Throughout time, people have wondered what life is about — is it all meaningless? Am I here to learn certain things? To resist certain things?
Regardless of what we believe about our place in the universe, it appears to be our nature to search for meaning.
And I believe there are patterns in our lives that imply we have lessons to learn during our lifetime.
We may ask ourselves: Why?…
Why do I keep getting into abusive relationships?
Why do I often feel like a victim?
Why can’t I relax in the moment with friends?
Why do people see me as unapproachable?
A HERO’S JOURNEY
Carl Jung, Joseph Campbell and other scholars have placed a lot of emphasis on the unconscious mind— the parts of ourselves that we know little about — yet an essential part of mind, as it controls much of our interpretation or experience of life. These wise men emphasize the need to do whatever it takes to make as much of the unconscious conscious in order to live a full, meaningful, authentic life.
So how can we make the unconscious more conscious?
As we journey through our lives, we can learn to interpret our experiences by understanding archetypal characters, looking for symbolism in our dreams, and becoming curious about the characters we relate to in stories.
1. DREAM INTERPRETATION
One avenue of discovery is focusing on our dreams, both day and night, and looking for clues in the symbolism. Keeping a Dream Journal, that is, waking and quickly writing down what we recall from a dream, can be a rich clue for unraveling our personal lessons for living a meaningful life. Accuracy isn’t important — it turns out that the words we choose become the clues to the unconscious mind.
EXAMPLE — I HAD A DREAM … where I had a set of keys that seemed very important, yet I fumbled and dropped them down a storm drain. My oldest brother had to help me retrieve them.
- OLDEST BROTHER, for me, represented maturity, authority, intelligence and wisdom.
- KEYS represented my responsibility to take care of something important.
- NEEDING HELP reminded me that, although awkward, it was ok to seek the wisdom of someone wiser than me.
I think another avenue to self-discovery is in reading literature and/or watching shows. The unconscious seems to only be available through indirect means: a kind of charade; or archetypal imagery; metaphor and/or symbolism.
A good novel reaches around our ego defenses and potentially reveals to us the next step in our developmental journey. We identify with particular characters, abhor others, and may be attracted to others still. When we have an emotional responses to a character’s experiences, we grow ourselves without even trying. Unconsciously we have discovered an archetype just waiting to be given a voice. Music, poetry, even astrology, coincidence and tea leaves can lead to similar self-discovery!
Each is a potential window into our deepest parts of being.
- EXAMPLE –– I love the story of “Alice In Wonderland“. I even love the
White Rabbit” song by “Jefferson Airplane”. Without being able to properly understand why I was so touched by the story, I was later able to recognize that it reflected some of my core values:
- be curious.
- Question the “rules”.
- And enjoy the journey — no matter how strange.
3. Getting FEEDBACK
Another avenue to getting to the root of our purpose in life is to be open to feedback from others. As risky as this may feel, asking others about what they think of us can be revealing. The key is having a desire to really know who you are.
“Life is about floating on the seas of turbulence, drifting on the eddies and currents, flowing, and along the way, learning: whatever that may look like for each of us currently experiencing a mortal life.”