I am what I choose to become

Sigmund Freud thought that sometimes the memories of bad 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, he reasoned, is part of evolution. So if this kind of thing happens to so many people so often (as it undoubtedly 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. They can interpret the same event differently. And an event which upsets one person might have no effect on someone else. 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: which is the opposite of whatever happened.

That might seem obvious. But in a world that is filled with so many conflicting messages telling us who we should be, what we should buy, who we should vote for, how we should live, this is a gift of gold. It shows us what really matters to us, no matter what anybody else says. It shows us who we truly are, what we care most about.

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. It shows us what will most inspire us through this time of change. It shows us who we most want to become.

Or as Carl Jung put it:

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

Understanding this more deeply builds a foundation for becoming antifragile, by 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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