Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Taking Yourself Seriously

Jung and I: Part 1

We’ve all heard the phrase “don’t take yourself too seriously,” right? At first, it seems like reasonable (if clichéd) advice. Who wants to be around someone who exudes self-importance, self-righteousness, and has little or no sense of humor? When I hear that phrase, I hear “hey dude, lighten up!” So when I went back to therapy for the fourth (fifth? sixth?) time, and the therapist told me: "the problem is you don't take yourself seriously enough," I was more than a little skeptical.

Let me back up and provide a little more context. By this point in my life, I had come to terms with homosexuality. I had been living in Portland, OR with my partner for about 2 years or so, and I was pretty much done with God, done with the church, done with Christianity, and done with anything resembling it. Hearing church-speak or Christian code words—no matter who uttered them—filled me with anger. I was not out to my parents or any other family members (except a close cousin), and I had grown distant from them. Things were going OK with my partner, but otherwise I felt like I had no purpose; I felt like I was drifting. I didn’t like myself very much; I still felt awkward and anxious around other people. This was where I found myself when I went back to therapy.

We seemed to have a good connection, and I felt comfortable talking to him. He told me early on that he was a “Jungian” therapist. I had no idea what that meant, other than he was a follower of Carl Jung. All I knew about Carl Jung was that he was the second most famous psychologist next to Freud.

Throughout our therapy, he taught me the Jungian concept of the Shadow, which according to Jung is a part of every human being. But what I remember most and what affected me the most was this concept of taking oneself seriously; soon I would begin to understand just how crucial this concept was for my own personal healing. It was the starting point on the way to finding an authentic spirituality and reclaiming (and “redeeming”) my identity as a Christian.

In Part 2, I discuss the problem of Jeremiah 17:9 and Isaiah 64:6.

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