I am what I choose to become

Sigmund Freud thought that the memories of bad things that happened in to us (especially during childhood) could sometimes return to haunt us, messing up our lives.

But for Carl Jung this explanation made no sense. Everything in nature, he reasoned, is part of evolution. So if this type of thing happens so often, to so many people (as it undoubtedly does), then it must bring some kind of benefit

What could that be?

Jung realised that different people get upset about different things. An event that upsets one person might have no effect on someone else. And different people will often interpret the same event in different ways. 

This means that, in a sense, we each choose the events we get upset about and what we imagine those events mean.

Now, we could interpret this as another bad thing that happened. “Oh no, I got it wrong! I interpreted that event wrongly!”

But what it actually means is that whatever upsets us most is a gift of gold.

In a world filled with messages telling us what we should buy, how we should feel, who we should vote for, how we should live, and so on, the things we get upset about show us what we care about most. They show us, out of everything that is happening around us, the things that affect us most. 

The things that trigger us are reminders. They remind us of our priorities, no matter what anybody else says we should care about or ignore. They show us what we care about the most. They show us who we are. They show us who we most want to become: the opposite of whatever has happened. 

And as Carl Jung then said, 

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

What seemed like a problem to Freud is actually an opportunity. It’s another signpost showing us what will most inspire us to move through this time of change with passion, energy, and enthusiasm: the opposite of what has happened. 

And when we understand this, then we can work to transform our emotions to achieve what matters most to us.

This is another step to becoming antifragile: using the changes around us to make us stronger and more valuable.

Can you think of something that has upset or enraged you recently? How much energy and enthusiasm would you have 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 can’t learn to swim just by reading about swimming, you also need to do the practice.)

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