You know those quotes that change your life? The ones that resonate in your head like a tolling church bell yet bring the peace of a quiet forest?
They’re the type of ideas that concisely express some inner knowledge that has been simmering below the surface of your mind for years.
As soon as you hear or read it, those feelings and thoughts explode in a cacophony of understanding.
“Yes, that’s what I’ve been trying to say!”
And just like that, a vague yet powerful sentiment neatly compiles into one simple sentence.
“Until you make the unconscious conscious
it will direct your life and you will call it fate”
– Carl Jung
I’ve consistently tried to make the unconscious conscious through reflection, meditation and mindfulness. Yet it’s the second part of the quote that really stays with me.
“…it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”
There is so much that falls into fate’s territory. You may call it luck, a bad turn, or God’s will, but the title is ultimately unimportant. Fate describes that which is out of our control—which is most of everything that goes on in this world.
But there is one thing that falls within our locus of control: our inner state. Namely, our reactions (and as a result, our actions).
How much of the pain and suffering in our lives is caused by us? How much is a result of us acting out of past pain, pre-judgments, and poor perception? How much is the result of thoughtless behaviour or repeated mistakes?
This acknowledgment is not about placing blame or criticizing. Instead, it empowers. As this quote resonates deeper, you realize that the power is in your hands. You can choose how you act. You can choose how you react. You can choose how you perceive things.
But only if you bring things into the conscious realm.
A lot of our actions and reactions fall within the “knee-jerk” category. They’re our mind’s attempt to simplify and automate the living process. It’s easier for the mind to refer to past experiences and act accordingly than to constantly assess new dynamics.
Knee-jerk reactions are often based on childhood environment, social conditioning, past trauma and bias. They’re how we’ve learned to move through the world. Some are helpful, but many are misinformed coping mechanisms that worked in a pinch but aren’t longterm solutions.
And unless we purposely root them out, they lurk in that unconscious realm waiting to be triggered:
Like when someone tries to correct you and you respond with a catty clap back.
Or when an exciting opportunity falls in your lap, but you pass it off to a co-worker who is “smarter and better equipped.”
Or when a person of colour walks into your store and you check to ensure the security camera is on.
Or when your partner tries to connect with you on a deeper level and you push him away.
Those types of reactions solidify overtime and become habit. They become your identity. They influence how you see the world—and how the world sees you.
Those reactions subconsciously direct your life.
Of course, we may end up in unanticipated situations because…well, fate.
However, the lessons and meaning we draw from the situations and people that fate brings into our life is totally up to us.
By making the unconscious conscious, we’re empowered to change the things we can, and aware enough to let go of the things we can’t.