As we navigate life, questions and even doubts about our existence and identity will inevitably arise.
The process of understanding ourselves is a lifelong one and can be difficult, as we’re forced to confront and question our perspectives, values, and beliefs.
Yet this pursuit of finding ourselves, according to renowned psychotherapist Carl Jung, gives life so much more meaning.
Known for his profound insights into the world of analytical psychology, Jung’s teachings have transcended time and continue to inspire today.
If you’re embarking on a path of self-discovery, below are 7 lessons from Jung that will help you in your journey.
1) “The sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being.”
According to Jung, the purpose of each individual’s existence is to find meaning in life.
Rather than simply existing, Jung encourages us to go beyond by pursuing self-discovery and growth.
As a result, we will not only discover our unique talents and gifts that can help illuminate the way forward, we learn how to make a positive impact on the wider community with these gifts.
So, if you’ve ever wondered about the meaning of life, the answer may lie within yourself.
2) “The healthy man does not torture others – generally it is the tortured who turn into torturers.”
Ever heard the phrase “hurt people hurt people”?
Jung observed that those with unresolved trauma are more likely to project their hurt onto others.
And those at the receiving end of this may respond similarly by hurting other people as a way to cope.
It turns them into the very people who caused them to feel this way, resulting in a vicious cycle of hurt.
If you’ve been wronged before, perhaps this may give you a better understanding of why they behaved the way they did, and hopefully, the cycle of hurt will end with you.
It’s thus incredibly important to confront our past traumas and give ourselves space and time to heal.
What we need to remember is that no matter your past, the next step is up to you.
This leads to Jung’s next lesson.
3) “I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become.”
Granted, our experiences are shaped by our childhood, relationships, and the environment we live in.
These can influence the way we think, behave, and perceive the world around us.
However, Jung believes that the future of an individual is not determined by their past.
Each of us has the power to shape our identity and destiny – we are so much more than the summation of our past experiences.
You are what you choose to become.
4) “There is no recipe for living that suits all cases.”
Are you at a crossroads in life, or on the precipice of a major decision?
Do you find yourself asking friends for guidance, or even strangers on the internet for advice?
After a while, you may get inundated with all sorts of information from people who think their suggestions are the best.
There will always be a path or choice that most people seem to be taking.
But remember that just because the majority of people seem to advocate for a certain way of doing things, it may not work for you.
There’s no one size fits all approach to life.
Above all things, remember to honor yourself and make a decision that suits your needs and aspirations, rather than confine yourself to the expectations of others.
5) “You must be alone to find out what supports you, when you find that you cannot support yourself.”
Therefore, sometimes it’s good to sit with yourself in silence.
When life gets too much to handle and you find yourself without adequate help, take a breather and step away.
Find a suitable place for you to look inward and face your thoughts alone.
As you empty the clutter in your mind, things start to get clearer as you reconnect with your inner self.
You’ll start to discover qualities that you didn’t know were there before, like a greater measure of resilience, perseverance, and strength to press on.
Not only does this build self-reliance and a stronger sense of confidence, you’re more than ready to take on whatever challenge that life throws at you.
6) “It all depends on how we look at things, and not how they are in themselves”
Just as how our values, beliefs, and experiences shape the way we think, so do these factors influence how we interpret situations around us.
Two people can experience the same situation but perceive it differently.
I knew a guy who never failed to see the good in everything.
He worked in retail and was processing a refund for an extremely unreasonable customer.
The exchange was so loud, security was alerted to the commotion and the customer had to be escorted out.
We approached him, wanting to see if he was doing alright after the intense ordeal.
“Never better,” he said. “I should thank him actually, because now I know how to deal with people like him.”
The next time you’re faced with a challenging situation, observe your thought process.
Try setting your biases and instinctive emotional responses aside, and see how your perspective changes.
You’ll be surprised at the difference this one simple act can make.
7) “You are what you do, not what you’ll say you’ll do.”
Wouldn’t it be easier if we were defined by the things that we said?
You could be anything you wanted to be – smarter, more influential, or more successful.
Unfortunately, these declarations only hold meaning when there are actions to validate these statements.
I knew an ex-colleague who repeatedly said that she wanted to get fitter. She’d repeatedly tell us that she wants to start working out regularly and improve her diet.
While she did take the first step to purchase a gym membership, that was all she did.
She never stepped foot in the gym for the duration of her membership and barely changed her diet.
But she never stopped mentioning how she wanted to live a healthier lifestyle.
Our actions are a reflection of who we are.
If you want to connect with yourself at a deeper level, ensure that your values and beliefs are congruent with your actions.
If they’re not, examine why.
You’ll start to unveil your identity and true character, and can perhaps decide where to go from there.
While these lessons listed here are just the tip of the iceberg of Jung’s vast teachings, I hope they help you navigate life and empower you with a better understanding of yourself.