I am what I choose to become


Sigmund Freud thought that sometimes the memories of things that happened to us in our childhoods returned to mess up our lives 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 kind of thing happens to so many of us then there must be a strong 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 that people thought they were stupid. A third child might interpret the same event as meaning that they were unimportant. And a fourth child might breeze through the same event completely unaffected. In other words, we each choose what we get upset about and what we think it means.

Years later we find ourselves in a world filled with conflicting messages about who we should be, what we should buy, how we should behave, and how we should vote. Then the things we got upset about as children become a gift: they show us what we truly care about, rather than what other people are telling us to care about.

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

Or as Carl Jung put it:

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

As adults, this means that we can take these events and use them as signposts that show us the impact we most want to create with our lives.

If we combine this with learning from our past, learning from our future, and learning from the people we most admire then we can give ourselves a deeper understanding of what truly drives us. In a time of change, this will not only inspire us but also show us what we most want to create in the world (for ourselves and others) — giving us the direction and momentum 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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(And remember: you don’t learn to swim by reading about swimming, you also need to practice.)

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