An Unexamined Life

Posted on October 17, 2018
image of hydrangeas of different colours

When Socrates was on trial for his life he is reported to have said,  “An unexamined life is not worth living.”  This was his claim, that only by striving to truly know and understand ourselves do our lives have any meaning or value.

Plato declared that Socrates was put to death for his search for insights, questions and knowledge. In many ways this attitude is still alive and well within us today; having worked in the therapeutic field for 30 years it appears that many people would choose death over self-examination and change. True, most of us want things to be different, yet we stoically refuse to change, totally missing the point that if we want anything in our world to be different then we must change. However, many of us refuse this change and instead focus our energy on trying to change the world around us. This only results in conflict!

Regrettably, even people who claim to be proponents of change, often in senior positions and therapists themselves, are resistant to change. It astonished us to hear from a friend that the therapeutic model she has signed up to appears to teach that in a partnership there is little or any connection between the two partners. This sounds more like a model of separation than healing. I was certainly of that school of thinking before I started on a path of self-examination, but it very quickly became apparent to me that it was not possible to be in any relationship and not have a problem when someone around you has a problem. This dynamic is true for close personal relationships and for our relationship with the world’s environment. So often we hear people giving chapter and verse about other people’s problems without the slightest understanding they are really talking about themselves. Oh how easily we resort to blame to defend our denial.

Carl Jung expressed it another way when he said, “Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.” Considering by far the largest part of our mind is below our conscious horizon then it would seem an important endeavour to examine our unconscious mind before it takes us over a cliff. Basically what is being said is that any issue, trauma or belief from our past that we have not raised to our conscious mind and dealt with will show up in the outer world.

So we have a choice. Do we live in a state of denial until things go wrong in our world, or do we engage with and examine our minds, find these unconscious pieces and integrate them into our conscious mind? Many of us might see this choice as bad news but actually it is the good news because if we are willing we can change anything. This is the power of our minds; we can change anything provided we are willing to engage, to self examine.

Many people ask, ‘how do I know what is in my unconscious mind?’ The answer is fairly simple. Your outer world, in its entirety, is a perfect reflection of your inner world. It starts with the understanding that everything and everybody is connected. Further to that is also the understanding that no one gets away with anything. This world is perfectly safe because if we do it right it works out right, therefore if we do it wrong it will not work out. Equally if it is not working out then we are doing it wrong, us not others!

This all sounds like bad news but it is not.  Embracing our accountability and responsibility allows us to free ourselves from our past, free ourselves from our blocks and our repeating negative patterns. But we will be asked to change, for the path of growing awareness and consciousness is a path of integrity, of being honest about who we really are and the power we have.

With love

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