But that way of telling our life story, while helpful in marking our place within the collective life of society, does not really describe the living drama within our soul: those roads not taken, the grief or guilt or despair about choices made and not made, and the moments of bravery or cowardice when we acted unfaithfully toward others and perhaps ourselves. Or if we by chance did indeed confess those interior moments, very few of us describe the images that motivated us, the mythic beliefs that fascinated and perhaps even terrorized us.
I am not suggesting that we have to "tell all" to the public. However, I am advocating in behalf of becoming conscious of this interiority. I am saying I think it can be beneficial to tell our story from the "inside out" at least to ourselves. What we then do with that story can be decided only once we have a greater consciousness of what it is.
Why bother to do this? Why not let the "sleeping dogs" lie quietly within our psyches? I believe the telling of our life story from the inside out makes possible a fuller, more meaningful embrace of ourselves. Life seems to appreciate closures as much as beginnings. Such closure brings peace and the grace of acceptance, but also quite surprisingly some occasional nuggets of treasure like long-forgotten family heirlooms lost in the attics and basements of our mental life.
So how do we begin to tell the story of our life from the inside out? In his essay titled "The Symbolic Life," C.G. Jung puts it this way.
"So these depths, that layer of utter unconsciousness in our dream,
contain at the same time the key to individual completeness and
wholeness, in other words to healing. The meaning of 'whole' or
'wholeness' is to make holy or to heal. The descent into the depths
will bring healing. It is the way to the total being, to the treasure
which suffering mankind is forever seeking, which is hidden in the
place guarded by terrible danger. This is the place of primordial
unconsciousness and at the same time the place of healing and
redemption, because it contains the jewel of wholeness. It is the
cave where the dragon of chaos lives and it is also the indestructible
city, the magic circle or temenos, the sacred precinct where all the
split-off parts of the personality are united."
In other words, it is our dreams that tell the story of our life from a vantage point we seldom think about. Unless we are shaken by a very disturbing nightmare, we most often can throw off our dreams as so much baggage, trash, or refuse that we don't really need and would be better off without. At least, we could sleep better, so we think. But the fact is that our dreams are vital with their subtle, quiet, and sometimes insistent nagging to get our attention and -- perhaps -- redirect a course of action or make possible some important change in our attitude or state of mind.
Consider, for example, these five basic questions of life:
1. Who am I? This is the question of IDENTITY, and if you sit down to think about it, the
answer is a rather complicated one that takes you far beyond your job, marital status,
2. Where do I belong? The question of COMMUNITY. Again, not so easy to answer if you
really think about it, this question prompts you to consider who your true friends are,
what group you really identify with most if you are honest with yourself, and any
pretentions or obsessions about clubs you belong to or wish you could.
3. Where am I to go? The question of VOCATION. The question, in this sense, looks at
vocation as a calling. In other words, from "outside" myself something or someone
"calls" to me, gets my attention and resonates with some deep-seated longing to
4. What should I do? The question of ETHICS. The healthy psychological life is one that
is moral, and by that I do not mean moralistic. The deep story of humanity's most
profound heroism is the story of seeking a moral ground that is encoded within a
statement of ethics to serve the common good. It is the message that Shakespeare
put in the mouth of Polonius as advice to his son Laertes who was leaving to go into
the wider unknown and morally uncertain world: "To thine own self be true, and then
it must follow as night follows day, thou canst be false to no one," (Act 1 Scene 3,
Hamlet), although Polonius did not himself embody the counsel offered his son.
5. Why? The question of our SPIRITUALITY.
"Tell me why the stars do shine?
Tell me why the ivy twine?
Tell me why the skies are blue?
And I will tell you just why I love you."
So goes the lovely old folk tune. But it sounds the archetypal theme within each of
us who has marveled at the mystery of creation and felt we belong to something
much bigger and meaningful than can be either explained or cast in doctrinal
These are the existential questions of our life: Identity, Community, Vocation, Ethics, and Spirituality. Told from the inside out they portray the mythopoeic dramas by which each life is granted its own place in the starry heavens. And, if you look back closely, you will likely be surprised at the many times our dreams have nudged us in one way or another when we wrestled with each of the questions. These dreams make up a library of countless dramas with casts of thousands.
Each dream is that important, that deserving of our attention and at least a recall of the night's adventure. And for people who are interested in taking a closer look at their lives from the inside out, here is a possible approach for gathering, listening to, learning from, and aligning ourselves with a story within that wants to be lived out:
Dreams come to us each night. Our response is:
1. To re-member.
2. To record.
3. To reflect.
a. Note the “story” the dream tells.
b. Be attentive to the setting, the characters, the actions of the characters as
well as our own behavior.
c. Identify the psychological complex the dream may be surfacing.
d. Consider whether the dream is subjective (the imagery’s focus is to identify
inner parts of myself) or objective (the imagery’s focus is directed toward
persons and/or events outside myself.)
e. Note how the dream is likely compensating for imbalance in our waking life,
unless the dream is telepathic, pre-cognitive, or focusing on past trauma.
f. Connect the dream with past dreams.
g. Observe the imagery’s themes that may have appeared in myths, fairy tales,
h. Consider the larger context of (1) the past day’s activities, (2) events in our
wider culture and world, (3) spiritual or religious themes we may be facing.
i. State an interpretation and notice how this feels.
4. To revision.
Imagine how your life will be different as you live into the dream’s imagery.
How will you act, think, feel, perceive? What difference might this make in your
basic attitude and outlook in life? Does this lead you toward greater health,
completeness, fulfillment? If you are uncertain, discuss the prospects with a
5. To redirect.
This is the point where we are given opportunities to make changes in our
behavior, possibly our lifestyle and more possibly, a sense of fulfillment that
we have not realized before. This is the point where a new world begins.
In conclusion, the truth is that we live our lives as a succession of many worlds, with beginnings, middles and ends. Only at the end might we really see how these worlds make one life. But the meaning of this one life can only be most fully appreciated when we tell the story from inside out.