Any form of personal distress warrants an attentive and honest review of our lives. Perhaps, there is something in our character that has been put off for so long that we’re unable to make the connection between a defective trait and a present situation. Perhaps, the tendency to ignore the elephant in the room is the root cause of chronic anxiety. One thing is certain- our problems grow in proportion to the degree we ignore or suppress them. Whether we try to suppress or medicate reality, the shadows remain and they lurk between the realm of the unconscious, feeding and growing off their neglect until they have grown to the point of inevitable crisis. When investigating sudden mental breakdowns or intense crisis in individuals we find that they are rarely abrupt and random. They are the byproducts of an accumulation of piled up suppressed and unattended problems in the individual. The infant shadows that were thrown into the basement of the mind have now grown into gigantic beasts. They break out of the hidden parts of a person, seeking validation and expression, only by now they are much harder to control and wreak havoc in the outer and inner life. This reality plays itself in the idiom “what we fail to bring to the light, multiples in the dark.”
The founder of depth analytical psychology, Carl Jung proposed the idea that the unconscious and conscious function as a regulatory system, much like the human body. If the body becomes too cold, given it is in decent health, its regulatory system will work to raise the temperature at attempts of bringing it back to balance. The mind will function in like manner, in which the contents of both the conscious and unconscious function as complimentary and compensating systems. An avoidance and ignorance of who we are, the suppression of difficult truths, will always create a breakout of the ignored content- often times in undesirable and hideous ways. For example, a consciously persistent tendency to look at oneself and the world in a one-sided manner of perfection often produces feelings of terror and anxiety stemming from the hidden parts of the mind, many times so overwhelmingly powerful that it results in destructive behaviors such as eating disorders and substance abuse. There are many examples of this sort in people that have grown up in “perfectionistic” families or in homes where open communication was not encouraged. One-sidedness, where the shadowy and unfavored parts of our reality are ignored can lead to the involuntary emancipation of their exaggerated opposites. It is not difficult to understand this concept, once we examine our fears and anxieties and line them up with the more formidable and essential truths we consciously avoid. The trait of seeking control, for example, may play itself out in the irrational and disproportionate phobia of ants.
So, what are we to do about such a problem? How do we know what we may not even be aware of if chronic avoidance has led to genuine forgetting? The first step is going beyond any form of political correctness and gentle honesty. It is a willing commitment to confront the undesirable reality of our darkest parts in order to appropriately integrate them into our conscious waking lives. It is the daunting and necessary step of being brutally honest with the “inner dragons” and “demons” of our nature and the willingness to fight hand in sword and seeing what or who emerges on the other side. It’s through this journey where we find who we really are, a journey that parts from the light into the deepest trenches of our defects. It’s the place where we take off the masks, stop looking at the atrocities of the world with such astonishment because we understand the horrors live inside of us as well. It’s knowing that history and the present with its most ingenious occurrences as well as its malevolence has a home in the human heart. It’s “Know Thyself and To Thine Own Self Be True” and emerging from such a reality fully awakened.