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James Hollis Ph.D: Living An Examined Life - 019

By David Newell

How do you define 'growing up'? Does it mean you achieve certain cultural benchmarks - a steady income, paying taxes, marriage, and children? Or does it mean leaving behind the expectations of others and growing into the person you were meant to be? If you find yourself in a career, place, relationship, or crisis you never foresaw and that seems at odds with your beliefs about who you are, it means your soul is calling on you to reexamine your path. James Hollis believes that something deeper lives beneath the 'voice in our head'. Underneath the ego lies the vast forces of the unconscious – the psyche - which has its own plan for us. The responsibility of each person, is to figure out what they are, and then heed that call instead of resisting it.  This is a radical and challenging way of thinking about yourself. It means that what you think you want from life probably isn’t what life wants from you. And it means that living meaningfully is almost certainly going force you out of comfort and certainty, and into suffering and the unknown.  Often we try to just ignore this deeper level but when suppressed, it usually surfaces somewhere eventually as depression or insomnia or bad dreams. When we are off track, the soul protests. At any major point in life, Hollis argues we should ask of ourselves: “Does this path, this choice, make me larger or smaller?” The usual question we might pose in in life is “Will this make me happy?” – but few of us actually know what will make us truly happy. Ask instead whether a choice will make you larger or smaller, and surprisingly often the answer is obvious. 

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