Gretchen Rubin

Do You Ever Feel That You Have Two Personalities, Existing Side by Side?

I'm re-reading, for the fourth time, Carl Jung's Memories, Dreams, Reflections.

One of my chief preoccupations (along with happiness, of course) is a subject that I call "symbols beyond words," so I can't get enough of this book. Its vision is so huge.

Each time I read it, I'm struck by different passages. This time, I was particularly interested in Jung's discussion of his "No. 1" personality and his "No. 2" personality.

Somewhere deep in the background I always knew that I was two persons. One was the son of my parents, who went to school and was less intelligent, attentive, hard-working, decent, and clean than many other boys. The other was grown up -- old, in fact -- skeptical, mistrustful, remote from the world of men, but close to nature, the earth, the sun, the moon, the weather, all living creatures, and above all close to the night, to dreams, and to whatever "God" worked directly in him...Beside [No. 1's] world there existed another realm, like a temple in which anyone who entered was transformed and suddenly overpowered by a vision of the whole cosmos, so that he could only marvel and admire, forgetful of himself.

Later in the book, Jung continues...

Through No. 1's eyes I saw myself as a rather disagreeable and moderately gifted young man with vaulting ambitions, an undisciplined temperament and dubious manners, alternating between naive enthusiasm and fits of childish disappointment...No. 2 had no definable character at all; he was a vita peracta, born, living, dead, everything in one; a total vision of life....Here was meaning and historical continuity, in strong contrast to the incoherent fortuitousness of No. 1's life, which had no real points of contact with its environment.

I have to resist the urge to put here everything that Jung writes about No. 1 and No. 2 -- these brief quotations don't do justice to his ideas -- but that would go on for pages. Well, all right, just one more. Jung makes this observation about the two personalities:

The play and counterplay between personalities No. 1 and No. 2, which has run through my whole life, has nothing to do with a "split" or dissociation in the ordinary medical sense. On the contrary, it is played out in every individual. In my life No. 2 has been of prime importance, and I have always tried to make room for anything that wanted to come to me from within.

I know exactly what Jung is describing. Do you share this feeling?

* I had an interesting conversation with Australian journalist Sarah Wilson, and she sent me a link to a great column she wrote about trying to "Be Sarah."

* Interested in starting your own happiness project? If you’d like to take a look at my personal Resolutions Chart, for inspiration, just email me at grubin at gretchenrubin dot com. Just write “Resolutions Chart” in the subject line.

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