Painful emotions burden us. They develop from experience with trauma, loss, rejection, abandonment and failure. When we don’t heal ourselves of these emotional wounds, neurosis can develop. Swiss psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung said, “Neurosis is always a substitute for legitimate suffering.” (Psychology and Religion, 1960) We suffer and for good reason. Maybe physical or emotional harm happened to us, our parents divorced, we failed at a business or our spouse rejected us. As a result, we may numb or mask our emotional distress with addiction, denial, anger, a closed heart, or some other form of self-harm, limiting our progress in life.
To face our emotional wounds is one of life’s most courageous acts. It’s also our most important work because it means living a more authentic life, a life rooted in our values, talents and desires. Finding our truest selves means first becoming conscious of the beliefs we created out of what happened to us. You see, it’s not the event that causes our continual suffering but rather the beliefs we created to cope and make sense out of the event where we suffer the most. We believe we are worthless, not good enough, damaged in some way, but it’s simply not true.
We have the power to heal ourselves with self-awareness and self-knowledge. This may require counseling but ultimately we will be doing the work to uncover our true selves and live the best life possible.
Carl Jung’s quotes on self-awareness help inspire us to live an authentic life.
1. “Filling the conscious mind with ideal conceptions is a characteristic of Western theosophy, but not the confrontation with the shadow and the world of darkness. One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.” (The Collected Works of Carl Jung, Vol. 13, Page 335)
Facing the darkness in our lives takes courage, perseverance and self-discipline. First, we need to become aware of our suffering and false beliefs that hold us back from our authentic selves. This can be uncomfortable and scary because painful feelings that are buried will surface. We also might need to give up a self-destructive behavior that has been our solace. Alternatively, we may need to forgive someone who has harmed us, or end a relationship. Whatever the outcome of our enlightenment, we have positively shifted our lives forever.
2. “Individuals who believe they are masters of their fate are as a rule the slaves of destiny. (Letter to Valentine Brooke, 16 Nov 1959)
The subconscious is where our experiences, beliefs and memories are stored. Self-knowledge, the understanding of our thoughts and behaviors and their influence on our lives, will make the unconscious conscious. This raise in consciousness and change in thoughts and behavior prevents our false beliefs, negative emotions and self-defeating behaviors from directing our fate. Our fate is now determined by our knowing ourselves enough to take effective action in our daily lives.
3. “Depression is like a woman in black. If she turns up, don’t shoo her away. Invite her in, offer her a seat, treat her like a guest and listen to what she wants to say.”
We feel down sometimes. Look at what happens in the world ― acts of terrorism against innocent people, losing jobs unexpectedly, serious illness — it’s no wonder we have the strength to get out of bed. Clinical depression, of course, is different because a person often needs professional help. For many who just feel down on a particular day, a little self-compassion can make us feel better. Instead of beating ourselves up for having negative feelings, it’s more beneficial to be kind and supportive of them, like a friend would be. Negative feelings are good for our mental health because they tell us that something is not right in our lives. The key is to learn how to cope with these negative feelings.
4. “It is not I who create myself, rather I happen to myself.” (The Collected Works of Carl Jung, Vol. 11, Para 391)
Once you understand your psychological patterns and the negative affect these patterns have on your life, you can now make better life choices. This is a breakthrough! Those patterns have kept you stuck from living the life you have imagined. Of course, your experiences and the way you coped with them will never disappear. They are part of your spiritual development. However, the coping mechanisms and false beliefs are no longer dictating who you become, your authentic self is, the self that wants purpose and meaning in life.
5. “I realize that under the circumstances you have described you feel the need to see clearly. But your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Without, everything seems discordant; only within does it coalesce into unity. Who looks outside dreams; who looks inside awakes.” (C.G. Jung Letters, Vol. I, Page 33)
What would life be like if we were free from negative patterns? Having a clear perception of our strengths, weaknesses, thoughts, beliefs, and emotions leads us to a happier, more fulfilling life. Our self-awareness not only benefits us but also the people around us. Relationships become more genuine because we understand our patterns and how it’s affecting others.
With self-awareness through personal introspection, a counselor and/or self-help books, it’s comforting to know that we need not endure our suffering. We have a choice to stay stuck in our neuroses or unlock our potential and become our best selves.
Find out more about Carl Jung: carljungdepthpsychologysite.blog
What Carl Jung quote inspired you the most and why?