Last time I began a new series about the sacred laws of the psyche. Understanding them can help us think psychologically and live spiritually: the only lasting way to heal ourselves and the world.
Psyche, sometimes translated as soul, refers to your mind, your psychological self with all its capacities and potentials. Psychoid was Jung’s term for the mystery of the One Mind beyond ordinary consciousness that is the source and subject of every religion. Wholeness is the ability to connect with both realities. To attain this enlightened state we have to venture beyond our normal-one-sided thinking to a broader perspective that uses both the logical/literal and the imaginative/creative qualities of our minds.
But this is not the only pair of opposites you and I need to integrate into our thinking and living. In fact, separation and divisiveness in every realm of human behavior is the dysfunctional norm in today’s world. Nobody thinks this is a healthy situation. To find a solution, we first need to understand a second sacred law.
2. The Law of Opposites: For everything we know about ourselves (beliefs, values, attitudes, emotions), there is a corresponding unconscious opposite.
Carl Jung wrote:
There is no consciousness without discrimination of opposites. [“Psychological Aspects of the Mother Archetype,” CW 9i, par. 178.]
In our psychological immaturity we think we know everything about ourselves. We don’t. No one does. Your unconscious self is a mystery as vast as the unknown universe stretching beyond our world to infinity.
When you were a child, your parents taught you to see things dualistically, in terms of either-or, good-bad. They did this to socialize you into the norms of acceptable behavior and keep you safe. Every time you exhibited qualities or traits they considered inappropriate, they guided you into ones they believed were more desirable.
Perhaps you thought you should drop an activity you loved, something fun, like art, boxing, or dancing, to learn a skill or pursue an occupation your family admired. But leaving it behind didn’t make your passion go away. Every potential you’ve disowned still lives in your unconscious. If you repressed an especially important feature of your unique personality, you will never be happy until you free it from its prison. As long as it’s locked in the unconscious, your shadow will gain power until it creates so much tension and unhappiness that it bursts out and creates havoc in your life.
Carl Jung said:
The repressed content must be made conscious so as to produce a tension of opposites, without which no forward movement is possible. The conscious mind is on top, the shadow underneath, and just as high always longs for low and hot for cold, so all consciousness, perhaps without being aware of it, seeks its unconscious opposite, lacking which it is doomed to stagnation, congestion, and ossification. Life is born only of the spark of opposites. [“The Problem of the Attitude-Type,” CW 7, par. 78.]
In lecture 10 of the Opposites Seminar in 1925, Jung said:
The opposition is a necessary condition of libido ﬂow, and so you may say that by virtue of that fact one is committed to a dualistic conception of the world; but you can also say that the “ﬂow”—that is, the energy—is one.
But when we become aware of the opposites we are driven to seek the way that will resolve them for us, for we cannot live in a world that is and is not, we must go forward to a creation that enables us to attain a third point superior to the pairs of opposites.
Finding a third way to oneness can solve the conflicts between opposites that torment you. But this does not mean you will live happily ever after. As Jung said:
The united personality will never quite lose the painful sense of innate discord. Complete redemption from the sufferings of this world is and must remain an illusion. Christ’s earthly life likewise ended, not in complacent bliss, but on the cross. [“The Psychology of the Transference,” CW 16, par. 400.]
Tough as it may be to live without our illusions, it’s better than being “doomed to stagnation, congestion, and ossification. Life is born only of the spark of opposites.”
What passions have you left behind? What pairs of opposites have created conflict in your psyche? Have you found solutions?
The Wilbur Award is given by the Religion Communicators Council for excellence in communicating religious faith and values in the public arena and for encouraging understanding among faith groups on a national level.