The Path to Authenticity

Like many others, I’ve always had a deep wish to discover who I really am beyond the habits and influences that have shaped me. Those who have truly examined and come to terms with all the aspects of their personality and essence, both dark and bright, right down to their roots, are no longer bound by collective oughts and musts of family or society. It’s a hard path to tread—what Jungians call individuation or becoming a true individual—but those who have followed it are able to live from their own integrity, their own truth.

To illustrate this path, Jungian analyst Marion Woodman likes to refer to a dream brought her by one of her patients. In the dream, the client has been slogging along through the jungle, cutting her way step by step for a very long time. Then, as Marion tells it, “the person comes to the edge of a river and says, ‘Oh thank God, I’ve finally gotten to the river, my river, and now I am free.’ Then she looks across the river and, by heaven, there’s the same mess on the other side, just like the one she just fought her way through. But when she looks closer she sees there’s a path through those woods exactly like the path she came through on this side. In other words, the Holy Spirit or God, or whatever you want to call it, was making a path that exactly balanced what she had been going through at the ego level. And all she had to do was bridge the river.

“Now, that’s not easy to do either, to bridge that river between the ego and the soul. The soul or god is coming through on the other side. Those of you who know alchemy know that this is exactly what is happening. Even though you may not know where all these ambushes and things you fall over are taking you, you’re gaining strength every time you go through something. You begin to realize that there is a destiny and that, in your own way, you have been living it.”

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