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  • Liam Carroll

Carl Jung: Accept Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself

Thanks yet again to the YouTube vortex, I lucked into an Alan Watts lecture in which he decides quite simply to read a Carl Jung speech delivered to a clergy group in Switzerland from some time in the mid 20th century. If you’re unfamiliar with the names Watts or Jung, you’re in for a treat. Get googling and indulge the ensuing rabbit hole explorations. You'll return a vastly different soul, for the better by far. Ok, no more fluffing about from me. Here’s Carl Jung’s speech, incredible.

“People forget that even doctors have moral scruples and that certain patient’s confessions are hard even for a doctor to swallow yet the patient does not feel himself accepted unless the very worst in him is accepted too. No one can bring this about by mere words. It comes only through reflection and through the doctor’s attitude towards himself and his own dark side.

"If the doctor wants to guide another, or even accompany him a step of the way, he must feel with that person’s psyche. He never feels it when he passes judgment. Whether he puts his judgments into words or keeps them to himself makes not the slightest difference. To take the opposite position and to agree with the patient offhand is also of no use. Feeling comes only through unprejudiced objectivity.

"This sounds almost like a scientific precept and it could be confused with a purely intellectual, abstract attitude of mind, but what I mean is something quite different. It is a human quality, a kind of deep respect for the facts, for the man who suffers from them, and for the riddle of such a man’s life.

"The truly religious person has this attitude; he knows that God has brought all sorts of strange and inconceivable things to pass and seeks in the most curious ways to enter a man’s heart. He therefore senses in everything the unseen presence of the divine will. This is what I mean by unprejudiced objectivity. It is a moral achievement on the part of the doctor who ought not to let himself be repelled by sickness and corruption.

"We cannot change anything unless we accept it. Condemnation does not liberate, it oppresses. I am the oppressor of the person I condemn, not his friend and fellow sufferer. I do not in the least mean to say that we must never pass judgment when we desire to help and improve. But, if the doctor wishes to help a human being, he must be able to accept him as he is and he can do this, in reality, only when he has already seen and accepted himself as he is.

"Perhaps this sounds very simple but simple things are always the most difficult. In actual life, it requires the greatest art to be simple. And so, acceptance of oneself is the essence of the moral problem and the acid test of one’s whole outlook on life. That I feed the beggar, that I forgive an insult, that I love my enemy in the name of Christ – all these are undoubtedly great virtues. What I do unto the least of my brethren, that I do unto Christ. But what if I should discover that the least amongst them all, the poorest of all beggars, the most impudent of all offenders, yay the very fiend himself, that these are within me, and that I myself stand in need of my own kindness, that I myself am the enemy whom must be loved, what then?

"Then, as a rule, the whole truth of Christianity is reversed. There is then no more talk of love and long suffering. We say to the brother within us, Raka, and condemn and rage against ourselves. We hide him from the world. We deny ever having met this least among the lowly in ourselves and had it been God himself who drew near to us in this despicable form we should have denied him a thousand times before a single cock had crowed.

"Healing may be called a religious problem. In the sphere of social or national relations, the state of suffering may be civil war and this state is to be cured by the Christian virtue of forgiveness and love of one’s enemies. That which we recommend with the conviction of good Christians as applicable to external situations we must also apply inwardly in the treatment of neurosis. This is why modern man has heard enough about guilt and sin. He is sorely beset by his own bad conscience and wants rather to know how he is to reconcile himself with his own nature, how he is to love the enemy in his own heart and call the wolf his brother.

"The modern man does not want to know in what way he can imitate Christ but in what way he can live his own individual life, however meagre and uninteresting it may be. It is because every form of imitation seems to him deadening and sterile that he rebels against the force of tradition that would hold him to well-trodden ways. All such roads for him lead in the wrong direction.

"He may not know it, but he behaves as if his own individual life were God’s special will which must be fulfilled at all costs. This is the source of his egoism, which is one of the most tangible evils of the neurotic state. But the person who tells him he is too egoistic has already lost his confidence, and rightly so, for that person has driven him still further into his neurosis.

"If I wish to affect a cure for my patients, I am forced to acknowledge the deep significance of their egoism. I should be blind indeed if I did not recognise it as a true will of God. I must even help the patient to prevail in his egoism. If he succeeds in this, he estranges himself from other people, he drives them away and they come to themselves, as they should, for they were seeking to rob him of his sacred egoism! This must be left to him, for it is his strongest and healthiest power.

"It is a true will of God that sometimes drives him into complete isolation. However wretched this state may be, it also stands him in good stead, for in this way alone can he get to know himself and learn what an invaluable treasure is the love of his fellow beings. It is, moreover, only in the state of complete abandonment and loneliness that we experience the helpful powers of our own natures.”

There you have it. That’s how you give a speech to anyone, most of all Swiss clergy! Accept yourself before you wreck yourself. Seems simple. It is. Good luck with its application.

*Liam Carroll is the author of Slippery, a story about capitalism on steroids in the oil trading world of Southeast Asia. His second novel, Sweet Dreams of Fanta, is a sentimental ride back to the Sydney of 1988, seen through the eyes of a freckly, moon-faced, 7year old Fanta addict. And his third book, Hooroo Love, is in the works now.

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