Meaning and Purpose

“Everything can be taken from a person, but one thing: the last of the human freedoms - to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way”

-Victor Frankl

Casual Meeting

The idea that we are born into this world with a specific purpose is supported through the ideas of Carl Jung. Carl Jung was interested in our connection to the sacred and how numinous experiences can heal us.

It is through times of extreme adversity that we are often called to re-evaluate what is important to us. History shares with us the incredible resilience that is generated by people who find themselves in unexpected moments of crisis. These experiences of crisis not only highlight our innate strength and courage to get through challenging times, but our ability to discover meaning and purpose despite adversity, and for some of us, we find meaning because of our adversity.

 

As Viktor Frankl said,

“Everything can be taken from a person, but one thing: the last of the human freedoms - to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way”

We always have the choice to find meaning – no matter which situation, circumstance or space we find ourselves in. We do this by connecting to what is really important to us and then choosing to move forward based on our core values and what gives us purpose.

When we feel disconnected from purpose or meaning, we can experience what's known as the Dark Night of the Soul. The Dark Night of the Soul is a metaphor to describe a phase of extreme depression and loneliness, sadness, or loss of interest in life. We may start to question our beliefs and sense of meaning or purpose, especially in relation to the spiritual or divine. The Dark Night can involve the shedding of a particular way of being, a letting go of familiar relationships and lifestyles. This can undoubtedly bring feelings of isolation, suffering or depression; however, a new and more fulfilling reality can emerge through this type of re-birthing process.

 

A dark night of the soul can then be understood as a meaningful experience – a process of psychological and spiritual transformation rather than an illness or pathology. Joseph Campbell spoke about the hero's journey, which consists of four phases. We are met with a call – for something more in life. A call that often comes from a deep knowing, an inner voice or intuitive guidance that drives us to follow a particular path. In the second stage, we face obstacles and challenges that the hero is called to move beyond and trust in the journey despite not necessarily knowing the outcome. During this stage, we enter the dark night of the soul – one enters a period of doubt, profound suffering, and pain. Yet, this period is necessary for one's rebirth – the third stage – which is the call to step into the next stage and emerge through their struggle and pain. The fourth stage is the return to society, where the wisdom, knowledge, or healing that the individual has encountered is shared with others and the world.

The Wounded Healer

 

The wounded healer experiences and overcomes significant challenges in their life and then can step into the role of healer, guide or visionary for others. When we have directly experienced something challenging, we can eventually hold this space for others who are going through very similar experiences.

 

To see the gift or potential behind our trauma and wounds is not an easy task! It's also not something we can do during periods of depression or despair – nor am I suggesting we do this! We don't need to force our way through our challenges; but, I believe there is great power when we remember to trust and surrender to the ebb and flow of our emotional experience. This is where we can reclaim our gifts and embrace the richness and diversity of what it means to be human.

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