I haven’t posted anything new to this blog in quite awhile. There has been a lot going on in both my personal and professional life. I have returned to working on my Master’s Thesis after having a six month break, while my thesis advisor was away on sabbatical. It is a bit jarring to return to academic commitments after such a break but it is also enjoyable and challenging. In the near future I may post my thesis topic to get some feedback.
I think that wisdom is a goal each of us aspires to in our lives. Wisdom is ageless and timeless and attaining it is a process of growth and understanding.
“Where wisdom reigns, there is no conflict between thinking and feeling” Carl Jung
Every time I read this quote, I wander off on a train of thought about what conflict between ‘thinking’ and ‘feeling’ really means. Before we delve into this, I think I will provide a bit of background on Carl Jung.
Carl Jung was a pioneering depth psychologist, who was a contemporary, and early on, a close friend, follower and colleague of Sigmund Freud. The two men went their separate ways after a fundamental and decisive disagreement regarding God and spirituality. Freud was a staunch atheist while Jung was a deep thinker on the topic of God, spirituality, and how psychology and spirituality related to one another. It was Jung who coined the term ‘collective unconsciousness’, which is his concept of how all beings share an unremembered field of mutually meaningful symbols, metaphors, history and spirituality. While we are not consciously aware of these shared images and memories, Jung believed that they have an influence on our unconscious individual psyche and on our conscious emotional reactions and behaviours.
Jung also developed a theory on personality and different psychological types. From this theory, Katharine Cook Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers developed a personality inventory designed to orient people to their particular personality type. This test is the well known Briggs-Myers Type Indicator or the MBTI. Jung’s psychological types are all variations on four dimensions and four sub-categories. Two of the dimensions are introversion and extraversion. In Jung’s conception, these traits represent where we mainly get our energy from, each of us showing a preference for either being outward and around other people, or being inward and solitary. The other two dimensions are about how we take in information from the world around us. These dimensions are Perceiving, meaning just that, taking in information, perceiving things in the world around us. The other dimension he called Judging, which he describes as organizing information we take in and coming to conclusions about it. Jung basically believed that people have preferences for these dimensions and tend to either Perceive or Judge. These ‘types’ are not black and white and most of us fall somewhere on a spectrum of each dimension, meaning we each have a dominant preference but we also experience the opposite in some measure.
The subcategories are two pairs of opposites, Sensing and Intuition, and Thinking and Feeling. And so, this is where we get to the quote, “Where wisdom reigns, there is no conflict between thinking and feeling”. Jung, in his psychological typology, described ‘thinking’ as being logical, analytical, using cause and effect reasoning, holding an objective standard of truth, being reasonable and wanting everyone to be treated equally. In opposition to that, he defined ‘feeling’ as being empathetic, guided by personal values, considering the impact decisions have on others, being compassionate and wanting everyone to be treated as an individual. Jung’s view of wisdom implies that these two ways of being in the world would have to come together harmoniously in the mind of one person. How would it be possible to do this?
For me, it is difficult to imagine holding an objective standard of truth. My belief system holds that there is no objective truth. I see truth as an individual perception, coloured by the lens we view the world through, leaving each person’s truth as what is true for him or her. This is probably the crux of the matter…the individual and the collective…every individual makes up the collective of humanity. So, when we are able to completely accept our own and others’ subjective views, as part of the greater whole, we may experience a sense of wisdom?
When I first thought about this statement, I thought about my own feelings being in conflict with my own thinking. Both my feelings and my thoughts are subjective, to me. Are they in conflict? Often. Mostly because my thoughts are often criticizing and judging my feelings, rather than my thoughts observing my feelings without judgment. Maybe this is more in line with the quote? We humans, with our thoughts, are constantly judging our feelings, rather than accepting them. When we accept our own feelings as part of who we are, we must, logically, find it easier to accept others without judgment.
I think maybe this sounds more like the path of wisdom to me. The term ‘conflict’ fits the scenario of the voice in our heads constantly criticizing our feelings. We all have negative and positive feelings and when we judge ourselves harshly, we also project that judgment outwards to judge others harshly as well. The dark side of our emotions needs to be integrated as an acceptable part of who we are. We do not have to act on negative feelings, we only have to observe and accept.
So, in the end, when we talk about wisdom according to Carl Jung, it seems that it includes peace within our own internal ‘conflict’ and peace with the external ‘conflict’ with others…the individual and the collective.
And how wise would we all be if we could do this for ourselves and others?