Sh*t To Help You Show Up August 13, 2021
Integrity & Self-Awareness
The root word in integrity is integer, which is a noun— the name for a whole number. But integer is also an adjective derived from the Latin verb, meaning "intact, whole, complete," and literally "untouched”. Integer is also related etymologically to the words integrated and integration.
We could limit our conception of integrity to the integration of beliefs with actions, but my notions of integrity lie much deeper than the alignment of consciously held beliefs with outward behavior. My integrity practice is based on the integration of the whole self, understanding that my life and actions derive from both my conscious and unconscious selves. Just because I’m unconscious of something doesn’t mean I’m not responsible for it.
I fell into what has become a lifelong psychological self-inquiry entirely by accident. Through a high school friend, my interest was piqued by astrology, and the type of astrology that she was primarily drawn to was psychological astrology. Psychological astrology brings together the historical, mythologically-based, symbol system of Western astrology and the work of modern psychology to understand the nature of individual human psycho-spiritual development. The psychological thinker who has most deeply informed the methods and theories of psychological astrology is Carl Jung.
At root, both astrology and Jungian psychology might be seen as being engaged with the critical task of developing greater self-knowledge, of bringing to awareness the unconscious factors underlying our life experience. In Jung’s view, astrology—whatever else it might be—is a symbolic language of archetypes, the formative principles and patterns in the depths of the unconscious mind. — Keiron Le Grace & Safron Rossi
As I dove deeper and deeper into astrology, it became the vocabulary for understanding my own psychology and discerning the workings of my soul.
But who was Carl Jung?
Carl Jung was a Swiss psychologist, born in 1875. He founded the system of therapy known as analytical psychology, and his psychological theories ripple throughout modern thought and popular culture. The whole idea of “extraverts” and “introverts”? That’s Carl. The notion of the “shadow”— unacknowledged and unintegrated aspects of ourselves that function, through the unconscious, to affect our behavior? Carl again.
Have you ever taken the Meyers-Briggs test, a personality-type indicator? Every sophomore in my high school was required to take it. It’s derived directly from Jung’s work on the existence of psychological types. The more recent Enneagram test? Though its system of typing is different, it’s still based on Jung’s idea that psychological types exist.
Star Wars fan? Lucas was a fan of Joseph Campbell, author of The Hero With A Thousand Faces, who himself studied Jung’s work on archetypes, myth, and psychological development.
David Bowie, David Byrne, The Beatles, Tool, and even the South Korean pop band BTS studied and have been inspired by Carl. Ditto painter Jackson Pollack, filmmakers Frederico Fellini and Stanley Kubrick, researcher and author Brené Brown, and even the screenwriters behind the recent Pixar film Soul.
Why mention all of this? It’s not to advocate that in order to pursue an integrity practice you have to become a Jungian. Hell, even as deeply affected as I have been by his work, I’m no card-carrying Jungian. Though Carl himself might argue that my relationship to authority and groups is a symptom of my deep psychological complexes, I just say I have that Groucho Marx problem: I refuse to join any club that would want me as a member.
However, I do think that engaging in deep and habitual self-reflection and psychological inquiry, whatever system of thought or method you use to do it, is one of the most reliable ways to understand why and how you tick. Understanding why and how you tick allows you to discern where your values and beliefs are coming from— whether they are actually aligned with your true Self, or if you just absorbed them inadvertently from your community and culture.
Back in the day, most folks were aligned with formal religions. Religious leaders told them what their beliefs were and how to act in accord with those beliefs. These days, fewer and fewer of us are involved in formal religions, so we have to take responsibility for formulating our own values. Sure, we could just follow along like sheep behind politicians, or self-help authors, or whoever’s being featured on the homepage of YouTube or TikTok, but I don’t think any of those folks actually give a damn about me, no offense. I’m not handing my integrity over to them, or anyone else for that matter.
For me, only actions that derive from the true Self, the untouched wholeness at the foundation of my being— whether or not they align with any outside ideology— have integrity, so I have to figure out who my true Self is. I’m nearly 50 years old and I’m still figuring that out, but I’m a hell of a lot closer every day.
I recently discovered a podcast, This Jungian Life. It’s a conversation between three Jungian analysts about the topic of the day, and it’s worth checking out. It will prompt you to think deeply about yourself and the folks around you. Also, one of the analysts, Joseph Lee, has a voice like chocolate.
If you don’t listen to any other episodes, though, check out their episode on Assessing Your Values: Meaning & Motivation. It will help you think deeply about these questions:
What are my values?
Where do they come from?
How do they affect my life?
As the hosts say, you exist in service to your values, consciously held or not.
What do you exist in service to?
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