I am what I choose to become

Sigmund Freud thought that sometimes the memories of things that happened to us in our childhoods can return to mess up our lives when we are adults. But for Carl Jung this explanation made no sense.

Everything in nature is part of evolution, he reasoned. So if this kind of thing happens to so many people so often (as it does) then there must be a good evolutionary reason for it. What could that be?

Jung realised that different people get upset about different things. And they can interpret the same event in different ways. And an event which upsets one person, someone else might breeze through completely unaffected. So in a sense, he realised, we each choose what we get upset about and what we imagine it means.

This means that as adults, the things we got upset about as children become a gift. They show us what we care about the most.

In a world filled with so many conflicting messages telling us who we should be, what we should buy, who we should vote for, what we should do, and so on, the things we got upset about as children are a gift of gold. They show us what really matters to us, no matter what anybody else says. They show us, in the midst of all that background noise, what we care about, which is the opposite of what happened back then.

So what seems like a problem is actually the solution. It’s a signpost that shows us the work that will have most meaning for us: creating the opposite of whatever happened then. Healing the world by healing ourselves.

Yes the past happened. But we were children so we couldn’t control it. It doesn’t define who we are. It shows us the issue(s) we most care care about in the world. 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.”

The deeper we understand this (perhaps using other tools other tools, such as learning from our past, learning from our future, and learning from the people we most admire) the deeper we build a foundation for becoming antifragile. Because, like it or not, this is what has meaning for us. This is what will inspire us through a time of change. This is the starting point for becoming who we truly are.

Can you remember something that upset you as a child? What would it be like if you were working, with others, 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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(And remember: you don’t learn to swim by reading about swimming, you also need to practice.)

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