Paul Anka’s song lyrics, ‘My Way,’ popularized by Frank Sinatra, succinctly states, “For what is a man what has he got / If not himself then he has not / To say the things he truly feels / And not the words of one who kneels.”
These sentiments reflect the concept of individuation and the thoughts of Jung: “The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are.”
For the most part, during the first half of our lives we have done what was collectively valued and necessary such as getting a career, establishing a home, partnering, perhaps starting a family and wearing the masks associated with such situations.
However, commencing at mid-life, a part of us begins to get weary, even discontented, with the status quo. We feel melancholy, bored and depressed. We may drink more, redecorate more and have a general sense of meaningless.
We may even begin to feel ‘as if we are going crazy’ as we begin to recognize that this collective buy-in no longer satisfies us. Jung noted, “Anyone who attempts to do both, to adjust to his group and at the same time pursue his individual goal, becomes neurotic.”
Our neuroses (e.g., complaining, controlling, and addictions) force us to question our usual ways. At the moment when we feel as if we have exhausted all our options, the answer comes. If we are still enough, patient enough, we will begin to glimpse another voice. As Jung suggested, “Deep down, below the surface of the average man’s conscience, he hears a voice whispering.”
Psychologist Carl Rogers noted that what is “evident in this process of becoming a person relates to the source or locus of choices and decisions. The individual increasingly comes to feel that his locus of evaluation lies within himself. Less and less does he look to others for approval or disapproval; for standards to live by; for decisions and choices.”
Jungian James Hollis suggested that this “Stepping into largeness will require that we discern our personal authority – rather than the authority of others or the authority of our internalized admonitions – and live this inner authority with risk and boldness.”
The work comes in turning to and trusting our internal locus of authority. However, many of us were not taught to listen to our bodies, our feelings, our intuition, our dreams and our desires. We were not taught to value our soul and our true self.
Deep down we truly know what is best for us. Robert Louis Stevenson stated, “To know what you prefer, instead of humbly saying Amen to what the world tells you you ought to prefer, is to have kept your soul alive.”
As the song says, we’ll take “the blows,” as there is a price and there will be losses as we individuate. Yet, the gains are many.
And when we do, each of us can bravely cite William Henley: “I am the master of my fate.
I am the captain of my soul.”