At some point of their life, some people feel the need to do something different. They feel unsatisfied with their life, and they want to break free from the stifling routines of the world. Following this remote need, they start to do something they never did before: they change their job, start to travel all over the world, learn music or do artistic activities, and so on. Whatever they choose to do, behind these activities there is a process of self-discovery, something that Carl Jung called the process of individuation: the research for their true, authentic self.
In the adventure novel “The call of the wild”, published in 1903, Jack London describes this process in the main character, a dog named Buck. At the beginning of the story, Buck is stolen from his home and sold into service as a sled dog in Alaska. Throughout the story, he evolves and becomes progressively feral in an environment in which he is forced to fight to survive; as time went on, he learns to rely in his primordial instinct, comes to know what kind of being he really is and, by listening to the “calls” of the nearby forests, finally becomes what he was truly meant to be: a leader in the wild.
For human beings, so used to civilization, this process is not that simple, but nonetheless it was considered very important since the beginning of time. Travelers, philosophers and wise men from diverse cultures wrote about it in different ways and languages. The concept was perfectly described in the ancient Greek culture with the aphorism “know thyself” or “gnothi seauton”, one of the Delphic maxims inscribed in the forecourt of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi. But what does know yourself mean exactly? What is the secret behind these two words, so easy to memorize and so difficult to really understand?
The “self-discovery” is, in his extreme essence, the process of becoming conscious and aware of one’s true vocation. It is a journey which starts from the persons we believe we are and ends with the discovery of the human beings that we really are. It is a travel to discover our true self, the hidden part of us that exists in the background of our everyday life.
The journey to individuation, of finding our own self and our real purpose in life, however, is not a linear, luminous path. It is a travel in the darkness, in which the only light is provided by the starry sky above us (“Immanuel Kant said: “Two things awe me most, the starry sky above me and the moral law within me”). It is usually a quiet darkness, where a sense of peace and enlightenment surrounds us, but it is nonetheless dark and wild: it could be easy to lose track of what we are following.
It is at this moment, when we are lost, or even before we start to walk, when we usually hear a call. It is something remote, coming from inside us. If we focus a little bit on it, we could be able to catch sight of something that guides us. A dream, or a sign. The subconscious has many ways of letting us know if we are taking the right direction. Is only up to us to pay attention to it. For a moment, unconscious will bleed through us, and cross the boundary into consciousness.
When this happens, when the unconscious connects with the consciousness, it is very important not to turn our back on it, but to positively accept the mystery that we are. If we can do it, not to consider this just an extravagant state of mind but to proactively listen to what our true self is trying to communicate to us, it means that we are ready. But ready for what?
We are ready to start our journey. To find the correct path, we will go step by step. We must pay attention to dreams and signs; then, according to what this kind of events is telling us, we have to start to express ourselves in whatever way we find enjoyable and think about what we love and what feels good. We will notice that there are some recurrent things that really satisfy us, and others that don’t. After some time, we will get to know our fears, doubts, vulnerabilities and insecurities as well as our real strengths and passions: we will get to know better ourselves.
Finally, there will be a moment, in this journey, in which we will not fear anymore the mystery and the wildness that lurks inside us. We will accept them as part of us, we will listen to what they have to say and, by doing so, we will instinctively know that we really love ourselves. For the jorney of self-discovery is nothing but this: an act of love to ourselves.
“She could still remember the first time that she had heard it. It had come from the woods next to her village. Every day, that mysterious call had sounded, and as often as she heard it, she felt compelled to turn her back on the fireplace and go out of her house to travel.”
— Pipi talking to herself, “Pipi and the Midnight Express“
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