A Happy New Year - spring-cleaning the soul
“A New Year, A New You”. As Christmas is packed away for another year, bills and bank statements arrive in the post and one grey, rainy day merges into another, how many of us grit our teeth as we hear this tired old cliché?
After all, why should a new year herald a new you? Is anything wrong with the present you? And if you want to make changes, why not make them when the time is right for you, rather than wait for the beginning of a new year? The founder of analytic psychology, Carl Gustav Jung, believed that we are born with a collective unconscious that is formed from inherited ideas and content that has evolved from our ancestry. The two main aspects being archetypes (psychic patterns that help us to understand our unconscious ideas) and the primal instincts that drive and motivate us such as hunger, anger and greed. This differs from the personal unconscious which evolves day to day and is comprised of once known content (sometimes a trauma) that has been experienced and has now been forgotten or repressed.
Each one of us will translate how we see the world in our own way. For me, there is much about how we behave which lends much to and gives validation to Jung’s theories. We readily accept and embrace our traditions that have been pre-set and experienced by our ancestors. At Christmas we buy the presents, decorate the tree, fill the children’s’ stockings and eat the turkey. If we don’t take it all down by the twelfth night, we will have bad luck all year. New Year should be celebrated in style (but quite often ends up with people having a few drinks too many and arguments sparked) and herald a new beginning with resolutions made to lose weight, go to the gym, take up a new interest, get a new job…how long does that last?
Then Easter arrives, where we buy chocolate eggs and enjoy a long weekend, whether or not we truly believe in the resurrection of Jesus. If you put your shoes on the table, you will bring bad luck to the home and whatever you do, don’t open your umbrella indoors. The list goes on. If we did not have these traditions and belief systems, what foundation would there be to live from day to day, to educate ourselves, to work and to flourish and grow? It is this structure that keeps us safe and gives meaning to our lives.
And yet at the beginning of a new year, a great many of us will feel a bit flat and low, a niggle of dissatisfaction that is hard to pinpoint and identify. Is it more than the grey skies and perennial rain that is getting you down? Maybe you have taken a break to visit sunnier climes but now returned to the wet and gloom and the dissatisfaction is back. We have taken the decorations down, tidied up the house and maybe our collective unconscious is gearing us up for a spring-clean? Maybe there are issues that we have put to one side and are unresolved... now the hustle and bustle of Christmas and the New Year is behind us and we have a clearer headspace. Those repressed issues are now bubbling up and seeking recognition and resolution. After all, if we spring-clean our homes, why should we not spring-clean the most important part of us - our soul?
Spring-cleaning the soul can be achieved in many ways. Jung was a great advocate of artistic expression to release and express feelings and a great many of Jung’s followers were and are to this day artists, readers, writers, diarists, sculptors, dancers, musicians and other genres of creativity. For those of us that dream vividly and can recall the content of our dream, however strange or bizarre it may seem, keeping a record of the dream and exploring through our own research or with a Jungian therapist can provide great understanding and insights that can help us understand and resolve personal issues and achieve greater self-awareness.
If you have a specific issue that you are struggling to understand, come to terms with and resolve, there are many qualified and experienced counsellors and holistic therapists who will work with you to guide you through the process and equip you with the tools you need to achieve enlightenment and fulfillment in your personal life. If that niggle is there but you cannot pinpoint any specific issue, maybe you are seeking personal growth - to learn more about and understand yourself better. Achieving greater clarity and self-awareness can be hugely empowering and once you are equipped with those tools, they are yours for life.
We may not like every aspect of ourselves that we discover. Indeed Jung speaks of the shadow self, the dark side that represents thoughts, feelings and ideas which we would never act upon, but of which we may feel ashamed and scared. Knowing that aspect exists in all of us can be hugely reassuring and allows us to accept ourselves without shame. The ultimate goal for Jung was individuation - the conscious realisation and fulfillment of self. We may not all aspire to reach that ultimate pinnacle, but if you have given your house a good spring-clean, turn your attention to the needs of your soul. Consider whether there is any internal clutter that needs to be cleared in order for you to feel cleansed, refreshed, invigorated and ready to tackle the challenges and opportunities of the New Year.
Ask yourself that all-important question and take care of yourself. Happy New Year!
Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.
About Sarah-Jane Johnson
Sarah-Jane Johnson MBACP - I am based in Haslemere, Surrey and Midhurst, West Sussex where we can gently explore your issues in a safe and comfortable place. I offer a full counselling hour and concessions. I work with young people, individuals and couples and specialise in integrative, person-centred, eclectic, CBT and Jungian therapy.