Carl Jung, part 3: Encountering the unconscious

The third of my posts on Jung has just gone up at the Guardian’s Cif. A taster:

By way of illustration, Jung considers the example of a man whose public image is one of honour and service but who, in the privacy of his home, is prone to moods – so much so that he scares his wife and children. He is leading a double life as public benefactor and domestic tyrant. Jung argues that such a man has identified with his public image and neglected his unconscious life – though it won’t be ignored and so comes out, with possibly explosive force, in his relations with his family. The way forward is to pay attention to this inner personality, literally by holding a conversation with himself. He should overcome any embarrassment in doing so and allow each part of himself to talk to the other so that both “partners” can be fully heard.

A non-judgmental attitude is critical. If one side judges the other, then the other side actually gains power because it feels wronged, and so justified in its complaints. This is where therapy can help. “The course of therapy is thus rather like a running conversation with the unconscious”, Jung writes. And when properly heard, the tensions between the inner and outer personality should subside. The result will be a more honest saint who is a lot easier to live with. Moreover, he will find that he has more energy for life because he will be less at war with himself and those around him.