Coping With Our Inadequacies

Introduction

We are often blind to our shortcomings and flaws. It's only through socially interactive feedback from others that we can see our true colors. It is only when we carefully observe our actions that we can unearth our truest intentions. This introspection is akin to an awakening of sorts. Once our “eyes are opened” we can never close them.

“A higher level of consciousness is like a burden of guilt. But, as I have said, only the man who has outgrown the stages of consciousness belonging to the past and has amply fulfilled the duties appointed for him by his world, can achieve a full consciousness of the present.” [1]

Awakening in conjunction with self-examination is a slow, tedious and painful process. It is only by first accepting the fact that we are much less than we would like to think of ourselves as being, that we can start to remove the veil that ego casts mostly in the form of a persona. The essential first step is to realize where we are. Only then we can look forward to where we would like to be and formulate a plan for action with some accuracy.

By entertaining this idea of imperfection, we can create a crack, a slit in the all mighty shield of our defenses that is our ego. At the center of this protection mechanism is the fear that we are inadequate, unworthy, and incapable beings. That is to say, not adequate, worthy or capable of loving or being loved (experiencing a metaphorical death or exile). This (fear of death and social humiliation) is no less than frightening - these are the primal fears that all humans have. Living alone with these insecurities is human nature. If these fears go unchecked, then neuroticism is bound to be present.

It is only by moving into the domain of action that is the world that we can keep our psychology in check. We create relative weight and meaning of these fears and insecurities based on how other people act and react toward us. If we operate in some positive way, we are rewarded. If we mess up, then we are disincentivized from working in such a way again in the future. This feedback is how we as psychological beings trim our outlook on and weighting of reality.

It is important to remember, at some point, we all will experience these sorts of fears and insecurities. It is through self-learning that we can identify, face and conquer these fears. It is my hope with this article to illustrate my struggle, and learnings to help you with yours.

An Anecdote

“It is, however, true that much of the evil in the world is due to the fact that man in general is hopelessly unconscious, as it is also true that with increasing insight we can combat this evil at its source in ourselves. As science enables us to deal with injuries inflicted from without, so it helps us to treat those arising from within.” [1]

I intend to live my life with the practices that I preach. However, as of late, I have come to realize that this is often far from the case. I propose things such as mindfulness and compassion. There have been several occurrences where those things were in the back of my mind at best (a far cry from acting them out).

I was recently at a social gathering (read as “party”). There were many colleagues there. One of my colleagues brought her friend. At one point I approached my colleague and her friend. I knew the friend looked familiar, but I was not sure where I had seen her before. So I started talking to them both. After a few minutes of talking through the fact that she looked familiar, it hit me like a ton of bricks. The friend was someone I had met several months prior, at another event. I immediately told her that, but the proceeding comment was what made it all come crumbling down.

The previous time that I had met the friend, I found out that she lives in Massachusetts. Myself being from New Hampshire knew all the slang. My thought was that we could bond over that. So, I proceeded to give her a hard time in what I thought was a joking manner. Little to my knowledge, she either was not in a joking mood that night or was just put off by my comments. My joking did not go over well. She was quick to anger. So for better or for worse, after the event, I was ready to forget her.

Fast forward several months, we are at this other party, and I had just recognized her from this previous event. I had a couple of drinks, so upon remembering her, I immediately blurted out “Oh, I remember you! However, you’re so much nicer this time.” She then proceeded to say “Oh, I just have my happy jorts (jean shorts) on tonight.” I said, “Oh, that makes sense!” She then proceeded to say “That’s pretty rude, don’t you think? But, I guess that’s the New Englander in us.” I said “ I guess so” and walked away.

This situation was an instance of experiencing pure chaos. I did something and expected some particular outcome. The intended result would have been ordered, or previously explored territory. However, instead, what was tossed back at me was entirely out of line from my expectation. As a response, I fled - in fight or flight mode, I flew as fast as I could. Now the real question is why my model of reality was predicting a different outcome?

“As long as all goes well and psychic energy finds its application in adequate and well-regulated ways, we are disturbed by nothing from within. No uncertainty or doubt besets us, and we cannot be divided against ourselves. But no sooner are one or two of the channels of psychic activity blocked, than we are reminded of a stream that is dammed up. The current flows backward to its source, the inner man wants something which the visible man does not want, and we are at war with ourselves.” [1]

Fears

This story was a painful situation because we all have two primal fears, one of death and the other of social humiliation, and this strongly touched on at least one of those. Therefore, there was a lot of shame and self-blame after that. There is still a large amount of embarrassment as I am writing this almost two weeks after the original occurrence. Ironically, the feelings are passing the more I am writing and exploring such ideas. I can see how I will be better prepared to act in a more caring way in the future (hopefully).

The distance between where I’d like to be as a human and where the human was who said those words is a vast chasm. I aim to make the crossing of that chasm not impossible. However, I am caught in the midst of should I feel sorry for how someone else misinterprets me? Alternatively, will I merely degrade to the point of “having good intentions” because we all know that the road to hell is paved with those? Afterall, we are justification machines. The tough part here is to parse out what environmental factors had to play, in combination with my upbringing and past experiences. The important things seem to be the acknowledgment that I am not above such actions. Also, that I am a perfectly fallible human with good intentions and at times poor execution strategies.

“Every good quality has its bad side, and nothing that is good can come into the world without directly producing a corresponding evil. This is a painful fact. Now there is the danger that consciousness of the present may lead to an elation based upon illusion: the illusion, namely, that we are the culmination of the history of mankind, the fulfilment and the end-product of countless centuries. If we grant this, we should understand that it is no more than the proud acknowledgement of our destitution. We are also the disappointment of the hopes and expectations of the ages.” [1]

If this were an isolated occurrence, I would not be so tormented by it. However, in the days following that event I have since said a few more socially inept things. This time instead of being completely unconscious, there was the intent of comic relief. In both cases, I was not cognizant of my audience. It is in bad taste to make fun of a group of people that the folks you are directly talking to belong. I attribute the pain that I am experiencing due to these events because of my “eyes being opened.” This discomfort is perhaps a byproduct of a more conscious and conscientious life. Afterall, we as humans are driven to change when the pain of staying how we are is greater than the pain of changing.

Now if we want to move toward acting more from a place aligned with our intentions, how might we do this? The world is a spectrum of action. We have at least some decision as to how we will act within this extraordinarily complex system. We must proceed to some understanding to function properly, or in other words, gain some knowledge or feedback that will help us to orient ourselves within the world properly. In this case, we must gather information and understanding about social structures, systems, and hierarchies.

The Blacksmith

“...but the modern man is forced to recognize that he is politically and morally just like anyone else. Whereas I formerly believed it to be my bounden duty to call other persons to order, I now admit that I need calling to order myself. I admit this the more readily because I realize only too well that I am losing my faith in the possibility of a rational organization of the world, that old dream of the millenium, in which peace and harmony should rule, has grown pale. ... Through his scepticism the modern man is thrown back upon himself, his energies flow towards their source and wash to the surface those psychic contents which are at all times there, but lie hidden in the silt as long as the stream flows smoothly in its course.” [1]

It is only when we accept the hammer of pure, true and righteous self-reflection that we can start to put a dent and eventually a crack in this constructed shell. It is a process much like a blacksmith. We must walk into the fire, be heated, and beaten into form. After cooling and hardening, we must force ourselves once again into the flames of formation. We are the only ones that have control of the Smith's hand and forge. We are the only ones that can force the hand and feel the heat and the pressure of the formation. As we are bludgeoned into the proper form by the world, small pieces chip off as we slowly lose the shell of our old selves. The ego begins to fracture and splinter off, leaving only the hardened form of the righteous tool behind.

The forge is the social world. The forcing hand is our willpower. The heat is the interface between the social world and our fragile sense of existence. The hammer is the smashing of ourselves up against the psyche of others with an ego all too large to handle. The more we hold onto the old, the more we suffer. The more we hold on, the harsher we must be beaten.

These beatings come in various forms. They could be an interaction with a friend, colleague, or spouse. It could also be a seemingly chance encounter. Every moment of every day is a chance to learn and grow. People reflect to you that which you are. If you don't like someone, their behavior or something else, be quick to question. What is reminding you of yourself in their action? If you see someone else in a happy relationship and you become envious, why is that? Are you thinking "I could be in that relationship, and because they are together and happy, I cannot be in that relationship?” What a loaded statement. First of all, you are not them, either of them. You have never been and never will be. Secondly, life is not a zero-sum game. When others win, you don't lose. That's not to say that we can all have, all of the things, all of the time, but when we realize bringing others up only in turn brings ourselves up can we truly start to be fulfilled. That is not to say, satiate all people at all times, but that is to realize that selfishness can only be purely manifested through true selflessness.

Conclusions

“Great innovations never come from above; they come invariably from below, just as trees never grow from the sky downward, but upward from the earth, however true it is that their seeds have fallen from above. The upheaval of our world and the upheaval in consciousness is one and the same. Everything becomes relative and therefore doubtful.” [1]

“...Whenever relativism is taken as a fundamental and final principle it has a destructive effect. When, therefore, I call attention to the dismal undercurrents of the psyche, it is not in order to sound a pessimistic note; I wish rather to emphasize the fact that the unconscious has a strong attraction not only for the sick, but for the healthy, constructive minds as well - and this in spite of its alarming aspect. The psychic depths are nature, and nature is creative life. It is true that nature tears down what she has herself built up - yet she builds it once again. Whatever values in the visible world are destroyed by modern relativism, the psyche will produce their equivalents. At first we cannot see beyond the path that leads downward to dark and hateful things - but no light or beauty will ever come from the man who cannot bear this sight. Light is always born of darkness, and the sun never yet stood still in heaven to satisfy man’s longing or to still his fears….” [1]

In life, we tend to act in certain ways to work toward some desired future outcome. Because the world consists of both objects and living creatures, we need to be careful to take into account the objective, and psychological realms. In a psychological setting, it is tough for us to partially comprehend another person's internal landscape, let alone fully understand. That is because it consists of all situations, across all time, plus their genetics and pre-dispositions. So when we are interacting with other humans, while we are good intuitive psychologists, we must be cautious. We cannot see their full mental landscape. We are not at first aware of their entitlements, or insecurities, but it is our responsibility to take the time to understand these and honor them. It is not our business to try to change them. We must take the time to listen.

Another psychological world that we must tackle is our own. We must ask ourselves, what are our intentions? Are they reflected in our actions? If not, why?

Unfortunately, humans strongest motivation is pain and suffering. It is only once we have suffered enough, that we will be motivated to change. This assertion is not to say that there are other motivational factors, there are, but pain is by far the strongest motivational driver. We must also realize that we are the only ones that can fully view our internal psychological landscape. That is to say; we are the only ones who fully know our insecurities, shortcomings, flaws, etc. Therefore, it is paramount that we “Treat [ourselves] like someone [that we] are responsible for helping.” It is in this light that we can keep slowly trending toward the person that we aspire to be.

“Whether from intellectual, the moral or the aesthetic viewpoint, the undercurrents of the psychic life of the West present an uninviting picture. We have build a monumental world round about us, and have slaved for it with unequalled energy. But it is so imposing only because we have spent upon the outside all that is imposing in our natures - and what we find when we look within must necessarily be as it is, shabby and insufficient.” [1]

“In coming to a close after so many bold assertions, I would like to return to the promise made at the outset to be mindful of the need for moderation and caution. Indeed, I do not forget that my voice is but one voice, my experience a mere drop in the sea, my knowledge no greater than the visual field in a microscope, my mind’s eye a mirror that reflects a small corner of the world, and my ideas - subjective confession.” [1]

Citations:

[1] “The Spiritual Problem of Modern Man,” in Collected Works of C.G. Jung, Volume 10: Civilization in Transition, .