Lately, an internet acquaintance who is an ardent social activist has been looking through my archives for inspiration about how to make Jungian psychology more relevant to the general public. After reading my April 8, 2010 post titled Elephant in The Cave he commented:
“Why is it important to society for humanity to get these unconscious contents dredged up? If people understood why they should do it, then it seems there would be more seekers — i.e. not just those attracted to Jung, Campbell, or a therapist for answers. I know when I was painting a lot, things seemed to go better in my business life. When I didn’t paint for a month, things got stuck. Perhaps opening the door to my creative core helped … But I’d like to know your thoughts on the question Why? Here’s sort of the question: Why should the mainstream media highlight a story about connecting with the subconscious every night on the evening news?”
My personal answer to why learning more about our shadows should be important to society is simple: because knowing and accepting my shadow has transformed the way I experience myself and live my life. It feels like I’ve gone from wanting to hide from a raging tornado in a dark cellar, (“Auntie Em! Auntie Em! Let me in!”) to splashing around with my horse, free and unencumbered, in an enchanted forest pool. Oh, and my golden retriever is there too! (“I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore, Toto!”)
I know, I’m making this sound like a B movie remake of a fairy tale, (Wait! Is that a huntsman behind that tree?), but I can’t think of a better way to describe how I feel. I don’t mean all the time, but often enough that my growing freedom from fear, anxiety and the need to control my life to feel safe and good enough predisposes me to greater tolerance and compassion.
But why would the mainstream media highlight stories about understanding our shadows on the evening news? Well, they wouldn’t unless they cared more about furthering peace and human welfare than ratings. But if they did, and if people responded, I believe conditions would improve dramatically for everyone. Why? In the words of Jiddu Krishnamurti: “Because the individual does not know his purpose, he is in a state of uncertainty and chaos. Because the individual has not solved his own problem, the problem of the world has not been solved. The individual problem is the world problem. If an individual is unhappy, discontented, dissatisfied, then the world around him is in sorrow, discontent and ignorance.”
Here’s another: “To transform the world, we must begin with ourselves; and what is important in beginning with ourselves is the intention. The intention must be to understand ourselves and not to leave it to others to transform themselves or to bring about a modified change through revolution, either of the left or of the right. It is important to understand that this is our responsibility, yours and mine…”
Many of us get it. But how do we help society understand the need for self-knowlege? I don’t know. Krishnamurti believed that a revolution in the psyche cannot be brought about by any external entity. This was true in my case. My inner tornado kicked up such a fuss that in desperation I finally gave up waiting for the weatherman to do something about it and started working on myself. But is waiting for a crisis to force us off our complacent couches the only way? If you can think of others I hope you’ll write. I’d love to hear your thoughts.
It is by going down into the abyss that we recover the treasures of life. Where you stumble, there lies your treasure. The very cave