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What does wholeness really mean? Almost every spiritual teaching refers to it, pointing to the fact that each of us is whole at the core, not in need of anything outside ourselves. Of course this is not meant to be taken literally as human beings depend on each other for our very survival – most of us (not all) need others to build our homes, prepare our food, make our clothes. Even going beyond the absolute basics, it can be argued we need others for companionship and support. No man is an island, as the saying goes. We shouldn’t have to live alone. For a great many people, that would be hellish.
Wholeness points to another kind of independence, or perhaps put better as inter-dependence. Many teachings say that there is no separation and that in fact we are each part of the same soul. Put differently, we are each a spark of the Divine so we carry the God-like wholeness within our very being. We are both whole and part of everything and everyone else. We can look to others to supply what we need – food, clothing, emotional support – without losing a sense of our own self, or our own Divinity (if one is so inclined to call it).
Well, in theory anyway.
Painful childhood experiences (or indeed, adult experiences) can derail this whole process (pun intended). It is hard to grow up feeling whole when a child has been neglected, belittled or abused. Their mind will become conditioned into thinking there is something very wrong with them. Not only that, they won’t have received what they need from their parents or other loving adults to be capable of growing into a psychologically healthy adult. Trauma, not even just the ‘obvious’ kinds such as abuse, can fragment a child’s sense of self, causing them to grow up emotionally dependent on other people and unable to gain a sense of their own self – known as co-dependence.
This is why I love Carl Jung. He stated that integration is necessary for one to achieve individuation (which to him was about fulfilling one’s potential, which can also be viewed as a connection to the Divine within). Wholeness means acknowledging the painful parts of themselves, not ignoring or denying them. It doesn’t have to mean loving or even liking them, but accepting they are there and part of the whole process.
Some may call the soul the part of us that is truly whole and the mind as the flawed ego. But I feel a little uncomfortable with this. I prefer to see the soul and the mind as working in tandem. The mind, when opening to something outside of itself, can learn to serve the soul’s agenda, but the mind is not wrong. It is doing the absolute best it can considering its experiences. It’s possible to accept those parts of us that block us from being open to something more – the spark of Divinity that we are. It’s an in depth process, as I know myself. I’m not sure it ever stops. It means being aware of the aspects of our personality that we consider less than perfect – the desperate neediness, the controlling behaviour, the jealousy – and trying to accept and understand them as being part of where we are on this journey while always holding onto our potential. That’s how I have come to see it.
Wholeness, then, for me is about love. It’s all about love. Loving oneself, loving others without getting lost in them, accepting and learning to love even the parts of ourselves that take us far from the feelings and behaviours that we wish we had; learning to integrate it all like a beautiful radiant kaleidoscope of Divine colour. Everything is truly Divine; there is nothing else.