The adage "be the bigger person" is a familiar phrase heard during one's upbringing and adulthood, suggesting that when faced with others' wrongdoings, the onus of forgiveness should fall upon the more mature or experienced individual. The underlying rationale behind this counsel is often the anticipation that the wrongdoer will neither assume responsibility nor extend an apology, thus making it suitable for the offended party to bear the responsibility of forgiveness. While this counsel is widely perceived as virtuous and generous, it necessitates an examination of its implications, mainly concerning personal boundaries, emotional well-being, and relationship dynamics. The complexity of forgiveness lies in its intricate interplay between the moral imperative to grant clemency and the challenge of reconciling the desire for justice and accountability with the innate human capacity for empathy and compassion. It encapsulates the multifaceted nature of human relationships and the delicate balance required to navigate the intricate terrain of reconciliation.
The Psychological Impact of "Being the Bigger Person"
The conditioning to consistently "be the bigger person" can have profound psychological implications. The advice to forgive and forget without expecting accountability can erode one's ability to establish and maintain healthy boundaries. According to psychologists such as Nina W. Brown (2007), personal boundaries are crucial for preserving one's sense of self and well-being. When constantly urged to forgive without apologies, individuals may feel invisible and question the validity of their thoughts and emotions. The belief that their feelings are not necessary or relevant can lead to a sense of disempowerment and reduced self-esteem (Burkard & Knox, 2004).
The Mother Archetype
One of Carl Jung's archetypes that can be closely related to the theme of "being the bigger person" is the Caregiver or Mother figure archetype. The Mother archetype embodies a nurturing and compassionate persona, often associated with the maternal instinct. Individuals embodying this archetype tend to prioritise the well-being and emotional needs of others, sometimes at the expense of their own. They take on the role of forgiving and accommodating, aligning with their desire to provide comfort and support. However, if overemphasised, the Mother archetype can reinforce the notion of always forgiving without expecting accountability, which may contribute to the challenges discussed earlier, such as suppressed emotions, boundary erosion, and a potential cycle of transgressions. Recognising and balancing this archetype with other aspects of one's personality is essential for maintaining healthy relationships and personal well-being.
The Burden of Suppressed Emotions
Implicit in the directive to "be the bigger person" is the expectation that, even when rightfully aggrieved, one should suppress their own emotions to maintain harmony. This emotional suppression can be detrimental as it fosters an environment where an individual's emotional needs and boundaries are frequently overlooked. It compels individuals to accommodate the feelings and sensitivities of others at the cost of their emotional well-being. The psychological toll of this continuous emotional subjugation can manifest as stress, anxiety, and a heightened risk of burnout (Gross, 2002). Over time, this can lead to strained relationships and a diminished sense of self-worth (Thompson, 2019).
Testing Boundaries and the Unintended Consequences
"Being the bigger person" is often invoked when one party is aware of their innocence and hopes to reconcile with the wrongdoer. While this gesture may be perceived as a demonstration of maturity, it can also serve as an opportunity for others to test an individual's boundaries. When an individual consistently forgives without expecting accountability or change, they may inadvertently communicate that certain behaviours are tolerable, encouraging their repetition. This can lead to a cycle of transgressions and forgiveness that ultimately erodes trust and respect in the relationship (Waldron, 2016). The person repeatedly forgiving may become increasingly alienated, feeling their willingness to forgive is taken for granted.
The Power of Choice
Ultimately, the decision to "be the bigger person" remains a personal choice. While it can be empowering to stand up for oneself and assert boundaries, recognising that forgiveness does not necessitate an ongoing relationship with someone who has caused harm or distress is essential. The commendability of overlooking another person's poor behaviour is subjective, and it is crucial for individuals to acknowledge their right to determine the course of their relationships (Freedman, 2007). This perspective empowers individuals to make decisions that are aligned with their well-being and values.
The famous adage "Be the bigger person" underscores the societal expectation of forgiveness in the face of wrongdoings, especially when an apology is unlikely. While this advice may appear virtuous, it can have unintended consequences. Continuous forgiveness without accountability can undermine personal boundaries, lead to the suppression of one's emotions, and inadvertently encourage the violation of boundaries. In the pursuit of harmonious relationships, individuals should recognise their agency to choose whether to forgive or maintain relationships with those who have caused harm. Being the bigger person is a choice, and its commendability varies depending on the context and the individual's well-being.
Brown, N. W. (2007). Children of the Self-Absorbed: A Grown-Up's Guide to Getting over Narcissistic Parents. New Harbinger Publications.
Burkard, A. W., & Knox, S. (2004). Effects of Differentiation of Self on College Students' Relationship Boundaries. The American Journal of Family Therapy, 32(5), 373-388.
Freedman, S. R. (2007). The Morality of Forgiveness. Philosophy, 82(4), 499-527.
Gross, J. J. (2002). Emotion Regulation: Affective, Cognitive, and Social Consequences. Psychophysiology, 39(3), 281-291.
Shoemaker, L. (2019). Jungian Psychology and Its Significance in the Modern World. Routledge.
Thompson, R. A. (2019). Emotion Regulation: A Theme in Search of Definition. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 84(2), 73-90.
Waldron, M. A. (2016). The Concept of Forgiveness in Psychotherapy: Clinical Applications. Taylor & Francis.
Individuation is a term first introduced by psychoanalyst Carl Jung to describe the therapeutic process of finding one's true self in order to obtain inner peace and satisfaction. It is a process considered to be essential in uncovering an individual's unique potential, essence, and identity. It is an inner journey of exploration and discovery, a pilgrimage of the soul.
The significance of the process of individuation lies in how it enables the individual to embrace their true self and more fully understand the purpose in their life. Jung argued that individuation is reaching a place where an individual is known to themselves. This is attained through acknowledging and accepting one’s conscience as well as their unconscious desires and emotions. Therefore, with individuation, the process of understanding and resolving mental or emotional disorders such as depression, anxiety, and trauma is enabled.
The process of individuation also involves exploring the balanced equation of conscious and unconscious activities. It is about integrating the conscious and the unconscious to create a balanced individual. This also involves rational and irrational thinking and conscious and unconscious drive systems such as sexuality and aggression. Cultivation from these states requires refining the deep understanding of the person’s inner self, which is necessary for greater application into the external environment.
Individuation also relies heavily on the analysis of the interplay between both personal and collective aspects that make up one’s identity. Developing individuality and understanding the psychological influences of the environment allows the recognition of one’s true place in life and understanding their purpose on a deeper level. In addition, analytical practices aid in recognising unconscious individual predispositions as they interact with societal roles. This further allows a more informed and personalised approach to one’s existence in internal and external affairs.
Overall, the significance of the process of individuation is that it helps create an understanding of the individual’s position in life. By embracing the individual’s strengths, weaknesses, desires and conflicts, a sense of inner peace and satisfaction is achieved, and the individual’s true potential is realised. Rather, It is about fully understanding the personality, the self and unconscious beliefs so that the person can find the
The relationship between post-traumatic growth and Jung's idea of individuation has been explored by many modern psychologists. Jung's individuation process involves personal growth and self-realisation, which involves becoming aware of one's identity, purpose and potential. Additionally, it involves integrating the conscious and unconscious parts of the self. The link between the two areas can be further elucidated by comparing Jung's and contemporary psychologists' views on post-traumatic growth.
Jung believed it was essential to explore the depths of the unconscious to achieve true self-knowledge. He argued that the deepest layers of the psyche, what he called the "shadow," held important secrets about ourselves. To achieve individuation, Jung proposed that we must make a conscious effort to embrace the shadow and allow its lessons to be integrated with the conscious part of the self. This is a process of turning the unknown into the known.
The concept of post-traumatic growth appears to validate this notion. Research has shown that individuals who have experienced a traumatic event, such as the death of a loved one or a natural disaster, often build a new perspective on life, a greater appreciation of relationships and a higher purpose in life. Furthermore, these individuals often experience shifts in core values and an adjustment in how they view the world. In many ways, this sounds reminiscent of Jung’s idea of self-realisation.
A growing body of research on post-traumatic growth backs up this comparison. For instance, studies have shown that individuals who experience post-traumatic growth often assess their values and strengths more optimistically. This is a kind of self-discovery in which a person finds the strength to overcome adversity and utilise it for his benefit. This mirrors the pivotal Jungian view that embracing the darkness of the shadow will lead to growth and a better understanding of the self. Moreover, it has been suggested that such self-discovery can lead to increased empathy and benevolence in both the individual and society.
From my perspective, it is clear that post-traumatic growth is closely related to Jung's individuation process.
Most people are unconscious of the inner child and how it affects their lives. The inner child is the part of us that is wounded and needs healing. It is the part of us that feels voiceless, powerless, and alone. When we have unresolved issues from childhood, they can lead to unhealthy patterns in our adult lives. Fortunately, there is a way to heal the wounds of the past and that is through inner child work.
Inner child work can be done in many ways, but the most important thing is to be gentle with yourself. This type of work can emotionally trigger memories that you may have forgotten. It is important to go at your own pace and not to force anything. The goal is to gradually begin to heal the wounds of the past so that you can live a more fulfilling life in the present. One way to start inner child work is to journal about your childhood. To elaborate, write about the difficult and positive periods of your life, which entails relationships with your parents and siblings, fears, and aspirations. This is a way to begin to connect with your inner child and to start to understand and identify its needs.
Another way to do inner child work is to imagine yourself as a child. Visualise yourself in different situations and imagine what you would say or do. This is a way to start to give voice to your inner child. Nevertheless, inner child work can be difficult but beneficial, especially, when you are able to heal the wounds of your past. Lastly, internal work will lead to living a more authentic, joyful, and peaceful life.
How can I do inner child work?
There are many ways to go about doing inner child work. Some people prefer to journal, others to use visualisation, and still, others to use various forms of art. Ultimately, the best way to do inner child work is what feels right for you.
If you're not sure where to start, here are a few ideas:
The benefits of doing inner child work are many. Some of the most common benefits include:
In Analytical Psychology, emphasis on contrasting elements is often made because they argue that opposing elements are the fundamental structures of our psyche. Additionally, Jung himself emphasised that life often is born due to the existence of opposites. Besides, contrasting elements are required to develop conflict and tension for energy production to generate dynamism and momentum. The individuation process depends on the tension developed by contrasting and complementary relationships; these elements often emerge to contribute to integration and greater psychic balance. To elaborate, the integration process is mainly meant to combat one-sidedness or dominant unhealthy psychological attitudes. Hence, the psyche can move from disequilibrium to equilibrium through compensation and a balance of contrasts.
The main reason for mentioning opposing elements or contrasts is to develop a greater level of appreciation. To elaborate, when our lives are continuously filled with success, achievements, love or positives, we often take things for granted. Last of all, becoming conscious of these factors might lead to a more comprehensive understanding of one’s circumstances and the lessons demanding to be learned to avoid repeating the same patterns.
There are two different types of psycho-physiological states that often influence our ability to sustain change or improve our learning processes. Additionally, these psycho-physiological states are often referred to as PEA (Positive emotional attractor) and NEA (Negative emotional attractor). The two emotional attractors influence our thought patterns, feelings, and behaviours. Besides, these two psycho-physiological states comprise different psychological, emotional, neurological, and physiological traits. The positive emotional attractor activates the parasympathetic nervous system and beneficial cognitive and physiological responses, cultivating and improving optimism, motivation, resilience, thinking, creativity, adaptive behaviour, and effort. On the other hand, the negative emotional attractor activates the sympathetic nervous system, evokes fear and anxiety, and further fuels negative thought patterns, leading to pessimism, catastrophising, and cognitive distortion. Hence, our capacity to learn or sustain change significantly decreases when our sympathetic nervous system is activated, making us less physically capable of developing, learning, or improving our behaviour for more benefit.
As mentioned in the previous paragraph, the positive emotional attractor activates the parasympathetic nervous system and leads to a physiological response that invokes relaxation and receptivity. As a result of entering the parasympathetic nervous system, new neural pathways develop in the brain and contribute to enhancing learning and sustaining behavioural change. On the other hand, there must be a balance between the negative and positive emotional attractors because both are required for growth and self-development. However, a balance between the amount of time used in each state is needed to promote growth, and the context is equally vital for the effectiveness. The positive emotional attractor can often help an individual become receptive to seeking out possibilities and feel excited to change an aspect of their life, influencing how consistent they can be with the new habit or change.
The most significant aspect of change is staying consistent with the new habit or behaviour. Additionally, the majority often struggle with consistency more than any other aspect of changing their behaviour or habits. Hence, the question becomes how an individual might maintain a level of consistent action or behaviour, which is connected to the balance between being in the positive and negative emotional attractor. To sustain a change or develop a more lucrative learning process, it is recommended that individual experiences the positive emotional attractor approximately two to five times more frequently than the negative emotional attractor. As a result of the positive experience, the parasympathetic nervous system is activated, and new neural pathways are easier to develop to sustain behavioural changes.
1. Ideal Self
3. Experience PEA deliberately and more frequently
For most of our lives, we often perform the same tasks daily or more frequently. Hence, several often feel stagnant, stuck, or bored because they have to perform the same task daily, which often can be perceived as repetitive or boring. On the other hand, if we want to improve our skills, abilities, etc., we must perform tasks frequently and repetitively. On the other hand, deliberate practice is required if we desire to improve our lives and requires delayed gratification. Deliberate practice often refers to a practice that is often executed systematically and intentionally, which is often conducted to improve one’s performance. Additionally, deliberate practice requires a continuous and repetitive practice of behaviour, action, etc.
Due to the repetition, people often end up feeling either confused, lost, bored, or hopeless. On the other hand, Carl Jung observed a ubiquitous pattern among all, especially during periods of development. The ubiquitous pattern Jung observed was that during a developing phase, improvement often emerges gradually and often is a cyclic pattern or a spiral upwards. Hence, the developing phase can often be perceived as an endless circle, but in reality, the individual is gradually moving up the spiral. To conclude, despite returning to the same place, we are moving further up the spiral.
Most of the behaviour we exhibit in adulthood is often a result of behavioural adaption, and we often tend to adapt to retain a sense of belonging. Additionally, the improved behaviour often is connected with a fear of being excluded from one’s community, which would most likely leave the individual to themselves. As a result of the exclusion, the individual would have to survive on their own, which decreases their survivability immensely. The argument I will attempt to make is that behavioural adaption might cause feelings of inadequacies, which most individuals struggle with daily.
According to Winnicott (1996), the false Self is often further developed when the environment surrounding an individual is non-accepting or excessively demanding, which leads the individual to suppress their authentic feelings and personality. On the other hand, the true Self can be described as the full potential of an individual’s personality but is mainly allowed to develop in a caring and supportive environment. Additionally, if an individual continuously experiences a hostile or non-conforming environment, feelings of inadequacies and false Self continue to develop. The consequence of a highly developed false Self is often a lack of authenticity, which the majority often describes as numbness, apathy, or lack of aliveness. Besides, the false Self is often constructed by identifications with the external figures in their environment and often attempts to present itself as polite and well-mannered.
The false Self is not entirely harmful, and it has to be developed in order to function in daily living. On the other hand, if an individual’s case is at an extreme identification with the false Self, often the individual perceives it to be genuine, which can have severe ramifications. The leading cause behind the development of a false Self is often based on defences to protect and hide the true Self, often due to an experience of being unaccepted by one’s environment. As a result, the individual attempts to develop a false Self to receive the affection they require or desire. The main issue is that the false Self continues to develop and can lead to the destruction of the complete Self, and is mainly caused due to an inability to express their true Self (Winnicott, 1996). In other words, an individual who has experienced an environment that has continuously rejected their attempts to express their complete personality might exhibit suicidal behaviour or attempt suicide.
The suicidal behaviour or attempts at suicide are mainly noticeable in severe cases, and the individual might unconsciously believe there are limited options. Besides, the destruction of the complete Self is often organised by the false Self to avoid obliteration of the true Self. Besides, the destruction of the complete Self also entails the annihilation of both the false and authentic Self. However, suicidal attempts are often believed to be the only method to prevent the continued existence of the false Self and might be due to a failure to protect the true Self from insult (Winnicott, 1996). In other words, if an individual continuously experiences rejection from their environment when they attempt to express themselves genuinely, they will most likely develop an ingenuine personality that can lead to self-harm.
The development of the false self is often due to the environment being unable to adapt to the individual, which often leads to individual adjustment. On the other hand, these continuous behaviour adaptions might lead to the individual experiencing feelings of inadequacy due to extreme encounters with rejection when attempting to express themselves authentically. Additionally, the individual might perceive that they are only accepted, cared for, supported, and loved when they behave in a specific manner that might have gained their environment’s approval. However, the experience of being cared for or supported when behaving in a specific manner might lead to severe feelings of inadequacies or, eventually, mental illnesses.
The issue with experiencing approval, support, affection, or love only when we behave acceptably is that we are forced to identify with the persona, which is not entirely negative and has benefits in operating in social settings. Nevertheless, an over-emphasis on the development of the persona often leaves us with a lack of acceptance, affection, and love for ourselves. Hence, we learn that the only aspect of us worthy of love is the persona, and we forget that love is not supposed to be conditional or limited to specifics. On the other hand, love is supposed to be unconditional and should especially be experienced when we demonstrate other aspects of our personality or Self. Hence, an increase in self-acceptance might lead us to develop a more authentic Self, which can help combat feelings of inadequacies but, most importantly, aliveness.
Last of all, we are supposed to experience affection, support, and love for the aspects we might consider faulty or inadequate. For example, suppose an individual is challenged by some mental disorder, physical disorder, or self-esteem issues. In that case, they should be taught to increase their level of self-acceptance, which might combat a continuous need for external validation through rigorous self-development. Hence, the individual might develop a capacity for self-compassion but simultaneously be capable of providing some of the support, affection, and love they might desire.
Winnicott, D.W. (1990). The Maturational Processes and the Facilitating Environment: Studies in the Theory of Emotional Development. London: Routledge.
Over the past couple of years, the majority of life’s chores have been perceived as an obligation and often led to negative associations with tasks that had to be executed. Consequently, I noticed that we often feel insanely discouraged to perform mundane tasks and that these tasks lead to some individuals' negative emotional states. The bitter truth is that life is mainly filled with tedious incremental tasks, and often these tasks are necessary for our wellbeing. For example, doing laundry, taxes, or even working out are tasks that need to be performed, but our perception often dictates our emotional state. On the other hand, if we choose a negative perception that emphasises more on the burdens, which leads to perceiving the task as a chore or something an individual has to do. Hence, we often tend to enter a negative thought spiral that further decreases our emotional state.
The other choice when performing these mundane tasks is to remind ourselves that we get to do them. Besides, the change in perspective might lead to a more positive spiral of thought and might even help us perform these tedious tasks more efficiently or increase our mood. In other words, I am proposing that we shift our focus from perceiving duties or tasks as obligations that must be performed; instead, we should perceive these tasks as opportunities. The change of perspective might be challenging at the beginning but often improves our emotional state, which I can oblige to because of the results in my emotional state after a shift of perspective. Lastly, the shift of perspective will require continuous effort, awareness, and practice.
How to change your perspective
The new age community often promotes the idea of synchronicity but often forgets that it operates alongside the law of causality. Mainly, our lives are governed by the law of cause and effect, which is simply an emphasise that every change or outcome is a consequence of an action, behaviour, or has a cause. Besides, these changes or outcomes often originate from some comprehendible and traceable source. On the other hand, the concept of synchronicity refers to two acausal events emerging simultaneously and often significantly impacts an individual's psychic state. Specifically, synchronicity often challenges or ruptures an individual's frequent thought patterns, which often leads to a more comprehensive perspective being developed.
Synchronicity originally came after Jung's fascination with a book from ancient Chinese civilisation called the I-Ching or Book of Changes. The I-Ching was and is still used during different types of divination. Divination can be described as practices that might allow insights or predict future events and often reveal hidden or forgotten knowledge to support someone's progress on their journey. On the other hand, the I-Ching is often used to guide people to live more ethical lives, which is often forgotten in the current new age community. The I-Ching has been an essential guide for several millennials and often advocates that each aspect of reality is intertwined and continuously influencing each other. As a result, every state and 'thing' is perceived as in constant change and growth. Besides, the ancient Chinese proposed that each aspect of reality was governed by masculine and feminine elements, which are continuously fluctuating. Lastly, these elements are also known as Yin and Yang and can be found in several other books, texts, etc.
As mentioned in the previous paragraph, Jung developed a fascination for the I-Ching and frequently experienced external events that matched his psychological state or inner world. Additionally, these events emerged even more frequently, which led him to develop the idea of synchronicity. Hence, Jung proposed that these acausal events or meaningful coincidences continuously occur. On the other hand, synchronicity might contribute to combating extreme scientific rationalism and creates a space for other phenomenological ideas. Besides, synchronicity might be a holistic concept that considers an individual's level of consciousness and internal world alongside external events. As a result, these events rupture an individual's habitual thinking and help the individual gain a more comprehensive perspective on themselves and the world.
Based on personal experience, synchronicity often emerges when masculine and feminine elements are engaged in a process that requires correct actions, behaviour, thinking, etc. Mainly, I have learned that coherence should be a priority if one desires a life of grace and simplicity, which is often impossible due to our hectic modern lives. In order to experience synchronicity, one has to engage both in the internal and external world, and mainly it is complementary to the law of cause and effect. In other words, we have to engage in the external world and take appropriate actions, which Jung has emphasised several times. Additionally, I propose that synchronicities often function as transcendent functions, contributing to uniting opposing elements to acquire greater psychic balance. Transcendent functions often emerge to support an individual transition from one psychic state to a more comprehensive state and are executed through a mutual confrontation of opposing elements. Lastly, Jung also emphasised that the individual has to engage in both worlds to experience such events or transitions, and if someone is either excessively inactive or irresponsible, they will never experience these events.