DRAWING YOUR OWN MAPS

Part 2 of 3

Neil wrote:

”This is a recipe for inner dis-ease. And disguising that dis-ease from others and even from ourselves becomes our objective. We desperately try to project an image that all is well, we can manage, we are a success (as we well may be), we have a great social life and scads of friends. And if these external accomplishments do not anaesthetize the inner pain for long (which they don’t) well some of us try a quicker method, chemicals of some sort. A double martini or a snort of coke will deaden our dis-ease a lot faster than making a successful speech or writing an acclaimed article. But whether its alcohol or drugs or success we are all, in a sense, addicts, trying to fill a spiritual hole with a material reality.

Which brings us back to maps. At the core of the problem is an instinctive sense that we are not being true to ourselves, that we are not living out of our own natural bent, not, in the words of Joseph Campbell, «following our bliss». Instead our lives are still governed by external expectations, by maps drawn by other people. To be specific, think of the tortuous journey of a man who really wants to be a writer but instead has become a priest. Or a woman who wants to be an artist and finds herself doing a doctorate in bioethics because that’s what she thought her father, an eminent doctor, wanted her to do. I think the word hypocrite is relevant here, not in a moral sense but in the root from the Greek, hypocrite meaning «actor». It’s a dreadful burden to go through life being an actor, following the wrong map.

How does one turn this situation around? How does a person develop his or her own map for the journey? Not easily. Not by any more external band-aids or success stories. The outer journey (with the wrong map) must be replaced by the inner journey using the map that enables us to become the person God intended us to be.
But how do we move from outer accomplishments (which like drugs require stronger doses) to an interior journey that deals with our dis-ease in a fundamental and permanent manner?

This is a movement from disliking ourselves to liking ourselves, in my opinion the most fundamental spiritual transformation imaginable. I think the first step is a total revulsion at the unreality of the way we have been living expressed perhaps in a cry from our inner depths, «I just want to be real». My own experience is that a crisis of some sort may be required to get us to this existential honesty, something along the lines described by the American Jungian therapist, James Hollis, as the «swamplands of the soul». These include loss, depression, grief, loneliness and betrayal.”

… To be continued

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