Lecture: Living the Unlived Life
This talk explores the essential developmental task in the second half of life – rectifying the loss of abandoned dreams and unrealized potentials to achieve our ultimate life meaning and purpose. What is unlived life? It consists of those potential aspects of ourselves that have not adequately entered into our experience. Of course, no one can live out all of life’s possibilities, but there are key aspects of our being that must be brought into life or we cannot realize fulfillment. We all carry with us a vast inventory of unlived life. Even if we have achieved major life goals and seemingly have few regrets, there are significant experiences that have been closed to each of us. For everything we choose (or that has been chosen for us), something else remains “unchosen.”
The greatest burden a child must bear is the unlived life of the parents.
– C.G. Jung
Zarathustra goes to the grave with the unfulfilled dreams of his youth. He speaks to them as if they were ghosts who have betrayed him bitterly. They struck up a dance and then spoiled the music. Did the past make his path so weighty? Did his unlived life impede him and consign him to a life that seems not to pass?
– F. Nietzsche
We can hear the distant drumbeat of unlived life in the mutterings that go on in the back of our heads; “Woulda-coulda-shoulda.” Or in second-guessing our life choices. Or those late night longings. The unexpected grief that arises seemingly out of nowhere. A sense that we have somehow missed the mark, or failed to do something we were so sure we were supposed to do. Where did we go wrong, and what is this life that we find ourselves living, so different that what we set out to do?
When brought into consciousness, unlived life can become the fuel that propels us beyond current limitations. By exploring unlived life we learn to rise above fears, regrets, and disappointments, to expand our vision beyond the narrow confines of the ego, and to embrace the full measure of our being. An enlightened vision is our most profound unlived potential, and bringing it to fruition is the worthy purpose of the second half of life.
Workshop: The Power of Symbolic Life (Reconciling Life’s Painful Contradictions)
We humans are given the most conflicting job description imaginable. We must be civilized human beings, and that requires a whole list of “dos and don’ts,” culturally determined virtues. Simultaneously, we are called to live everything that we truly are, to be whole – this is our duty to the higher Self.
This collision of values makes life confusing and painful. We all are faced daily with innumerable decisions: some easy and inconsequential, others troublesome and far-reaching. Apparent contradictions tie us in knots. It seems that we could not get through life without being divided. Everything that human beings experience consciously is brought to us in pairs of opposites.
C.G. Jung wrote that the medieval mentality is “either/or,” but if humanity is to survive we must learn to cope with “both/and.” This change in the prevailing attitude of our culture demands a leap of consciousness from opposition to paradox. In our spiritual quest, we must be weaned, not from materialism, but from dualistic thinking.
Drawing upon the myth of the twin stars in the Gemini constellation, this workshop explores the unity that exits behind every duality. The ancient Greek myth of Castor and Pollux has extraordinary wisdom and relevance for us today. Unified in their childhood, this pair came to be separated, fragmentary, and miserable. One is mortal, the other divine. Only after much struggle are they reunited in heavenly embrace.
Dr. Ruhl will present this timeless story as a prototype and navigation point for all humans on the journey into wholeness. When we allow both sides of any issue to exist in equal dignity and worth, a synthesis is possible, bringing new insight, meaning, and contentment to our lives. Symbolic life provides the “keys to the Kingdom.” Well-grounded in Jungian psychological concepts, this workshop will provide practical tools to help you:
- Surrender old limitations;
- Enliven friendships, relationships and career
- Unlock new life options and hidden talents
- Seize the “dangerous” opportunities of midlife
- Master the art of being truly alive in the present moment
- Revitalize a connection with the higher Self, and thereby achieve peace and purpose in your mature years.
Jerry M. Ruhl, Ph.D., is Executive Director of the C.G. Jung Educational Center of Houston and a clinical psychologist in private practice. He has studied spiritual practices in Japan, Bali, Thailand, Nepal, and India. With internationally known Jungian analyst Robert A. Johnson, he is the co-author of Balancing Heaven and Earth (1998) and Contentment (1999). This seminar draws upon material in the newest book by Dr. Ruhl and Dr. Johnson, titled, Living Your Unlived Life. Dr. Ruhl received a master’s degree from the University of Colorado at Boulder and earned a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Pacifica Graduate Institute. He was formerly a trustee for the C. G. Jung Society of Colorado.