h1

The Meaning of Life (part three)

September 4, 2009

Jack White

In part two, I discussed the first step towards finding true meaning in your life, referred to by Frankl as ‘your attitude towards unavoidable suffering’.  If you are able to deal with your past and present negative baggage with a positive attitude, you  will find that the way becomes clear for you to discover what you – as oppose to your parents/peers/partner or society – really value. To illustrate what I mean by this, I’m going to share some of my own story with you.

The Free Dictionary offers this definition of an epiphany:

A comprehension or perception of reality by means of a sudden intuitive realization: “I experienced an epiphany, a spiritual flash that would change the way I viewed myself” (Frank Maier).

There have been two significant epiphanies of this type in my life. The first occurred in my mid-twenties when I lost my job (also mentioned in the ‘On Being an Empath’ article) and finally faced up to the fact that the way I was living my life was unsustainable. I was well and truly stuck in the vacuum and it was killing me – my life had no meaning, though this was hardly surprising as I had no idea who I was and what I really wanted. Consequently I decided enough was enough and embarked on the path of personal development which would change my life.

Over the next ten years, I made many momentous discoveries whilst on that path. I acknowledged that a lifestyle based on consumerism wasn’t for me and that working purely for financial gain was akin to selling my soul, prompting me to retrain as a counsellor as I sought out work which would give something back. I reframed negative past events and, after learning the important lessons those experiences had to teach me, was finally able to make peace with them and let them go. I learned a lot about how I related to others including how to be assertive rather than passive or aggressive, and how to establish healthy personal boundaries. I also learned a lot about the real meaning of love through my relationship with my child and I most definitely learned the hard way what I didn’t want from my more intimate relationships. And best of all, as my false self image – created from the distorted reflections of other people – crumbled, I grew to like the person I really was and began to enjoy spending time in my own company. Yet something still seemed to be missing. It was as though I’d stripped my inner self clean of all the baggage and now my authentic self stood there raw and fresh and blinking in the sun, saying ‘well, here I am at last – so what next?’

Fast forward, then, to my mid-thirties. Over the previous decade I’d come a long way and now it felt like the final pieces were clicking into place. However, like running a marathon or climbing Everest, this last stretch was proving to be particularly difficult, not least because I’d ended a relationship with someone who I loved deeply and who I still believe was a true soul mate but who, due to difficult circumstances, was unable to show me the level of respect I deserved. Though I learned some valuable lessons about my own behaviour in intimate relationships which would stand me in good stead for the future, the feelings of hurt and betrayal due to his casual treatment of my finer feelings was still hard to take.

In an attempt to move on, I agreed to go on a long weekend break with a friend. Unfortunately the break was a disaster and I was forced to finally admit to myself something I had tried to deny for years – that this friendship was a little too one-sided for my liking. I’d been hurt and let down by this person several times over the course of our friendship but because I’d known her for so long – and had, at one time, looked up to her – I’d put my misgivings to one side. Now I’d finally reached a point in my personal development where I cared about myself enough to no longer tolerate relationships – be they with partner, friend or family – that were detrimental to my wellbeing. The rationality of this decision, however, belies how difficult it was for me on an emotional and psychological level. I literally felt like my heart was breaking and found myself plummeting into a particularly intense ‘dark night of the soul’.

During the break, I treated myself to a CD copy of Get Behind Me Satan by the White Stripes. I hadn’t really listened to them before but I’d recently seen their Glastonbury set on TV and was really blown away by Jack White’s powerful performance and the way he took command of the stage. The day after we returned, my daughter left to spend the week with her father so I decided to make the most of my free days and enjoy some much needed solitary time. Whilst relaxing, I played my new CD continuously, and the more I listened, the more impressed I was by the way Jack White expressed his feelings so vividly through the music and lyrics. In yet another marvellous piece of synchronicity, the theme of the album reflected perfectly the emotional turbulence I was going through love, betrayal, grief, anger, all exquisitely and impeccably portrayed. Even the title of the album seemed appropriate in reflecting how I was putting the negative aspects of the past – events, relationships and my own behaviours – behind me, once and for all.  (A bit of research uncovered the fact that prior to making this album, Jack had suffered a relationship break-up and been badly burned by a number of old friends ).

In my early years, creative writing had been a very important part of my life. Even as a child, I spent much of my spare time producing stories and poems but for some reason as an adult I kept closing the door on that intrinsic part of myself. That week, thanks to one man’s work, I rediscovered how powerful creativity could be and I finally realised what was missing and what my authentic self was screaming out for. Expressing my ideas through the written word to help others is simply what I was born to do.

As you can see, then, the second step towards discovering meaning in my life, as described by Frankl, was experiencing something – in my case, experiencing the power of creativity. I was still unsure how I would express this creativity – I initially began by simply pouring out my feelings onto paper then moved on to working on a novel – but further experiences and synchronicities ultimately lead me to the final step, referred to by Frankl as “creating a work or doing a deed”. That work is, of course, my Empathic Guidance project which so far includes a website, this blog and an upcoming book.  I also have people in my life who seem to thoroughly enjoy being with the authentic me and who support and encourage me wholeheartedly in expressing that. It’s taken some time and effort – and a vast amount of soul-searching – but I can safely say that my experience of the existential vacuum is a long way behind me now.

To end this article, we’ll revisit someone I mentioned in part two, Stephen Hawking. His positive attitude towards his suffering, coupled with his sense of purpose and encountering someone who he fell deeply in love with gave his life more meaning than it had ever had before, and for me, this quote sums up much of what I have attempted to express in this article:

My dreams at that time were rather disturbed. Before my condition had been diagnosed, I had been very bored with life. There had not seemed to be anything worth doing. But shortly after I came out of hospital, I dreamt that I was going to be executed. I suddenly realised that there were a lot of worthwhile things I could do if I were reprieved. Another dream, that I had several times, was that I would sacrifice my life to save others. After all, if I were going to die anyway, it might as well do some good. But I didn’t die. In fact, although there was a cloud hanging over my future, I found, to my surprise, that I was enjoying life in the present more than before. I began to make progress with my research, and I got engaged to a girl called Jane Wilde, whom I had met just about the time my condition was diagnosed. That engagement changed my life. It gave me something to live for.”

Advertisements

One comment

  1. […] on The Meaning of Life in part three – coming […]



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: