The Meaning of Life (Wants to be) Revealed!

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.

Symbolism:

  • 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.

2. STORIES

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.” 

~Joanna Hunter 

Discovering Self Through Stories

Archetypes offer unique windows to our Soul

(~ 2 minute read)DT-GameOfThrones- free reuse Flykr

Archetypal psychology carries with it an approach to life that values the development of the individual soul. There are times when it is developmentally appropriate for people to be self-centered, materialistic, independent, or a warrior. We help people best by honoring the lessons they can gain from each state. Stories and folklore assist in our developmental tasks – using archetypal characters – by helping us make meaning of our lives.

As I’ve discussed in previous articles, both Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell encourage us to discover our purpose in life – or to glean meaning – through the archetypes which are revealed to us in the stories we hear; the novels we read; in our dreams; and the shows that we watch. These two great thinkers suggest that human beings are biologically hardwired to understand the symbolism and expression of character archetypes. These archetypes are consistencies observed throughout the world and all times, providing meaning to otherwise individual experience. We recognize them, and we understand them.

Our reactions to the characters in these mythical dramas offer unique windows to our soul, and a chance to work with the “Shadow” side of our psyche.

Are you willing to tune in to aspects of the self that are ready to be discovered?

I’m a big fan of Game Of Thrones, for example. I typically avoid exposure to violent content – I don’t want to ‘adapt’ or accept violence in my life. But in Game Of Thrones, there is so much more. Every major archetype is explored and exposed in this drama series. There are righteous Kings, wicked Kings, altruistic Kings, and immature Kings. There are old Wise Ones, young Wise Ones, budding Wise Ones. There are Martyrs, Lovers, Jesters, Warriors and Innocents. And many more.

One of my favorite characters is Daenerys Targaryen, the young, wise Queen of Dragons, and the woman who wants to rule the seven kingdoms.

The word ‘hero’ is derived from the Greek word hērōs, which means something along the lines of ‘warrior’ and ‘defender.’  A hero is someone who is ready to sacrifice to protect the greater good.  In fact, the Hero must sacrifice in order to transform herself and the world she is attempting to save, for “the mythological hero is the champion, not of things, but of things becoming.” (Joseph Campbell)

The female hero can fit into the traditional Hero’s Journey—we prove that Daenerys’ experiences match up quite nicely here—but the lack of ancient questing female hero myths forces us to construct our archetype more from the old idea of the great goddesses. Joseph Campbell recognized this necessity.

Daenerys Targaryen and her Heroes Journey

The Hero archetype isn’t just born. They evolve through other archetypal stages. The Hero’s journey, like all journeys, begins with Innocence. The achievement at this stage is the ability to gain others’ trust and optimism because of their endearing innocence.

The next stage is the Orphan. Daenerys has no desire to join her brother’s wish for power after her parents died. But the orphan wishes to regain safety, away from King Robert’s assassins, yet they also don’t want to be exploited. Though her path was thrust upon her, she found her protector in Khal Drogo, the leader of 40,000 Dothraki warriors, in return for the use of his warriors in invading Westeros. She also eliminated her exploiter (her brother).

But when she succumbed to her destiny, she discovered her own Warrior spirit. She discovers she is the Queen Of Dragons, and is determined to fight for her new goal – To claim her title of Ruler of the seven kingdoms.

As the Warrior discovers his/her competence and power, the Caregiver emerges, moved by compassion, generosity, and selflessness to help others. She freed slaves!

But the caregiver and rescuing others, in and of themseves, weren’t enough. Daenerys took her responsibilities to the next level, embracing the archetype of the Righteous Ruler – Not the power-hungry, self-centered and entitled type of Ruler. But one who embraces all the prior journey’s wisdom, of caring, of being willing to be a warrior for what is “right”.DT-GameOfThrones-Free reuse

As her journey continues, what other archetypes will emerge? Stay tuned!

What characters do you relate to? What do these characters reveal to you, about your place in your current journey?

Article sources: Awakening The Heroes Within;  Season 1 – Game of Thrones Wiki – Wikia

Revealing the Unconscious Through Art

Do you ever feel overwhelmed but don’t know why? Or feel “odd” but can’t make sense of it?

Try drawing… nothing in particular, just let the pencil move across the page. Then do another page. Try it using your non-dominant hand – crazy… I know.

But it works! Discover what the infamous Carl Jung did –

Ahhh! Calmed and reassured.

 

Finding the SELF through Folklore

books
“Though fairy tales end after ten pages, our lives do not. We are multi-volume sets. In our lives, even though one episode amounts to a crash and burn, there is always another episode awaiting us and then another. There are always more opportunities to get it right, to fashion our lives in the ways we deserve to have them.” ― Clarissa Pinkola Estés

Clarissa Pinkola Estés wrote the bestseller “Women Who Run With the Wolves” , a collection of folktales interpreted from a woman’s perspective, revealing the archetypal wild woman. With her easy-to-grasp writing style of a storyteller, she appeals to women who want to find more meaning in life. Her interpretations help us find such meaning by getting us in touch forgotten qualities, she says, that have been dangerously tamed by a society that preaches the virtue of being “nice.”

Dr. Estes found the wolf-woman parallel while studying wildlife biology.

“Wolves and women are relational by nature: They are inquiring, possessing great endurance and strength. They are deeply intuitive, intensely concerned with their young, their mate and their pack.” She also writes: “Yet both have been hounded, harassed and falsely imputed to be devouring and devious, overly aggressive, of less value than those who are their detractors.” ~ A Savage Creativity

She defines the wild woman archetype not as uncontrolled behavior but as a kind of savage creativity – the instinctual ability to know what tool to use and when to use it.

“All options are available to women,” she said, and adds, “Everything from quiescence to camouflaging to pulling back the ears, baring the teeth and lunging for the throat.”

Women who have always been taught to be nice do not realize they have these options. She said, “When someone tells them to stay in their place, they sit and stay quiet. But when somebody is cornering you, then the only way out is to come out kicking.”

Yet everything about nature is essentially wild, too.

“We need to see and understand that whatever stands behind nature is what God is. Nature is the manifestation. We see things about nature that are beautiful, like the blue sky, and it fills us with almost a prayerful excitement. When I look at it, I feel still. I have seen this sky every day of my life and I am still in awed by it. That is what the wild is – this intense medicinal beauty. To look at it makes you feel whole. To hear it, if it is ocean or water running in a stream, is to feel made whole again. To see a thunderstorm or a lightning storm is to somehow be energized by it. Even tornadoes and earthquakes– to be rocked to your very foundations by the power made in all these things. This wildness is in every human being, so a man or a woman would essentially be no different from one another at the very elemental core.”

Being in touch with the wild woman archetype is also about getting in touch with one’s soul. Dr. Estes says,

“The soul – just as it is – is complete. It is never doubted, it is never lost. The ego may become injured. The spirit may also become injured, but the soul remains, always. I think the soul is incredibly ineffable and you cannot really talk about it. We make pictures and tell stories, but in reality, we are reaching into a dark bag and trying to describe it in a poetic way – because we can never describe, in common words, what it is that we feel and see.

Little Red Riding Hood by Gustave Doré

Little Red Riding Hood by Gustave Doré

Yet we must have the ability, like all poets, to move through different images as we develop an idea to express the soul. And we also could move away from and develop a new idea, the more clarity we have. Jung did it all the time. If you read Jung’s works you will see him constantly contradicting himself because he is developing as he goes along. So whatever metaphors we use, it will be very interesting to see if we still believe them, or if we have not found better ones, in 10 or 20 years.”

We describe life in metaphors. Find more meaning in your life through folklore!

Stay tuned for YOUR next episode!

Article sources: http://www.nytimes.com/1993/02/28/weekinreview/conversations-clarissa-pinkola-estes-message-for-all-women-run-free-wild-like.html and http://www.menweb.org/estesiv.htm

More Posts