I am going to veer a away from the topic of Listening specifically for a bit but will come back to it as it does relate to what I am about to bring into the conversation.
What I really want to talk about is weird. I don’t mean this as a judgment. In fact I really like weird. I am referring to weird as a noun. Etymologically, weird means fate. Really. Look it up if you don’t believe me.
I want to write about weird for a few reasons, one being that I find it is a big fear for people. I regularly see clients who are paralyzed in their writing or general creativity or just being who they are because they are afraid of being judged as strange or different, or even rejected for it, by others. Secondly, both fate and weird have such negative connotations in our control oriented and approval seeking society in which we live, and I believe a greater understanding of – and respect for - weird as fate can transform our lives and sense of who we are, for the better.
I have been fascinated with the whole phenomenon of fate for many years, maybe most of my life. You could say that fate has been a significant part of my fate. I have a sense of having being summoned to this subject, and have explored it at length through painting and writing. Years ago, I even named a manuscript, Facets of Fate. And now here I am at it again. But in saying this, I do not mean this has been predestined to the point of me not having a choice in it. I chose happily and freely to delve deeply into this topic. Fate and free will can and do co-exist. It is just that they are paradoxical. How Jung puts it is this way, “Free will is the ability to do gladly that which I must do.” Another way of saying it then, is we are not really free if we choose something which goes against our fate. This is also sure to make us miserable.
I discovered in my explorations that fate is much more complex than the concept of pre-destiny. Still, it does include the things that are a given in our life and that we have no control over. Existentialists use the term ‘thrownness,’ as we are, in a sense, “thrown” into our lives and into certain circumstances. We are born into a particular family and environment in a location on the planet at a moment in time. We are born with certain talents , physical abilities, and weaknesses. Through our lives there are events that happen to us such as family crises, natural disasters, and wars, and so on. None of these are in our control and they all make their imprint on us in superficial or profound ways. A strong impact changes our neural pathways as well as our body chemistry. In traumatic situations we are likely to disconnect from ourselves to some degree, particularly from our feelings and inner signals.
No matter how disconnected we become, something within us remains awake and has the potential of strengthening and developing through our experiences and how we choose to go through life. It is like the core of us that is always available to remind us what is true and in our ultimate best interest. Whether we listen to it or heed its messages to us is our choice. We could name this the self or soul or god voice within, etc. We could call it our nature or many other names. It is also our fate. And it requires our attention and a relationship. It also will make itself known in not so nice ways if it is ignored. In the words of Jungian analyst, Liz Greene
From what I have observed...there is certainly something – whether one calls it fate, Providence, natural law, karma, or the unconscious – that retaliates when its boundaries are transgressed or when it receives no respect or effort at relationship, and which seems to possess a kind of ‘absolute knowledge’ not only of what the individual needs, but of what he is going to need for his unfolding in life... I make no pretence to know what ‘it’ is, but I am unashamedly prepared to call it fate. Liz Greene
We share our human nature with other humans but we also have a nature that is unique. It is our weird and we have a choice of how we respond to it and express it. if we express it authentically, it is always possible there will be those who will call us strange or weird or even judge us as bad. There is no way around this dilemma. We cannot control others’ opinions of us, but if we join them in thinking weird is negative, we are done for.
Weird is really synonymous with Jung’s term, individuation. Individuation is the process (and the aim) of becoming our true and whole self. It really begins at birth, but Jung believes there is a crisis of individuation somewhere around what we call mid-life, a push to finally live our deepest and most authentic life. About individuation, Marie Louise von Franz, foremost Jungian after Jung’s death, said it is the:
realization of one’s own pre-destined development which does not always suit the ego. But it is what one intrinsically feels one could or should be. Man is neurotic when he’s not what God meant him to be. Basically that’s what individuation is all about. You seem crazier but you are yourself. Then usually you are more humane, less criminal, less destructive to your environment.
As I mentioned, what I come across again and again in my practice is individuals’ fear of being themselves because of how family, friends, partners, or work colleagues, etc., will respond to them. Some have given themselves up to please others and/or have gone to great lengths to be perfect so that nobody can criticize them. Others have developed eating disorders or other addictions, become depressed and/or anxious, or blocked in their creativity. Or all of the above. Many complain of apathy, of feeling discouraged about life, or just plain lost. Anger and cynicism are also common experiences.
None of this is surprising as humans are faced with an archetypal dilemma. We have a fundamental need to be ourselves, but we also have a need to bond with others and to belong. As the research on attachment theory tells us, from the earliest age, we are attachment oriented. Research has also shown that our need to bond and belong is so strong that when most people are confronted with a dilemma of being true to themselves vs. being connected to others, they will give up themselves in order to belong with others. We know that many cultures past and present have used exile as the most extreme punishment for behaviour considered unacceptable to the tribe. But if we choose connection over being true to ourselves, we are likely to lose our selves.
Of course there are other things as well which prevent alignment with our selves, such as our materialistic nature. But the point is, we become severed from our selves, and the source of Life. Ironically this also mekes connection with others and all beings on the planet more difficult.
Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, fate intervenes and gives us a ‘wake-up call’ when we veer too much off track. Physical symptoms may erupt or something outside of us like an accident or crisis may occur.
Usually the only choice in times like these is making an “appointment” with ourselves.