“Were it not a fact of experience that supreme values reside in the soul, psychology would not interest me in the least, for the soul would then be nothing but a miserable vapor.” Carl Jung
In my post, “The Soul House,” I discussed how we live in two houses. One is a physical structure with a street address that locates it in the material world. The other is the dwelling of your innermost self–your spirit, or soul. You leave the former house when you die, but the latter is the essence of your being and all that you take with you–all that you really are–on the other side.
Your soul affects the structure of your world and life more than you probably realize. This is because everything you do and think, all of your attitudes, interact with those of your core self, or soul. Your conscious path and approach to life can be in accordance with the values of your soul or in opposition to them. When in accordance, you tend to feel more alive, creative, and whole. When in opposition, you tend to feel depressed or anxious, and to experience more conflict in life.
This is why the word “psychology” was put together the way it is. Psyche is the Greek word for soul, and so psychology was originally the study of the soul and how a person’s relationship to the soul affects their life. The field of psychology developed at a time when people still believed in the soul. Psychiatrists such as Carl Jung realized that how you relate to your soul has far-reaching effects on your mental, emotional, spiritual, and even physical health. Some psychotherapies continue to recognize the central role of the soul in psychological health. They assist individuals in discovering and living in accordance with the values of their deepest self. Other psychotherapies tend to focus on methods for living life in accordance with the values of the ego. Perhaps this outgrowth of psychology might be more aptly called “ego-ology” since it seems to be the science of how to give the ego what it wants.
Just as we can speak of living in two different “houses” simultaneously, we can also speak of living in two different time structures. The outer world passes steadily second by second, hour by hour, year by year. “Time marches on,” and your earthly existence marches with it. But the maturation of the soul is not so steady and predictable. Whereas physical life proceeds without interruption, the pendulum of the soul swings only when something meaningful touches it. It is conceivable that the soul may not mature at all if nothing of real depth—such as authentic love, joy, laughter, or suffering—impacts and deepens it. It is the life lived with depth—not just life itself—that evolves and deepens the soul.
So what does it mean to live life with depth? In part, it means living from your individuality, or true self. You come into the world with a unique temperament and set of talents and potentials. You also have a unique destiny—a contribution to the world that only you can make. Your destiny is your opus (life’s work), which you may accept or reject. To accept it is to strive to become the most fully developed (actualized) individual you were created to be.
Family, peers, and society will not always encourage you down the path of your true calling, or individuality. For example, society tends to encourage conformity rather than truly individual and independent thinking and feeling. You are educated and indoctrinated into a particular worldview and value system so that you will become a productive and (more or less) obedient member of society. The result is that your true self may be papered over and buried beneath a variety of compromises and self-deceptions. In addition, you may also resist the development and expression of your true self because you have grown comfortable with your lesser self. This attachment to your lesser, or false, self can keep you from living your destiny.
It is against this backdrop that the evolution of your soul takes place. In the process of becoming an individual–as opposed to a clone–awareness of your true self is developed and the soul is deepened. A life of depth involves the sacrifice of your ego on the cross of your destiny. And this sacrifice will occur many times, in ways large and small, across your lifetime. These “deaths” will gradually deepen you, mature you, build compassion, and lead to wisdom, understanding, and love.
There will be times when living your destiny will feel like climbing a tall, steep mountain. To follow your unique path can be painful and require a great deal of work and sacrifice. On other occasions the path of your destiny may feel effortless. It is, after all, the calling of your truest, deepest nature.
Nothing can compare with living your own life by developing and expressing your deepest loves, gifts, and potential. It is this life that is most truly heroic and courageous. It is also of the greatest value, for it is the vein of gold that only you can mine.