I have been working with my Jungian analyst for over a year now, and I think after almost every session my mind is blown and my heart expanded (the gift of therapy – yes, this is a shameless plug for my profession). I have been wanting to work with a Jungian analyst for years now, and I finally took the leap into my unconscious by looking directly at my dreams.
Carl Jung’s work has spoken to me since my undergrad over a decade ago, where I began learning about the unconscious and Jung’s perspectives on psychology and spirituality. His writing gave me language to things I have felt intuitively for years but didn’t know how to express.
Recently in one of my sessions, while working with some tensions within myself, my therapist/analyst mentioned “The Transcendent Function” or “Transcendent Third”. A term coined by Jung in which he describes this holding the “tension of opposites”. He wrote,
“The transcendent function is not something one does oneself; it comes rather from experiencing the conflict of opposites.” ~Carl Jung, Letters Vol. I, Pages 267-269
There is so much that could be said about the Transcendent function that Jung writes about, and I am not going to do that here. But it is fascinating! And if it tickles your ears like it did mine – go research and read. Anyways, I digress…
Jung believed that through dreams, the synchronicity in our lives, through our imagination and intuition, through symbols and seemingly out of nowhere happenings, our unconscious is speaking to us. And, as we pay attention, the merging of consciousness and unconscious begins. I cannot tell you how some of the most profound discoveries and healing has come out of just tending to my dreams!
I feel as though I am in a space in my life where I am confronting and being confronted by seemingly opposite forces, energies, beliefs, questions, unknowns and knowns. In my work, my identity, my relationships, my sexuality, my beliefs around healing and reconciliation, around my boundaries and connection, around independence and intimacy. In a nutshell, my entire way of moving through the world (I am a Gemini after all…if you know anything about that, well this will make a lot of sense).
A lot of the time, our anxiety or needs for certainty and knowing-ness, our discomfort with the uncomfortable lead us to binary thinking and thus a very “either/or” “this or that” reaction. Sure, there are absolutely moments where decisive action is needed and necessary. But perhaps we can take time to get a bit more curious. Asking ourselves, how quick am I to make a decision or take a stance. Is it to alleviate my suffering? To give me a sense of relief to my anxiety? To try and have the answer to all of my questions? Of course we want to feel relief. None of us like to suffer – this is our human reaction to pain or threat – Fight, freeze, flee, fawn.
I think what I am discovering and experiencing lately is this very thing Jung describes, which I also think is what a lot of spiritual traditions are trying to express as well. Our inner life/unconscious and our ego are colliding. And perhaps this is the invitation here. An invitation to hold this tension. Holding the tension, perhaps a tension of opposites, is not easy or comfortable, yet it is through it that a transcendent third emerges. A new pathway. A more expansive and whole way of being. A more true truth. A place where both things, and all things belong.
One of my favourite writers and poets, who I have quoted often, Rainier Maria Rilke, talks about “living our questions” and “letting life happen to you”. As we live our questions, we may some day live into the answer. But the point of everything is to Live. And I find, the more I retreat up into my intellect, into my own rigid analysis and obsessive thinking, the more I try and figure it all out, and know thyself at all costs, the more I take myself out of the actual living. I take myself away from being embodied, and in tune with myself in this present moment.
It is not easy all of this. I find it takes a lot of intention and slow patience and trust. And it is an immensely beautiful journey. I somehow feel like I am touching something Divine and sacred in it. It softens me and empowers me all at the same time. It makes me want to weep and laugh simultaneously. It allows me to be human. To exist and to live and for that to be enough. I hope that you can taste and experience some of that too.
In the meantime, some things I have found helpful as I hold the tensions in my own life:
NOTICE and NAME
- Notice and Name the opposing forces, energy or beliefs I am having
- Notice and Name where I am clinging to either/or thinking
- Notice and Name where I am rushing to find answers or make decisions.
- Notice and Name where I am putting pressure on myself to figure it all out
WRITE and GET CREATIVE
- Journalling practice helps to bring what’s unconscious to consciousness
- Use your imagination or writing time to dialogue with the parts of self that feel at war with one another – let the parts speak for themselves.
- Paint, dance, make music, day dream – access the part of self and brain that is less cerebral and more intuitive.
Give yourself PERMISSION
- Give yourself permission to be in the space of unknowing
- Practice saying, “I don’t know” or “I don’t know yet” to yourself and to the people around you who may be asking you questions.
- Remind yourself that life is a playground – we are meant to and allowed to PLAY in the world
- Remind yourself that life is your teacher. You are here to learn
- No one else is you – this is your path and no one can walk it for you. Extend lots and lots of compassion to yourself. Fall in love with yourself! You carry YOU with you for the rest of your days.
Be well. Stay safe and Be kind to one another.