The social aspect of the Self

(from the book “Man and his Symbols,”
by Carl Jung, M.L. von Franz, and John Freeman, 1964)

Most people confuse “self-knowledge” with knowledge of their conscious ego personalities. 

 Today the enormous growth of population, undeniable in large cities, inevitably has a depressing effect on us. We think, “Oh, well, I am only so-and-so living at the such-and-such address, like millions of other people. If a few of them get killed, what difference can it make? There are far too many people in any case.” Later, when we read about the deaths of innumerable unknown people who personally mean nothing to us, the feeling that our lives count for nothing is further increased. But it shouldn’t be so… because each detail of your life is interwoven with the most significant realities. 

I cannot prove to you that God exists, but my work has proved empirically that the pattern of God exists in every man and that this pattern in the individual has at its disposal the greatest transforming energies of which life is capable. Find this pattern in your own individual self, and life is transformed.

 We already know that everything in life depends on the individual – we make plans, choices, decisions. Sometimes we have to swim against the stream of collective prejudice by taking our own thoughts, soul, heart seriously into account. This is not always an agreeable task. For example, you want to take a trip with friends next weekend, but something inside of you (unconscious) demands that you do some creative work instead. If you listen to your unconscious and obey it, you must expect constant interference with your weekend plans. Your will is crossed by other intentions, and the funniest of all – you won’t be so popular with your message: “Guys, I have to stay home and work on my next Mona Lisa project.” 

 This is partly why the obligation attached to the process of individuation is often felt to be a burden rather than an immediate blessing. When a person tries to obey the unconscious, he will often be unable to do just as he pleases. But equally, he will often be unable to do what other people want him to do. It often happens, for instance, that he must separate from his group – family, partner, friends, colleagues – in order to find himself. That is why it is sometimes said that attending to the unconscious makes people antisocial and egocentric. As a rule, this is not true, for there is a little-known factor that enters into this attitude: the collective (or, we could say, SOCIAL) aspect of the Self. 

 Like all the higher forms of life, man is in tune with the living beings around him to a remarkable degree. He perceives their sufferings and problems, their positive and negative attributes and values, instinctively quite independently of his conscious thoughts about other people. But, as is the case with all inner processes, it is ultimately the Self that orders and regulates one’s human relationships, so long as the conscious ego takes the trouble to detect the delusive projections and deals with these inside himself instead of outside. It is in this way that like-minded and similarly oriented people find their way to one another, to create a group that cuts across all the usual social and organizational affiliations of people. 

 The consciously realized process changes a person’s relationships. The familiar bonds such as kinship or common interests are replaced by a different type of unity – a bond through the Self. All activities and obligations that belong exclusively to the Outer world do define harm to the secret activities of the unconscious. Through these unconscious ties those who belong together come together. That is one reason why attempts to influence people by advertisement and political propaganda are destructive, even when inspired by idealistic motives.
This raises the important question of whether the unconscious part of the human mind can be ‘influenced’ at all. We can’t influence someone’s dreams, right? There are people, who assert that they can influence them, but if you look into it seriously, you’ll find that they do only what I do with my disobedient dog: I order him to do those things I notice he wants to do anyhow so that I can preserve my illusion of authority. 

 No deliberate attempts to influence the unconscious have yet produced any significant result, and it seems that the mass unconscious preserves its autonomy just as much as the individual unconscious. 

The bigger the crowd, the more negligible the individual becomes.

 Attempts to influence public opinion by means of newspaper, television, and advertising are based on two factors. 1 – they rely on sampling techniques that reveal “the trend” or “want” of collective attitudes. 2 – they express the prejudices, projections, and complexes (mainly the money or power complex) of those who manipulate public opinion. But statistics do no justice to the individual: the average size of stones in a heap may be five centimeters, still, one will find very few stones of exactly this size in the heap. Well, the second factor cannot create anything positive; it is clear from the start. But if a single individual devotes himself to individuation, he frequently has a positive contagious effect on the people around him. It is as a spark leaps from one to another. And this occurs only when one has no intention of influencing others and often when one uses no words. 

If I want to understand an individual human being, I must lay aside all scientific knowledge of the average man and discard all theories in order to adopt a completely new and unprejudiced attitude.   

 We know from studying the social behavior of the higher animals that small groups (10 to 50) create the best possible living conditions for the single animal as well as for the group, and the man seems to be no exception in this respect. Our physical well-being, our spiritual health, and, beyond the animal realm, our cultural efficiency seems to flourish best in such a social formation. And often, our unconscious – the Self – tends to produce such small groups, because through them we can relate to all people on the Earth. This doesn’t mean, of course, that there will not be collisions of opinions and conflicting obligations, or disagreement about “the right way,” but if we constantly withdraw and listen to one’s inner voice in order to find the individual standpoint that the Self intends us to have, our own negative projections (as jealousy, envy, fighting) will not break up the group. Thus devotion to the Self brings the best possible social adaptation. 

 The latest modern discovery of the unconscious shuts some doors forever. Can we comprehend an absolute physical or religious reality (in itself), independent of the human psyche? Can we completely understand another person or tell him what is right for him? Or is it only an illusion? I don’t know, but no matter what we assert or find, we can never get away from the existence of the mind – for we are CONTAINED WITHIN IT, and it is the only means by which we can grasp reality.

The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are.

 Focus on that 😉🔆 


Next post – The Story of Harmless Bullet. Chapter 27