He just can’t believe that something that feels so right can be a bad thing. I found this to be an awesome personal quest. It is what Carl Jung or Joseph Campbell would call a hero’s journey. Damon is perfect and the chemistry with he and Blunt is powerful. I never even considered his character not going for it. I highly recommend the movie.
Fate vs. free will lends itself well to metaphors. In our lives, our behavioral patterns can create our fate. When stuck in a karmic cycle, we keep creating the same thing (fate) over and over again. It is only when we get serious about creating something beyond that pattern that we challenge our fate.
But stepping beyond our self-imposed fate feels like we are going somewhere that we are not supposed to go. Our fear and comfort zone creates our own adjustment bureau to overcome. Much like the movie, we have to trust ourselves and be willing to risk in order to pull it off.
Once we do, our “fate” follows. We just reinvented our destiny. Our fate lines change. So ultimately, we create our fate. We determine the life we will have.
And while creating the life you want, if you bump into The Adjustment Bureau, let me know. I will help you rally. After all, Whose life is it anyway?
Carl Jung said, “You are where you are, doing what you are doing- because that’s where you choose to be.” We may find ourselves broke, overweight, single, stuck in a relationship, or unhappy at work. We tell ourselves that we want to be elsewhere, but something is preventing us from being there.
But we created our present situation. And as unhappy as we say we are, there is evidently something comfortable about where we are- or else we would be somewhere else.
There are payoffs to staying where we are at. Payoffs include: comfort, acceptance, a sense of security, not having to risk, not having to feel, and ultimately not having to challenge our fear- mostly our fear of the unknown. If we stay the way we are, life is predictable. We know if we do this- it leads to that. If we change and something different, we do not know what it will lead to. This fear of the unknown is the core of staying in our comfort zone.
People say, “But I don’t know how to create something else.” That may be true. But if you truly wanted to create something new, you would learn. You would find a vehicle to take you there. There is a Buddhist proverb, “When the student is ready the master (teacher) will appear.” If we are truly seeking, we will draw the means or the vehicle to us. And then when it arrives, we will open to it and teachable.
So the first step of creating something new is taking responsibility for where you are at. It is saying, “Where I am at is a product of the choices that I have made.”
And then asking yourself, “Where do I really want to be?” And, “Am I ready to do whatever it takes to get there?”