I am what I choose to become

Carl Jung

Sigmund Freud said that bad things happen to us in our childhoods and that sometimes the memories of these can return to upset us when we get older. But for Carl Jung this explanation made no sense.

Jung reasoned that everything in nature is part of evolution. So if this happens then there must be a good evolutionary reason for it — there must be an evolutionary benefit that comes from it. What could that be?

Jung realised that different people get upset about different things. One child might interpret an event as meaning that people didn’t love them. Another might interpret the same event as meaning people thought they were stupid. A third might interpret the same event as meaning that they were unimportant. And a fourth child might breeze through the same event completely unaffected. In effect, we each choose what we get upset about and what we think it means.

So in a world where there are so many messages telling us who we should be, and how we should behave, and what we should buy, the things we got upset about as children are actually a gift: they show us what we really care about, and who we really are.

As adults, we are the same people now as we were as children, but now we have the power to shape our lives. And as adults we can take these signs and use them as signposts, pointing us to the impact we would most like to have with our lives.

Yes the past happened. But it doesn’t define who we are. It shows us who we want to become.

As Carl Jung put it:

“I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become.”

If we combine learning from our past with learning from our future and learning from the people we most admire, we can create a deeper understanding of what drives us. This will provide motivation and focus to not only inspire us through this time of change but also show us what we most want to create (for ourselves and others) and enable us to become who we truly are.

Can you remember an upsetting event from your childhood? (We all have one.) What would it be like to build a world that is the opposite of that?


Inner Leadership is a framework and a set of tools for building inspiration in a time of change.

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