The Self – Its Dramatic Paradox

When I understood what I’m about to share, I experienced a dramatic shift in my understanding of psychology. Not only that, everything that has ever happened in my life acquired a new perspective.

I constantly see people using the term “Self”, but I rarely see someone discussing its polarities.  

Let’s begin with a quote:

“We know that ultimately all conflicts are created not only by, let us say, a wrong conscious attitude, but by the unconscious itself, in order to reunite the opposites on a higher level”. (Alchemical Active Imagination – Marie Von Franz, p.85)

So, our Psyche is a self-regulating system and is constantly striving to become whole. Its center is what we call the Self

We know that Consciousness and Unconscious have a compensatory/ complementary relationship. And the Unconscious will constantly react to our Conscious Attitude. 

Neurosis can also be understood as self-division, a conflict between our conscious mind and the unconscious.

The thing is, we experience these conflicts, and feelings like anxiety and depression, because the way we’ve been conducting our life, and our behaviors, are far away from the Self.

In other words, the way we right now wounds our essence.

And this is what made my mind explode… 

Ultimately we create our own conflicts (or, rather the Unconscious/ Self creates it) because we’re deviating from our center.

The Self knows what we’re meant to do and become, and whenever we wrong our essence, the Self will do everything it can to realign us. 

So Neurosis is a calling from the Self trying to bring us together again.

Here’s a more thorough explanation: 

The Self “[…] Contains conflicting and disintegrating tendencies at the same time

The disintegrating tendencies may result in psychosis if the unconscious and consciousness clash, for then the conflict has prevailed and the person falls into all those parts which are hostile to each other, as, for instance, when the psychotic person hears different voices that quarrel with each other. On the other hand, we also know that the unconscious contains synthesizing or integrating tendencies, which issue from that regulating center which Jung calls the Self.

The Self is the center of integrating tendencies and of healing within the unconscious, so we can say that in that way we still proceed exactly like the alchemists. We try to remove the enmity between the elements, not by discarding it, but by forcing people to have it out with their own conflicts, to confront themselves with their own conflicts instead of just letting them happen in the unconscious, and by supporting the integrating tendency of the unconscious. If somebody has dreams that propose a solution, we proceed by making those dreams and their tendencies rise into consciousness and supporting and encouraging, so to speak, the integrating tendencies. Very often in such dream motifs one sees the enmity of the elements as animals fighting: as in many fairy tales and myths, a bird and a snake fight, or two birds, or two dogs are locked together in a fight. Fighting animals always refer to a conflict within the unconscious itself, when two instinctual tendencies within the unconscious lock horns. If consciousness steps in, then the conflict changes. (Alchemical Active Imagination – Marie Von Franz, p.90)

So contrary to popular belief, the solution for our conflicts doesn’t lie in the Unconscious, but in transforming our Conscious Attitude (beliefs and behaviors).

And here’s a tricky part…

Because we’re only able to do that by confronting what is making us sick. Part of the conflict exists in our Consciousness, but the other half lies in the Unconscious. So we must dive deep in order to retrieve the forsaken parts.

Part of you wants to go to the right, but the other wants to go left.

That’s why it’s a paradox, and we must give voice to the symptom, and establish a dialogue with it. The other half of us contains crucial information, and it’s eager to tell us what we’ve been neglecting.

Obviously, this process isn’t always pleasant, it’s a rollercoaster of emotions. We might feel guilty, and in absolute despair having to deal with things we’ve been running from our whole lives. But it can also be wonderful as new parts of our personality unravel, and so we can finally feel at peace.

Slowly, but surely, the solution emerges as a third and new way, containing both parts of the conflict. A new synthesis of the personality (this is also called the transcendent function).

And this solution is always particular to someone’s individuality. The Self guides this whole process, and by engaging our Consciousness we’re able to create and realize our authentic path.

This dramatically changed how I experience inner conflicts. Certainly, they haven’t become pleasant, but knowing that my personality wants to grow and that I’m capable of much more, fills me with hope, and strength to continue on my journey. 

Not only that, this changes my view of every person who comes to be analyzed. When I see their conflicts, I know that there’s something wonderful waiting to flourish, we just need to take one more step…

Read this one next – How To Do Shadow Work

Rafael Krüger

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