Psychology + Self-Development

Understand Yourself Better Through Meditation

image of neon text reading 'just breathe' in front of green plants
The mind is a powerful tool. The state of our mind can influence our behaviours and the actions we take in our daily lives. It’s a double-edged sword in that it can work against us and create the problems that we encounter, but it can also work towards our benefit in that it can also resolve problems; if we’re able to see beyond the state of our current circumstances and break free from the status quo inside our head.

Meditation can help us take a step back and observe all the thoughts running in our minds – positive or negative they may be. Continue reading to learn more about how incorporating the daily practice of meditation can help you understand yourself better and improve your state of mind and well-being.

What Meditation and Mindfulness Is Not

First things first, if you’re looking for a quick fix, then practicing mindfulness may not be right for you. The practice of meditation is a lifelong journey, not a destination. If you do not set out with the intention of developing and changing yourself, then this practice will not make much of an impact on you. The objective of meditation is not to silence or change our minds but rather to help us improve self-awareness, or in Jungian psychology, becoming more aware and have a greater understanding of the Self.
The self then is the sum of everything we are now, and everything we once were, as well as everything we could potentially become. – Carl Jung

Jung’s Structure of the Psyche, Individuation and Mindfulness

According to Carl Jung, there are 3 core concepts that make up the structure of the human psyche which include The Persona, The Ego and The Self. Our personalities are much more complex than we think and knowing these distinct psychological entities can help us have a better understanding with ourselves and others. Jung believed that one of the objectives and aims of human life is to be able to experience individualization, or self-actualization; one’s fullest expression of character that has integrated elements of the unconscious into conscious which allows one to be their most authentic self and hold firm towards one’s individuality against the collective mass unconscious. (1)

The following will touch briefly on Jung’s model of the psyche and how meditation can be a useful tool in helping us discover our true selves.
The Persona: The Social Mask We Display To Others

“The persona is a complicated system of relations between individual consciousness and society, fittingly enough a kind of mask, designed on the one hand to make a definite impression upon others, and, on the other, to conceal the true nature of the individual.” – Carl Jung

The persona is the social mask we display to others, shaped by what is expected of us and society, that which is more restrictive and not reflective of our true personality. It’s the interface between our internal state and external world. It functions as a mask which makes our actions and behaviours socially acceptable but as a result, withholds parts of our personality for fear of being different from the norm.

We may carry different personas such as ones that we wear in our professional lives, and others when we interact with family and with friends. The persona is vital in any social interaction and society in general, but can lead to emotional and neurotic suffering if a person’s feels forced to constantly put up a mask and repress their true authentic selves.

The Ego: The Mask We Wear To Disguise Ourselves, From Ourselves

“The ego forms, as it were, the centre of the field of consciousness; and, in so far as this comprises the empirical personality, the ego is the subject of all personal acts of consciousness.” – Carl Jung

The ego is who we think we are. While the persona is oriented outwards, our ego is directed inwards. It is the character that which we create for ourselves based on traits we idealize and recognize as belonging to ourselves. Our ego provides the narratives around our lives of which we are the main character. It is always in command, speaking and giving us directions to follow.

In a sense, it acts a gatekeeper that influences what contents of experience which are reflected in our conscious mind, and what contents are disregarded or ignored. (2) Many people identify themselves as their ego. But what is often overlooked is that the ego is what we construct for ourselves and often hides our deeper personality that we fail to acknowledge or deliberately choose to ignore.

The Self: The Totality Of Our Psyche (integrates all elements of our psychological being)

“…the more numerous and more significant the unconscious contents which are assimilated to the ego, the closer the approximation of the ego to the Self, even though this approximation must be a never-ending process” – Carl Jung

The self is the deeper part of our personality submerged beneath our conscious awareness. It makes up the entirety of a person’s psyche. While the ego is subjective, the self is objective and makes up who we really are, irrespective of what we think. Jung believed that identifying and aligning towards the Self promoted in a person, a greater sense of harmony and well being within themselves and the world as a whole. The self includes the ego, the persona, personal unconscious and archetypes of the collective unconscious.

Putting It All Together

How do the concepts above above tie into mindfulness? Mindfulness helps promote full awareness of the present moment – good or bad. It recognizes every instance of existence. It gives us a chance to observe the countless thoughts that our minds continuously process. According to the Laboratory of Neuro Imaging at the University of Southern California, the average person has about 48.6 thoughts per minute, which adds up to a whopping 70,000 thoughts per day. (3)

Meditation can be a powerful tool in helping us live in the present and discovering our true selves and nature. By being aware of our thoughts and the different aspects of our personalities, we can prevent fooling ourselves with delusions about who we really are and can help break away from the fog of continuous internal dialogue that presents itself to us daily.

Through regular practice, we can become more aware of our thoughts, actions and reactions thus leading a better understanding of ourselves and what we are not. Mindfulness has the capability of extending far beyond meditation practice and influence our lives for the better. It can help us experience less inner conflict, make better and more conscious choices and decisions based on who we are and what we truly want out of this life, regardless of societal pressures and can help us be more empathetic to those around us.

Try It Out For Yourself

If you’ve never meditated before, a mere 5 minutes can be a daunting experience. As mentioned earlier, meditation is not a quick fix to the problems you may be facing. It’s not all peace, bliss and stillness that it’s often thought of. Don’t set yourself up for failure by having unrealistic expectations and being attached to goals and timeframes. Meditation is a process that requires patience, discipline and daily practice. The key to reaping it’s benefits is learning how to enjoy the process.

There’s not a one-size-fits-all meditation practice, as it comes with many different variations, but what you can try right now is setting a timer for 5 minutes with the intention of being present. Try your best and remember that it is okay to be distracted. If thoughts enter your mind, welcome it without judgement and do not engage with it, as that will only strengthen your thoughts and can make you frustrated.

If you’re new to meditation, your objective should focus on creating the habit of meditation first. Avoid too much critical self evaluation. Being able to take the time and meditate daily is progress in itself and slowly with time, you should be able to improve your willpower and strengthen your internal mastery. It’s not easy but hey, the practice is free. All you need to bring is your attention.

Let’s Discuss

Have you tried meditation? How has your experience been? Feel free to comment below.

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