“What you resist, persists.” ~ Carl Jung
We may all be familiar with the above quote, but ever so much more familiar with the idea that the ego is there to be overcome. It’s the whole point to our spiritual journey.
The ego is something we want to be rid of, and it must be confronted. Fought with, dissolved and ultimately dragged bloody and bitten to the top of the mountain called enlightenment where we might slay our final dragon and become egoless.
But what if we’ve got it all wrong? The Zen of opposites, the Tao describes, ‘What is and what is not create each other’ (Tao Te Ching). So, from this again we know, that without the high there would be no low; as with our breath, the deeper the in breath the longer the out and so on and so forth.
On a micro-scale, this can be seen across the span of our lives. We become less enchanted by the grip of darkness and suffering in the world as we grow older and get more proficient at filtering out that which does not serve us, or will drag us down into unnecessary analysis and self prophesising or deceit.
But what if this also serves us on a macro-scale too? In the case of reincarnation we see a number of reoccurring life patterns emerging, ones that are entirely familiar to us and that we use to create meaning and stories across the media, in modern psychological theory, literary and aesthetic analysis and our own, inner worlds. That of archetypes.
“My views about the ‘archaic remnants’, which I call ‘archetypes’ or ‘primordial images,’ have been constantly criticized by people who lack a sufficient knowledge of the psychology of dreams and of mythology” ~ Jung.
The archetype reflects the epitome of a life experience as – let’s face it – we’ve probably all filled most shoes at one time or another.
The life experience or archetypes we relate to most now, in this lifetime may offer some clue (and solution) to our complexes and shadow selves.
Some from the spiritual community may feel the study of archetypes encourage the ego, but as any discipline usually advises, we must not only practise presence and mindfulness in order to detach from the ego and its pettiness (and ultimate entwinement in our painful life experiences; after all it’s there to help us survive), but further our questioning and self study from all angles.
For those who are struggling with trauma and more complexities than most of us can even dream of, the idea that we are living out a more challenging role than others – and that we have chosen to do so – can be a way out of the murk.
The nature of trauma pushes our ego – or fight or flight mode – to maximum so that the imprint left may be one of irrational panic.
This irrational panic has been caused by situations beyond our control which have forced out a balanced view of reality and plunged us headfirst into the ego and into survival mode. What shouldn’t appear threatening, now is incredibly threatening! And no matter how many grounding techniques it may take to lessen that threat, the occurrence in itself can leave many of us feeling ashamed and questioning why it happened to us.
The bigger the ego the higher the purpose can offer a clue. The path of some archetype is simply greater than others, precisely because there’s more at stake.
The orphan archetype, the revolutionary, the divine child… that is why the storybooks are littered with these, because the inflated ego – though less amicable or clean from the outside – has the greater potential.
And we all have this waiting for us on our path. Just as the more sensitive we may be the greater potential we have as healers or to have a compassionate heart.
Just as Buddha or Christ suffered greatly, the saviour archetype (often mixed with the teacher or divine mentor) is one such example of the Zen of opposites. To know great beauty and divine love we first need to come to understand hatred and deceit from the other.
To study these themes (loosely! Let’s remember that they are there as a guide not an absolute truth) alongside increasing awareness and living mindfully can help us through trauma and difficulty. Living in presence and noting those darker reaches and bubbling strengths simultaneously has us both in our true potential and what we have survived.
Detaching and taking on a maternal or paternal role as our higher selves as we nurture and console the orphan or wounded child within us leads to deep healing and a cleansing of the past. Sometimes dropping the past takes much time and patience, and healing with the breath or other alternative therapies can help us. And perhaps we do need to keep one hand in our suffering in order to do what we came here to do. It is our treasure, our grit in the oyster.