the certainty had me

"I did not have the certainty. The certainty had me." — Carl Jung

I opened the Sunday paper today to see headlines crying uncertainty. Will we have food? Will we have supplies? Will we be able to go anywhere?

Jung is really speaking about life and purpose, not Brexit. He felt compelled to do something. He wasn’t certain of anything, something grabbed him and pulled him with it.

This sense of purpose is so hard to discern. What is it?

Jung believed in 'individuation'; pursuing one's own vision of the truth, and, in so doing, realising one's fullest potential as a human being. This is where he diverged from his mentor Freud who believed in the primacy of sex as the main driver of human behaviour; Jung felt that uncovering your sense of purpose was more important than sexual feelings.

The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are.

Who you truly are. Self actualisation. Big topics. Athletes, as I’ve written before, really lean on these creative stories, becoming who they are through their careers success, their work so closely tied with big narratives around their lives and their personal characteristics.

We all feel like this to an extent but I’d argue that most people experience a greater disconnect between their professional personas and who they consider themselves to be at an essential level.

It’s funny though that Jung regarded self actualisation as life’s highest aim. Perhaps on an individual level this could be true but do we not have a need for community? For close relationships? Isn’t service a worthier form of living?

I’d like to think so. My happiest times have been periods of inter-reliance and teamwork - of great goals and shared hardship. When collective meaning falls apart then it’s hard to remain connected to others and then perhaps self actualisation is required. I have to say though, that although i’m very happy in my own company, I regard those periods of my life as some of the least satisfying.

We live in a more individual society than ever, the age of the personal brand and a period of rising selfishness epitomised by some of our political leaders. A sense of purpose is a fine goal - I’d love to find a burning sense of purpose - but perhaps a worthier one would be our collective enrichment, helping other people with their actualisation and creating common purpose.

Ben Mercer