"As we've said before, when you choose one thing, you always 'unchoose' something else. The unchosen thing is the trouble. If you don't do something with the unchosen, it will set up a minor infection somewhere in the unconscious and later take its revenge on you. Courtney had chosen a conventional life, but this did not eliminate her need for those qualities exemplified in the man who moved in down the street.

"Apply the oversimplified but very useful general principle: How can I do it (express the unlived life) while simultaneously not doing it?

"If you fall in love with your neighbor's husband, you cannot live out a passionate relationship directly without causing severe damage to those around you. The alternative seems to be to repress your desire, pretending that it is not there. But neither is satisfactory. You end up caught between two equally unhappy choices.

"If you work with this stuck place in the psyche instead of reacting unconsciously, you can use it to become more whole. Your first step is to figure out what makes this man shine for you. Make a list of what seems so special about him. Perhaps he appears confident, sexy, worldly, or spiritual, or he is a 'bad boy.' Then you also should realize that to some extent these qualities are underdeveloped or unlived in you. You must find a way to relate to these qualities in yourself. To act out to these qualities by asking a lover to carry them for you or to pursue them at the wrong level is a tragedy and the cause of much hurt and pain in the world. The qualities that shine in others are your own potentials ripe for development. You must look for ways to honor and nurture such unlived life in a symbolic way.

"For example, if you are drawn to a 'bad boy,' it is probably a sign that you are too diligent and dutiful in your life. Perhaps you try so hard to be good that the other side needs to be heard to balance your life. (This is a frequent problem for pastors, politicians, families of prominent people, and anyone who feels they must appear as all 'good.' One day their 'bad' side is acted out in some unconscious manner.)

"How could you break the rules a bit, be more spontaneous, own some of these 'bad' qualities in yourself? How is it you became undernourished in this quality? Are there core beliefs that keep you from expressing what is unlived? To individuate in the second half of life you need to fill in the missing pieces of your personality so you can become more aware and more whole. The Jungian term shadow for our purposes refers to everything in an individual that is unconscious. We could say that unlived life is that portion of the shadow that can and should be incorporated into our personalities. We have qualities and energies in us that are persistent in seeking incarnation.

"The more invested and rigid you are about clinging to your conscious positions, the more vulnerable you will be to invasions of the shadow. The repressed energy then shows up as a sudden love affair, an embarrassing fit of rage, or other indiscretions. Unlived life will find its way out, whether in unconscious acts, projections upon others, psychological disturbances, such as anxiety or depression, or as somatic illness.

"Does this mean that you have to be as destructive as you are creative, as dark as you are light? Yes, but you have some control over how or where you will pay the dark price.

When 'Just Saying No' Doesn't Work

"Despite the moral imperatives that we learn as children, sometimes it's not enough to just say, 'I won't do it' to banish all thought of a forbidden thing. This creates inner conflict. Who knows how much physical illness is the battleground of unlived life. You may well get a nervous stomach, back pain, headaches, or some other type of ailment when you try to practice a moralistic 'just say no' policy.

"It is a fact that some qualities in our unlived life are not admirable or civil. For example, I have a destructive streak in me, as does everyone. Our destructive qualities can be seen at sporting events in which the crowd expects and even cheers for carnage on the playing field, the boxing arena, or the ice rink. People line up to watch high-rise buildings being taken down in powerful explosions. We are in awe at the destructive potential of tidal waves and hurricanes and watch the terrible news reports more than once.

"I try to be conscious and not act out my destructive streak in the world. Destructiveness is part of my unlived life, a part that I would prefer not to claim, but at times it breaks into my conscious life anyway. It particularly happens under stress. To deal with these energies, I must find something symbolic that can express this destructiveness.

"Fortunately, we have a choice of levels by which we can realize unlived life. Start small with some humble experiments. For example, for that destructive streak I might smash milk cartons for recycling, aggressively rake the leaves, throw an ice cube against a brick wall, strike a punching bag as part of my daily exercise. These activities may seem silly or trivial, but you must begin somewhere. Maybe I need to tear apart a manuscript, showing no mercy as I slash through the flabby thinking expressed there. Or perhaps I need to cut through some illusion that I cling to in order to see clearly.

"Once I counseled a woman who confessed to me that she had a problem with promiscuity. She enjoyed seducing men to gain power. She tearfully admitted that she had never felt emotional intimacy with any man, seldom had an orgasm, and experienced disgust as soon as the sex act was completed. 'I will be alone with a man, and I see the opportunity. With just the right word or gesture I can turn his attention, and the seduction has begun,' she said. 'At some level it is like a game that I cannot stop playing.'

"What was she to do?

"It is not enough just to think about a symbolic act. That will not satisfy compulsions or your unlived life. To be effective, the solution requires activity. In the case of the seductress, I asked her to write letters to each of the men she had seduced but not to mail them. In each letter she would explain consciously her feelings, motives, and intentions. She did this as a homespun ritual of contrition, brought the letters to me, and read them aloud with great emotion in one of our sessions. With some of the letters she cried. With others she expressed rage. She created a symbolic ritual. In the process, my client realized she had never really experienced true intimacy because she feared vulnerability.

"After that day, whenever she felt the urge to act out, she would first write a letter, thereby making the unconscious conscious.

"I have provided examples, but there is no simple recipe. A ritual must be tailor-made to your situation. Every morning for years a friend named Jack would go outside early and talk things over with a tree in his backyard while circumambulating it. That tree seemed to provide wise counsel for Jack with Jack whatever problems he was dealing with. For another person a symbolic ritual with a tree may mean nothing. She will have to devise her own meaningful action.

"Religious traditions are rich in customs and ceremonies for meeting anything that might befall a person. There are rituals to help carry us over a threshold during life transitions such as birth, becoming an adult, marriage, and death. For some people the prescribed rituals still work effectively. Sometimes you can modify a religious ritual to meet your own requirements and thereby devise the medicine (ceremony) that is exactly right for your particular ailment — this is the highest form of creativity."