Life is a paradox, Carl Jung warned us. It can range from the deepest suffering to the greatest joy, so we need to prepare ourselves to deal with the most difficult moments, those that have the potential to break us into a thousand pieces. And we need to face them as calmly as possible to prevent them from derailing our goals and causing us to hit bottom emotionally. To develop that level of resilience, we may have to change some of our attitudes and thought patterns, replacing them with more adaptive insights.
What you deny submits you, what you accept transforms you
Jung thought that “Those who do not learn anything from the unpleasant facts of life force the cosmic consciousness to reproduce them as many times as necessary to learn what the drama of what happened teaches. What you deny submits you; What you accept transforms you.”
When things go wrong, our first reaction is usually denial. It is easier to ignore disaster than to plunge into its consequences. However, Jung also warned that “What you resist, persists.” He believed that “When an internal situation is not made conscious, it appears outside as destiny.”
Accepting reality, taking stock of what is happening, assuming responsibilities and taking note of the error is essential if we do not want to fall into the repetition compulsion; that is, tripping over the same stone again. No matter how difficult the situation is, we can only change it when we are fully aware of its implications.
We must remember that “Even a happy life cannot exist without a measure of darkness. The word happiness would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness. It is much better to take things as they come, with patience and equanimity,” as Jung recommended.
In all chaos there is a cosmos, in all disorder a secret order
Adversity does not usually come alone, uncertainty and chaos are usually their companions. If we don’t know how to deal with them, they usually generate enormous inner anguish. Jung noted that “For many of us, myself included, chaos is terrifying and paralyzing.”
However, he also thought that “In all chaos there is a cosmos, in all disorder a secret order.” His psychological theory was very complex. Jung was convinced that the world is governed by deterministic chaos; In other words, even seemingly unpredictable behaviors and events follow patterns, even if we are not able to see them at first.
Of course, it is not easy to assume that we will not always have control over our future and that tomorrow will not be drawn with the same colors as today. However, we need to accept that the unpredictable and the chaotic are inherent ingredients of existence itself. Resisting uncertainty will only increase stress and anguish.
“When a violent life situation arises that refuses to fit into the traditional meanings we assign to them, a moment of collapse occurs […] Only when all supports and crutches have been broken and there is no support that offers us the slightest hope security, we can experience the archetype that until then had remained hidden behind the significant,” wrote Jung.
In fact, if we look back to see the obstacles we have overcome, we can analyze what happened with different eyes and even find meaning or give a sense to what at one time seemed chaotic and disorderly.
Things depend more on how we perceive them than on how they are in themselves
Among the numerous letters that Jung wrote, one is particularly interesting as it responds to a patient who asks him how to “cross the river of life.” The psychiatrist replied that there really is no correct way to live, but that we just face the circumstances that fate brings us in the best way we can. “The shoe that fits one squeezes another; There is no one-size-fits-all recipe for life,” he wrote.
However, he also explained that “Things depend on how we see them and not so much on how they are in themselves.” Jung emphasized the degree of drama that our perception adds to the facts and that ends up exponentially increasing the anguish and discomfort that these generate.
For this reason, when we navigate the troubled waters of adversity, we must try not to get carried away by the inertia of worries and catastrophism, as this only increases the risk of losing control of our emotions. Instead, we should ask ourselves if there is a more objective, rational and positive way of seeing and dealing with what is happening to us.
To regain confidence in ourselves we need to add light to our shadows, as Jung would say, so we must stop perceiving problems through the lens of our fears and insecurities to to start using a more objective and balanced prism.
I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to be
When we’re caught up in adversity, it’s easy to go with the flow. When things go wrong, it’s hard to be optimistic. And when the world goes in one direction, it is difficult to go against it. However, Jung warned us not to let ourselves be carried away, but to always keep in mind the person we want to be. As the psychiatrist wrote “The privilege of a lifetime is to become what you really are.”
To stay calm on days of instability and endless pressure, it is better to look within and not focus so much on the noise that surrounds us. Inside us reside the truths, the path and our strengths. Looking outside for answers can have a more destabilizing effect.
As Jung wrote in one of his letters, “If you want to follow your individual path, remember that it is not prescribed and just arises by itself when you put one foot in front of the other.” It is our decisions in the face of circumstances that create the path.
We can take advantage of that dark moment to discover who we are and what we want to achieve. We can use adversity as a springboard to get stronger. Ultimately, we are what we do every day, not what we were in the past. Thus, in the end we can say: “I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to be,” as Jung said.