“Wholeness is not achieved by cutting off a portion of one’s being, but by integration of the contraries.” ~Carl Jung
A fully integrated human is in touch with their wholeness, whether good or bad, light or dark, ugly or beautiful. Balancing these energies can be counterintuitive. Integrating the whole leads to the holistic experience of self-actualization. But it’s not easy to achieve. It does not come naturally. Yet if we can practice such integration, no matter how counterintuitive, it can be the source of tremendous power and self-fulfillment.
1. Practical Grandiosity Over Grandiosity
“To learn to creatively live with the daemonic or be violently devoured by it. We will decide our own destiny. Let us choose wisely.” ~Stephen Diamond
What is practical grandiosity? It’s being honest about the fact that you are a devastatingly unique being, but not going too far by imagining that you are better than others. It’s taking your natural grandiose energy and channeling it into a real project rather than basing it on an unreal fantasy. It’s about being honest with your limits and then having the wherewithal to stretch those limits through self-improvement rather than self-embellishment.
It’s realizing that we all have at least a low-grade grandiosity that, by nature, alters our perception of reality and makes it difficult to have an accurate assessment of our abilities, causing us to overestimate our skills and underestimate the obstacles we face. It stems from our deep need to feel important and esteemed by people.
The problem isn’t the grandiose energy. The problem is what we do with that energy. Ambition is natural. It’s okay that we all want to feel important and that we have the urge to be better. But when we focus that energy into impractical, pie-in-the-sky delusion, or we use it to falsely inflate ourselves, we prevent ourselves from really improving. Because we are beginning with the assumption that we are already large and great and worthy of attention and adoration.
But when we channel our grandiose energy into a project, into achieving a goal, or into solving complex problems, we invert our ego. The energy impels us to hone our skills and improve upon our method. We are in dialogue with reality rather than out of step with it. We’re on the path toward self-improvement rather than tripping over our self-embellishments.
2. Emulation Over Envy
“You pass over and beyond them: but the higher you ascend, the smaller you appear to the eye of envy. But most of all they hate those who fly.”~Nietzsche
Nobody is immune to envy. It’s built into us. Rather than repressing it, rather than stewing in our envious angst, we should use the energy to emulate that which we envy. Feel the envy for what it is, allow it to flare up and inform you, but then surrender it to self-improvement.
Put your envy into perspective by understanding that there will always be those who have achieved what you hope to achieve, just as there will always be those who wish they had achieved what you have already achieved. Rather than negatively fret in your envy, positively channel that energy into achievable goals. Use the person or persons you envy as goalposts. Above all, allow the journey to be the thing.
Turn the tables on your envy by transforming it into the courage to stand on the shoulders of giants. Imagine those whom you envy are already giants of their field/craft/art/character, then capitalize on that imagination by standing upon their shoulders in an attempt to see further than they have. This will both assuage your envy and improve upon your particular skillset.
3. Mitfreude Over Schadenfreude
“The serpent that stings us means to hurt us and rejoice as it does so. The lowest animal can imagine the pain of others. But to imagine the joy of others and to rejoice at it is the highest privilege of the highest animals.” ~Nietzsche
Always attempt to be a “higher animal.” The lower animal in you wants to wallow in grandiosity, envy, jealousy, and vengefulness. Turn the tables on your lizard-brain’s attempt to highjack your higher reasoning by focusing on healthy nonattachment.
Mitfreude is a German term that means being happy when others discover happiness. The opposite of schadenfreude, which is the German word for finding pleasure in the plight of others. When others are happy it benefits us all in the long run. This is because we are social creatures living in complex social systems. The more people who are happy for each other, the less likely people will become violent toward each other.
It’s all too easy to merely get off on the plight of others. There’s a kind of sick desperation at the heart of the human condition that gets pleasure out of the failure of others. That’s okay. It’s perfectly natural. Recognize this feeling, honor it, have a laugh at it, but then turn the tables on it through your “higher animal” by realizing that the plighted human could very well become you. This transforms it into a kind of self-deprecating humor which ushers in the Golden Rule, which indirectly ignites empathy and sympathy for others.
It’s a counterintuitive way of going Meta with the happiness-unhappiness spectrum. More importantly, it can lead to a healthier, more progressive, more openminded evolution for our young species (higher animal over lower animal).
4. Compersion Over Jealousy
“Let the lover be disgraceful, crazy, absentminded. Someone sober will worry about things going badly. Let the lover be.” ~Rumi
Other than forgiveness, compersion is probably the most difficult of the higher traits to master. It’s extremely counterintuitive. Basically, it’s the opposite of jealousy: a feeling of joy associated with seeing a loved one (even a lover) love another.
Having compersion is being in a state of deep honesty with the human condition regarding the concept of love. It’s a lower-animal/higher-animal balanced approach toward perceiving love. It works down from a cosmic, interdependent, soul-centric, non-ownership perspective of loving holistically, into an independent, ego-centric perspective of loving in the moment, and then back up again. It’s breathing in holistic love (being love) and breathing out egotistic love (carnal love), intermittently.
Compersion is being brutally honest with yourself that you will probably not be the be-all-end-all for someone else. And that’s okay. It’s loving in a way that is genuine and without expectation, despite. It’s allowing others to love the way they must love, even if their affection isn’t aimed at you. It’s letting go of your ego’s attachment to love and then being happy when a lover finds love, whether with or without you. Because if you truly love them, and you are coming from a place of being love, then you are going to want them to be happy whether that happiness comes from being with you or not.
More importantly, it’s about keeping capital-L Love (being Love) in perspective. It’s about balance. It’s about being primally aware that we are both independent creatures with anxious egos and petty jealousies (sexual, carnal animals) and interdependent creatures with mysterious souls capable of deep compersion (sensual, holistic, sacred animals).
5. Forgiveness Over Revenge
“An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.” ~Gandhi
Choosing forgiveness over revenge is probably the most counterintuitive one on this list. Yet it’s probably the most important one for us to master if we wish to survive as a species.
Like the other highly evolved traits on this list, choosing forgiveness over revenge is a form of emotional alchemy. Emotional alchemy denotes a psychological transformation. When we’re courageous in the face of fear, for example, we are practicing emotional alchemy. It’s about being proactively engaged in a healthier way while still honoring our core emotional state.
Imagine a firefighter standing outside of a burning building with a baby on the top floor. He would be a fool not to fear the inferno. For fear is the natural and proper response to a deadly situation. But, if he doesn’t act courageously despite the feeling of fear, the baby dies. So, he must first FEEL the fear and then (counterintuitively) ACT with courage, in order to do the right thing and save the baby.
This can be applied to almost any emotionally charged situation. Feel fear, act with courage. Feel road rage, act with humor. Feel grief, act with steadfastness. Feel grandiosity, act with practical grandiosity. Feel envy, act with emulation. Feel schadenfreude, act with mitfreude. Feel jealousy, act with compersion. Feel insecure, act with confidence. Feel vengefulness, act with forgiveness. Alchemical action is the thing. Awareness is the thing. Confidence and practice will eventually lead to providence and brilliance.
As Henry Miller wisely said, “If you can fall in love again and again, if you can forgive as well as forget, if you can keep from growing sour, surly, bitter and cynical… you’ve got it (a life well-lived) half licked.”