Vol 37 No 4
CONSCIENCE OUR GUIDE
THE ROLE OF THE CHURCH IN THE FORMATION OF CHRISTIAN CONSCIENCE
Philip Malone MSC
THE COMPLETE IDIOTíS GUIDE TO UNDERSTANDING MORAL THEOLOGY
Liz Hepburn IBVM
THE CULTIVATION OF CONSCIENCE
Tom Ryan SM
IN GODíS IMAGE: TOWARDS A THEOLOGY OF OUR EMOTIONS
JUNG AND THE MORAL SELF
Bruce Duncan CSsR
A SCHIZOPHRENIC PROCESS IN THE CHURCH? THE CONSERVATIVE RETREAT FROM THE
SOCIAL DIMENSION OF THE GOSPEL
PRAYER - ANSWERED?
NEW RELIGIOUS BOOKS BY AUSTRALASIAN AUTHORS
and the moral self
THE EMINENT Swiss analyst, Carl Jung, was initially a disciple of Sigmund
Freud. However, Jung found himself unable to accept his mentors
approach to important psychoanalytic areas such as the interpretation
of dreams and the role of sexuality. Eventually he decided on a parting
of the ways and developed his own approach to psychotherapy, which he
called analytical psychology. In his writings, the question of the moral
life is prominent. Indeed, the science of psychology for Jung becomes
a moral science that undergirds a moral practice (Browning, 1987,
p. 167). I will be arguing that his suggestion that we must be both kind
to ourselves (self-acceptance) and hard on ourselves (self-reformation)
is expressive of the paradoxical nature of the process that all persons
who are serious about the moral life must enter into.
All of us have a dark side. It is that area of our personality
that is characterised by morally inadequate traits and tendencies. Jung
calls this side the shadow, and he is very aware of the importance of
facing it. That which gets repressed has a way of being projected onto
others. When this happens, our moral inadequacies appear on the face of
the other. The shadow is made up primarily of what Jung calls inferiorities.
These inferiorities, Jung (1978) says, have an emotional
nature, a kind of autonomy, and accordingly an obsessive or, better, possessive
quality (p. 8). Here, then, is the danger associated with the shadow.
A person can become a passive victim of his unconscious emotional life.
Salvation comes through self-awareness. But of course this
dark self is exceedingly difficult to get in touch with. To acknowledge
our inferiorities is to experience a heavy assault on our self-esteem.
Consequently, the shadow self is very often disowned. And when it is disowned,
it is projected onto others. Projections change the world into the
replica of ones unknown face (Jung, 1978, p. 9). In times
gone by, the projection was aimed at the person of the Devil, but when
most people became happy to consign him to the realm of mythology, human
targets were established. Jung (1971) puts it this way:
The meeting with ourselves is one of the more unpleasant things that
may be avoided as long as we possess living symbolic figures into which
everything unknown in ourselves is projected. The figure of the devil,
in particular, is a most valuable possession and a great convenience,
for as long as he goes about outside in the form of a roaring lion we
know where the evil lurks: in that incarnate Old Harry where it has been
in this or that form since primeval times. With the rise of consciousness
since the Middle Ages he has been considerably reduced in stature, but
in his stead there are human beings to whom we gratefully surrender our
shadows. With what pleasure, for instance, we read newspaper reports of
crime! A bona fide criminal becomes a popular figure because he unburdens
in no small degree the conscience of his fellow men, for now they know
once more where the evil is to be found (pp. 238-239).
Given that facing our inferior selves causes us so much pain, its
not surprising that many of us find ourselves disowning those selves.
John Bradshaw is a psychotherapist who works with the problem of shame.
Bradshaw (1988) observes that shame, in its toxic form, is the all-pervading
belief that one is inferior, inadequate, fundamentally flawed (see also
Capps, 1993; Pattison, 2000).
Metaphors that are commonly used to describe the experience are defilement,
pollution, and stain. The shame-prone person finds it particularly difficult
to face up to her failings. She will tend to cast off her inferiorities
so that she will not have to face them and the deep emotional distress
associated with that. Bradshaws strategy involves helping the shame-prone
person to bring her disowned parts back into the life of the self.
While I will need to challenge Bradshaws view that all of our selves
are okay, I do find his strategies for integrating disowned
selves quite helpful (Bradshaw 1988, p. 148ff). Ill present just
two of these (the others involve dream work and would involve us in technicalities
beyond the scope of this essay). The first is called Making Peace
with all your Villagers. The starting point in this strategy is
calling to mind all the people that you dislike (the person you have the
strongest negative feelings about goes to the top of the list). Then you
attempt to identify the reprehensible traits in each person. Now you ask
yourself: What is the one trait that brings out feelings of righteousness
and goodness most strongly in me? The final step is to choose the one
most despicable trait for each person. Bradshaw (1988) supplies an example:
Joe Slunkgrandiose egomaniac;
Gwendella Farbodusteraggressive and rude;
Maximillian Quartzhypocrite (pretends to help people; does
it for money);
Farquahr Evenhouseruses Christian facade to cover-up phoniness;
Rothghar Pieopiaa wimp; has no mind of his own. (p. 148.)
Bradshaw suggests that each of these personality traits represents a disowned
self. Here he is working with Jungs shadow theory. Not wanting to
integrate a particular energy pattern into your Self, he says,
you externalize it. That is, the disowned personality trait is projected;
your shadow shows up in the five most hated list.
These people on the list can, however, become your teachers. Bradshaw
suggests that we engage these people in a dialogue. You can question each
person directly: How do you see life, relationships, God?
Through this conversation you will be able to look at selves that you
are overidentified with. The result, says Bradshaw (1988),
will be very positive: You may be surprised at the new energy you
receive from this exercise. You are bringing a part of you out of hiding
and secrecy. You are turning your shadow into light (p. 149). The
question is: What do you do with the part when it is in the
light? I suggest that when the part or self is acknowledged not only does
it need love and acceptance, it also needs reformation. This will be discussed
more fully below.
The second and final strategy of Bradshaws that we will look at
(based on work by leading family therapist, Virginia Satir) is called
The Parts Party. Here he does acknowledge the need for modifying
selves that are hindering a person. A theatrical setting is used here.
You are invited to imagine yourself presenting a review of
your sub-selves. You begin by thinking of a part of yourself that you
really like, and then you connect it with a famous person who will enter
the stage. I like my humor, says Bradshaw, and I see
Johnny Carson walk out. And as your famous person walks out, you
hear the applause. Now this exercise is repeated four times so that you
now have five famous people out on stage in celebration of your positive
side. But there is, of course, a shadow to deal with. So you invite five
people out representing sub-selves you dislike. And as you do, you hear
a loud boo from the imaginary audience. Now comes the healing action within
this Parts Party:
[I]magine that a wise and beautiful person walks to the center of the
stage. This person can look like an old man with a beard or a radiant
youth like Jesus or a warm nurturing mother or whatever
your wise person appear
Then see her walking off the stage and coming
to get you
As she approaches, notice whatever strikes you about her
hear her invite you to come up on the stage and review your many parts.
Walk around each person who represents a part of you; look her in the
face. How does each part help you? How does each part hinder or limit
you, especially your undesirable parts? What can you learn from your undesirable
parts? What can they teach you? Now imagine they are all interacting.
Imagine them at a table discussing a problem. Think of a current problem
you have. What does your humor say about that? How is that helpful? How
does it hinder you? How does your disorganization help you? What would
happen if you simply didnt have this part? What would you lose?
How would you like to change the part you want to reject? Modify that
part in the way it would be more beneficial
How does it feel to modify
Now go around and repeat that procedure with every single
part. Modify it until it feels right for you. Then walk up to each part
and imagine that part melting into you. Do this until you are alone on
the stage with your wise person. Hear the wise person tell you that this
is the theater of your life. (Bradshaw, 1988, pp. 150-151.)
Exercises such as these can be most helpful in the task of claiming back
disowned selves. But in encountering approaches such as these, orientated
as they are to boosting self-acceptance and self-esteem, I find myself
wondering whether sufficient emphasis is given to the moral dimension
in the life of the community of the Self. Certainly Jung (1978) was keenly
aware of the need for such an emphasis:
The shadow is a moral problem that challenges the whole ego-personality,
for no one can become conscious of the shadow without considerable moral
effort. To become conscious of it involves recognizing the dark aspects
of the personality as present and real. This act is the essential condition
for any kind of self-knowledge, and it therefore, as a rule, meets with
considerable resistance (p. 8).
Bradshaw seems not to have this same depth of insight. It is true that
he identifies in his exercises morally inadequate characters. It is also
true that he refers to the need to modify sub-selves that may be hindering
us. But at the same time he can happily embrace the guiding principle
advocated by Stone and Winkelman (1985):
[A]ll of our parts are okay. Nothing could be more affirming and less
shaming. Every aspect of every person is crucial for wholeness and completeness.
There is no law which says that one part is better than another part.
Our consciousness with its many selves needs to operate on principles
of social equality and democracy [emphasis in the original].
Is it really true to say that all our sub-selves are okay?
Surely if a person has a dark self which is hurting those around her (and
ultimately herself) that is not okay. Committed as we are to neighbour-love,
the heart of the Christian moral life, we are obliged to attend to the
shadow side and its dangerous possibilities.
Part of the reason for Bradshaws confused thinking, I contend, is
a tendency to lump all of our sub-selves in the one basket. In order to
bring some clarity to the situation, I propose three places in which we
can locate the variety of selves that we all live with: competence, spirituality,
and personality. This list is not intended to be exhaustive; however,
it will suffice to indicate the process of distinguishing morally relevant
selves from morally neutral ones.
Competence, firstly, refers to talents, abilities and achievements. We
all have our strengths, and we all struggle in certain areas. Some of
us are great with language, but anything to do with mathematicsor
even more frightening, computersleaves us feeling totally incompetent.
Others of us revel in figures and problem-solving, but unravel when we
are anywhere near a kitchen. Still others excel on the sports field and
are good with most intellectual tasks, but are all fingers and thumbs
when it comes to home maintenance. So there are mathematical selves, computer
selves, linguistic selves, culinary selves, sporting selves, and handy
selvesto nominate just a few areas in which some people are particularly
competent. Clearly, we are here in an area that is morally neutral. If
I burn the roast I have not committed a moral transgression. The fact
that I can never remember my eight times table should not be counted against
me as sin. We all have our areas of gifting, and we all have areas that
are weak. There is no question of interpreting this fact in a moral context.
The second category, spirituality, is also morally neutral. We all express
our spiritual self differently. There are any number of styles and techniques
advocated by those who specialise in the area of spirituality. Some of
these we will connect strongly with, and others hardly at all. Here there
needs to be, in Bradshaws terminology, a principle of social
equality. It is not a matter of identifying the higher way,
but rather of finding a way that is personally meaningful and helpful.
The expression that I give to my spiritual self is neither better nor
worse than yours; it is simply different. To be sure, I can be lazy and
undisciplined in my spiritual life. At that point a moral concern seems
to arise. But the lack of discipline is almost certainly a factor in other
areas of my life. That is, it is a personality trait and we have entered
our third and final area.
Under the rubric of personality I include the traits, attitudes and behaviours
which are defining of ones personhood. There are introverts and
extroverts, passive aggressives and active aggressives, optimists and
pessimists, liberals and conservatives, the patient and the impatient,
the hard-working and the slothful, the rash and the prudent, the intimate
and the distant, the passionate and the cool, the self-aware
and the unaware, and so on.
Personality traits become especially important in the context of relationships.
Our style of relating is determined by our personality. Factors such as
the way we deal with anger, our capacity for openness and honesty, our
negotiating style, the level of our self-esteem, and our capacity for
intimacy are highly significant in the context of interpersonal life.
It will be evident that in discussing personality traits and relationality
we have entered a morally relevant zone. Our personal failings cause harm
to relationships and to the people involved in those relationships. To
acknowledge those sub-selves which wreak havoc in our relationships and
to take action on them is a moral imperative.
Let me illustrate our discussion through personal experience. Jim was
a prominent co-leader in a faith community I worked in. He had many admirable
qualities. He was hard-working, intelligent, perceptive, reliable, a good
listener, and had a strong faith. But most of us on the leadership team
found Jim almost impossible to work with. I believe that the problems
we encountered had their source in the expression of two selves within
Jim: a perfectionist self and a controlling self. Perfectionist
Jim had to have every i dotted and every t
crossed. If we set up a new programme in the congregation, Jim would want
a manual covering every possible issue and outlining every conceivable
area of responsibility, every conceivable task. He would seek to generate
forms for participants to fill in so that every move made could be duly
noted and recorded. Jims preference would be for ten three-hour
training sessions for leaders in the programme. If we are going
to run this programme, Jim would say, were going to
do it right. Well, yes, Jim, we want to do it right, but isnt
this just a bit excessive?
At that point Jims controlling self would rise up. He could not
accept the possibility that any other view was valid. We were simply being
slap-happy and it was up to him to make sure that things were
done properly. He would go on the offensive and seek to control others
through aggression. There were enough leaders prepared to agree in order
to save themselves from a tongue-lashing that his strategy was most often
a successful one. So we lived with the huge manual, the endless forms,
and the unrealistic expectations on leaders.
Finding the situation intolerable, I spoke long and hard with Jim on a
number of occasions. Looking back on the frustration of not being heard,
Jungs words have never sounded more true: Recognising the shadow
is an essential condition for any kind of self-knowledge, and it
therefore, as a rule, meets with considerable resistance. Yes, Carl,
I did meet with large amounts of resistance! In Jims eyes, he was
responsible and conscientious, and everyone else was lazy and sloppy.
One evening at an informal service of worship the strength of Jims
resistance was brought home to me in a most forceful way. In reflecting
on the scripture passage, I asked the group to reflect on what trust meant
for them. Jim responded with this comment: I trust no one because
everyone lets you down. I have come to trust only God.
It is not surprising that there is a tendency to resist facing the shadow.
In a theological frame of reference, it can be related to the struggle
between our frail self and our higher self that is open to the Holy Spirit
(Rms 8 and Gal 5). The Spirit is moving us to face our moral inadequacy,
but our sinful side would rather believe that there isnt a problem.
On the psychological level, it is connected to our unwillingness to leave
the comfort of observation and enter a zone that is mucky.
We do not acknowledge our shadow from a safe perch in an observers
chair. It means to be pitched into the muck, coming up covered in it,
stinking of it, smeared in our eyes so we cannot see clearly. That is
the shadow (Ulanov, 1999, p. 50).
Christians need to be prepared to get mucky. When we distinguish morally
relevant from morally neutral selves, I believe that we see the importance
of not only accepting inferiorities, but also of keeping them in check.
Jungs approach embraces both these functions. He acknowledges quite
strongly the importance of self-love, but at the same time he advocates
correction of failings that are hurting self, others, and ultimately the
society. When he speaks of the pressing need for a gracious relationship
with self, he starts on the same foot as Bradshaw and all those who practice
psychotherapy. But his approach has another side to it. He is able to
embrace the paradox of self-care and self-challenge. Lets begin,
though, with his eloquent appeal for self-love:
In actual life it requires the greatest art to be simple, and so acceptance
of oneself is the essence of the moral problem and the acid test of ones
whole outlook on life. That I feed the beggar, that I forgive an insult,
that I love my enemy in the name of Christall these are undoubtedly
great virtues. What I do unto the least of my brethren, that I do unto
Christ. But what if I should discover that the least amongst them all,
the poorest of all beggars, the most impudent of all offenders, yea the
very fiend himselfthat these are within me, and that I myself am
the enemy who must be lovedwhat then? Then, as a rule, the whole
truth of Christianity is reversed: there is then no more talk of love
and long-suffering; we say to the brother within us Raca,
and condemn and rage against ourselves. We hide him from the world, we
deny ever having met this least among the lowly in ourselves, and had
it been God himself who drew near to us in this dispicable form, we should
have denied him a thousand times before a single cock had crowed (Jung,
1971, pp. 239-240).
There is indeed a tendency in some Christians, perhaps many, to be much
more gracious in accepting others than in accepting themselves. The damage
to emotional and spiritual well-being is severe. Non-acceptance of self
also subverts, Jung (1971, p. 249) observes, the intention to follow Christs
command to love others. It is impossible to love ones neighbour
if one does not love oneself.
Jung, however, does not advocate the uni-dimensional approach of Bradshaw.
There is a greater depth, much more subtlety, I think, in his way of handling
the shadow. Jung believes that in the end self-care and self-challenge
could be held together. The astute interpreter of Jungian thought, James
Hillman, picks up on this need to apply paradoxical thinking to the moral
problem of the unconscious:
Thus is cure a paradox, requiring two incommensurables: the moral recognition
that these parts of me are burdensome and intolerable and must change,
and the loving laughing acceptance which takes them just as they are,
joyfully, forever. One both tries hard and lets go, both judges harshly
and joins gladly. Western moralism and Eastern abandon: each holds only
one side of the truth (Hillman, 1987, p. 77).
When it comes to morally relevant selves, Jung advocates a trying
hard as well as a letting go. It is important to face
ones shadow side because only in this way does one have a chance
to reform it.
Unfortunately there can be no doubt that man is, on the whole, less good
than he imagines himself or wants to be. Everyone carries a shadow, and
the less it is embodied in the individuals conscious life, the blacker
and denser it is. If an inferiority is conscious, one always has a chance
to correct it. Furthermore, it is constantly in contact with other interests,
so that it is continually subjected to modifications. But if it is repressed
and isolated from consciousness, it never gets corrected (Jung, 1971,
Let me attempt to draw the threads of our discussion together. We live
in a culture that is increasingly saturated with the therapeutic worldview.
There is today an intense awareness of the destructive power of self-attack
and self-doubt. As a consequence, the message of love of self and personal
empowerment that has been a cornerstone of the therapeutic movement for
decades has been taken to heart. John Bradshaw is blinkered by the message
and promotes the notion that all our sub-selves are okay. I have argued
that while Carl Jung is certainly aware of the need for self-love, he
demonstrates a mature approach to the moral life of the self. He recognises
that when it comes to morally relevant selves, a paradoxical approach
is required. We must begin with a laughing, loving acceptance of our inferiorities,
but we need also to bring down the hand of judgement. To simply say that
all our selves are okay is ultimately a failure in moral seriousness.
Rev. Dr. Neil Pembroke is lecturer in Psychology
and Religion at the University of Queensland and an ordained minister
in the Uniting Church in Australia.
Bradshaw, J (1988), Healing the Shame that Binds You, Deerfield Beach:
Browning, D (1987), Religious Thought and the Modern Psychologies, Philadelphia:
Capps, D (1993), The Depleted Self, Minneapolis: Fortress Press.
Hillman, J (1987), Insearch, Dallas: Spring Publications.
Jung, CG (1971), Psychological Reflections, London: Routledge & Kegan
Jung, CG (1978), Aion, Princeton University Press.
Pattison, S (2000), Shame: Theory, Therapy, Theology, Cambridge University
Stone, H and Winkelman, S (1985), Embracing Ourselves, Marina de Rey:
Devoiss & Co.
Ulanov, AB (1999), Religion and the Spiritual in Carl Jung, Mahwah, N.J.: