The search for meaning has been a journey for many people over the centuries, and there have been a few who have inspired me. One such person was the Swiss psychiatrist, Carl G. Jung. Jung started off as a follower of Sigmund Freud, and was deemed to be the “crown prince” to carry on Freud’s legacy. It is difficult to explain the complexities of their relationship in a 600 word blog post, but, in the end, they had a famous parting of ways. Jung wanted to explore his own ideas, which went beyond the scope of Freud’s theories. In his later years, Jung moved towards more transpersonal theories which incorporated the spiritual life of human beings. He was able to explain how mankind was capable of transformation and integrating aspects of the individual psyche, as well as the collective psyche, in a conscious and meaningful way. I was introduced to Jung during the first year of my psychotherapy training. His thoughts on psychotherapy, religion, symbolism and culture expanded my mind and broadened my spiritual landscape.
Before he died, Jung wrote a great autobiography on his life called, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, (1963). Here, he reflected back and described his life, and spiritual journey, in great detail. There are many things he wrote about in this book that were meaningful to me, but there is one quote that, to this day, is a guiding star for me on my path. This is what he wrote:
The meaning of my existence is that life has addressed a question to me. Or, conversely, I myself am a question which is addressed to the world, and I must communicate my answer, for otherwise I am dependent upon the world’s answer. That is a suprapersonal life task, which I accomplish only by effort and with difficulty. (pg.350)
This is profound stuff! Jung was one of those people who, even after they pass away, leaves a ripple effect for years to come, and he certainly left an impact on me. Thinking deeply about this quote, I believe he is saying that my life is a quest-ion and it is my responsibility to find the answers for myself. If I do not do this, I will rely on the world, or society, to tell me who I am, what I believe, and how I should live my life. At times, I have relied on the world for answers, not making an effort to find them for myself. Before I started writing this blog I felt like I was in limbo – waiting for something to happen, or to get some sort of direction from a mysterious, external source on the next steps in my life. But, nothing happened. Something inside of me sought expression and then I remembered this quote. I realized that it was down to me to find a way to communicate who I am, and what I want to put out into the world. One of my biggest fears was writing, but at the same time it was what I wanted to do, so I faced my fears and “peeling back an onion” was born. I am still searching for answers (perhaps, I always will), and I can attempt to convey my inner life in the best way I know how.
From time to time, I bring this guidance into the therapy room as I aim to provide the place for my clients to find their own answers for the life they want to live. As Jung reminds us, this is a lifelong task, which takes effort and can be difficult. But, in my experience, the rewards of living a meaningful life outweigh the difficulties to achieve this. I can’t imagine another journey that I would rather be on than the one I am on right now.