The compliant child and the compliant Christian

Donald Winnicott wrote so well about the development of the false self and how this gradually comes to take over the true alive self within the child. The child becomes compliant and so distanced from their centre which is the alive, spontaneous being – the spirit of the child. There’s an equivalent dilemma for the Christian where obedience becomes compliance. But perhaps it’s not so difficult. I think that if we are compliant to the false self of Christianity then we just become false self compliant Christians, which means that we are only partly alive in our faith. This is then about outward displays and superficial presentations of what it might mean to be Christian. Rather the journey is to become obedient to the Christ within and it is here that our true self overlaps with this inner Christ part. Thomas Merton understood this as the point where when we really know ourselves we know God. He writes about how coming to know God in the divine selfhood and coming to know our true selves converge in a single intuition – which is our awareness of our total dependence on God.

This sort of talk seems so strongly counter-cultural that it takes a while to see what it might mean. And to think about how it might happen. Again there are two paths to such a recognition of what is real. One is through depth psychotherapy, preferably Jungian analysis and the other through contemplation. In both we are brought to the realization of who and how we are. This is about crossing the abyss that separates our surface consciousness from the deep realms of spiritual unconsciousness.  It’s a huge relief to being able to begin to let go of the personal false self and equally a relief to consider dumping the false self of much religion.