Tuesday, August 14, 2018

On Transgressions

I've been enjoying a podcast "This Jungian Life," in which three Jungian analysts discuss various questions. This one in particular discusses the difference between sin and transgression, but then it goes further to help us understand the state of the world today.

A transgression is an act of stepping across a boundary. To feel any guilty for our actions, we have to know that there was a cultural or internal boundary. And we often know we're crossing a boundary and doing something immoral, but we do it anyway, like having an affair. But Jung isn't puritanical. Known transgressions aren't necessarily bad things. Life is too complex for morality to be so certain.

To determine the value of a transgression, one of the analysts suggests to ask, 'Will this action make my life bigger, or will it make it smaller?' Sometimes a transgression can significantly improve our lives and our society. Holding hands with a partner of a different race or of the same gender was a transgression that helped develop equity in our culture.

But even if we realize the action is making our lives smaller, then it's important to benefit from recognizing that fact and becoming aware of our moral fallibility. It's vital to us individually and to society collectively for us to get to know our deepest darkest shadow side. There's a gravitas to being fully aware of our worst parts. And then once we see it, the simple effect of suffering guilt is profoundly transformative.

What seems to be happening more and more, instead, is scapegoating. It's a false resolution that seeks to ignore any possibility of a personal flaw, avoid that painful experience of guilt, and transfer it through vengeance on others. They want to shift their sin to another, the way we once had animal sacrifices to help us atone for our actions. The result is that individuals aren't going to begin the process of  'individuation,' as Jung would say, but, in plain language, too many of us are just not growing up.

It takes courage to see ourselves clearly, especially when the leaders in our society are choosing otherwise.

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