Among the Walking Wounded


Lately I’ve been thinking about the many wonderful people I know and love who are not oriented to psychological introspection and have trouble understanding why it’s so important to me. This one is for them.
Thinking psychologically does not come naturally to most of us, partly because it requires a certain distancing from worldly distractions that absorb our time and energy. Solitude is uncomfortable for extraverts whose batteries run dry when deprived of human interaction, and withdrawal is punishing to sensory types for whom the material world is a laboratory of delights awaiting experimentation.  “Why would I want to waste my precious time looking inside myself or beneath the surface of things?”  these people wonder.  Why indeed?  According to the Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator, I’m an introverted intuitive treading water in a sea of extraverted sensate types.   In short, everyone’s not made like me. 
Moreover, there are the realities of everyday living. Many people regardless of personality type are content with their jobs and/or service to their families and communities. They ask themselves, “What’s the point of trying to understand myself better? I have work I love and people who love me and I’m making a valuable contribution.” They are fortunate to be this comfortable with themselves. I have often wished I were like them.
Some find all the purpose and meaning they need in religion. Although their lives are no freer from problems or suffering than anyone else’s, where they are feels so much better than where they were that they simply do not need to keep looking.
But for a minority of people, and I am among them, our work, relationships, and religions are not enough. We don’t know why. We didn’t ask to be this way. Some of us don’t notice the disconnect from ourselves until mid-life. Before then we are too busy scrambling in the outer world to hear the inner dissonance. But then one dark night we find ourselves thinking, “Is this all there is?” and the longing sets in. I assure you this makes us feel selfish and ungrateful, especially if we have been gifted with good health, good fortune, and loving families. The guilt causes some of us to struggle mightily to dismiss a hunger that feels inappropriate.  
But ignoring our yearning for completion only makes us feel worse. Call us morbid-minded perfectionists if you will. Call us the walking wounded. But we know there’s a darkness inside us because we can see its effects, and that knowledge is too painful to bear without trying to do something about it. We may walk many roads, but the only one that doesn’t eventually disappoint is the path to self-knowledge and consciousness. I know, because when I began studying Jungian psychology and working with my dreams the healing insights started popping up everywhere and they’re still coming.
Psychological insights are magical elixirs for people like me.  They open our minds, affirm our worth, expand our choices, heal our suffering, bring light to the darkness, enliven our senses, teach us to love, spark our creativity, and help us be who we are meant to be.  Life its own glorious self is more than enough for many people, but among the walking wounded, Socrates’ assertion that ‘the unexamined life is not worth living’ is the profoundest truth we know.

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0 Responses

  1. Dear Jeanie… I bow to the “IN” in you and also know that the “EN” in me…the extraverted, out there, chatty natural preferences… shares the same longing. I just returned from week-long silent meditation retreat which is held in the Buddhist Vipassana (insight meditation) tradition. I find that it is essential for me to make time to recharge my batteries and I long for these opportunities. Buddhism is an interesting practice (note: NOT religion, at least for me) …one that complements all religious traditions. Even as you sit quietly, the contemplation surrounds the exploration into the causes of suffering and the way out of suffering. It is all pretty simple, really, touching all the psychological inquiry you mentioned…insufficiency messages about ourselves, our world, our actions. And all the “mind states” of anxiety anticipation, anger, sadness, wanting, clinging to the past or present–even holding on to joy in the moment rather than savoring it, yearning for the future and not finding peace in the moment.
    Perhaps one difference between the me-extravert and you- introvert is that I must put “time for practice” on a calendar rather than making the time daily. (Frankly, this is because I am not disciplined and not because I don’t think it is important…I have to work on that!) But I also know that I spend a great deal of time reading, talking and exploring the psychological realm…indeed, attempting to LIVE in it. I work to be mindful and try to live in alignment with my values. And, fail as I may, even in the moment to moment, I do commit to getting back on the path each time I fall off. Everything in life is an interesting study …each person, experience, exchange…is a chance to explore your own inner landscape…and teach us how to live well in the world.
    I issue the challenge to you for a future blog– Perhaps as we approach the end of the Mayan calendar and the increasing volume of work is being written about the elevating consciousness on the plant… and the exponential growth in the numbers of people who are interested and exploring their inner landscapes…perhaps, just perhaps, some of “we psychological types” are being asked to prepare the way for a new way of being in the world… whatcha think about that??

  2. Dear Beth,
    Yes, thank you for noting that not all extraverts shy away from the inner life or ignore their longing for more, especially when extraversion (E) is combined with intuition (N). I have two other EN friends who are deeply committed to psychological inquiry but tell me it’s a constant struggle to find the time. Both of them do meditation retreats too! Conversely, the struggle for IN’s tends to be stepping out of our inner worlds long enough to find the time for social action and meaningful community involvement, a strength of yours that I admire enormously!
    I also am very drawn to the Buddhist wisdom of seeing each person, experience or exchange as a chance to explore our own inner landscapes and learn how to live well in the world. I envy you your week-long immersion in this enormously supportive and healing atmosphere. What a treat!
    I think you may be right that the psychologicallly oriented among us are feeling a very strong pull to share what we know with the world. I know I have a certain sense of urgency about it that I’ve never noticed before–hence his blog! And I know you’ve felt it too, and acted on it by founding the Cherokee Creek Boys School where you teach at-risk boys a new way of being in the world. This might, indeed be the topic of a future blog. Thank you for suggesting it.

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