Have you ever asked yourself, “Why can’t people just love each other?” Until I studied Jungian psychology, I certainly did. I knew lots of good people who acted loving. Yet when I got to know them I invariably discovered that they were just as challenged in the love department as I was. So why do even the most well-meaning people find it so difficult to love?
What I discovered after several years of inner work was that the primary obstacle to love is a psychologically ignorant ego which fears otherness, both without and within. From personal experience I also learned that this one-sided ego-centricism has nine basic characteristics:
1. No matter how loving we try to be, the primary motivation beneath our good intentions is self-interest.
2. Our belief that we are a loving person is not based on authentic feeling, but on the persona (our social personality) we constructed in childhood to gain society’s and/or God’s approval.
3. We (our egos) believe that our loving persona/mask is who we really are.
4. We do not know we have an unconscious self which contains everything our ego disowned while constructing our persona. For example, if we chose to be loving, we repressed any hateful thoughts and emotions we noticed. Thus, our unconscious, non-egoic self contains the rejected opposites of everything our egos identified with.
5. We do not know that our rejected and unknown opposites comprise our shadow, or that we even have a shadow, or that the more we repress it the more it influences our behavior in unloving ways despite our best efforts.
6. We do not know that we project our most disliked shadow qualities onto others, nor that we do this because pointing fingers at them takes the heat off us and relieves our fear that we are unworthy.
7. We do not know that the real problem is not that we are unworthy, but that we are incomplete.
8. We do not know that accepting the otherness of our shadows will help complete us, embolden us to trust other people, and create more tolerance for their otherness.
9. We do not know that willing ourselves to love can’t create the real thing. What can create love is suffering the awareness of our incompleteness, asking for help, accepting our shadows, forgiving ourselves for being human, and connecting with our true Self.
After last week’s post about the Healer archetype, Emerald commented: “I want to be a Healer. However, I’m also a very ambitious person with a needy tendency to want to be all things to all people. I’m not sure how much of my desire to heal is derived from my ego’s ambition, and how much is derived from actual love and a desire to transcend my ego for the greater good. So how can I tell when my desires come from a non-selfish place? Also, how can I cultivate Healer qualities in myself?”
I love this comment. That Emerald can accept some uncomfortable truths about herself indicates she’s surviving the painful crisis of meeting her shadow. That she’s reflecting on her insights says her ego is growing strong enough to travel the path to self-knowledge. As Jungian analyst Monika Wikman writes, “Crisis and pain often catalyze a genuine, heart-felt attempt to reach toward the mysteries.”
So, Emerald, here are my answers to your questions. First, if you continue on this path your inner guide will show you your true motives. Second, because your ego is giving your heart the nourishment it needs, the seed of love planted there at your conception will grow of its own accord. Congratulations! You’re already cultivating your Healer, my young friend.