Through a Jungian Lens

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Change and the Shifting Sense of Self

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Carving new lines in the mud

This is a scene from the edge of the Battle River as it traverses its way through east-central Alberta, Canada. This little river will eventually rise as the winter snow in the mountains begins to melt, but as it is right now, the shoreline shows the water still receding and leaving its mark on the mud. Nothing stays the same as the water continued to carve the shore with each season that passes.  The land works on the water forcing it to change its course over time, and the water works on the land, eroding the banks and creating new land formations at a new location, perhaps as an island where the river widens and becomes shallower. The only sure thing to note is that there is constant change.

My life is not much different. I can look at this scene and see my ego, my consciousness as the land and the unconscious as the river. As I age and as I experience life, consciousness grows or should I say, emerges from the unconscious.  It really isn’t about creating something that was never there, it is about bringing what was hidden under the water to the surface to be noted and incorporated into awareness.

All it takes are little things, sometimes so small one is almost not aware that something has changed. Just for example, I write down my dreams now, more than has been my habit for a few years. That change was somewhat significant as it came with the territory with re-entering analysis, but not so significant because it was an activity that had been part of my routine for a number of years. I guess it could be somewhat similar to the changing levels of the river over seasons where high water levels would be marked with increased dreaming and attention to dreams and low water with decreased perceptions of dreams.

With attention to dreams, I am more likely to make shifts in my awareness of the world around me and be more aware of my body as well. That extra awareness causes yet a few more “conscious” shifts in behaviour.  The slight shifts in behaviour then results in slight shifts in terms of relationships with others. In the process, I appear as a different man though in reality I am not really that much different, I am only more aware of who I am. I might “look” or “respond” a bit differently with the loss of a few extra pounds due to a slight shift in eating habits or in exercise habits (minor changes, not focused major changes), or taking a few moments to really ask myself what I think in response to a question before answering. In spite of the cosmetic changes, the reality of who I am doesn’t change. The only thing that changes in how I present that self to the world and how the world responds to that presentation.

Of course, I will continue like almost everyone else to basically live with a lot of unknowns about my self and others and the world around me, live with the unconscious working away over time. Given enough time and enough attention, perhaps I will become even more aware of myself and be better at being in conscious relationship with others and the external world.


4 Responses

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  1. My dreams have been coming back the last few weeks. I can begin work again.


    May 15, 2012 at 1:07 pm

    • Good for you, Viv. You are an artist with words. I thought of you as I was reading The Vertical Labyrinth by Aldo Carotenuto, the story of individuation of an artist who could no longer create because of falling into “limbo.” One does and can emerge from limbo.


      May 15, 2012 at 4:04 pm

  2. “Given enough time and enough attention, perhaps I will become even more aware of myself and be better at being in conscious relationship with others and the external world.”

    This has me thinking. I don’t recall any Jungian lecture or reference to the possibility or warning of becoming ‘too conscious’ or spending too much time pursuing such. Yet basic Jung 101 repeatedly abhors extremes. Would becoming too aware of one’s self is an ironic case of enantiodromia?
    Any thoughts?


    May 15, 2012 at 10:44 pm

    • It is the extremes that I am looking at in terms of “too much” at this point. Looking at finding balance so as to avoid toppling. 🙂


      May 19, 2012 at 9:44 am

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