Friday, January 18, 2013

Desperate Wickedness

Jung and I: Part 2

In Part 1 I touched on the phrase “don’t take yourself too seriously,” and how my Jungian therapist turned that phrase on its head. Today I want to share how that phrase came to define my life and why it was leading me down a destructive path.

Why was this phrase so harmful for me? The reason is because I really believed it. I believed it because I was taught that “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jer 17:9). That concept and that theme were drilled into me at church and at school. It was foundational. Another “proof-text” that I lived by: “All our righteousness is like filthy rags” (Isa 64:6). I didn’t bother with the comparison with God’s holiness; I saw the verse and I immediately equated myself, my thoughts, and my actions as worthless and dirty. These concepts informed my own opinions of other “dangerous” philosophies and beliefs. Anything that hit on self-esteem was PRIDE. Anything that advised to look “inward” for answers was extremely dangerous—just asking for trouble not only from “the flesh” but from evil spirits.  Even though I wasn’t raised Pentecostal, I still grew up with a healthy (i.e., unhealthy) fear of the devil, of demons, and of their influence in everyday life. I was afraid of the dark. I read the popular Frank Peretti novels of the time and then hid under my covers singing praise songs to ward off evil spirits. 

These concepts of wickedness and worthlessness help account for (1) the distrust I had of myself and my own thoughts and (2) the danger I felt of trusting my own power rather than God’s. But what was “God’s power” or “Spirit” in my life, and what was my own “flesh”? What was (*shudder*) demonic influence? It all helped to form a very strong foundation of self-hatred, self-distrust, fear, and shame.

With this foundation in place, my game plan for living--as a child, teenager, and young adult--was to excel, to please authority, and to pray for God to keep me “in truth.” I made sure to get straight A's at school. I also learned how to adapt my personality in different situations in order to be accepted by others. This last bit was tempered, however, by the fear and shame. I was very easily moved to feel guilt, so “having fun” and “goofing around” were difficult for me. I was constantly haunted by my sins of commission and my sins of omission…I couldn’t keep track of them all. So I was never very popular growing up; I was never totally unpopular though, because I learned how to be nice.

I grew up in Christian schools, churches, even jobs, until I was 23 or so. That meant that my niceness was very acceptable to authority. Also, being in Christian high school and Christian college, I encountered a lot of people in the same boat as I; so, I had friends. I didn’t feel that I truly connected with them though.

There were also people, both in my Christian bubble and those I saw outside the bubble, who were “rebellious.” People who intimidated me by their apparent lack of restraint. Looking back, I remember I was fascinated by those I labeled as rebellious because they seemed so ALIVE. It was like they had an energy and a fire that drove them to laugh without shame. And let me tell you—I hated them for that. I hid it well—from myself and from others. But I longed to be like them; I just didn’t understand that yet. All I knew is that they made me feel stupid, they made me feel ashamed, and they made me feel like I was nothing.

What I know now is that this reaction had to do with my Shadow. The Shadow is a really tricky, almost slippery concept in Jungian thought. Almost transcendental.

In Part 3, I attempt to explain the Shadow concept and how it related to my own healing experience.

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