No death – no change

It’s well known that for anything to change something else has to die or be let go of. Finding out about oneself in the second half of life means that the letting go is sometimes resisted even more strongly than when one was young. The malleability and openness to change has sometimes hardened into a refusal … so to have an insight whether through grace, psychotherapy or in spiritual direction is a gift that has to be grasped in both hands. It might not come again – there might not be a similar opportunity to effect change. Often things have been said over and over again – perhaps in therapy – and yet the true realisation, the realisation that changes the way one views oneself, occurs years later or in an unconnected way.

Something like that happened this week when I finally understood how persecutory my inner super ego can be and how there is apparently some relief from this unconscious force when I have directed it outwards into the world (often unnecessarily towards another or towards a situation). In this instance I had turned down a request to help someone out … for good reason I had something else on and it wouldn’t have been in my best interests and practically very difficult. But I felt guilty and brooded on whether I ‘should’ have called off the earlier commitment and so on and so on. Several days later I received a message from someone else about the same request and felt myself angry and critical…the feelings were out of proportion and I could see there was nothing in the message to illicit anger but it had ignited the guilt feeling and super egoic response and the only way to manage it was to turn the critique away from myself on to the other. But I could see it … finally and fully for what it was. But this is absolutely basic stuff for a psychoanalytic psychotherapist and something I have apparently understood during two analyses and would have appreciated in my work with others in therapy with me but suddenly I got it – in myself-and in the seeing it I could let it go and the response just changed in that second. It was all clear.

Jung was right when he said the greatest good we can do in the world is for us to reclaim our projections.