In the Jungian ego-unconscious dual system, ego is the centre of the consciousness, processing both external sensory signals (selected for processing by the attention) and internal feedback from the psyche itself. The ego acts as both a baseline for evaluating and reflecting on the world and an interconnector between the physical body and the psyche.*
To describe the role of consciousness (and its centre, the ego), we use the concierge metaphor. The concierge of a building does not run the show, it does not own the building and its general impact on the operation is pretty low. But it does define who/what comes in and who/what goes out. And with that, it can change the whole community within the building, steering it in a certain direction.
Ego is also our first line of defence both against our complex, which is basically internalised abuse, and against external exploitation attempts. Its defensiveness is often mislabelled and shamed, but despite this, the ego plays a vital role in preserving integrity within society.
*source: Aion by C. G. Jung
more: The ego
Emotions are officially defined as psychological states that occur in response to an event, involving a physiological reaction and the subsequent behavioural response.* By function, they identify an element of importance (food, a mating partner, gain, danger to respond to, etc.) from the information noise of the environment and signal it to the mind.** Accordingly, they play a crucial role in deciding what to act on, hence the name ‘e-motions’ (making you move).
Emotions are innate genetic properties which do not possess objective labels. They are not right or wrong, they are simply chemical mixtures accompanied by different physiological properties. It is the Limbic system of our brain that is the primary actor in how our emotions are processed.
source*: Discovering psychology
source**: J. LeDoux
Emotional control, emotional resilience or emotional regulation refers to the psychological and cognitive responses we give to evoked emotions.* This has a short term impact, changing our current emotions by evoking counteracting chemicals to shift the physiological condition of the body. This can be controlled consciously with the mastery of thought triggers.
Emotional control can also have a long term impact by changing the degree of the physiological changes. With conscious effort and repetition, the intensity of a produced emotion can be changed (both increased and decreased).
In both the short term and long term regulation, we practically control our emotions not by directly changing how they are produced but by managing our mental responses to them. This practice is a learned ability that is not naturally present in people but can be built up any desired level.
A central mechanism of emotional regulation is cognitive reappraisal, which is how emotion is cognitively framed within an individual’s mind. Basically, the impact of a given emotion depends on how it is labelled or responded to by an individual. The maladaptive appraisal of emotions can cause pathological states of depression and anxiety to form within the mind and needs to be reformulated via therapeutic methods to raise the quality of life.
source*: Journal of personality and social psychology
Feeling are the conscious experiences of the many different sensations we encounter in our lives, including the experiences of emotions. They are not synonymous with emotions. They include mental or visual representations of what is happening within the body, while emotions are quasi-automatic responses that have effects distinct from feelings. Put simply, feelings are always imbued with personal subjective experiences stemming from memories and beliefs (e.g., I have a good feeling about this person), whereas emotions are innate genetic properties (e.g., I’m afraid) which do not possess subjective labels.
source: J. Denollet
We see humility as the highest degree of honesty towards oneself, and the conscious knowledge and acceptance of one’s capabilities. We develop this honesty through gradual discovery of our capabilities and by challenging our limits. This leads to the acceptance of our complexity and the randomness of our results. Accordingly, humility can also manifest as a lack of judgment towards others.
The potentially biggest obstacle of developing humility is projection. Projection is a completely unconscious process. One can identify its occurrence only after-the-fact and only if one already possesses high self-awareness. Our complexes, ego or even our unconscious, when energetically charged, is automatically projected into our environment (to anyone or anything) with us having no control over or awareness of the process. When this happens, the negative aspect of humility, servility, shows up. The projection of a weak unconscious will always target a group or a leader, leading the person to suddenly feel extremally powerful due to the ‘borrowed strength’ coming from the crowd they have projected to. This often leads to fanatism or radicalism.
Our ego (the centre of the conscious) have the power to reject and withdraw the projection. Despite being a significantly smaller force than the unconscious, the ego always has the last say. If this happens at the wrong time, however, the consequences can be tragic.
Working towards humility includes developing an awareness of one’s own projections in order to catch them and analyse them after they occur. Analysing projections requires honesty of the ego. As the unconscious is already submerged in the process, it’s the ego that has to be honest with us. If the ego keeps distorting the reality of the unconscious, it can lead to further projection and tragedy. Because even though ego has the last say when choosing a direction, its power is negligible compared to the unconscious, and ignoring the contradictions lets the unconscious drive a person into self-destruction.
source: C. G. Jung and M. L. von Franz various works
Historically, a magnum opus is the epic end product of a creative process; the work of a lifetime. In the philosophy of alchemy, magnum opus also represents the creation process itself while the achieved masterpiece is often referred to as philosopher’s stone (AKA filius philosophorum or elixir of life), which is the symbol of perfection or enlightenment.
In Jungian psychology, alchemy is the representation of analytical psychology, and its process of purification symbolises the human individualisation process. The magnum opus in this instance is the completion of individualisation: we reach a blessed state when the self is fully realised, the ego merged, and the complex and projections neutralised. This is the state of ultimate self-awareness (or enlightenment). This concept also appears in eastern philosophies under different names, most of which suggest that the state of complete individualisation can only be reached at the moment of death. We’re working towards that state during our lifetime, reaching different stages in our individualisation process.
Traditional alchemy defines four stages within the alchemic purification process:
– Nigredo (blackness , massa confusa) – this stage is the prima materia (initial material), the dark ages of the soul, when the unconscious, conscious, self and ego are all undifferentiated and the nature of one’s discomfort is unknown.
– Albedo (whiteness) – this is the stage where a person gains insight into their unbalanced shadow aspect, projections and ego with the help of a therapist in the attempt to transform psyche.
– Citrinitas (yellowness) – this is the awakening, healing state, our emergence from an undifferentiated unconscious when we reach great awareness and wisdom.
– Rubedo (redness) – this stage symbolises the fully manifested self and is the end result of the individualisation process. With rubedo, one has reached full understanding of their true nature. This is when the shadow is transformed and integrated, and the ego merged with the self. In religious context, rubedo and self are synonymous with Jesus Christ.
This cycle represents both the full cycle of an individual through life and the partial cycles of mental development that repeat with every mental issue or component of the shadow. True self is not only the goal but also the source of our transformation. This is because in order to access the nigredo (the initial material in the shadow to work with) the rubedo has to be broken up. This self-feeding cyclical process is commonly portrayed by the ouroboros, a dragon biting its own tail. It is also expressed by Jesus Christ who said, “ego sum alpha et omega”: I am the beginning and the end.
source: C. G. Jung and various encyclopedic references
Mental toughness refers to one’s mental, emotional and behavioural flexibility to adapt to external and internal demands.* It involves finding ways to navigate or move away from a pressing situation and bounce back from lows. Mental toughness does not arise from one singular process within the brain but through a combination of many.** These processes can be refined separately and in parallel. The main components of mental toughness are:
1. Integrity (or boundaries): a several-layer-thick mental wall that defines what reaches us to impact our emotions and behaviour, and what resources we give to the external world.
2. Emotional control: our regulatory system for the physiological changes that occur when something passes through our boundaries and reaches us. Emotional control defines how many resources we can retain and how exploitative we are.
3. Self-awareness: our constantly improving ability to recognise changes in our mental and physical condition in order to build control and strategies to achieve change.
*source: American Psychological Association
**source: Frontiers in Psychology
Ouroboros is a dragon biting its own tail, which is a traditional symbol of the cyclic individualisation process in the alchemic representation of analytical psychology. In the alchemic process, the 4 stages of reaching magnum opus are nigredo (blackness, undifferentiated self), albedo (whiteness, insight), citrinitas (yellowness, awakening) and rubedo (redness, completeness of the Self).
Rubedo is both the end result and source of our transformation, since it is broken up to allow us access to nigredo (the initial material in the shadow to work with) This cyclical process of self-realisation is what ouroboros expresses.
source: C. G. Jung and various encyclopedic references
The self encompasses how we think and feel, as well as how we interpret, react to, and act in diverse situations. Conceptually, there are three types of selves that can be distinguished:*
– The actual self, the core self or the real self, which is what a person is right here, right now, without trying to be anything else.
– The ideal self is the goal of self development, what a person really wants to be, which can be realistic to create striving, or unrealistic to create unhealthy traits.
– The ought self is what a person thinks the external world wishes them to be.
In society, we all engage in several social roles, including natural ones (such as being a sibling, parent, colleague, descendant, neighbor, etc.) and experimental ones (such as using different avatars on different social platforms). These roles are not exclusive, each has overlapping parts of our personality, but we choose which self to present in any given situation. While essentially any self presented other than the core self is step away from what the person really is and create internal tension.
Selves are flexible and responsive to situational norms. If we act out a role repeatedly over time, we take on the characteristics of that role. The self is thus malleable and adaptable, and we can change the core self (actual self) over time. Beware of falling into the ‘fake it till you make it’ mindset, as the change is implicit and not necessary delivers the desired result. Faking confidence often results in confidently roleplaying instead of building confidence. Unless the person is faking to gain time while undertaking specific processes/activities that required for confidence building.
Being in a constant state of self-flux would lead to continuous discrepancies and disharmony with the notion of self. Someone’s own interpretation of what these selves should be is critical in creating or reducing discrepancies between them. Specifically important for keeping balance is the awareness of the core self. As the distance between selves increases, there is a rise in psychological tension and discomfort, even to the point of illness.**
*Source: Higgins (1987)
**Source: Festinger (1954)
A person’s self-concept can be described as the sum of their thoughts and feelings, including past, present, and possible future selves. This self-concept is derived from reflecting on and evaluating the interactions with others and the world around, as well as the person’s perceptions of their own abilities, identities, characteristics, and attributes.*
Self-concept clarity is about how much the self-concept is clearly and confidently defined, internally consistent, and temporally stable. It is said, that being at one with the core self is having self-concept clarity.**
**Campbell et al., (1996)
WHAT IS TRUTH?
In Latin: Quid est veritas?
In Greek: Τί ἐστιν ἀλήθεια?
This question from religious history stems much deeper into philosophical grounds, as the word ‘truth’ (alethia) refers to disclosure, being apparent, as opposed to being an accurate description of the current state of the world around us.*
In the Bible, during the hearing of Jesus Christ, this question comes from Pontius Pilatus in response to Jesus Christ’s statement about being the truth. According to classic religious interpretation, this scene speaks to the blindness of material rulers, as the truth of Jesus stays invisible to Pilatus even when Jesus is standing in front of his eyes.
A more profound interpretation comes from Jungian psychology, where Jesus Christ symbolises the self (‘I am the way and the truth and the life’), which is closely associated with the Greek meaning of aletheia of truth being the world as seen by the self.**
In the language of science:
– It takes around half a second for the information from the eye to reach the brain, so what we see is already in the past: the actual present is not available to us.
– Attentional narrowing selects roughly 10% of the signals from the environment for further processing, only a small portion of which goes to cognitive processing (the remaining portion falls into the unconscious). The rest never reaches our brain.
– That small portion of the 10 percent (of the 30 second old picture) that reaches our brain is processed via thought patterns acquired from our early nurturing environment using neurotransmitters whose function depends on genetics and diet. Ending up forming a truth that is unique to every single individual. Truth, for all of us, is what the self makes of it.
*source: M. Heidegger