Navigating my Middle Passage: From the Pursuit of Money to Meaning By Peter Metzner


  When I was in my 30s I had a well paid sales and sales training position.  I worked hard and made good money. In fact, most of my waking efforts were devoted to increasing my sales and commissions and supporting a life style that was keeping pace with my earnings. 

During this phase in my life, I dreamed I was imprisoned in a desert surrounded by a brick wall and chain link fence, guarded by a somewhat arrogant and surly middle-aged man.  On the other side of the wall was beautiful lush country and hills.  I later realized, this dream was a metaphor for how I had trapped myself, felt confined and unable to be in a place I wanted to be.   This insight inspired me to make major shifts in my personal and professional life.

Sigmund Freud was asked in a lecture “What is needed for a successful life?” Surprisingly, he answered in only two words: “Lieben und Arbeiten.” To give and receive love — and to do work that is right for you.  What was the right work for me?  The lush countryside in my dream offered a tantalizing clue.

With therapy, extensive reading, numerous workshops and being coached, I found that by not living my values, or my purpose, and not doing what I was passionate about was a major part of this malaise.  I was living other’s expectations of what I should be.  This is a good definition of Neurosis – having to be someone you are not.  Psychologist James Hollis says “the task of midlife is to find out who you really are and to claim your life.”

 I asked myself, what is a life that is worthy of me and reflective of who I am, what I am naturally good at, passionate about and where there is a real need in our society?  For me the answers that came were realizing that  teaching, coaching, training and helping others grow and be successful energized me.  As I looked back at the major themes of my life – the light bulb went off:  almost everything I had instinctively done was that of teaching, training coaching and speaking!

I realized that happiness and fulfillment for me  required connecting to my passion, utilizing and developing my natural strengths in the service of a need that made me feel my work was meaningful.  Once I got this, the map and next steps were clear.  This is how I made the shift from focusing on external rewards to what was intrinsically rewarding.  It hasn’t always been easy financially. There have been tests, trial and tribulations.  I do  believe that when I  aligned with what is right for me: doors opened,  opportunities arose and people I needed to meet  came to me and me to them in often unexpected ways.   The price of not shifting to vocation would have been too costly to my health, emotional well-being and happiness.

Stepping Into Your Vision by Peter Metzner


“I have lived on the lip of insanity, wanting to know reasons, knocking on a door. It opens.  I’ve knocked from the inside.” — Rumi

All of our trouble flows from being separated from our instincts.  C.G. Jung

Freud stated that “The price of civilization is neurosis”.   Neurosis meaning being someone you are not,  being split from your natural truth and being defined by an external definition of who you are.   Living a life that is authentically yours;  means being connected to your passion,  using and developing your gifts and natural abilities  in ways that are meaningful, useful and satisfying.   This is what vocational  integration is.    To get to this place requires some reflection and being  ‘real”  with your self.    Asking the larger and important questions can greatly help this process.

Below are powerful questions from James Hollis, PhD   that can help ease access to deeper insights.   Asking the “right”  questions;  stimulates our thinking  to seek to find answers.   We need   to ask and  be open and receptive to the messages we get.  Having solitude and quiet  allows us to hear and discern the answers that come.     Each may take some time so you may want to choose the one or ones that  resonate the most with you at this time.   

The Questions:

  • How do you know what is true for you?   How did you lose your personal authority in the first place?   Did you lose it through adapting  to circumstances?
  • What core ideas – are the defining ideas of my life?
  • What has brought you to this point in your life?  Fate?  Family influences?
  • What parts of history have framed your world?  Are there repeating patterns that make us prisoners of our history?
  • Which pieces or parts of your life are working  for you?
  • What constricts you?
  • What messages did you internalize?  i.e.  We are here to make money;  I have to be perfect,  successful;  have children and make them successful…
  • Why does so much feel like a script that has been written for you?
  • Am I choosing  security over truth?
  • Am I doing  what my peers do?
  • Do I change and grow and how?
  • Why is so much a disappointment?
  • Why do I hide so much from others?
  • What gets pushed underground in my unconscious?
  • Where do I experience the transcendent?

According to Jung, the highest calling is an appointment with our “self”.  We have an appointment with ourselves and not all of us keep it.     We need to mindful and discern where spirit is working in all areas of our lives. If the life we have lived has been too small and it may be too small for most of us;   the task of recovering ourselves is opening to largeness of our journey.

There are two  gremlins we face every morning.

Fear: I am too tiny it is too hard…  I can’t  do it.

 Lethargy:  – chill out tomorrow is another day…

Each will eat us alive… Fear and lethargy are the enemy, they are not out there they are inside.  We awaken only to fall back into the  comfort of our past life.

Jung also wrote:  ” The Spirit of evil is the negation of live force by fear… only boldness can overcome that fear.

If the risk is not taken, the meaning of life is violated.”

We all have a task and it is;  the recovery of personal authority and discerning the meaning of our lives.  Who are we to stand in its way?  We are responsible for finding meaning in our lives.

We can look at symptoms like depression, anxiety, addictions and compulsions as ruptures in our false self.   James Hollis also writes this is the psyche or our “self” trying to break out of the confines of the acquired or false self.    So welcome a symptom.  The psyche which has been captive may have a different agenda than the one our ego or acquired identity is following.    Symptoms may be the psyche no longer able to cooperate in going along the path we are taking.  Similar to the reins of a horse correcting us when we stray.

Jung believed  that every patient knew at some all level what they needed to do.   We all need to become our own psychotherapists
and heal the bridge and split from our natural truth.   The self knows you have always known.   This is the knowledge of the head in service to the knowledge of the heart which gives insight and the courage to live our lives.

If you knew what you are truly capable of, would you move forward into your life with tremendous enthusiasm and very little self-doubt?
Find  your voice and a place in your life where your brilliance  can shine through.  There is  something we all can do to bring us a sense of satisfaction and meaning.   Find  what you love the most in life.  Search inside for that deep passion or restlessness, and allow  yourself  the quiet and peace to give it full expression.
There is genius in every one of us, as a natural part of our birthright.  Let it come out.  The German Poet Rilke wrote: “Our task is to be defeated by ever larger things” .
References and suggested reading:
Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life: How to Finally Really Grow up James Hollis PH.D, Gotham books New York, NY 2006
Why Good People Do Bad Things:  Understanding our Darker Selves.  James Hollis PH.D Gotham books New York, NY 2007
Memories Dreams , Reflections.  Carl Gustav Jung  Random House, Inc. 1963