The Faustian Bargain as the Path to Wholeness
By Trish Darcy, Jan 1 2017 02:00AM
Throughout our lives we make what is known as the Faustian bargain where we present the acceptable parts of ourselves to the world and conceal the unacceptable parts of ourselves in the shadow. Presenting situations and personal dilemmas in our lives will cause us to re-visit time and again the Faustian bargain in the face of authenticity against that of acceptance, and social inclusion. From minor social situations to choices of conscience and social evolution we will renegotiate the terms and implications of the Faustian bargain in relation to our sense of self and who we really are.
The Faustian bargain is an innate response from the child to sacrifice part of his/her own authentic self in order to be met with approval, love and acceptance by the parental figure. As wounded children themselves the parental figures have repressed parts of themselves into their own shadow which the young child with all their openness and spontaneity can stir and arouse. Unable to defend him/herself from the re-emergence of these uncomfortable shadowy feelings the parental figure will protect him/herself by projecting onto their offspring. This manifests as the judgement and condemnation of their children’s behaviours which in turn manifests as the child’s shadow aspect. Thus the child learns to split him/herself and cast that which is “unacceptable” in the parent’s eyes into his/her own shadow.
As children we attain a sense of who we are by the responses we receive from others. If we are treated in a loving, kind and accepted way we internalise these messages and come to see ourselves and relate to ourselves in the same manner. Later on when we form relationships we come to relate to others in the same way that we were related to. Developing a strong foundation in childhood through the affirmation and support of the significant adults in our lives pushes us forward and outwards into the world allowing us to take the necessary risks that will ensure continued growth and development.
In the absence or lack of embrace as children, adults may struggle to be authentic in relation to the world around them. As a core intrinsic need, the need for embrace and to belong may be far stronger in the face of familial, societal and cultural acceptance than the need to risk and be authentic. The risk to be authentic in whatever subculture or context the person exists may result in experiences of disapproval, rejection, and isolation. Those who do not conform to familial, societal and cultural norms get shunned and shut out, a painful and punitive response to their need to hold authentic voice.
For many it is safer to belong and be accepted as part of the core group than to risk their own authentic voice. We have learned from very early what it means to be accepted and to be shunned, and to risk doing so again may result in a backlash that we have previously witnessed as exclusively for the “other”. However this choice does not come about without a sacrifice. In the meeting and prioritising of this core intrinsic need to be accepted over holding authentic voice the spiritual wholeness of the person can become compromised.
A lack of authentic relationship with oneself can create a spiritual loss experienced as a sense of emptiness within the self. During the individuation process of development we “come into relationship” with those parts of ourselves that have been disowned or split off into shadow. We come to know the uniqueness of our own being that is separate from the collective psychology of family, culture and society.
Our psyches are influenced and developed in the context of family, religion, politics, society and culture. As adults moving through the individuation process we begin to hand back those voices that are not inherently true or indeed or own. We become witnesses to our personal psychology and begin to relate to those parts of us that were previously cast off into the shadow. At the same time we begin to cast off the parts of the collective psychology that formed part of the beliefs, values and myths that were accepted by the collective as “truth”. A personal truth thus emerges that is far stronger and more valid than the collective myth that perpetuated the presenting culture.
To be whole therefore is to reconcile those fragmented parts of the personality that have not been taken into account. A whole person is someone who has integrated their woundedness into their psyches and comes into relationship with those repressed parts of themselves. For all people this involves diving deep into the personal shadow and working through past hurts, traumas or parts of the self that have been shunned or split off. The road to wholeness is a return journey marked with integrating and segregating all at once. It is an arduous journey where we revisit the Faustian bargains we have made throughout our lives, where we move through our own self-denials and self-betrayal to integrate those valid parts that we have lost connection with and segregate out those untruths which we previously accepted.