I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become.
—From Memories, Dreams, Reflections.
Here it is, folks. This is why Sig doesn't like me. All that annoying crap that traumatized you during your childhood? Get, get, get, get, get over it. I mean, yeah, it's important, but everything you've done since then, and the person you are right now, is hugely important too. To become a personality, an individual in charge of your own life, you must write your own story. What happened to you as a kid is just the first sentence of that story. Sigmund doesn't like to hear that. He would rather keep you in diapers.
One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.
—From The Collected Works of C.G Jung, CW 13, Alchemical Studies
Aside from its cool factor, darkness has a very important place in myth. Of course, we often want good to win over evil, light to stamp out darkness. But, here's the thing—you cannot know one without the other. Darth Vader kind of had it right; it's helpful to make a date with your dark side. I've got a great website for you to check out, it's called e-disharmony.com. I'll make you an account. I'll help you meet your dark archetype, what I call the shadow. Sounds exciting, right?
Your shadow is that part of your personality that's not all sugar, spice, and everything nice. Often, it's associated with a traumatic event, because all the scary crap about us usually develops as coping mechanisms for dealing with how difficult life really is (like, sometimes, lying has gotten us out of some really bad spots, right?).
Your shadow can crop up as a monster in your dreams or in your waking life, as the demon on your shoulder telling you to steal that new video game even though you know you shouldn't. But what great film or novel doesn't have a dark figure doing really horrible things?
These dates with your dark side may not be so quick and easy. But I'll pick up the tab, and, in the end, you'll become a better person if you can get intimate with those not-so-likeable parts of you. Didn't your mom ever tell you that you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar?
The decisive question for man is: Is he related to something infinite or not? That is the telling question of his life. Only if we know that the thing which truly matters is the infinite can we avoid fixing our interests upon futilities, and upon all kinds of goals which are not of real importance. Thus we demand that the world grant us recognition for qualities which we regard as personal possessions: our talent or our beauty. The more a man lays stress on false possessions, and the less sensitivity he has for what is essential, the less satisfying is his life. He feels limited because he has limited aims, and the result is envy and jealousy. If we understand and feel that here in this life we already have a link with the infinite, desires and attitudes change.
—From Memories, Dreams, Reflections.
I know what you're thinking. Why on earth do I need a relationship with the infinite when I can barely manage my checking account? I get it. I'm not good with money either, but that's exactly why you need to think of yourself as a part of this big, wide universe. And your personal unconscious being shaped by the collective unconscious. Managing your daily life stuff becomes a lot easier when you consider the vastness of space and human experience.
Just think of a Neanderthal ancestor, name him Carl, and imagine him trying to stand in line at the DMV to sort out his automobile registration. Silly, right? But because Carl's life as a caveman is also a part of the collective unconscious, your inner life is as influenced by the mythology his culture created, as it is by your nagging boyfriend pinching pennies to buy a new ride. Think about it.
The reason for evil in the world is that people are not able to tell their stories.
—From Freud Letters, Vol 2.
Sit down, get a pencil and some paper, and write a comic book about your life. Not just the stuff you like about what's happened to you, or the stuff you're sure really happened at all, but the wild and crazy stuff that's happened to you in your dreams. What's in your creative mind is a crucial part of the real you; you are not just what you experience on the outside.
And you know your own story better than anyone else— your super villains, your weakness to magic minerals, your radioactive spider bite. You really can author your own life. Make up your own mythology and break away from the crowd. Individuation is the name of the game. You want to get over a bad break up? Write about the meteorite that falls to earth and turns all cheating partners into squirrels. Write it down, and you'll work it out. You'll work yourself out.
There is a thinking in primordial images, in symbols which are older than the historical man, which are inborn in him from the earliest times, eternally living, outlasting all generations, still make up the groundwork of the human psyche. It is only possible to live the fullest life when we are in harmony with these symbols; wisdom is a return to them.
—From Modern Man in Search of a Soul
Think of the collective unconscious like the Internet cloud. It's out there, but you can't quite pin it down. But all human thought and story and experience are in this cloud and you have the ability to tap into it and bring those shared ancient archetypes and symbols into your own personal mythology. This helps engage your imagination, and release neurosis from inside your own head. When you can think of yourself as an epic character in the never-ending novel of mankind, it's pretty hard to worry about your final exams or the flat tire you got on the way to work.
So really, my notion of the collective unconscious is like my version of "don't sweat the small stuff"; I encourage people to focus on what's common to the human experience—including what's common to how we tell stories about ourselves, and make characters out of ourselves and the people around us. Plus, when you look at life this way, it's pretty easy to understand why mankind is always so obsessed with literature, movies, and all that great art stuff. Since all of us characters share similar traits and take similar journeys, you can open pretty much any book and think, Hey, this one's about me! And I know how you extroverts are into that kinda thing.