When I first began studying Jungian analysis, the phrase we used to describe behavior we seem to repeat was “an old tape.” This usually described a pattern we’d developed in adulthood which had its roots in childhood experiences or even traumas. My old tape seemed to be an inability to complete anything. Jobs were never careers, just ways to earn a buck; schooling was essential and helped me earn more, but I never completed a degree. Eventually, I seemed to concentrate more on what I DIDN’T have, or COULDN’T do, and with that mindset, a sense of futility can set in pretty quickly. I raised my daughter, I always had a roof over my head and food in the fridge, but I never really got anywhere, it seemed. Some people are content with that, and I actually went through a period of time when I ENVIED those types of people. I always had felt some internal push, some need to do and achieve more, to feel I was “making progress,” whatever the heck that meant.
When I found Joseph Campbell’s writings (and his series of interviews on PBS with Bill Moyers), I realized that my problem was not a lack of money or education or even energy. I had simply not found what Campbell calls my “bliss.” Campbell’s phrase: “Follow your bliss,” sounds so simple and even a bit off-handed, but it really has a depth that should not be ignored. What is your “Bliss” in this life, what is it that you truly long to do or be? I spent years, decades even, doing what I thought I SHOULD be doing, but I was completely out of alignment with what I really longed for. I never believed it was possible, so why dream about it? It was like the joke about if we’d all become what we wanted to be as kids – we’d have a world filled with firemen and ballerinas!
I’ve learned that money is not the answer, but it does seem to be more of a tool than I realized. If the Universe gives us that thing we THINK we need (more money), and we still are lacking something integral and basal and core, then what have we learned? I guess it means we go back to the mirror. Like Michael Jackson said, “I’m looking at the (wo)man in the mirror; I’m asking him to change his ways.” So when we look in that mirror, we should be looking deeper than how our face looks or if our teeth are white enough to blind people or if our arms are flabby … we need to be looking deeper, with an objective eye and say, “You need to change your ways” if we do … or “You’re doing great” if we are.
Part of that means getting rid of the old tapes that play in our heads. Most of us would say we don’t want to end up like our mothers. So why on Earth would we pay any attention to what they said? They have such a strong influence on us, though, and we probably don’t even realize it most of the time. I found that, for me, putting physical distance between my mother and me was the only way I could cope with her. That didn’t solve much, but it helped. Now she is gone, and the tapes are not as loud, but the remnants remain.
It’s like those Chinese finger traps we had as kids, remember? The more you pulled, the tighter they gripped your fingers. The trick to escape was to relax and let them loosen enough to ease out of them. It’s a thin line, I think, between easing up and lying down. Without strong role models, it’s a lot to figure out on your own. So I was lucky to find people like Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell and many others, whose wisdom has helped me over the hump. Now the question is: What do you want to do with the rest of your life?