Monday, 3 August 2015

The Awesome Power of the Unlived Life

The concept of the unlived life is one of the most compelling that I have come across in my psycho-spiritual learning, and certainly one of the most significant on my own life journey. The longer I live on planet Earth the more I witness people's need to establish their own unlived lives and learn how to work with them effectively. It really is game-changing stuff!

Your unlived lives consist of the roads you didn't get the chance take, the options you considered but didn't choose and the dreams which lie unrealised within you. A lifespan simply isn't long enough to take every single road. We must choose and we must commit. Sure, you will be different versions of yourself throughout your lifespan and you will shift your external circumstances accordingly. But you can't have kids and also not have kids, get married and also not get married.. You can't be a million different people and also be yourself.

You have unlived lives, just as I do. Here are some useful pointers to help you identify them:

  • Some people live an unlived life through the medium of a recurring dream. Do you consistently dream of another place, time, romantic partner, career or physical appearance?
  • A fascination with a particular time and place in history can provide your fantasy world with a powerful form of unlived life. Ever envisioned being the lady of the manor or a great queen? A political activist during the civil rights movement? A member of an ancient tribe or civilisation?
  • What did you want to be when you were a kid? What did you fantasize about pursuing? If you didn't take that road then it is a form of unlived life which could have a profound effect on your sense of self.
  • Do you spend time visualising what would have happened if you'd have chosen another job, another country or another partner? Does that envisioned alternative life have emotional significance to you?
  • Are you happy with what you do for a living but can also easily imagine having taken another path entirely? Do you find that you have more than one big passion/talent but decided to dedicate your life primarily to one of them? The decision you made has led to an unlived life - that other career path you didn't take. 
  • Were you on your way to being a successful athlete but then sustained an injury which stopped you from fulfilling your potential? Were you planning to travel the world but then fell pregnant and decided to have your child instead? When an unforeseen shift in circumstances changes the game, an unlived life is often formed.

Another important thing to consider is that not all paths you didn't take constitute unlived life material. For instance, I never became a nurse, but that doesn't constitute an 'unlived life' because I never wanted to be a nurse, never envisioned myself being one and it was never on the cards for me. Unlived lives are alternative stories filled with courses of events which matter to you on some level and which you feel an emotional attachment to. The fact that they didn't come to pass is somehow significant to you. Unlived lives are potent, and they can be an incredible force for good if you know how to handle them.

It's ok to have some unlived lives. That's the first thing you need to understand. Don't feel guilty about them. Unless you are immortal and therefore unhindered by the time limit of the average lifespan, it's obvious that you had to make some choices about what to pursue at some point, leaving other options by the wayside. You can't help but think about those dropped options at times. It's natural. It's doesn't make you a bad person. 

Your unlived lives can offer some valuable information about the lesser known parts of your psyche. Confronting your unlived lives and being totally honest about them is challenging, but it's really a process of digging for gold! The more you know about your 'dropped options' and fantasy lives, the more you can begin to incorporate aspects of them into the life you are living. 

When you suppress your unlived lives, they have a habit of ruling you and sucking the fun out of the life you're actually living. You want to be able to celebrate your life every day. Don't let the unlived ones hold the real one to ransom! If an unlived life is making you feel miserable and resentful of your real life, it's time to look it square in the eye and make friends with it. Learn from it. It is either a thing you need to heal from and release or a thing which asks to be included more in your reality.

One of my most potent unlived lives is that of the committed academic. Just as I reached the point of applying for university, I had a mental health breakdown. After years of envisioning myself as a dedicated student, I suddenly found myself grasping onto a thin thread of sanity. I now see this change in the tide as a saving grace; I do not have the heart and mind of the academic and by the time I had recovered and was able to apply for university, I no longer wanted to.

Another unlived life is that of the professional actress. I was a featured actress on a popular UK television programme as a teenager. My family, after years of saying that I was clearly a natural actress, were convinced that it was the beginning of some kind of illustrious career for me. It never panned out and I was depressed about it for a long time. I now see some of the confidence and presentation that I bring to The Four Queens as a way of unleashing my inner performer!

There are other ones too. I've always been told I have a fantastic photographic eye and have had my photographs complimented by many people, so there's definitely a photojournalist inside of me! I came out of a major romantic relationship years ago - one which changed my life and which I was convinced would never end in my lifetime, so I grappled with the echoes of that life I could have lived with him for a long time.. One of my unlived lives takes place in Russia - a country I have spent a lot of time in and hoped to live in more permanently one day. Believe it or not I even have the unlived life of a radical leftist politician inside of me! 

This process of identifying my unlived lives has been one of illumination and self-honouring. It is also the process of witnessing the archetypes which lie inside of me - the strong ones, the ones I identify with most. 

I urge you to take the time to discover your unlived lives too! Don't be afraid of them and don't let them dull your shine! They are gifts, if you choose to see them that way.

Check out my accompanying video on this topic:


Archive treasures you might enjoy:

Deathbed Perspective, Mapping the Versions of Yourself and Embracing Change


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