CG Jung and Shadows

Roughly a month into my brush with C.G. Jung and I’m finding this isn’t going to be a light trip through an author/philosopher. For anyone else who has yet to read Jung, I have started with “Memories, Dreams, Reflections” which is a dictated memoir of sorts. It’s essentially Jung speaking on anecdotes and (at least so far) his foundational moments and what led him to psychological studies and diagnostics. Fascinating. One choice passage:

“… I came up against the steel of people’s prejudice and their utter incapacity to admit unconventional possibilities. I found this even with my closest friends. To them all this was far worse than my preoccupation with theology. I had the feeling that I had pushed to the brink of the world; what was of burning interest to me was null and void for others, and even a cause for dread.” (p.100, Memories, Dreams, Reflections)

I read this and had to stop and think it over for a moment. I remember moments like this in my teenage years, where I needed to discuss death and afterlife on terms that most wouldn’t entertain. Whether morbid curiosity or a necessity for a child to cope with sadness I couldn’t quite understand, I can’t say. As much as I enjoy reading about how the human brain works, I can’t say that I could turn the lens on myself with accuracy. This passage is taking place in a time where Jung was still deciding what to study at the University level, so we’ll say he’s in his late teens. That would be a time when most young people are still trying to figure themselves out and understand who they are, his thoughts aren’t necessarily unique for that time of life, but thew insight to know others couldn’t relate was.

“… I realized that for all it’s wealth of learning the urban world was mentally rather limited. This insight proved dangerous, because it tricked me into fits of superiority, misplaced criticism, and aggressiveness, which got me deservedly disliked. This eventually brought back all the old doubts, inferiority feelings, and depressions– a vicious circle I was resolved to break at all costs. No longer would I stand outside the world enjoying the dubious reputation of a freak.” (p.100)

Jung also dives a bit into the premise that certain ideas which he would’ve taken at face value in childhood seemed to be too much for people to even consider now that he was reaching adulthood. The part that strikes me as most interesting here is that I doubt it was a matter of Jung touching on anything particularly “new”, but rather addressing something relatively uncomfortable. As the oldest of my parents children, there have been multiple times where my sisters and brother have made commentary or addressed topics my parents would likely not entertain. There have been conversations where I’m certain they were in my skull, right at the brain stem siphoning thought. They have said things without my prompt or prior allowance to converse on a subject because I don’t want to risk tampering. A slight digression:

As someone who grew up in the Catholic Church, it has been of extreme importance to me that certain ideas are not forced onto those younger than me. These ideas being mostly tied to religion and politics. I have shared the names of authors, titles of books, but I try my best to disguise and hide the contents within because while I’d like to believe my siblings dive into the things I say, I don’t ever want them to be in a position where they believe something only because I’ve said it. I would prefer they find truth, that it reveals itself to them. I don’t ever want to impose truth, because that would mean that somehow I’ve attained it (and to a point, outside of common decent behavior, I don’t believe there is a ‘truth’ to most things).

I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I knew I’d done to my siblings what had been done to me. It took me so much longer to develop a proper philosophy because of it, and far more time spent rereading what I could’ve originally absorbed and mulled over on my own without the interference of an overriding philosophy. Returning to the above paragraph, there have been moments with my younger siblings where content is produced that is their original forming of thought and I wish I could take credit. There have been moments of clarity and maturity in them that stun me, and remind me to be more mature and clear in my own thinking because of it. I hope I have the self-security and lack of pride to accept this in the same way when my own children do it. I believe the only reason Jung wasn’t given the opportunity to grow in those moments where he seemed to challenge those around him is they couldn’t admit he might know something they didn’t. Can you imagine?

What a terrible thing for an adult to have to admit to a child!

Point being, Jung has been helpful in self-analysis. I’m only reading this memoir at the moment, so I can’t speak to his ability to clearly express his thoughts and philosophy in his published works, but I hope that these dictated words are a window into his work. What strikes me as fascinating is that there is someone who can fire up my brain like he does. Previously I’d only had Camus and Nietzsche ever do such things to my thoughts, but here we are! I worry that these three might be the only ones to get my brain a buzz, but I’m also a bit early on in my dive into philosophy, as I’ve still so many more of Jung’s works to read. I currently have a synopsis book of his, which is on Synchronicity. It is a short read taking from his collected works, out of a new more accessible edition which has recently been published. Here’s hoping more of his works become accessible, as he currently has entire volumes of writings on the human psyche that are essentially textbooks and cost roughly as much per volume ($40-$90 per book).

You might think, “what does this have to do with your story?” well, yes. Interestingly enough, Jung answered a dilemma for me in regards to one character. The Jungian idea of “Shadow”, is less like an evil twin and more like “Personality No.2”. It is an idea that he addresses very precisely in the memoir so far, and while I’m yet to finish it, the influence and importance it bears on developing the Terranaut is significant. In the creating of a secondary persona which we do not reveal, Jung shows that many of our mental stressors are caused not buy outside conflicts, but the internal conflict we cannot place. There are essentially two personalities at all times, and the dance these do to balance an individual into functional society is delicate. When addressing a moment from childhood, Jung describes that the no.2 enjoyed simply sitting on a rock and thinking, feeling, observing, whereas no.1 enjoyed playing and running about. This isn’t exclusive to Jung, I think.

I’d say most of us have a secondary that is with us, and while the primary can be social and agreeable, the secondary has its solid foundations on what it believes and seeks to overtake the primary. The word primary is difficult in this sense, because it makes it seem as though both are not equally important when they are. The secondary is a sort of “superego” in the Freudian sense, which oversees and judges the actions of the “id/ego” which the primary is most like. This isn’t concrete and is subject to a different interpretation in every single human being. Jung states clearly that when he came to diagnostics, he was not satisfied simply with knowing the symptoms and diagnosis, but rather the entire individual and their whole story. It was only with that full, complete context that he could accurately help:

Humanity is not an easily explained and simple phenomena. While it may seem at first that people behave in similar ways, they do so for different reasons, to different effect, with different response, and end in different conclusions/resolutions. That might seem like it’s a simple discovery, but living your life and thinking of the world in that way changes you. Drastically.

As someone who aims to write a lengthy literary project over time, this concept is vital. In developing all my characters, it would be impossible to make them feel real without having some strange motivators thrown into them. The Terranaut for example, will have his second with him throughout the journey, but no one else will ever see it. There will be no way of anyone else ever encountering his second, but it will be there with them the entire way. The same applies to all characters in some shape or form, but the Terranaut will actually have a distinct manifestation of said second persona, allowing for the reader to more clearly interpret it. I’ll be using it like a hammer instead of a screw. I really hope that this doesn’t ruin the story for anyone.


This is for Timmy Seo, who will one day be an incredible professor.

Published by MG

I've been meaning to become a writer since I graduated with my Bachelor's, and am lucky enough to have friends that have pushed me to do it. Here we are.

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