Soul Metaphors: Contents

Chapter 21

Chapter 23


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Chapter 22: Where Do You Go from Here?

            As you worked your way through the previous chapter built upon autobiographies, you probably made many observations about the early memories presented therein. Maybe you noticed character traits such as ambition, the desire to entertain, or the desire to please. Maybe you noticed memories that suggested more optimistic or more pessimistic views of life. When you reached the second half of the chapter and learned whom each of the memories belonged to, you probably recognized ways that the attitudes and approaches in the early recollections matched the adults’ characters. Likely, when you first began reading Soul Metaphors, the simple perusing of an early memory would not have unveiled so much information for you.
            So, you have learned how to interpret early memories. You have learned how to plot the graph of life and find the repeated pattern that reflects a person’s innermost beliefs about life. Most importantly, you have interpreted your own earliest memory and, hopefully, you have also solicited other people to offer their own reflections on your early memories for you. In other words, by now, you have uncovered and can clearly articulate your lifestyle.
            If you see elements within your lifestyle that you are not happy with, take heart. Almost everybody can poke holes in their lifestyle. Take a moment to consider the many memories of real-life people that we have encountered in this book. For almost any one of these recollections, it is possible to point out facets that might be changed:
            The man who remembered sadly listening to his parents argue but happily working on his balsa wood model car was a successful entrepreneur. He had amassed a great fortune and was also in a happy marriage. But, after having his first memory interpreted, he had to acknowledge two things about himself; he was an addicted workaholic, and he still had not come to terms with much of the pain from his childhood.            
            The woman who remembered decorating the banister for her father, while proud of her loyalty and her work ethic, nonetheless thought that she devoted far too much time to pleasing other people to the detriment of making herself happy.
            Arthur, during his lifestyle interview, reflected on the fact that he was such an individualist that there were times in his life when he could have and probably should have asked for help -- but it did not occur to him to do so.
            The beauty of early memory interpretation is that the lifestyle provides its own solutions. Too often, therapy, self-help, or individual soul searching entails an agonizing effort to find the mistakes in your thinking. Adler has taught us how to find those mistakes and boil them down to a powerful, workable metaphor in less than an hour. In every one of the cases above, the solutions may not be easy, but they are nevertheless obvious:
            The man who has discovered he is a workaholic needs to ease up a bit on his career ambitions. He needs to learn how to be comfortable with being at rest. Perhaps this process won’t be easy, but his goal for inner healing is apparent to him. Maybe he should take up some hobbies that demand that he set aside leisure time. Perhaps he should learn to meditate. Maybe he will need therapy to work on his feelings toward his early family life – yet, before memory interpretation, he had not ever realized how much his strife-ridden childhood had affected him.
            The woman who works too hard for other people quite simply needs to devote more time to herself. When she finds herself working like a servant for her boss or her husband or her parents, she needs to take a moment to stop and think and remember that this habit – which she was formerly unaware of – is something she needs to wean herself off of. This may require a cognitive behavioral approach: She may have to tell herself affirmations like, “I am not a bad person if I ask for more time on this assignment,” or “No one will hate me if I take Sunday afternoon off for myself.” She can also make resolutions, for example, to work overtime only two nights per week. She can tell her parents that she has to wait a week before she can help them with the yard work.
            Arthur’s memories also point to solutions. For example, he might benefit from being willing to ask for help sometimes.
            Psychotherapists often say that finding the problem is half of the solution. When you looked closely at your early memories, you surely uncovered some habits and ways of thinking that you weren’t previously aware of. Well, you can never be ignorant of them again. They are now exposed. So, when you find yourself behaving in a certain manner due to a lifelong habit, you will notice. Noticing gives you the opportunity to make a decision: In this situation, do I want to do what I’ve previously done my whole life, or would I rather try something different?
            Then there are the good things that you learn about yourself from your lifestyle interpretation: Lifestyle interpretation can provide you with guidance for new and exciting ways that you want to travel in your life’s journey. One man who had his lifestyle interpreted in a group setting volunteered for the experience because he was frustrated with his career. He worked as a business writer, he had been doing so for years, and he found it boring. When he had his memories interpreted, virtually every recollection was of a scene of nature. He remembered light shining through trees. He remembered watching a running stream. He remembered examining a snail. The memories clearly indicated where his innate interests lay.
            Members of the group suggested that, since he was already a writer, he take up writing about nature. At first, he could take on freelance writing assignments on the side. Then, if he was successful, he could move on to finding a job as a writer or editor with an environmental organization. The man left the session completely invigorated and enthusiastic about a new direction to take in life – a journey that was plotted over the course of a one-hour interview.
            The man who recalled getting out of bed to investigate a frightening noise and had devoted his entire career to environmental causes also decided to make a change. He came to realize that he didn’t find his line of work as pertinent anymore. Whereas environmentalism had been an emerging movement when he first began his career, there were now many people focused on the problem. He decided he wanted to focus more on his family. He switched careers entirely to allow himself more time with his wife and children.
            When you uncover your lifestyle, you uncover a treasure trove of information that can guide you toward a more fulfilling future. As you uncover your innermost interests, talents and concerns, you can easily plot a course toward a vocation or an avocation that brings you natural fulfillment. The poet Robert Frost reflected that “way leads on to way.” Early memories are roadmaps that tell you which road to travel.


(Copyright Ellen Alderton, www.WeLoveAdler.net)