Sunday Snippet: Carl Jung (1875-1961)

“The shoe that fits one person pinches another; there is no recipe for living that suits all cases.”

Relative to a number of “hard” sciences, psychology as a social science is still in its relative infancy. Sure, philosophers may have pondered about the inner workings of the mind for centuries, but it is really only in the last 100 years or so that the human mind has been studied so closely from more of a scientific perspective. One of the earliest pioneers in this field was Carl Jung.

Along with Sigmund Freud, Alfred Adler and others in the early 20th century, Jung worked to develop many of the key concepts in psychology that we’ve come to take for granted today. For instance, it was Carl Jung who proposed and developed the concepts of introversion and extraversion, which were later developed even further into the 16 different personality types of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). It is also through Jungian psychology (or “analytical psychology,” if you prefer) that we learn about the “quest for wholeness.”

We all want to feel complete, integrating all those different parts of our psyche into something that is cohesive and harmonious. However, it is important to remember that one person’s sense of wholeness cannot necessarily be applied to another. As the quote above explains, there is no such thing as one size fits all; you just have to find the size that fits you.

“Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness, and the word ‘happy’ would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness.”

For Carl Jung, life and the human mind consist of a series of opposites. Through our thoughts and our actions, we seek to integrate these opposites. And it is through our understanding of one end of the spectrum (e.g., sadness) that we come to understand and appreciate the other end (e.g., happiness). And is through our understanding of others that we come to better understand ourselves.

“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”

I don’t think any of us will ever fully understand who we are and why we do what we do. I don’t think any of us will ever find the shoe that fits perfectly, instead working our way through a series of successive approximations that pinch our feet just a little bit less. I don’t think we’ll ever have a life that is completely devoid of darkness either.

And that’s okay, because that’s what makes life interesting and worth living.