Monday, February 1, 2010

Esssays: Components of Individuation: Part IV - Internalizing a Locus of Security

In the previous parts of this four-part essay we noted how we hold others responsible when we externalize a locus of control and how we expect others to take over responsibility for decision-making when we externalize a locus of authority. How might we expect reality to appear when we externalize a locus of security? We seek outside ourselves for sources of safety—parents, spouses, roles, jobs, savings, pensions, titles, ranks, a guru, being famous etc. Jesus speaks of this when he talks about “laying up treasures on Earth.”[1] Like the other forms of externalization, none of these is reliable.

Why? because anything external is subject to loss. Parents die; spouses can die or serve us with divorce papers. Roles can disappear (just as children have the habit of growing up and moving away). Savings and pensions can be lost or rendered worthless in massive inflationary cycles. Ranks and titles come to mean little if/when the company bellies up. The guru can turn out to have feet of clay. Fame can transform into infamy if the public becomes disenchanted. Moths and rust might consume our stuff, and thieves can break in to steal what we clutch in order to feel safe.

Jung offers one common example of externalization of a locus of security when he describes marriage as a psychological relationship:

At this juncture things are apt to occur that bring the conflict [between a husband and wife] to a head. He becomes conscious of the fact that he is seeking completion, seeking the contentedness and undividedness that have always been lacking. For the contained [i.e. the wife] this is only a confirmation of the insecurity she has always felt so painfully; ... The hope of security vanishes, and this disappointment drives her in on herself, unless by desperate and violent efforts she can succeed in forcing her partner to capitulate, and in extorting a confession that his longing for unity was nothing but a childish or morbid fantasy. If these tactics do not succeed, her acceptance of failure may do her a real good, by forcing her to recognize that the security she was so desperately seeking in the other is to be found in herself....[2]

Many, many marriages are built on the unconscious assumption that the partner will provide security—financial or emotional. A precarious situation, to be sure, in this time of rampant divorce.[3]

So if true security cannot be found in having lots of money, owning one’s own home, acquiring a huge 401(k), being married to a rich spouse, or being a famous celebrity, where does it lie? Jesus tells us that true security lies in “laying up treasures in Heaven.”[4] Jung agrees, but few people in the modern world understand what is meant by “treasures in Heaven.” Jung knew (from personal experience)[5] that true security lies within us, closely related to the inner guru mentioned in Part III of this essay.

In fact, if we have developed a strong awareness of and connection to our inner guru, we are well on the way to creating for ourselves an inner locus of security. This is because, when we give up looking outside to authority figures, we are led

... by a natural route, back to ourselves as an actual, living something poised between two world-pictures and their darkly discerned potencies. This “something” is strange to us and yet so near, wholly ourselves and yet unknowable, a virtual center of so mysterious a constitution that it can claim anything... without moving us to wonder... [6]

Jung then goes on in the next paragraph to name this center:

I have called this center the self... by definition it transcends our powers of comprehension. It might equally well be called the “God within us.” The beginnings of our whole psychic life seem to be inextricably rooted in this point, and all our highest and ultimate purposes seem to be striving towards it.[7]

So the Self is both a goal of the individuation process and the source of inalienable security.

Sounds great! Let’s go for it! We’ll just find that Self within and we’ll be sitting pretty, right? Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. Go back to the quote from Jesus: we are told to “lay up treasures in Heaven.” While our materialistic mindset focuses on the “treasures,” both Jesus and Jung would have us focus on the verb, “lay up.”[8] That is, the key to inner security is the years-long process of building a track record of trust in one’s inner guidance and contact with the Self.

Jung minces no words with regard to the long-term effort required to become aware of the Self and then to relinquish control of one’s life to it:

... the self has somewhat the character of a result, of a goal attained, something that has come to pass very gradually and is experienced with much travail. ...[9]

The existence of a sense of inner security by no means proves that the product will be stable enough to withstand the disturbing or hostile influences of the environment. The adept had to experience again and again how unfavorable circumstances or a technical blunder or—as it seemed to him—some devilish accident hindered the completion of his work, so that he was forced to start all over again from the very beginning. Anyone who submits his sense of inner security to analogous psychic tests will have similar experiences. More than once everything he has built will fall to pieces under the impact of reality, and he must not let this discourage him from examining, again and again, where it is that his attitude is still defective, and what are the blind spots in his psychic field of vision.... Always we shall have to begin again from the beginning. From ancient times the adept knew that he was concerned with the “res simplex,” and the modern man too will find by experience that the work does not prosper without the greatest simplicity. But simple things are always the most difficult.[10]

Time and again we take up the work, submit the ego to the Self and taste the bitterness of that experience, as Jung reminds us that “... the experience of the self is always a defeat for the ego.”[11] And regardless of the pain, we have to go back to the beginning and start over and over. Eventually “... the whole of the conscious man is surrendered to the self, to the new center of personality which replaces the former ego....”[12]

Painful years-long effort is only one drawback. Another challenge in internalizing a locus of security lies in our culture, which is ego-driven, run by unconscious men with a power-drive, men who have no use for soul, self or people with an inner locus of security. Fear—being sure that people feel afraid and insecure—is their meal ticket, the way they stay in power. So they assure us that “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”[13]

Jung saw through this. He recognized that organized religions, with their dogmas, provide a defense against the personal knowledge and experience of the Divine.[14] Only those no longer “contained” in religion are likely to encounter and develop a close relationship with the Self.[15] One reason Jung appreciated the Gnostics was that they took a different approach, insisting on personal experience of the Divine,[16] which is why the church fathers regarded them as heretics.

John Randolph Price, in The Abundance Book, echoed both Jesus and Jung when he identified our true source of “supply” (i.e. abundance, wealth, resources):

... my consciousness of the Presence of God within me is my supply... my awareness, understanding and knowledge of the all-providing activity of the Divine Mind within me is my supply.[17]

Awareness might come in an epiphany or flash of insight. Knowledge can develop quickly if one works at it. But understanding takes time to develop. And against the forces of our materialistic culture—all clamoring for our attention and pulling us off a focus on things spiritual—we have to summon extraordinary determination to keep at this work of building a solid, personal relationship to the Self. But in nothing else do we have a true locus of security.

In many essays posted earlier to this blog,[18] we spoke of the challenging times ahead, for us as Americans and for the world as a whole. In such times of massive, disruptive and discontinuous change, we cannot look to the old verities for security—not money, not fame, not personal contacts with the high and mighty, not physical strength nor beauty. Only that which lies within—the personal trust in the presence, guidance and wisdom of the Self, accrued over time—will provide the feeling of safety that cannot be lost. Students of Jung appreciate the wisdom of internalizing a locus of control (as the basis of inner work), a locus of authority (as the basis for an existence as an independent adult) and a locus of security, so as to feel safe in the world, regardless of what happens in the future.


Edinger, Edward (1984), The Creation of Consciousness. Toronto: Inner City Books.

________ (1966), “Two Essays on Analytical Psychology,” CW 7. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

________ (1969), “Psychology and Religion: West and East,” CW 11. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

________ (1963), “Mysterium Coniunctionis,” CW 14. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

________ (1954), “The Development of Personality,” CW 17. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

________ (1976), ”The Symbolic Life,” CW 18. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Price, John Randolph (1987), The Abundance Book. Boerne TX: Quartus Books.

Submitted by Sue Mehrtens

[1]Matt. 6:19.

[2] Jung, Collected Works 17, ¶333. As has been the convention throughout these blog essays, CW will hereafter be the abbreviation for Jung’s Collected Works.

[3] Because not all states report marriage and divorce statistics to the National Center for Health Statistics, it is difficult to determine the percentage of marriages that now end in divorce; figures range from 11% to 50%, with a higher rate being seen in young people, especially if the woman is under 20 years of age. Google “” for a discussion of this statistic.

[4] Matt. 6:19-20.

[5] CW 18, ¶1589.

[6] CW 7, ¶398.

[7] CW 7, ¶399. Jung did not capitalize “self.” It has become the convention among Jungians to do so when referring to the inner archetype of wholeness.

[8] Implying consistent, regular accumulation of personal experiences of the Self.

[9] CW 7, ¶404.

[10] CW 14, ¶759.

[11] CW 14, ¶778. Italics are in the original. Perhaps Jung wanted to stress this point.

[12] CW 14, ¶704.

[13] Hebrews 10:31. See the March 2010 blog essay for further discussion of this quote.

[14] Cf. CW 7, ¶394 and note 6; and CW 11, ¶81 and 85.

[15] See Edinger (1984), 61-62,65,68,77-79,89 and 91 for discussion of containment in religion.

[16] CW 18, ¶1499-1507.

[17] Price (1987), 31.

[18] E.g. “Jung’s Prophetic Visions and the Alchemy of Our Time;” “The Law of Cause and Effect and America’s Future;” “Jung’s Challenge to Us: Holding the Tension of Opposites.”

Submitted by Sue Mehrtens

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