Esther Harding: Change

“We cannot change anyone else; we can change only ourselves, and then usually only when the elements that are in need of reform have become conscious through their reflection in someone else.” —M. Esther Harding in The ‘I’ and the ‘Not-I’: A Study in the Development of Consciousness at

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Esther Harding was a British American who is considered to be the first significant Jungian Analyst to practice in this country. Her first book, The Way of All Women (1975), was one of the first books I read in my early days of seeking to connect to a feminine spirituality.

President Jimmy Carter wrote recently about getting to the place where we can give thanks for our difficulties. That is almost impossible; but I can see his reasoning a little more clearly in Esther Harding’s writings. We wear our character defects and self-centeredness like an old bathrobe that is ugly and tattered, but comfortable and a known entity. Our habitual manner of life has become our familiar identity. We can only recognize these defects and behavior patterns in others, as we are repulsed by them—and finally identify them as our own. Our behavior and reaction to the world is what is keeping us from our connection to God.

I continually am amazed how God uses everything, everything to bring us back to God’s love, to connect us to the God within us and within our neighbor. We find out what is blocking us from God’s love by first seeing the barriers in someone else and realizing how unbeautiful they are.

At some point, when the time is right, I can share Harding’s insights with spiritual friends who also are suffering. I, as well, have spiritual friends who listen to me when suffering brings awareness that opens up a crack of light into my own life.