30 Days of Jung — Day 7: #Loneliness #Community #Isolation #Relationships #Fear

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I’m not thrilled with this quote; it’s surprising to me how all the readers who came across this quote ended up being of similar minds to vault it to #7, but they did; sometimes there’s no account for intellect at Goodreads.

Welcome to Day 7 of “30 Days of Jung,” my series, wherein (soon, I will start repeating myself, like now) I take a famous quote of Carl G. Jung‘s and try to make sense or refute or invert or disembowel it or where I turn into a heaping pile of mush because of it in 1,000 words or less.

If you don’t know who Jung is, he formulated the theories of introverted and extroverted personalities, the stages of individuation, the basis of the “Meyers-Briggs” personality (INFJ / ESFJ, etc.) tests. He’s the “father” of modern-day psychoanalysis. In short, he’s a badass. But he’s dead, so he can’t be with us today.

Here is today’s:

“Loneliness does not come from having no people about one, but from being unable to communicate the things that seem important to oneself, or from holding certain views which others find inadmissible.”
― C.G. Jung

Ok, let’s end the count at 1,220.

I had this whole long thing dedicated to this quote; close to 1,000 words and then I got in the hot tub.

I don’t know what to do with this one, honest.

History is full of people who’d probably been better off staying feeling lonely and keeping their important views to themselves.

Hilter.

Stalin.

Charles Manson.

Name a really old pope here.

Marie Antoinette.

Assad.

Orville Reddenbacker.

I threw in that last one to make sure you were still with me.

The point is, with these quotes I’m so far like this: “Hmmm. Ok. Think about it. Agree with it. Disagree with it. Wrestle with it. Hate it. Invert it. Love it. Cap’n Crunch. Done.”

With this one I’m like this: “What?! Who gives a patoot? History is full of …. ”

Here’s why I am where I am: I can’t feel sorry for anyone who decides to keep their views –radically dangerous or fantastically amazing– to themselves.

Jesus.

Magellan.

Edison.

Pasteur.

Newton.

Galileo.

Orville Reddenbacker.

They might be radical. They might be unique, but if they’d kept their thoughts to themselves, we’d be lost.

But I don’t think these are the people Jung is talking about… I don’t think he means their kind of loneliness. Or did he?

What would Jung say today about loneliness in the age of the Internet where people with thoughts ranging from cat memes to bomb-building, or with interests ranging from child care to foot fetishes (and worse) can find one another and find community? Is it possible, even in a cat meme (I know, I’m always picking on the cat memes) community to feel isolated, lonely, as though a viewpoint would be inadmissible? Are you telling me “Can I has a Cheezbrger” has content imitations or editorial standards?

I don’t know. Maybe.

But I also suspect I’m taking the easy way out of this one. I’m veering toward the land of the “surface dwellers” as my husband likes to call them. It’s not that I think the concept of loneliness is absurd in this day and age; it’s the contrary. There are people, myself included, who have likely felt never more lonely than with the so-called advent of Facebook. Am I feeling sorry for myself? I don’t think so. I’m just being honest. But then I know where I’m safe: home.

So now it’s about safety: the lack of fear that comes from knowing that your thoughts are admissible.

Not so fast.

We all have thoughts that we consider errant or inadmissible. Sometimes we want to plow our massive SUV into the smug Prius driver who cut us off at the approach to the light. Push them all the way into the busy intersection ahead, watch the whites of their eco-friendly eyes widen with fear as they scream and you can hear them very well, even above the grinding moan of the Prius bumpers and brake pads and the guttural, throaty rev of your ozone-killing V8 because when their stupid little earth-saving car’s speed drops to less than 10 mph the engine goes silent…

No.

We don’t share those thoughts.

Or my own particular thoughts about cereals. Some people eat cereals other than Cap’n Crunch. I think they’re losers, but I don’t tell them that; and I don’t say it aloud. And the fact that I wrote about my thoughts about their pitiful breakfasts right here on the internet doesn’t matter. No one’s on the internet.

We don’t share those thoughts because they’re radical, snobby even, totally “inadmissible” and they make us feel disconnected. We feel judged before we even say anything. We judge ourselves before we even bother to share. We are our own worst enemies in this Jungian proposition. We assume, we guess, we suspect, we fear and thus: we become lonely. We isolate. Are our thoughts polarizing? Are they dangerous? Are they inventive and we fear we’ll be laughed at? Is the NSA watching? I don’t know. (If the NSA is reading this that makes three people.)

I think, again, all of this boils down to fear. A fear of sharing, a fear of communicating and a fear of reprisal. That fear is what creates the feeling of loneliness. And that sensation of loneliness occurs because we self-judge; we kick the proverbial sand with our massive legs in our own wimpy and pale faces.

That’s a crappy feeling. Having so much to say and feeling as though you can’t share it. It reminds me of crushes; the fear we have when we love someone and we are afraid to tell them. The fear we have when we disagree with someone but we don’t say it because we fear they will not like us anymore. The fear we have when we want to show how we’re really feeling, say what we want to say, but feel this oppressive, heavy, awful, stifling! sensation that tells us:

No one will:

understand you…

agree with you…

like you…

respect you…

talk to you…

If you say what’s on your mind.

If you say what you need to have heard.

If you say what you yearn to share.

I will admit that sometimes when I’m in a really crappy mood that the last thing I’ll want is to be around other people. I don’t think anyone will be able to relate to me, I don’t think I’m a pleasure to be around and I’d rather not tell someone they have parsley between their teeth if I don’t have to.

A mood is one thing. It passes.

An outlook on life, a sense of isolation based on a fear of sharing, however is something entirely different. Some people who are like this tend to brand themselves a “lone wolf” or some other label other than “afraid” that helps perpetuate and broaden the chasm between themselves and their community.

Some people can’t help it, they have autism or another social challenge. But I also suspect, outside of autism or its ilk, that most of lone wolf people consider something in themselves repellant. I also feel that a lot of these people, through their social disconnection, feel some semblance of empowerment regarding rebellion or anger toward the majority of the society in general which I find engenders a sense of victimization and further disconnect. It’s an odd question: does society repel these types of people or do these types of people repel society? Whatever the cause, humans are social creatures and we need to relate to one another.

I think of the title of Adam Sandler’s album of long ago, “They’re All Gonna Laugh At You!” and Stephen King’s book Carrie; what messages do our parents give us or what messages are we giving our children that can help build a stronger sense of self so that we aren’t afraid to share our thoughts?

Lonely is isolation, feeling left out, excluded, apart from the whole.

Alone feels more like a choice. “Leave me alone!” “I just want to be alone!” (I never say that at my house with three boys.)

But I think Jung is going after the emotional state of “loneliness” and the results of feeling as though you can’t communicate something to others because they might find it “wrong.”

So given the quote about having people about vs. holding things in like viewpoints that might be inadmissible, all this leaves me wondering about “loneliness” — is it an emotion? Or is it a condition? Or… is it a choice? I wonder.

Thank you.

8 responses »

  1. Loneliness? Truthfully, I used to feel that way when I was younger, particularly in high school. To be alone on a Saturday night seemed pitiful! Fortunately, when I got a car, things improved. Particularly when I had access to that now largely defunct institution; the drive-in! Still, my high school was very cliquey: There were the soches, the surfers, the jocks and their girl friends, and the nerds. I tried out for team sports and had some success at track. I did learn to play guitar and was nervy enough to play in a bar at age 16! I guess the trick in high school is to fit into something.
    Then college came and I was so busy studying and occasionally going to Tijuana when it was safer, loneliness kind of disappeared.

    • As I reflect back on the quote, I figure (now that it’s a few days later) that we can be proud of our loneliness if it brings us productivity and a sense of peace and equanimity. I know that for me, to get things done, requires silence and concentration and a feeling that I’m not … Offending anyone with my focused industry. Otherwise I end up resenting the company.

  2. You know, I don’t really have anything I can say on the concept of it being fear based because you’ve pretty much covered all that. What struck me is that reading the quote and then your words, a memory if an old poem I wrote came dragging to the surface and so now I must dig through boxes in the closet to find the binders of old stuff. Thanks a lot. No I really mean that. Lol. I can’t remember even th point of the poem or the whole thing but the stanza that came rushing was this:

    “In a ballroom full of dancers, yet I waltz alone
    Though even my parnter’s three beaten feet mimick my own/ Fearful, yet pride for if they only knew in my head, that the tones weren’t 3/4, but in 6/8 instead”

    So there’s that. Lol

    • That’s great, the 3/4 comment.

      I was driving a family friend home after a long night at a party in the city. He was basically sober, but he asked and I definitely wanted to see him safely home. It took guts for him to ask me as I am largely still considered the little sister to him. I was proud to help.

      We needed gas, in a serious way. His car was a Porsche Cayenne. None of that matters except to say that the gas gauge was 0/4, 1/4, 2/4, 3/4, 4/4. I immediately thought that was weird.

      He asked me to tell him when it got half full. I said, “it’s at 2/4 now!” and he laughed at me! “Mol, what is this 2/4 nonsense? It’s half full…” And I said, “it’s your car, dude! It’s 2/4…” And I couldn’t help but wonder whimsically if Germany is still bitter about that whole east/west Germany thing when they split it up into quarters after ww2.

  3. I think Jung was talking about his relationship with Freud who he admired greatly but due to their disagreements over the nature of libido and religion, he knew he had to go his own way. Maybe that’s the way that it goes for most of us. Our families have myths that don’t make any sense to us. In my own case, being raised by two SJ parents who generally saw the world in black and white was terribly hard on me, an NT. So I wound up studying psychology instead of business which they never understood.

    • Yes, I would agree that this is how it goes for many of us. I don’t know what personality types my parents are/were but I can tell you they were angry and unpredictable and at times, volatile. They are/were also terribly self-absorbed. I feel that as they aged it might have mellowed but now that they are in their 80s, there is a mellowness covering a feral fear of death.

  4. I don’t think this quote is about fear or silence.

    In the same way no one could have made you understand through words alone what it is to be a mother, sometimes one has thoughts, ideas, and feelings that require more than speaking them to be understood.

    I have often in my life spoken, phrased, re-phrased, shifted tense, re-approached, and analogized myself down to the white meat, only to find that I still have not made myself understood.When this happens, I can be surrounded and lauded by those who love and appreciate me, and yet still feel utterly alone.

    And that’s because words don’t teach. They crystallize, they inspire, they amplify, and they subdue, but they do not impart an understanding outside one’s own frame of reference; at best, they only coax one into stepping outside of it.

    Thank goodness for that.

    • thanks, Shelley. what a gorgeous insight. i love it; yes, often words simply fail and we can feel alone… i think it’s impossible for words to create true empathy; they can inspire it which, as you state, can help coax us all to live a little larger and kinder. yes… thank goodness for that! -M

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