John was going through an inner life crisis. But he could not fathom what was wrong. He and his wife were comfortably well off and had got the house as they wanted it. He had always been a confident person. Outwardly in their lives nothing much had changed.
Inner life problems
But, now for the first time he was getting low moods and experiencing unease with no obvious reasons. These feelings were sapping his self-esteem. He found himself voicing self-doubt and uncertainty about where he was going in life; questioning his lifestyle, his career and even his marriage. He felt he had been drifting along, no longer with any sense of direction. He had lost touch with the ambitions that he had once had.
When one’s inner life not in harmony with one’s outer life
Life may have become less hectic. But this had meant there had been opportunity for him to hear his inner self telling him things he did not want to hear; that being pre-occupied with paying the mortgage, keeping senior managers happy and cutting the lawn at home plus all the other work he had done on the house, was not really what life is truly about. He needed to let go of the old and do things differently.
The process of self-discovery is to do with uncovering one’s inner life. This is not uncommon especially in middle age when there is less focus on the normal hurdles of early adulthood. Anyone might also become exposed to their own complacency, noticing an attitude of smugness and self-satisfaction that previously lay hidden, appreciating the mixed motives often behind what they do. They start to notice a real self lurking within the persona they had been living.
John started to see that some of the things he had done had stemmed from a self-centered orientation whilst in his own eyes he had been acting in a worthwhile way. He was beginning to grasp the extent he had been living in a fool’s paradise. No wonder his confidence was reducing and sense of contentment becoming elusive.
Inner life crisis an opportunity for self-discovery
I believe the inner life crisis is there for a reason. It is prompting an honest self-appraisal of what we are deep down.
“Count your rectitude as foolishness, know your cleverness to be stupidity”
(Lao Tse Tao Teb King, xiv. Taoist tradition)
Despite a spiritual awakening, we can resist new insight and turn back to the darkness that once enveloped us. Often the outward appearance of everything we encounter continues to seduce us. This can show in smug self-justification of established patterns of behaviour as if a radical response to the inner crisis were not needed.
We might find ourselves thinking, `No matter what the current economic climate, I’m too astute and knowledgeable a person to go under.’ Or `No matter what my weakness for sexual excitement might be I’m too good and worthy a provider, and family carer to be rejected by my partner.’
But, if instead we were honest with ourselves, would we no longer need to make up excuses? If we are genuine with others is it not less draining than constantly trying to hide our true selves from them?
Authentic relationship is the key to inner life harmony
My belief is that only by an authentic relationship with others, with whatever notion of God we hold, and with ourselves, can we hope to stop self-deception.
In line with this spiritual philosophy, those of us with a deep trust in a higher truth about life and the provision of a spiritual destiny, are never likely to lose hope, whatever in life threatens us. The spirit of truth and love lives on. However, such faith does lead to consequences. For there can be no new birth without some pain – there is no letting go of former things without some pain of loss.
“I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”
Copyright 2011 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of Heart, Head & Hands Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems
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