Through a Jungian Lens

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On the Road to Individuality

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It’s been a while since I have turned to one of my Jungian psychology books. Now that I am back in my home, sitting here in my office in the house surrounded by my collection of books which are predominantly focused on psychology, I felt the pull to pick one of them up this morning. I found these words by Carl Gustav Jung: “Every man is, in a certain sense, unconsciously a worse man when he is in society than when acting alone.” [CW 7, par. 240] It’s an idea that equates with that of when in a group, everything sifts itself out until the group has reached its lowest common denominator, an idea that explains why so many good people working together on a project, or in a large corporation, or in government; seem to lose their individual high standards and end up doing immoral and even stupid things.

I’ve seen this happen and have been part of it while working as a school administrator. I have seen it happen in staff rooms where it takes time to work new teachers into the group and how the result ends up with the idealistic new teachers unconsciously taking on the collective attitudes and ways of being in the group. I’ve seen it in myself where I teach and work differently with different classrooms, an unconscious response that isn’t really about responding to the needs of different students, but more about being caught up in the collective psyche of the class, the collective shadow to be more precise. Once outside of the group, typically one returns to his or her natural way of being in the world.

The descent to the lowest common denominator helps explain the realities of our government that is chosen though elections, one person at a time – good people that for the most part are individually principled with a vision.  Yet one elected, it doesn’t take too long before individuals find themselves controlled to the extent that they vote contrary to their own beliefs and the beliefs of those who voted for her or him. In time, the central authority of the group issues. When and if the individual comes to realise the conflict between his or her unconscious behaviour in the collective and his or her values and beliefs, the individual typically resigns. Sadly, the collective shadow (lowest common denominator) consumes and controls most.

Enough of this. It’s time for a poem.

Following the road in search of self

Following the road in search of self

~ ~ ~

On the Road to Individuality

He walked alone down a dirt road little used
walked barefoot in the soft, dry dirt
away from his home in the village.

As the sun warmed the air and the quiet
began to come alive with nature
which whispered in the leaves and grass
he removed his shirt and bared his breast
walking toward the light of the sun.

His steps became lighter as though
a weight had been lifted from his heart.
His eyes reached up, as he lifted his head
and straightening his back, and a smile
began to move from his lips to his eyes.

Cresting a hill, he stood for a moment
looking back toward the village where
he was a stranger though he knew each
person who lived with him in the village
where he was even a stranger to himself,
hidden behind his clothes and his
carefully crafted public person.

Looking away from the village, down the trail
he sensed that soon he would be able to
find the self he had worked so hard to
hide and disguise, a self he had lost.

Removing the last of his clothing
he followed the path ahead
in search of freedom.

2014 04 10 – Elrose, House of White


Written by Robert G. Longpré

April 10, 2014 at 10:37 am

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