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Inner and Outer Peace

Many messages this time of year remind us of the importance of joy and peace. We can clearly envision outer world peace, yet what about inner peace?

From Adult Children of Alcoholics literature comes a list of suggested indicators of inner peace we can be aware of which are present or lacking in our lives.

  • A tendency to think and act spontaneously rather than based on fears of past experiences.
  • An unmistakable ability to enjoy each moment.
  • A loss of interest in judging other people.
  • A loss of interest in interpreting the actions of others.
  • A loss of interest in conflict.
  • A loss of the ability to worry.
  • Frequent, overwhelming times of appreciation.
  • Frequent smiling.
  • Content feelings of connection with others and nature.
  • An increasing tendency to let things happens versus making them happen.
  • An increased susceptibility to receive and extend love.

How do we encourage inner peace? Author Virginia Woolf suggested, “You cannot find peace by avoiding life.” Indeed, when we face what troubles, challenges and triggers us, the opportunity exists to gain a better understanding of who we truly are. When we become aware of what our egos struggle with, we can lessen our psychic trouble and even suffering.

When Jung was facing his inner turmoil, he realized “that the goal of psychic development is the self. … This insight gave me stability, and gradually my inner peace returned.”

Insights are made by exploring our persona (our ‘false self’) – roles and traits which we show the outside world that have been shaped by both familial and societal influences and expectations. Often our personas are very different from whom we truly are on the inside and this discrepancy causes psychic discomfort.

Further insights can be made by noticing our defense mechanisms. These include times when we deny, rationalize and justify our actions. We can also reflect upon the times when our shadow material is activated – when we are drawn into enhanced emotions and judgment of others’ actions.

Developing congruency between our personas and our authentic selves is one of the paths to inner peace. The task is to (as much as possible) match up our outer selves with our inner selves in order to lessen this ego-self gap.

The connection between inner peace and outer peace is explained by Jung: “The [person] at peace with him[/her] self contributes an infinite amount to the universe. Attend to your personal and private conflicts and you will be reducing by one millionth millionth the world conflict.”

What personality trait, defense mechanism or no longer needed thought or belief can you let go of  this season that would increase your inner peace?

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Diane Hancox, MA, CCC provides counselling services to Parksville, Qualicum Beach, Nanaimo and Vancouver Island.