I realize that as an old lady of 85, I may sound tiresome but I really feel that if the following conclusions from a lifetime of varied experience can save any reader a bit of time otherwise wasted in ignorance of at least three psychological abysses, I may not be writing in vain.
The first is those two little words if only! “If only I were ...!”
“If only things were ...” Take my word for it, the minute that sigh is breathed, make a reality check. Some things can be changed; others can not.
I learned this when I was seven and living in Rome. My governess would reprimand me by comparing me to another little girl and say “If only you could be as well-mannered as Caroline ...” Well, that girl was prettier, sweeter by far than I and had curly golden locks, baby blue eyes, and made me feel like a toad. I was beginning to feel jealous. One night in bed I faced the reality that no matter what I did, I was stuck being me and that was that! It cured me for life of jealousy, for which I am grateful, but I cannot count the times I wasted wishing things were different.
In midlife, I had a client whose chart indicated this habit and I used the image of the princess locked in the tower looking out the window longing to be free and not realizing that she had the key in her apron pocket. Her eyes widened in surprise. It turned out that she designed fairy tale dolls and her Princess was in a boxlike tower with arms folded gazing out a cellophane window! As I myself was trapped in a similar circumstance, I finally, with the help of reading Jung, found that key in my own apron.
The second is blaming! All blaming is psychological projection. If we blame others for ruining our lives – a parent, sibling, employer etc., there are two possibilities: the first is that the individual is carrying our own unconscious Shadow projection; the second is that maybe that person really is cruel and behaving in an evil manner. Then, as hard as this is to feel, we need to have compassion for the future and certain karmic suffering lying ahead for that person. Justice always comes, one way or another. Arnold Toynbee, the great historian, made a remark on the collective level: “Civilizations rise or fall depending on their reaction to adversity.” Jung put it on a personal level by saying the same thing – that it is not what happens to us in life, but how we react to it that determines who we become. Either one succumbs to adversity and blames the situation or one heroically changes one’s consciousness. Jung assures us that when we change our consciousness, the outward circumstances change as well. I know of several people who are still carrying a heavy sack of blaming around even though the perpetrator has been dead for years. Each of us has a separate agenda with Spirit. Yet reading all the dreadful news today, not to blame is a very tall order, I must admit! As my Teacher put it: “Eat off your own plate.”
The third abyss, at least for me, comes from The Book of Common Prayer in which the General Confession asks us to beg forgiveness for all those things we have done and ought not to have done (at my age, I am reduced to sinning on the installment plan!) and then asks us to beg forgiveness for all those things we ought to have done and have not done!!! There is a bottomless pit for you! I still get these “Virgo attacks” at 3 a.m.! But at least I know what to call them. Nevertheless ... sigh.
It is hard to have compassion for oneself. My mother was about 73 and alone trying clumsily to tie a package with string on her desk. I came into the door just in time to hear her saying gently to herself, “Poor dumb beast!”