Originally published Oceanside Star, January 20, 2011
We often hear the expression, ‘We are born whole.’ People strive to become ‘more whole’ and they ‘search for wholeness.’ But what exactly does being whole mean?
A person is born with a balance of all the pairs of human qualities needed, and thus, is considered whole. Examples of such opposite traits include greed and moderation, productivity and idleness, and cleanliness and dirtiness. However, early in life we learned, ‘Always be generous,’ and, ‘Never be lazy.’ We may have been told, ‘Don’t cry,’ or, ‘You’re the responsible one.’ This one-sidedness exiles opposite qualities and abilities into the unconscious while overvaluing others.
Whether deemed ‘good’ or ‘bad,’ Jung called these hidden traits the Shadow. However, these qualities are very much needed in our outer life in order to restore balance, heal our early wounds, and lessen whatever amount of suffering we have. Recall that conscious material is the thoughts, feelings and actions we are aware of. The Ego or ‘I’ is in charge of the conscious, as when we say, “I’m always punctual.” If this is what Ego believes, then the opposite quality, tardiness, is most likely found in the unconscious.
Ego tightly holds on to certain roles and qualities. Outwardly, it appears strong, when really it is weak and immature. If one is ‘never late,’ then tardiness is avoided at all costs. Ego is weak in the sense that it cannot face its own tardiness. It is not mature enough to say, “I accept that sometimes I can be late.”
Jung used the term Self as the part which oversees both conscious and unconscious material. It shows us our imbalances through dreams, body symptoms and strong emotion. These serve as symbolic feedback of how the Self sees the Ego. It’s as if a mirror is being held up to us. “Look. Here’s what’s really going on.”
For example, a dream reveals an image of a snail in which the dreamer felt frustration. The Self might be showing the Ego that deep down, on an unconscious level, feelings of frustration occur when things move slowly. The dreamer, outwardly thinking, “Everything is okay,” is inwardly and unknowingly frustrated.
If Ego is strong enough, it accepts that it is indeed frustrated. It further asks, ‘”Where in my life am I frustrated with the progress of something?” “Where do I feel bothered by moving at a snail’s pace?”
The honest answers about how one is living may reveal qualities of greed, irresponsibility, and overcaring. It may surface feelings of loss, fear and joy. However, as the poet Rumi advised, “Welcome and entertain them all! … Meet them at the door laughing, and invite them in.”
Whether it’s personal growth, soul-searching, increasing awareness, or becoming more whole, each will occur when one encourages the Ego to meet the Self.