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  • Writer's pictureMaj-Britt Johnson

A House is a Self

Updated: Jun 17, 2019

The psychologist Carl Jung taught that a home, in a dream, is a symbol of the self. He believed that a physical house represents the self as well. Jung spent more than thirty years building his castle-like home in Switzerland, a place full of towers and annexes that he claimed represented aspects of his psyche.

How cool to be able to be able to simply add on and on to a house as the spirit moves you. Jung was certainly an example of how to "age in place," creatively. As well as how to explore the formation of a self through the formation of a house.

I could never be like Jung, staying in one place to "find myself." I've moved a lot. I used to be embarrassed about how many times I'd moved. I was never ashamed about the number of early moves, I had no power over those first eleven transitions. It was the succession of moves that came after I left home at seventeen (far exceeding eleven) and was on my own, and had only myself to blame, that made me wonder about my self. All of my three siblings pretty much stayed put after they left home, and had found a partner. Not me. My mother used to joke that she had to buy a whole new address book every year just for me (An exaggeration, Mom!)

Having studied Jung in college, I suppose I was worried what it might say about my psyche to have had so many addresses. If a house is a self, I've had one hell of a lot of selves.

But I'm no longer worried. There's a side of me (the side that assumes geographical stability equals self-worth) that thinks I should have stayed put after college and allowed my roots to sink deep. The rest of me is grateful that I have dug deep and planted roots all over the country, and in a couple of other countries too. Over time those roots have joined up with each other, underground, the way tree roots do, which makes me feel deeply inter-connected. To the planet, and to my fellow travelers on it.

Truth is, I enjoy the search for a house, and I enjoy the search for a self. Who really knows their own self anyway? Or even what the self is? The Buddhists say there is no permanent, abiding self. That the self is always shifting and changing and re-forming. If a house is a symbol of the self, then my journey is certainly a testament to the wisdom of the Buddhists.

You know that dream where you're wandering around a house that looks like your own, but suddenly you come upon a room, and then another, and that leads to yet another? A whole succession of rooms you never knew were there before. If a house is like a self, then our unconscious (and doesn't the spirit, the Great Mystery, emerge out of that wonderful, dark, infinite storehouse) is telling us there are lots of surprises within us. It's telling us there is always more to find out about ourselves. That we don't know our whole selves and never will. That there are always plenty more rooms to explore.

We don't have to move to a new house to be on the journey of formation, of course. But, if you're on this website you might be about to search for a new home. That's a powerful pilgrimage trail for your self to be on. One to be treated with self-respect and love. May the Spirit-in-life be with you.

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