Eros: Intimacy with Self
“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”- C.G. Jung
“Others can only offer you the depth of intimacy that they have with themselves.”-Robert Ohotto
Few things enchanted me more than the inner workings of my own psyche. I think of myself as a soul spelunker who enjoys exploring the depth and complexity of my being. I find it endlessly fascinating to understand why I do the things I do an attempt to reveal the parts of myself I don’t yet know through the unconscious. I am deeply mal-nourished without this part of my being and connections are uninteresting to me without it. My desire for self-depth is more than food, spirit, anything.
This need to know myself is an obsession, the place in myself I feel most nourished and fed. This work of unveiling the layers of self to connect with our deepest essence is to me is the unending initiation and journey of being human. I’m constantly amazed and in awe of new places within myself, that I can be such a mysterious stranger even myself. Yet the places I don’t know are still scary no matter how many times I find myself in the dark, unchartered territory of my innermost core.
I used to confuse self-knowledge with awareness of my ego and unconscious self. Thinking I knew myself because I knew certain patterns or ways of being. In actuality, the unconscious is by nature hidden from us and takes much more than self-awareness to truly know. This is my annoyance with horoscopes that focus on the sun as it reinforces what we already know versus looking at the parts we may unconsciously reject. That is also the difference between the sun and the moon. The sun is our consciousness but our moon is the unconscious, the often mysterious parts of us we project onto others instead of owning for ourselves.
So often we talk about vulnerability with others and forget that often that isn’t possible because we may not even know ourselves well enough to offer our inner-selves to someone else. I’ve written often about the vulnerability and intimacy of showing someone else what is going on. Mostly because I am aware of the tendency in myself to hide in relationships a lot, I act nice when I am seething. I am quiet when inside there is a storm. This is because I hide from myself a lot. I feel emotions bubbling up or a sense of wanting to disassociate through being busy or eating foods that aren’t good for me.
For me the only way I could fully deep dive to the fullest has been through therapy. We need the mirror of another to truly see what we cannot see in ourselves (or in my case also being friends with as many therapists as possible). I think relationships can do this, but more so a person who can reflect and process within a container such as therapy has been my preferred form of exploring my unconscious with someone. I can’t think of anything more sacred than a shaman (who isn’t your partner or day-to-day living) to help along on the journey into self.
Mythologies across the world speak of the “hero’s journey” (a term coined by Joseph Campbell) with a descent or challenge with the underworld. One of the most famous is of Persephone who was pulled or raped and then began her descent, in others she willing went with Hades below. Other mythologies include Sedna, an Inuit tale of a woman who drowns and parts of her body become the sea mammals. However, my favorite is the Sumerian tale of Inanna, a true heroine and wild woman who enters the underworld to serve her kingdom and then becomes a master of both the upper and underworlds and everything in between.
Astrologically Inanna, the heroine, was believed to be the planet Venus and I think of Pluto and Chiron as the planets that usher us into the underworld. Transits of these planets invite us into more depth as does having them prominently in our astrology natal charts.
The underworld, the world of ourselves below the surface that we must visit to claim our power and become our fullest self, the initiation into ourselves. The beginning of intimacy begins with deep diving into ourselves. My obsession with my depth is only because of my deep fear of not achieving my highest potential or of hurtings others by my lack of self-awareness.
The descent isn’t just into the darkness, it is into intimacy itself. Without witnessing our innermost core we can hide from others and ourselves. For me, the meaning of life stems from this exploration…what we need, who we are, what we hide. The place of this exploration the unconscious and the beautiful treasures that await below are my life’s work.
Seasonally this descent begins in the fall through the winter where we feel the inward pull, or resist it. I welcome this season with open arms as a reminder of nature’s desire for quiet and self-exploration. How do we begin this exploration into our shadow work?
Here are the ways I find most helpful for looking more at my unconscious or hidden parts:
Working with a therapist: Particularly one with experience in Depth Psychology or attachment theory. Having a guide into your own underworld is extremely helpful for uncovering things with support. (Note: I don't say, coach, as I find they are helpful for lifting out of the underworld, but not necessarily for going in.)
Reclaiming projections: We unconsciously project onto others the unowned and rejected parts of ourselves. I find making a list of the things I don't like about others and then sit with what of those things I also do. Of course, not all agitations are about projections, though usually, the ones that upset us the most frequently are.
Examing Freudian slips: While a lot of Freud's theories don't resonate with me, an unintentional error in speech can certainly be a gateway into the unconscious. Looking at words or phrases I mix up often lets me know where I may be saying one thing and certainly my unconscious wants to say something else.
Dreamwork and analysis: Another way to notice the inner workings of your psyche is to pay attention to dreams. Whenever my unconscious is wanting to bring more awareness to something my dreams become more intense and vivid. Often a wake-up call into the shadow. A great way to do basic analyzing without a guide is to right down all the major things you remember in a dream, then several words that represent those things. You can then start putting together some basics around aspects your psyche may be attempting to reveal from your unconscious.
Obviously there are other ways, but these have been my most helpful. While I know all of these things on an intellectual level, only recently have they become grounded in my actual experience that more I know about myself the more capable I am of intimacy with others. I have a deep need for others in my life who are doing the same work, who are willing to keep pushing bravely into the unknown shadow realms of the psyche. And for us to do this deep dive together. This is my life’s work, to enter my darkest places and use them to mine the love that is me in all of my messy, beautiful vulnerability.
Want support on your own deep dive?
Intimacy from Latin intimus meaning "innermost core"
Vulnerable from Proto-Indo-European wele- meaning "to strike, wound"