I recently posted the following quote on Facebook:
There is no coming to consciousness without pain. People will do anything, no matter how absurd, in order to avoid facing their own soul. One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious. ~Carl Jung
Several of you commented personally to me on this quotation and I feel it is worth discussing further.
In addition to biology, chemistry and physics, I studied philosophy and psychology while at Rutgers. I quickly developed an affinity to the psychologist Carl Jung. Jung was a psychologist of the late 19th and early part of the 20th century and was a colleague of Sigmund Freud. Instead of viewing the unconscious as merely a place of repressed thoughts and feelings as Freud did, Jung theorized that if you took the unconscious to a deeper level you would find what he called the “collective unconsciousness.” This collective unconscious idea and another concept called synchronicity has been more recently related to modern physics, the quantum theory specifically, as well as some eastern philosophical concepts in Taoism and Buddhism. Jung proclaimed the deepest part of the unconsciousness to be inherited and it was our purpose in life to utilize these underlying influences to find our own individuality and as he stated, “stand on our own two feet.” Wow, what a cool concept!
So how does this relate to pain and why am I writing about this? My lifetime study has been to understand mental and physical pain so to liberate myself and others from it. I mean, what else is there to do in life? (Trying to keep a heavy topic light here guys!)
Pain, whether mental or physical, can lead us to become very dependent. One becomes dependent on medications to avoid facing the pain, dependent on others, attaching to them, once again as a means albeit unconsciously, to avoid facing the pain. These dependencies and attachments are not empowering. In fact, they are excuses to facing the scary demons that we create in our heads. Once we have the courage to face these demons (metaphorically speaking of course,) they become angels to free us from our misery. In other words, the pain is symptom. Do not be afraid of the pain. Do not let your pain dictate your life. I have watched pain destroy too many lives.
In the 1990 movie Jacob’s Ladder, a side character by the name of Louis, is a chiropractor played by Danny Aiello. He states: “Eckhart saw Hell too. He said: “The only thing that burns in Hell is the part of you that won’t let go of life, your memories, your attachments. They burn them all away. But they’re not punishing you,” he said. “They’re freeing your soul. So, if you’re frightened of dying and… you’re holding on, you’ll see devils tearing your life away. But if you’ve made your peace, then the devils are really angels, freeing you from the earth.””
I think pain is very analogous to this idea. Regardless of whether it is mental or physical, there is a cause to our pain. And having the courage to face our pain with awareness of its cause and the intention to rid ourselves of it is the first giant and dark leap of faith eventually enabling us to become free from it. Free to live our lives whole and with integrity and letting go of those patterns and memories that are no longer needed. Ultimately, this enables us to serve ourselves and others as our souls may dictate.