What makes life worth living? Is it the depth of one’s capacity to love and trust, the ability to forgive and make amends, the realization that life is momentary and nothing can be grasped, the satisfaction and recognition of accomplishment, self knowledge, the power to accept what we cannot change, or something else?
Another set of questions then arises…. Where do we find strength and fortitude when life is painfully difficult and seemingly nonsensical? Do we give up? Do we mentally uncover and uncouple rationalizations to logical conclusions? Do we take a stand based on our morals, ethics, values, and compassion? Or, do we take a step back to inwardly observe the interchange of the sense with their objects, adopting a deep consent to be exactly where we are and to feel what we are feeling in the present state of consciousness, dispelling judgment, and allow life to unfold. It is in this inward silence that we find the growth-oriented dimension of our personality.
What do I mean by growth-oriented? I think it is the potential to evolve into higher, better, more refined and discerning individuals—a holistic philosophy and way of being that is inherent to all existential-humanistic and transpersonal views of the person. It is found through contemplative self-reflection, induction of altered states of consciousness, and the pursuit of techniques designed to foster spiritual insight with focus on the self that is directly experienced.
For example, William James (1902) explored the personal subconscious as the doorway to transforming experiences of a mystical nature. Rollo May (1999) described the self-actualized, existential moment as a state of vivid translucence, a vision of life given special clarity by the breakthrough of the unconscious into consciousness, as a dynamic fusion of experience within us. Abraham Maslow (1970) professed that human beings had a growth-oriented, biologically-based, instinctive nature that was fulfilled in spiritual self-actualization and transcendence as the highest, most inclusive level of human consciousness. Carl Jung (1933) believed if the unconscious could be recognized as a co-determining quantity along with the conscious, the center of gravity of the total personality shifted from the narcissistically-oriented ego to a hypothetical point between the conscious and unconscious, called the self. Charlotte Bühler (1968) found that healthy personalities are active mediators of their own existence, through the integration of its reality-transcendent orientation and its subconscious depth. Self, as a core system of personality, can integrate, direct, and actualize basic human tendencies through creative expansion, existential-will-to-meaning, and intentionality.
Likewise, in the therapeutic relationship, Carl Rogers (1961) introduced a non-directive, client-centered psychotherapy in which the fully functioning person had five qualities similar to Buddhist philosophy: (1) openness to experience (accurate perception of one’s feelings and experience of the world), (2) existential living (living in the present, the here-and-now), (3) organismic trusting (trusting one’s thoughts and feelings), (4) experiential freedom (acknowledging freedoms and taking responsibility for one’s actions), and (5) creativity (participating in the world and contributing to the lives of others). Inherent to this view, is the actualization of potential and the striving towards health as intrinsic to human motivation.
During the holiday season, take a moment to reflect on the meaning of life, the blessings that you have been given, and what is truly important, purposeful, and magical about your life. When you do, I think you will discover the growth-oriented dimension of your personality.
Bühler, C. M. (1968). The general structure of the human life cycle. In C. Bühler & F. Massarik (Eds.), The course of human life: A study of goals in the humanistic perspective (pp. 12-26). New York, NY: Springer.
James, W. (1902). The varieties of religious experience: A study in human nature. New York, NY: Longmans, Green and Company.
Jung, C. G. (1933). Modern man in search of soul. London, UK: Routledge and Kegan Paul. (Original work published 1916)
Maslow, A. H. (1970). Motivation and personality (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Harper & Row.
May, R. R. (1999). Creativity and the unconscious. Review of Existential Psychology and Psychiatry, 24, 33-39.
Rogers, C. (1961). On becoming a person: A therapist’s view of psychotherapy. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin.
— Susan Gordon