We carry a vast repository of dreams, ideas, and underdeveloped talents around within us. Many psychologists call these feelings "unlived lives." During middle-age or later, we are bothered by these shadow qualities. Whenever we feel anxious, restless, or bored they rise to the surface. Many try to avoid them by constant busyness; others bury them under an accumulation of possessions or pretend they are covered up by wealth. But our unlived lives do not miraculously vanish. The more we try to stuff them, the more troublesome they become. The best way to deal with them is to do some meaningful inner work.
Robert A Johnson and Jerry M. Ruhl (Contentment) are psychologists who believe that the second half of life is the best time to examine the truths by which we live and to come to terms with their opposites as well. To help us move beyond regret, disappointment, and sadness over our unlived lives, Johnson and Ruhl draw upon the myth of the two Gemini twins Castor and Pollux, insights from patients who have struggled with paths not taken, and wise counsel from spiritual sages of many faiths.
The authors lament dualistic thinking which is so predominant in the West where the world is conveniently divided into good and evil forces. This method of dealing with what is incomplete and unfinished in us leads to fanaticism and destructiveness. A lack of self-love can also lead us to give away our gold to heroes and celebrities.
Johnson and Ruhl are convinced that coming to terms with our shadow side is transformative. They give the example how we are uneasy with our capacity for destructiveness. Instead of burying it inside, perhaps we can express it in harmless ways such as throwing an ice cube against a brick wall or using a punching bag as part of our exercise regimen. They see value in active imagination where we dialogue with various unlived aspects of ourselves. They encourage us to make better use of our dream life and symbolic images from within.
Johnson and Ruhl point out that true maturity makes a place for playfulness:
"Play is a divine quality that you can bring to anything, an attitude and a presence rather than a defined activity. When play is free, and not choreographed by some existing rules or regulations, it is ambiguous, exciting, risky, and open to possibilities."
One of the best things about Living Your Unlived Life is the authors' playfulness. They present a treasure trove of tools and exercises to help us restore any missing pieces in our lives by changing our consciousness. This is a spiritual process of inner work that challenges us to stay in the present moment and to be always busy with the art of making meaning.