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


Inner Security Strategies by Peter Metzner

Defense mechanism or Security Operations.  We all have them, and whether we know it or not,  they protect us against pain (Growth is often painful)  rather than deal with situations in healthy or responsible ways.

Projection: Of course you have heard of the “Pot calling the Kettle Black”?  Here is how projection works:

Whatever I don’t like or recognize in myself when I see it in you I will become angry!  The key to understanding projection is the emotional charge we feel in an encounter with someone else. What I don’t like (or what I do like) is usually a quality I have that I am not aware of or owning.  A quality like rudeness (which we don’t like to own) often gets projected onto to others. When we experience someone else being rude we get angry and upset.   It is almost like being in a hall of mirrors – the outer reality we see is  in many ways a reflection of the projection of our inner reality.  Almost like a movie projector projecting onto a a screen. In this case the screen is our lives.  So if deep down inside one feels unlovable,  he will act in a way to make others behave to justify how he (or she secretly feels).   He will then tend to make an assumption that people are:  not nice or mean spirited or can’t be trusted.   Thus perpetuate painful relationships at work or with friends or family.   It is like a being  magician  fooling  himself  into thinking the illusion of what is being experienced is real!

If one is not aware of being critical and judgmental;  then  interactions with someone who is perceived to have these qualities will often trigger anger and hurt.   The tendency to judge or treat others disrespect can be justified because they deserve it!    Remember there are compelling payoffs to this.  It feels good to believe we are superior or better than the person we judge. It gives a false sense of security and even power.   We don’t have to change or suffer the shame, guilt or remorse that comes along with the realization we have wronged someone or imprisoned them in our judgments about them.

This self defeating orientation though  keeps us stuck and prevents us from having the healthy and collaborative relationships we need to be healthy and generative in our work and life.   It is particularly hurtful when rigid principles or religious beliefs are held.   If I believe that I am good and right and my way is the only way – and you don’t believe what I believe you must be wrong, misguided, even evil.   My principles or faith can be used to justify to treating you badly,  judging you or with contempt.    For example if you think your significant other or employee is incompetent you can justify being contemptuous, controlling and blame them for shutting down, not being engaged or even depressed.

We project collectively as well as individually.  Starting a war, dominating others, performing ethnic cleansing or genocide is actually frighteningly easy.  All we need to do is demonize our enemy, make people afraid of them and smear those that don’t support us as unpatriotic. By making people afraid it is easier to control them and  discriminate against the “out”  groups.

It is one of the oldest tricks used in history  (If  history teaches us one thing we don’t learn from history) and easy. For example,  Hitler realized that a lie repeated often enough no matter how far removed from truth will be accepted as fact.    The Nazis projected onto the Jews the worst qualities that they could not face in themselves. They blamed the Jewish people for Germany’ problems; accusing them about wanting to take over the mass media, universities, the financial markets, the country even the world.  Even the German women!  All this described  the Nazi’s!   These beliefs laid the foundation for them to murder over six million people for the crime of being Jewish.    Then they did what they blamed the Jews for:   The Nazis  took over the banks, industry, controlled mass media, and higher education, started WWII and treated the German women like cows whose main purpose was to reproduce and be servile.

Psychologists’ have shown that the unspeakable atrocities that were committed by the Nazi’ s  is not only a German phenomena – we all have this  capacity as well. Witness the  ethnic cleansing of Rwanda, the Sudan and our own Native Americans (in a noble sounding term like Manifest destiny).  Indigenous peoples all over the world have been  under assault. ( Derrick Jenkins)  One day I hope that religions will all live up to the teachings of their prophets and be a source of healing the worlds pain rather than being a cause of it.  As so aptly put: Nobody know the age of man but everyone agrees he should know better. (unkown)   “Man’s capacity for self deception is truly monumental”. Yoram Kaufman.

An important key to being responsible and having a healthy relationship to self and others is to own your projections. So whenever you get angry or emotionally charged at someone during an encounter – ask yourself what part of me I am not owning?    Then notice how the energy of the encounter shifts.  You will be able to better see who that person is.

As Marion Woodman writes:  “To be psychologically free is to be confident in our own inner world, responsible for our own strengths and weaknesses, consciously loving ourselves, and therefore, able to love others”  It is up to each of to be more conscious, self aware and mindful of our impact on others.  Carl Jung was asked if there is hope for the world and he said ” There is hope – if enough people do their inner work”   For our outer world to be healed;  enough of us need to take this journey.  It all begins with a first step.