When Dr. Phyllis Meadow, one of the founding members of Modern Psychoanalysis, was asked in an interview about who should try psychoanalysis her answer was, “Anyone who is willing to look inside.” It might be one of the biggest challenges a man can face, that is to look inside of himself and face whatever is there waiting to be faced and re-discovered (there is nothing about us to learn since it was always already known once consciously) The forces of repression can be very strong. Feelings and memories can be pushed out of conscious memory but yet have a big impact in our daily lives. Or there may be there in our conscious mind but we choose to deny their existence. In the service of emotional survival, man brings forward his primitive, infantile defences.
I’ve often been asked whether it’s best to know yourself or remain in the dark. I always bring in mind the story with the cave prisoners in Plato’s Allegory of the Cave where people are chained in a cave unable to see anything apart from the deformed shadows of objects and people passing outside the cave. For them that was all there was to know. When one of the prisoners managed to freed he got out of the cave but the light burned his eyes. As the pain eased he saw the world as it was. He run back to the cave to inform the chained prisoners about what he saw. That brought the aggressive reaction to the others and they even threatened to kill the next person who tries to throw such “burning” light to their eyes.
So to go back to the question about what’s best, to know or not to know, I leave it on to you. Personally, my years of training and personal psychoanalysis brought me to an emotional understanding that helped me to resolve my major issues and move forward to live a more mature and more fulfilling life.
I hear people saying that they know who they are but actually have no idea who they really are and why they are doing what they are doing. Getting to know ourselves is not easy, it can be very scary, but the benefits can be life changing. At the end of the day, the decision on how we want to live with ourselves is a personal decision and should be respected by others who may take a different stance in life. In my case, however, when it comes to the decision on how deep or superficial I like to live my life, I follow a quote by Carl Jung: “Your visions become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.”