Creating a Life: Finding your Individual Path by James HollisShaun Matthee
James Hollis has the extraordinary ability to make the work of Carl Jung meaningfully applicable to our everyday lives and this genius is apparent in Creating a Life: Finding your Individual Path. The book takes you on a journey into living an examined life, a journey towards consciousness. But Hollis warns this journey will not solve all your problems or heal your pain, it will simply make your life more interesting to you. And who doesn’t want to feel that they are really living; that life is an exciting, meaningful journey as opposed to a boring sequence of mishaps and misadventures?
The book is divided into three parts and has twenty-eight short chapters.
Part one of the book, has six chapters which take you on a journey of self discovery, providing a new frame of reference through which to look at your personal history, understand your life choices, examine your core complexes, uncover your wounding. The chapters move through the necessity of finding a personal myth, understanding your core complexes, the necessary fictions that make up your life and the problem of spiritual authority. And in each chapter, Hollis gently guides the journey by providing literary examples and insightful, thought provoking questions:
What is urgent in our lives? What owns us? What do we seek to transcend? What myth are we living? Are we living out our parent’s unlived lives, compensating for their fears? Are we in thrall to the values of the herd, which may offend the soul but keeps one complaint company? What kind of play has our life been, in service too what, or to whom? Do we like what we see, if we look honestly, and whose fault is it then?
By taking your time and savouring what Hollis has to offer, you arrive at the end of the first part of the book with a new consciousness, an awareness of how your wounding is living in the world, a sense of where you are stuck.
Part two of the book is divided into twenty chapters which explore the attitudes and practices necessary for the second half of life. These chapters begin with Jung’s concept of individuation and the necessity of loving one’s fate. The recognition that it is here, in this time, in this place that you are called to live your life, not the life envisioned by your ego or your parents or by societal expectations but your life!
Jung asserted that the greatest burden a child must carry is the unlived lives of their parents and in the following chapter Redeeming Ancestors, Hollis explores four ways in which you can heal the family history that is operating autonomously in you.
Crisis come at critical points in a life and Hollis includes a chapter on crises and their meaning in your life, which inevitably leads to the need for mentors, teachers, gurus and sages who can provide you with all the answers. But Hollis asserts, nobody can find your path but you, nobody knows more about your history, your struggles, your challenges than you. In this chapter Hollis explores Jung’s concept of the Self, the carrier of your soul and your very own inner guru and it is through connection with the Self that you can find meaning, purpose and a general sense of the rightness of your life. Hollis description of the Self fires the imaginations and creates a longing for this connection. Unfortunately he does not describe how to form a relationship with the Self and this omission left me feeling frustrated and let down.
The following chapters explore the necessity of accepting your failings and limitations, the necessary mess of things, leaving ambition behind and the necessity of getting over your wounds by attending to your soul.
In the chapter on The Complexity of Relationships, Hollis illustrates how relationships provide mirrors through which you encounter yourself, your patterns. your wounding. It is through encounters with others that you meet your core perceptions. Perceptions formed in childhood about how valuable you are, how trustworthy other people are and how the world will meet you. And it is through this meeting with the other, this forced confrontation with yourself, that growth occurs.
Part three of the book is concludes with two chapters, which explore the necessity of feeling grateful for the journey of life and importance of images, of the imagination in creating your life.
For anyone seeking greater consciousness, for anyone wanting to live an examined life, this book provides a rich resource of reflections, a guiding compass with which to navigate the journey of life. Through the many poems and excerpts from the works of many modern writers, including John Fowles, Rilke, D.H. Lawrence, Thoreau, Pascal and Kierkegaard you get a feeling that your journey is undertaken in good company and you are not alone.
Personally, I find myself returning to this book time and time again and with each reading I find myself once again excited, interested in my journey, in the life I am creating. I discover new trails I want to explore. I discover new ways of getting myself unstuck and moving forward. I find myself creating my life, finding my individual path.
If however, you are looking for a how to manual or a set of guidelines to help you create a life or find your individual path, this book will leave you unfulfilled. It is not a new age cure all. Hollis ask more questions than he answers and the questions he does ask need a lifetime of deep reflection to answer. And yet, if your journey is to be truly individual, you must find your own path, you must create your own life.
Till next time, I wish you inspiring reading
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