The Wisdom of Carl Jung


Carl Jung was a Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst who founded analytical psychology. He knew Sigmund Freud, and the two were in correspondence and collaboration for some time on their joint vision of psychology.

His work contained a number of new and interesting ideas that helped to advance the field of psychology, including: individuation, archetypal phenomena, the collective unconscious, the shadow, complexes, synchronicity, and extraversion and introversion.

Here are 5 of his quotes, with my interpretation underneath for further clarity and understanding.

“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”

Projection, a common defence mechanism, is when we attribute something to another that is really about is. It usually takes the form of unacceptable thoughts and impulses, or an aspect of ourselves that we have previously denied or repressed. If we want to reduce this irritation and gain a deeper understanding our ourselves, we must become aware of our projections and try to discover and resolve the internal conflict that is causing it.

“Knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with the darkness of other people.”

According to Jung, we are best prepared to confront and deal with the malevolent or ‘dark side’ of others, by first becoming aware of, and taking responsibility for our own. We achieve this through a process known as the integration of the shadow. The Shadow represents unconscious material that usually, but not exclusively, contains the ‘darker’ elements of our psyche; the less desirable aspects of one’s personality.

One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.”

Expanding our awareness, gaining insight, and becoming a more integrated and whole person requires us to courageously face the contents of our unconscious mind, which includes elements of the psyche that have been suppressed. The ‘shadow’ of the mind contains contents of all the things we do not want to face right now, and therefore, becoming more ‘enlightened’ is rarely an easy and simple process.

“Your visions will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.”

If we are always looking to the eternal world to discover our true identity, our purpose, our dreams and destiny, then we may be following a script giving to us by others, or we may end up with nothing substantial and worthwhile at all. Through self-examination and self-exploration, we will begin to awaken our true self, and through connecting to our core values and principles, we will have a clearer vision for our life purpose.

“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”

How much of our life is determined by the contents of our own mind, much of which we are not aware of, or through external circumstances that are out of our control is not fully known? The higher our self-awareness is, through bringing our unconscious thoughts, feelings, and desires into the light of our conscious mind, the less likely they will direct our life without our knowledge. Often, what people call fate was of their own making all along, except they were not fully aware of the forces that caused it. [See post: Finding your life’s purpose]


As you can see, a common theme to Jung’s quotes and ideas is about understanding our own mind and heart through awareness and integration. The more we understand ourselves, the more conscious and present we become, and the better equipped we will be to understand and deal with the challenges of the world.

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