Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Soul's Code: Book Review

The Soul's Code: In Search of Character and CallingThe Soul's Code: In Search of Character and Calling by James Hillman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was going to contact Dr. James Hillman and thank him for his wonderful book, and found that he died this past summer. I wish I would have read this book 20 years ago. It echoes many sentiments I have felt about my psychotherapy clients, the ones who were labeled "crazy" when they were simply following their soul's calling. Hillman draws on Jungian archetypal therapy to explain what he calls the acorn theory. We all have an acorn that demands to become an oak, regardless of convention. When that acorn does not fit societal norms or parental expectations, we are given a psychiatric label, called obstinate or resistant, or medicated to bring us back into line.

Hillman shares many fascinating stories about famous people who refused to be put in a box. Violinist Yehudi Menuhin wanted a violin for his fourth birthday, and was given a toy violin. Menuhin states, "I burst into sobs, threw it on the ground and would have nothing more to do with it." Hillman explains, "The daimon (acorn, soul's calling) does not want to be treated as a child; it is not a child." Indeed, it is our inner wisdom, the drive to wholeness, which is routinely dismissed in our society.

I remember a case I had in which the identified patient began literally screaming, and the family wanted her hospitalized. She was simply screaming to be heard, and the family did not want to hear what she had to say. In fact, she was calling out the family dysfunction, so it was easier for the family to label her crazy than to listen to what she was saying.

In my own case, several therapists called me dysfunctional, when I was simply following my soul's calling. I knew deep down that I did not fit the categories they were putting me in, but also knew they did not have a clue about the depth of the drive I felt. I tried to supress this drive for 20 years and it would not let me go. Reading this book made me realize I'm not obsessed, fixated, codependent, or any other of the psychiatric labels traditional psychiatry would pin on me. Now that I have stopped judging myself, I feel whole. I honor my soul's quest rather than running from it.

We all have something we dream of doing, but few of us follow our dreams. Hillman's book reminds us that we will never be happy until we pay attention to our inner urgings. One of my favorite quotes is "Don't die with your dreams inside you." I believe it's from Wayne Dyer.

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