Through a Jungian Lens

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On Being Different and Living Together in Peace

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Cattle and cattle egrets found together in a field on the outskirts of Playa Jaco somehow find a way to live together in spite of being very different.  Theirs is a symbiotic relationship, providing each other something that is needed and receiving equal benefit.  When I think about this, it isn’t much different in many human relationships.

Of course, I don’t think I can include most intimate relationships, most marriages in this willingness to both give and receive in spite of differences,  Rather, I am speaking of many other community relationships.  For example, a friend is skilled in various crafts but doesn’t have much skill with communications technology.  Since the opposite friend has the skills needed in communication technology, but is lacking in working with tools, a relationship is able to grow and thrive giving each person a sense of worth in relation to the other.

In another situation, one who has a need to talk, to have someone listen compassionately is a valued friend for someone else who is grateful for friendship where there is little demand for talking, something that is a difficult task other than to offer a few pleasantries.  Most of our human lives including in the workplace are filled with just this kind of symbiotic relationships.  Yet, in intimate situations?

The difficulties that regularly arise between different attitude-types are legion … Jung’s observation was that what initially seems to be an ideal union may in time become uneasy and embittered.

One might think an understanding of typology would forestall such enmity and allow two people to live in peace, each acknowledging and appreciating the value of the other, but the reality is that even many individuals who have a good grasp on their psychological make-up may find it difficult or even impossible to tolerate an intimate relationship with someone of a different attitudinal orientation.  Hence so many acrimonious divorces and separations. (Sharp, Jung Uncorked:  Book One, 2008, pp 86-87)

I think that this is easily enough understood in itself.  Intimacy requires a high level of trust where one’s “self” is held in esteem by the “other.”  When intimacy between opposite types is enacted, it becomes critical to deny the “self” in favour of “other.”  Where on dominates, the other is diminished.  This takes me to the words of Jung:

Where love reigns, there is no will to power; and where the will to power is paramount, love is lacking.  The one is but the shadow of the other. (Jung, CW 7, par 78)

And therein lies the problem.  Especially when life causes us to fall to our knees, bruised and wounded, when we begin the work of healing the self and the soul, that is when strive to survive knowing that in the end, regardless of whom we engage in intimacy, we are alone.  Our journey is an individual journey even if shared with an “other.”


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