I have written several posts about authentic will and illuminated its roots in the psyche. As a way of discovering what you will, I have put forward the idea of employing resonance. That is, look around for those things that stir feelings of joy, delight, bliss or enchantment and there you will find what you truly want (will). This is so, because what you see or experience is resonating with (stimulating) your emotionally important ideas, the origin of will. Notice that, while your will comes from within, what I am suggesting relies on external objects, situations, activities, and so on. Personally, I like the realistic aspects of this approach. I am a big believer in actualities.
Imagination can illuminate buried, forgotten, or neglected sources of joy and energize your life by putting will back into the picture. (Photo: public domain)
Austrian doctor and pioneering psychotherapist Alfred Adler made the inferiority complex central to his thinking. He believed that, “When the individual does not find a proper concrete goal of superiority, an inferiority complex results. The inferiority complex leads to a desire for escape and this desire for escape is expressed in a superiority complex, which is nothing more than a goal on the useless and vain side of life offering the satisfaction of false success.”
Pioneering psychotherapist Alfred Adler recognized our innate need to feel superior in some legitimate way. (Photo: public domain)
Adler’s “concrete goal of superiority” is a shorthand way of describing the authentic struggle for self-discovery and self-realization, which always plays out as a determined quest for various life goals. Failure to pursue self-realization (what life is all about) results in self-alienation. I can personally testify that this mental state does lead inevitably to feelings of gross inadequacy and inferiority. These negative feelings in turn prompt the formation of a monstrous vain and supercilious false persona, Adler’s “goal on the useless and vain side of life offering the satisfaction of false success.” Builders of false personas chase ego-enhancing goals with little in the way of usefulness, substance, or relevance to their authentic selves. Empty flash and glitter triumph over meaningfulness and emotional gratification.
The sense of the numinous generated by the unconscious mind can lead us on a great quest for self-discovery and lifelong self-realization. (Photo: Wikimedia)
Many people who work with, or are simply aware of, the unconscious see this portion of the mind in a reverential way. Jungian psychologist Helen M. Luke called it the “mystery within.” This inner mystery is thought to harbour all sorts of powers, some wonderful, some potentially dangerous. For Luke, one wonderful power was dreams. All her life she assiduously recorded and analyzed her dreams, and used them as a guide. Reading her journals and diaries, we acquire the distinct impression that her dream life meant more to her than her waking one. Luke also venerated the unconscious powers of creation that inspired her writing.
Formerly, the Muses were thought to make people extraordinary. Nowadays we see inner bickering as the cause. (Image: public domain.)
What makes some people become extraordinary? There have always been child prodigies, but the majority of exceptional human beings are not born with a noticeable gift. Instead, they develop into outstanding achievers as they mature. The explanation for why they reach the creative heights seems to lie with self-alienation and psychological distress, a fact that for centuries has surrounded creativity with myths of wild inspiration and “divine” madness. Research has shown that exceptional individuals come more often from homes where there has been a lot of bickering and conflict.
Yet being troubled is not enough. The extraordinary person also possesses the ability to use that suffering to propel themselves down the long hard road of self-discovery and self-realization. It would seem that inner bickering and conflict are a necessary part of the creative process, leading one to speculate that creative people internalize the chaotic home life when they are children, and then exploit it as a resource when they become adults. When they are young, they raise their eyes from their embattled immediate surroundings. They look up to role models who seem to offer better ideas, better ways of looking at life, better and more interesting ways of living; they hero worship.
Prometheus stole the gods’ fire. Creative individuals steal the gods’ thunder by exercising free will. (Image: public domain.)
Resistance Is Not Futile
“It is the possibility of resistance to the needs of desire, on the one hand, and the dictates of intellect and reason, on the other, that constitutes human freedom.” The quote is from Hannah Arendt’s Willing. My own rewording of the idea goes like this: Human will is able to steer a course between the powerful urges of instinct on the one hand and the incessant petitioning of reason on the other. It reminds me of the old Greek legend of Scylla and Charybdis. Will is like a ship traversing the narrow strait with the devouring monster of instinct on one side and the drowning whirlpool of nagging reason on the other.