Lately I’ve been thinking about the many wonderful people I know and love who are not oriented to psychological introspection and have trouble understanding why it’s so important to me. This one is for them.
Thinking psychologically does not come naturally to most of us, partly because it requires a certain distancing from worldly distractions that absorb our time and energy. Solitude is uncomfortable for extraverts whose batteries run dry when deprived of human interaction, and withdrawal is punishing to sensory types for whom the material world is a laboratory of delights awaiting experimentation. “Why would I want to waste my precious time looking inside myself or beneath the surface of things?” these people wonder. Why indeed? According to the Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator, I’m an introverted intuitive treading water in a sea of extraverted sensate types. In short, everyone’s not made like me.
Moreover, there are the realities of everyday living. Many people regardless of personality type are content with their jobs and/or service to their families and communities. They ask themselves, “What’s the point of trying to understand myself better? I have work I love and people who love me and I’m making a valuable contribution.” They are fortunate to be this comfortable with themselves. I have often wished I were like them.
Some find all the purpose and meaning they need in religion. Although their lives are no freer from problems or suffering than anyone else’s, where they are feels so much better than where they were that they simply do not need to keep looking.
But for a minority of people, and I am among them, our work, relationships, and religions are not enough. We don’t know why. We didn’t ask to be this way. Some of us don’t notice the disconnect from ourselves until mid-life. Before then we are too busy scrambling in the outer world to hear the inner dissonance. But then one dark night we find ourselves thinking, “Is this all there is?” and the longing sets in. I assure you this makes us feel selfish and ungrateful, especially if we have been gifted with good health, good fortune, and loving families. The guilt causes some of us to struggle mightily to dismiss a hunger that feels inappropriate.
But ignoring our yearning for completion only makes us feel worse. Call us morbid-minded perfectionists if you will. Call us the walking wounded. But we know there’s a darkness inside us because we can see its effects, and that knowledge is too painful to bear without trying to do something about it. We may walk many roads, but the only one that doesn’t eventually disappoint is the path to self-knowledge and consciousness. I know, because when I began studying Jungian psychology and working with my dreams the healing insights started popping up everywhere and they’re still coming.
Psychological insights are magical elixirs for people like me. They open our minds, affirm our worth, expand our choices, heal our suffering, bring light to the darkness, enliven our senses, teach us to love, spark our creativity, and help us be who we are meant to be. Life its own glorious self is more than enough for many people, but among the walking wounded, Socrates’ assertion that ‘the unexamined life is not worth living’ is the profoundest truth we know.