I encounter many different people daily who are fascinating and remarkable, and I often find myself standing in awe of how unique we all are as individuals. Yet as I get to know people in depth in my work as a Jungian analyst and as I hear responses from people who attend my lectures and seminars, I continue to become aware of a common “longing” within our hearts…and I don’t think most people are really aware of their longing or know what it can be.
As we grow into and through our adult lives, our longing, even though we may be unaware of it, often seems to grow stronger and deeper as time passes. We may increasingly feel we have lost something, perhaps our passion, maybe our vitality…or perhaps something we never really found. Feeling this deep longing, we may wish for more satisfaction in our career or may experience the desire to be more fully appreciated for just who we are.
We often associate this longing with a need for more money, more sex, a better lifestyle. We may seek to have the perfect partner, the perfect children, and other signs of successful achievement. We may diet and exercise and seek to create a perfect image of ourselves, or we may choose to drown this longing through busyness and all forms of activity.
Turning our attention to health, self-image, financial achievement and the pursuit of self-development are also signs of this longing within us. Even turning to a quest for well-being, for improving our relationships, for religion are signs of this longing within us. Until, though, we get honest with ourselves and realize this “longing” is part of our very nature – and that it is so strong we must make it “holy,” we will be forever driven by it and have our life force diminished.
But we don’t come by that kind of honesty easily. “Fire in the Soul: A Jungian Guide to Discovering the Promise in Our Holy Longing” is Part Two in my book The Search for Self and the Search for God in which I delve into this question. It is a Lecture and Seminar that I shared around the country and from which I would like to share a selection with you:
Most of us don’t feel compelled to look into bigger questions until our life isn’t working, or until we are haunted by the feeling that something is missing, or until the bottom falls out and we are face to face with the big questions: Who am I? Why am I here? What can all this mean?
Then we begin looking for answers while at the same time, in most cases, we are trying to defend ourselves against our longings and our fears – because these very longings often touch some of our most basic fears and wounds.
Regarding the area of religion, Jung was very aware of the longing in the human hearts of modern people. The Jewish theologian Martin Buber expresses this longing by asking the following question of religion: “Can you teach me to have faith in reality, in the truth of our existence, so that my life will have purpose, meaning, and a way of being fulfilled?” This question articulates a very sophisticated kind of longing.
The Jungian analyst Dr. James Hillman, in his discussion of abandonment, takes our longing to its most basic level. For some of us, it is “Help! Please help me.” Others say, “Take me, just as I am, no judgments or questions asked,” or “Take me without my having to do something, or be someone.” Another one of us may cry out, “Hold me,” or “Don’t go away. Never leave me alone.” Dr. Hillman suggests that we may hear the content of these pleas as saying simply, “Love me.” Or we can hear, “Teach me, guide me, show me what to do, or tell me how,” or “Carry me, keep me,” or the cry from the hopelessness in our soul which says, “Leave me alone. Just let me be.”
These are the longings of the archetypal child within us. They are never satisfied. And while we may experience them in our woundedness and our addictions, even when these are healed, the longings of the archetypal child within us will continue fueling the more sophisticated longings expressed by Martin Buber. At this point we can begin to sense that our longings are also an expression of our eternal vulnerability. But they are also an expression of the future potentials of this archetype that lives within us and wants our life to be creative as long as we are alive. And if we do not seek to become whole and serve something larger than ourselves—to be creating and re-creating our lives—this archetype will push us and even punish us with its longings.
It is helpful for us to consider that though they may drive us, our longings are a passive state, maybe even an infantile state at times. In order to help this state become active, we must accept it, own it, and become involved with it, which means living into the feelings it brings. When our longing is welcomed, when it is invited to touch and move our souls, it becomes transformed into desire. And that is when our desire becomes holy.
In my book The Fire and the Rose, I say that desire, whether it’s for another person or the Divine, is a hunger to participate in life on a more intense level than we can achieve on our own. Ultimately, I believe desire must be for participation-for engagement-and not for possession; otherwise we will end up destroying the experience we are seeking. In its fullest sense, desire is a longing to involve ourselves in the spirit and the body of the world.
Through the body-which means through our senses, feelings, and thoughts-desire pours itself into our experiences. Through self-awareness and reflection, we are able to open our heart’s deepest secrets in order to allow our desire to become creative and to make our lives richer and increasingly meaningful.
If we have the courage to remain open, our desire will give birth to passion. If we are timid and overly careful, our passion will wear the disguise of fear, disparagement, or even envy and resentment. Passion is both a longing for and a feeling of being compelled toward someone or something outside of ourselves. Passion arouses us to action, fills us with enthusiasm, and overcomes the fear of suffering in the pursuit of our desire. So, it is easy to see that desire and longing go together like identical twins. And in many cases, the object of our fierce desire may also be reflecting a secret yearning for something unrealized deep within our own makeup.
Spiritual growth and individuation are fueled by longings for love, safety, peace, wholeness, and meaning. And the more we are open to pursuing the journey that these longings can initiate, the more we can discover not only the increasing strength of our desire, passion, and creativity but also how much more we become engaged in our lives.
Book Excerpts and Resources
, authenticity, being human, Carl Jung, healthy personality, Jungian psychology, living authentically