The unconscious forces within us are powerful. Carl Jung compared our psyches with islands of consciousness in an ocean of unconsciousness. Despite our lack of awareness the parts of our psyche that remain largely hidden yield much control over each of us: our perceptions, behaviours and our manifest realities.
Jung developed the theory of the complex ~ a pattern of memories, beliefs and emotions tied to a common theme ~ we are often unaware of our own personal complexes but they can be obvious to those who know us. For example, the inferiority complex arises commonly in childhood as we become aware of the reality that we are dependent upon others (usually our parents) for life. This can become a negative influence in our psyche if we are discouraged and made to feel inadequate as we grow. Once we are adults our complex becomes aroused unexpectedly and we behave in ways that appear comically irrational: to illustrate, I become defensive and pouty when I feel I’m not being taken seriously. My unconscious transports me to childhood where my feelings of inferiority surface and I react to a lifetime of experiences that have fed into my inferiority complex.
The personal unconscious also consists of Shadow ~ sides of ourselves we don’t want others to see so we deny, reject, suppress, project in an effort to be liked, or more primitively loved, and accepted by the society of which we are a part. As children we are guided by parents, caregivers, peers, and our culture towards a socially acceptable version of who we are. We learn that tantrums are unacceptable and we stuff our rage. We are taught that violence is impermissible by means of an innocuous-household-item-turned-weapon (e.g. the dreaded wooden spoon or belt) and we stuff our physical urges. We receive isolation as punishment for demanding behaviours, and discouragement for expressions of dissatisfaction. We are scowled at and shamed for exploration of our bodies. We stuff all these so-called negative behaviours with a good dose of frustration at the hypocrisy of the grown-up world, and thus the Shadow is born.
These two (as well as other) hidden aspects of the self exist, with or without acknowledgement. For as long as we choose to deny our unconscious, and remain unwilling to engage in an active inner life, the unconscious reveals itself in our outer life. Without self-knowledge we are victims of our own incomprehension, and suffer self-sabotage time and again as we meet our own inner life demons in manifest material world form. We experience our inner life in our outer life. This occurs on both a personal and collective level.
Circumstances work to bring our awareness to that which is unconscious within us. As these unconscious conditions surface we are given an opportunity to learn about ourselves. So, when I feel anger I am given a chance to be conscious. I observe my feeling and notice the sensations and images that accompany it, as well as my thoughts (my ego’s commentary that fuels the fire of righteous indignation!). While I allow this process to unfold I am conscious. The feeling will pass and I will have learned something about myself, and I will’ve harmed none because I’ve not acted. Feelings bring insights, if we allow ourselves to get the message.
Self-knowledge is power. As we become increasingly aware of the fecundity of our unconscious (including our complexes and Shadow) and learn to integrate these aspects of our psyche into our whole self, we simultaneously cease to be manipulated from the inside out. Awareness seeds the potential for transformation.
Monday 18th of April sees power planets Mars and Pluto station retrograde (this simply means that, from our perspective here on Earth, the two planets appear to stand still and then over the coming weeks and months they appear to move backwards ~ an optical illusion similar to cars moving a different speeds on a freeway) and so begins a time of contemplation.
This phase encourages us to surrender our drive to act, in favour of pausing to reflect. I have found that Mars retrograde periods can be quite frustrating, especially when they impact sensitive points in one’s chart. But action taken in haste can lead us into trouble at times like this, so it is worth recalling wise 13th century Sufi poet~mystic~philospher Rumi’s sagacious words…
When I run after what I think I want, my days are a furnace of distress and anxiety;
If I sit in my own place of patience, what I need flows to me, and without any pain.
From this I understand that what I want also wants me, is looking for me and attracting me.
As Mars returns to Scorpio we are invited back into our dark, and for the next four months we are urged to re-examine our motives and discern our true desires. Rather than pushing for results, demanding action, or impulsively acting out of fears and anxiety, we are better suited now to reflect upon the profound question: What do we really want?
Retrograde Pluto (from now until mid January) will bring our awareness to that in our lives which is ready for release or transformation. Pluto powers our inner work, and as unconscious conditions surface they enable us to examine our own chthonic depths. There exists a seed of potential to re-emerge more powerful, wise and whole than ever before. With loving kindness, compassion, willingness and patience this time will nurture our evolution and facilitate profound healing on a personal and collective level.
To quote the wonderful Leunig again…
God give us strength
Strength to hold on
And strength to let go