It’s a good idea to take stock of where you are at in your journey every once in a while, if only to reassure yourself that you are indeed moving up and forward, and not in circles, or God forbid, backwards. No doubt we all slip back a few steps now and again, and we may even find ourselves looping, struggling to get through some issue, re-visiting the same thing repeatedly. This is not unexpected when you undertake the life-long journey towards self-actualization. What is more significant , I think, is the bigger picture – the overall distance travelled since beginning the climb towards the summit.
In order to evaluate your progress, you may need to step off the travelled road, take a little breather, and review the paths you have taken and where those paths have led you. Consider where you are today as opposed to when you began your journey. Ask yourself whether your inner landscape is more in keeping with your external environment. Is it a better fit? Do you have more peace of mind; less cognitive dissonance and/or anxiety? Have you made peace with your shadow aspect – those parts of you that don’t seem to fit with who you want to be (ie: persona/ideal self)? Have you taken an honest look within and do you recognize those parts of you? Have you ditched the rose-coloured glasses and have you made peace with and accept that you may not be exactly the person you would like to be, but are lovable nonetheless?
The aspects that we most dislike about ourselves on an unconscious level are those characteristics that are most difficult for us to see – and it seems we like it just fine that way. The shadow, if one wants to refer to Jung’s theory about the subconscious, creates a blind spot in our psyche – a kind of ego defence. But it likes to project and we can catch a glimpse of it if we pay attention. When we have a visceral and negative reaction to characteristics in another, it may be a projection of the shadow aspect. We often see in others what we most despise within ourselves. It is extremely difficult to accept this and most of the time we will refuse. But the truth is, if we are able to drop the ego defences and be completely honest with ourselves, we may indeed find that we own and have locked away those exact characteristics that we so despise, deep within our skins. The road towards self-actualization will give us the clarity and courage to finally come to terms with this phenomenon.
Eventually we will begin to integrate all of the disparate parts of our psyche; the good, the bad and, yes, even the evil, to finally become the fully functioning person, (Carl Rogers), the self-actualized person (Abraham Maslow), the positively disintegrated (Dabrowski), or the individuated person (Carl Jung), that we seek to be. In the end the goal remains the same – that is, to be whole and authentic no matter who’s theory you choose to buy into.
When you take stock of where you are at in your journey, you can decide whether you need to try another direction, take a much needed rest, or continue ahead, full-throttle. Although it may sometimes be difficult to see concrete changes, you will know and you will sense intrinsically that your efforts are taking you to where you want to be. And, although we need to keep an unwaivering eye on the summit – to continue to envision our goal – we should never forget that walking the road to self-actualization is really more about the journey and less about actually standing on the summit.
And when we find a flower on the side of the dusty road, we need to remember to stop, take a break, and breathe in. Life is about living afterall.