Archive for December 22nd, 2010

Restoring Balance

“Normally the unconscious collaborates with the conscious without friction or disturbance, so that one is not even aware of its existence. But when an individual or a social group deviates too far from their instinctual foundations, they then experience the full impact of the unconscious forces. The collaboration of the unconscious is intelligent and purposive, and even when it acts in opposition to consciousness it’s expression is still compensatory in an intelligent way, as if it were trying to restore lost balance.”

C.G. Jung (CW 9i, par. 505)

Keeping ones balance is essential to life. Being out of balance means drifting too far in one direction. Living a balanced life is a message found in many world religions and belief systems. It seems to make sense to live in a balanced manner. Indigenous peoples inherently know that living in balance with their environment is a good thing. Being in balance seems to be a natural state, while being out of balance evokes images of unsteadiness, lack of control, and chaos.

Yet, at times, it seems difficult to maintain a balanced life. We have a tendency to drift off into behaviors that are anything but balanced. This is particularly true when it comes to consumption. Industrial societies have developed consumer habits that are far out of balance compared to our actual needs. Do we really need to choose among twenty different brands of soap? Currently, humans are consuming more natural resources than Earth can supply, a situation that clearly cannot continue into the future. We are living out of balance with Earth itself.

Jung observes that if we live too far from our “instinctual foundations,” then unconscious forces arise to correct this imbalance. Here instinctual foundations are processes deep within our psyche that are close to Nature. These instinctual forces know, at an animal level, the way to live within an environment. Jung is saying that psyche is homeostatic, i.e. it is self-regulating. Called upon or not, this self-regulation process will bring things back into balance.

We have a choice in life. We can consciously choose to restore balance in our lives. However, if we do not consciously carry out this task, then the “intelligent and purposive” unconscious will do the restoring for us. One response to this is that we can just let the unconscious take care of the balancing act in life. The problem with this approach is we may not like the unconscious’s solution to imbalances. A better solution is for the conscious and unconscious to collaborate on finding balanced solutions to life. Of course, if we consciously open ourselves to the intelligence of the unconscious, we are already living a balanced life.

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