Dr Kaye Gersch PhD


psychoanalytic psychotherapist | clinical supervisor | couples therapist

From Sounds True: "The Goal of Life is Meaning, not Happiness",

with James Hollis,

Jung Zoom Study Group, Tuesday 28th July 2020

The topic of meaning vs happiness is something we have addressed in the Jung Zoom Group from time to time. I have also written a post on this, which you can access here.

There is a post on the Joseph Campbell Foundation website, entitled "Forsaking the easy for the harder pleasures" which is also pertinent to our subject.

Here is James Hollis, on Sounds True, speaking with Tami Simon on "The Goal of Life is Meaning not Happiness", with particular reference to Covid-19.

According to depth psychology, the goal of life is not happiness, which is only transiently possible anyhow, but meaning—and many of the most meaningful experiences we have are experiences that are not happy. And I don't want to sound overly pessimistic or negative here, but when I am happy, I am also mindful of the extraordinary suffering and injustice in the world. That's always present, because one has to be mindful that the other is always there.Therefore happiness is not a kind of blissful oblivion; it's always mindful and present to the suffering of the human condition.

—James Hollis, PhD, author of Living an Examined Life and Living Between Worlds

In our culture that puts so much emphasis on the personal search for happiness, 80-year-old Jungian analyst and author Dr. James Hollis is an unusual wisdom teacher. His emphasis is on living a meaningful life and how we are each summoned to that through our dreams, symptoms, and eruptions of mood. Our task is to listen and be accountable to that summons.

In this podcast, James talks about his new book, Living Between Worlds: Finding Personal Resilience in Changing Times, and we discuss how to navigate through the passages of our lives when meaning departs—when meaning departs in relationships, in careers, and in certain attitudes and practices we have. James describes these times as "in-between times," and to move through such times, we need to pay attention to our feeling function, let go of what no longer serves us, "track the energy," and respond to the mysterious question: "What is seeking me?"

James and Tami also discuss:

How engaging the numinous in our lives enables us to reframe our suffering and find its meaning

James's definition of "mature spirituality" and how it obliges us to grow beyond our comfort zones

Why James calls fear and lethargy "the enemies of life," how we are each called to wrestle with these forces every day, and the empowerment that comes when we take this on as our daily responsibility

"Today's certainty becomes tomorrow's constriction" and how all of our answers to life's most important questions need to be held as provisional