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  • If Your Life is a Journey, How’s the Trip Going?

    I can imagine some readers thinking, “Really, Brian? ‘Life is a Journey’? How cliche can you get?” Yet, it’s important for us to closely examine this metaphor of life as a journey. If we look, we find it everywhere. Why is that?

    life is a journey
    PHOTO: Stock Photo Secrets

    The idea that “life is a journey” is certainly widespread. We now know that it appears almost universally in human existence, throughout a vast array of cultures. As far back as 1980, George Lakoff, Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at UC Berkeley wrote about “metaphors we live by”. These are metaphors that are so fundamental, they pretty much structure the way that we take in life. Certainly one such metaphor is this image of life as a journey. If “life as a journey” is so fundamental in human life, how does it affect you or me, in our daily living?

    Why is This Important?

    Viewing our lives as a journey has important implications for case studies, and for the way we see our individual selves. In thought-provoking reflections, Dr. Connie Zweig, a well-known /a-midlife-transition points out that, much of today’s case studies

    …is a science, not an art. It’s about the brain…and meds, meds, and more meds…. And it’s about behaviour—brief, cognitive-behavioral therapy, which posits that human beings have no soul, that we need only change our thinking to relieve symptoms…. In the end therapy [is] no longer a… journey guided by the precept “Know thyself”. [Italics mine]

    Connie Zweig, The Inner Work of Age

    Please understand that I am not suggesting that scientific knowledge of the way the brain works is anything other than essential to case studies. Nor am I suggesting that cognitive-behavioural therapy should be completely discarded. It has many useful applications. Rather, what is important here is the question of how we view the human individual.

    The kind of fundamental story that we tell ourselves about ourselves and our lives makes a great deal of difference to therapy, and to our individual experience. It is possible to see ourselves as a very complex bag of chemicals and neural and physiological reactions, with no real unified sense of self or identity. But this fundamental metaphor that “life is a journey” gives us a sense of being a unified being, a person, who is going somewhere definite. This imparts a dignity and coherence to our lives that is essential if we are to experience a sense of meaning in our lives.

    Jungians view the metaphor of “life is a journey” as something that is a fundamental part of the human psyche. It is what Jungians would refer to as an archetype.

    Experiencing the Parts of the Journey

    A journey has a beginning, a destination, and a variety of stages and transitions in between. It can be full of twists and turns, or it may go on the same relatively straight path for a long time before making a turn. When we examine it, we can see why a journey is such a powerful metaphor for our lives.

    Very often, there are stages in a journey. In a similar way, there are stages in our lives. We may go on for substantial periods in our lives where relatively little changes, and then find ourselves confronted by a major life transition, like entering adulthood, the midlife transition or the transition to later life.

    As in an outer, physical journey, we may get off the path that we’re trying to travel. As when we’re physically lost, there may be a process involved in finding our way back to our actual path. For Jungian /a-midlife-transition, this path is the path of the Self, the expression of who we most fundamentally are.

    Telling My Story as if Life is a Journey

    The path traveled may offer many chances and changes, but there is something incredibly powerful in the realization that it is a path, that life is a journey. For many people, this sense of “journey” may be filled with religious or spiritual meaning, or a sense of something “meant to be” or fateful. There is something fundamentally life-giving in the awareness that the particular challenge that I face now is part of a coherent story. Each of us faces the challenge of finding and reminding ourselves of our own particular story. This is what Jung refers to as our “personal myth”.

    Working with a Jungian /a-midlife-transition can be an excellent way to gain understanding of our personal journey, and to develop a connection with our personal myth. As individuals work on the situations in their lives, they often develop a sense of pattern, emerging connections and value and respect for where they have been in their lives.

    With every good wish for your personal journey.

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