Finding our Life Vocation
Many people come to therapy because they are feeling that something is missing from their lives. This ‘something’ may be hard to describe, but that doesn’t make the experience less troubling.
A way of dealing with this kind of issue is asking oneself, ‘what is my calling?’. By calling I mean what is my passion, my longing, my uniqueness, my destiny?
Psychotherapist and author James Hillman argues that each of us enters the world with a particular calling, and that it is only when we pay attention to the hints and nudges in our lives that we become aware of this destiny.
By looking at the childhoods of great artists, musicians and thinkers Hillman found many clues to their future destiny - for example the great violinist Yehudi Menuhin begged for a violin at the age of three and treated with contempt the toy violin his parents bought him.
Meanwhile, as a child the French novelist Colette collected the most high-quality writing paper, pencils and pens, but refused to learn how to write.
These childhood eccentricities are, for Hillman, indications that a person’s calling is involved, signalling something about what they will devote their passion to in the future.
While most of us are not destined to be great musicians or writers, we nevertheless may also be able to glimpse clues and hints from our childhood - and later years - pointing us in a certain direction. It may be a calling to travel the world, to campaign against injustice, to garden or be an inventor.
But the pressures of everyday life and the expectations of society and the people around us mean many people find themselves far away from their calling. They may have chosen a ‘safe’ career or made it their priority to make money. They may have opted for the kind of life that their parents would approve of.
It’s only later in life that the nagging doubts begin - ‘is this what I really want from my life?’, ‘why does everything feel so flat?’
To discover more about our calling we need to pay attention to the little clues in life, as well as to the world of the imagination - such as dreams. The more we can tune into this inner voice, the more we can begin to discover our path.
Psychologist David Richo, in "The Power of Coincidence", tells of how Abraham Lincoln once bought a barrel from a man selling his possessions. He kept it, unopened, for years, and then one day looked inside and found some law books. He had been considering law or journalism but this coincidence encouraged him into law, which led to politics and the US presidency.
Even life’s painful events can contribute to our sense of a calling, says Richo: “In our own lives we may have been abused in childhood and now could ask ourselves how this has helped us to become bolder within ourselves and more compassionate towards others.”
In therapy a person can be helped to explore his or her calling. It doesn't need to be about big things either, but rather what is that person passionate about, what do they really care about? And are they honouring those passions or interests in their life?
If not, how can they find a way of introducing some of these activities or enthusiasms into their life. Little by little, the individual may find that life is becoming richer, more interesting, as they attune themselves to their deeper desires.
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