Individuation is a great and mysterious necessity and the demands it makes on the ego are threatening. Jung understood fully that one of the main neuroses of modern man is found in the avoidance of his own being and becoming. While the solution to this problem appears to be straightforward, one has to take into account the unbelievable resistances and manifold difficulties that one will encounter on that way. According to Meister Eckhart, there is no greater torment than returning to one’s true self, it is an “abyss deeper than hell itself “. (Carl Jung, Aion, CW 9ii, par 209)
“The way to yourself is the longest way and the hardest way. Everybody would pay anything, his whole fortune, to avoid going to himself. Most people hate themselves, and for nothing in the world would they go where they are, where their native town is, because it is just hell.” (Carl Jung, The Vision Seminars, Vol 1, p. 30)
Here is a dream of mine that confirms this.
Michael Jackson was nearly killed by Bill Gates but he had a special astrological sign thus was kept alive. That’s how he got obsessed with astrology and how to apply it to people close to him. Something in the dream points out that “Home is where it hurts the most.”
In the context of the dream, Michael Jackson is a man that rejected his blackness and tried to become white. Bill Gates is an adversarial figure. The study of astrology and the special sign are both symbols of the archetypal task that one has to carry through life.
Why would Michael Jackson reject his own blackness (i.e., the shadow, his inferior side)? Because “Home is where it hurts the most“, because anything is preferable than to return to oneself.
In Jung’s The Red Book, we find another exploration of this same theme. Many times throughout the book, Jung addresses the readers directly and calls us to not live by way of examples but rather “live yourselves“. (ibid., Prologue) Here are a few other quotes that are near and dear to me.
“There is only one way and that is your way; there is only one salvation and that is your salvation. Why are you looking around for help? Do you believe that help will come from outside? What is to come is created in you and from you. Hence look into yourself. Do not compare, do not measure. No other way is yours. All other ways deceive and tempt you. You must fulfill the way that is in you.
Oh, that all men and all their ways become strange to you! Thus might you find them again within yourself and recognize their ways. But what weakness! What doubt! What fear! You will not bear going your way. You always want to have at least one foot on paths not your own to avoid the great solitude! So that maternal comfort is always with you! So that someone acknowledges you, recognizes you, bestows trust in you, comforts you, encourages you. So that someone pulls you over onto their path, where you stray from yourself and where it is easier for you to set yourself aside. As if you were not yourself! Who should accomplish your deeds? Who should carry your virtues and your vices? You do not come to an end with your life, and the dead will besiege you terribly to live your unlived life. Everything must be fulfilled. Time is of the essence, so why do you want to pile up the lived and let the unlived rot?” (ibid., The Gift of Magic)
“Truly; the way leads through the crucified, that means through him to whom it was no small thing to live his own life, and who was therefore raised to magnificence. He did not simply teach what was knowable and worth knowing, he lived it. It is unclear how great one’s humility must be to take it upon oneself to live one’s own life. The disgust of whoever wants to enter into his own life can hardly be measured. Aversion will sicken him. He makes himself vomit. His bowels pain him and his brain sinks into lassitude. He would rather devise any trick to help him escape, since nothing matches the torment of one’s own way. It seems impossibly difficult, so difficult that nearly anything seems preferable to this torment. Not a few choose even to love people for fear of themselves. I believe, too, that some commit a crime to pick a quarrel with themselves. Therefore I cling to everything that obstructs my way to myself.” (ibid., The Way of the Cross)