For far too long I have puzzled over the question regarding what my ultimate passions might be. I have listened to audio books that promise greater clarity and self-help gurus online who tell me that all I have to do is to manifest through intention…, visualize the ideal outcome, feel my success and then begin to adjust my life accordingly; and believe me I am doing it to the best of my ability…, but understanding your passions, and then living your passion are two very different things. We all know life can get very complicated (and yes, I know it is probably of our own making) and many of us are struggling with a number of personal issues; addiction, trauma, grief, self-loathing, anxiety, depression etc, the list goes on. So where does one start…,
This may be a long read, as I will write about three of my passions, that I have identified over the years; so, prepare yourself.
Here is how my life currently stands, without giving to many personal details away.
I am a man in my early 40’s (who definitely still feels like he is in his early 30’s and can act like a man in his early 20’s), I currently reside at my parents’ house after separating with my ex-partner; who I still love very much. I have no real debt to speak of, unless you count student loans; which will probably hound me until I die. I work full time, self-employed and yet can still barely afford to rent, due to the rising rental prices and tax increases. I enjoy my work occasionally, but due to its physical nature my body is beginning to feel the strain; and am I passionate about it (my work) …, the answer to that is no not so much!
I don’t own my own home, neither do I own a fancy car (just a second-hand van on its last legs) and I sure as hell don’t have much in the way of savings, just enough really to buy another used van should my current one gives up its ghost.
Some positives are, I have no dependents (children or pets), although I would very much like both eventually. I am basically self-employed, so can choose when I work…, given I have enough work to give me the option. I am currently in good shape despite the very repetitive and physical nature of my work; as I like to work out and stay active in my spare time. I eat very well and pay close attention to what I put in my body, especially as my body no longer appreciates certain foods and is making me very aware of it. All in all, I am a pretty healthy guy.
So, what do I know so far regarding what might be considered my passions, and how do I know they are what I am really passionate about?
Well through a great deal of self-reflection and personal exploration I believe our upbringings can shed light on this, as on some level I feel we are conditioned by events, family, peers, environment and culture; as well as stresses, traumas, and turbulent family environments etc. All of which impact our experience of the world for better or worse, and generally colour the things that bring us joy or happiness.
And… given that I was once a kid myself maybe it’s a good place to begin.
My life was pretty good for the first eight years almost perfect, so good in fact I can only remember happy things, but then reality found its way in as my brothers and I became both witnesses and victims of domestic violence, this continued on and off for some time, with some pretty traumatic situations, all of which effected my brothers and I differently.
It did not stop there, my mother married three more times after that and all but the last brought more pain and upset into our lives.
Now given the world we live in and the statistics which indicate that one in four children in the world suffer some form of domestic abuse in early childhood, I am quite confident that most people can either relate or empathise with what happened to me and my family.
My reason for sharing this is twofold, one; I enjoy sharing as it enables us to connect on a deeper less superficial level, and Two; if I hadn’t experienced these events then I would not be the man I am right now. (Shit…., maybe I should invent a time machine) just kidding.
To survive and cope within such an environment, I like many other children who are too young to really comprehend what is going on, developed coping mechanisms and my personal preference was to become hyper vigilant, analyse everything, predict danger and avoid it like the black plague. Over the years I honed this skill like a piece of the finessed forged steel, a precision tool and it did keep me safe, or at least gave me advanced warning if and when a situation arose, but as the saying goes, it had a double edge to it. You see with my hyper vigilance came a certain sensitivity to stressful situations and over the years I became more and more anxious, suffered with OCD and eventually had a break down which culminated in depression, which has affected my life ever since.
And how might this specific issue lead to a passion I hear you say…, well I was just coming to that. Given that over the years I had formed a pretty unhealthy mistrust of people, especially men, and I realised (after accepting help from a counsellor) that I was also mistrusting myself; mainly by rejecting the more masculine aggressive elements, in favour of the more altruistic feminine qualities I believed to be less destructive.
This self-discrimination caused me to experience a great deal of inner conflict, not to mention the struggles I had within relationships, given that to many my conflicted nature was pretty obvious. Especially when I irrationally started to question my own sexuality.
I realised pretty quickly that the only person who could truly help me was myself…; with of course the support of a professional counsellor, and my trusted friends and family. So, in short, after many years of self-exploration and personal development I began to gain a passion for psychology and the conditioning we are all subjected to from birth, which make us on some level, who we are; but not necessarily who we could be potentially.
Over the years I have made steps towards manifesting this as a profession, as I trained and qualified as a counsellor…, yet once again something just didn’t feel right. Given this realisation, what is missing, what other passions could make this work more fulfilling?
So, on yet more reflection I realise that other than choosing hyper vigilance as a form of protection against the realities of life, I also used the most common form of childhood defines, escapism.
I can quite confidently say that we have all used escapism at one stage or another within our lives, whether it be watching cartoons, movies, Netflix or playing computer games, using creativity, music or playing team sports or even hiking up a mountain alone; it can be very healthy as a tonic to lives many challenges.
For me this went one step further however as with my twin brother, and those I formed the closest of bonds with as a child i.e. my best friends; we created worlds within our imaginations. Expressing our worries, fears and anxieties through role play, D&D (Dungeons and Dragons) a collaborative adventure game that relied upon one of the players to act as dungeon master; he/she would use a specific fantasy world setting in which to stage an adventure, tell a story and play the role of all of that worlds inhabitence, including adversaries. The others would create and play specific characters, generally, human, elf, dwarf, Orc etc. These characters would be chosen randomly and grow in power, skill and attributes as the game progressed, providing the players rolled well when asked to. This was how my friends and I spent many of our rainy days and some sunny days.
We eventually developed our own style of role play, given that we began to favour particular characters we had created and were fed up with them dying when we had had a bad game (the loss had become very personal); and as a consequence, these characters eventually evolved alongside our own personal evolution, becoming almost direct reflections of our own inner yearnings, desires and aspirations. I realise that those who come from a more grounded mindset might say ‘we were truly living in a fantasy world’ and that this as we matured, could be seen as unhealthy. But disagree, as I now understand these characters and the world they lived in to be an alternate reality, in which a group of children/teens could escape the sometimes-traumatic circumstances of their personal lives.
Within our group alone, which consisted of 12 individuals, 7 boys and 5 girls; there had been experiences of domestic violence, sexual abuse, parental addictions and grief (loss of a parent or sibling), many of which we were very aware of but didn’t acknowledge until later in our teens. I believe that D&D acted as our way of supporting each other without directly challenging the pain we were all suffering, and without it many of us may have found escapism in perhaps more unhealthy ways/outlets.
And I believe our characters were also away of us challenging the sometimes-conflicting morals, values and principles we each had inherited from various sources i.e. our parents, siblings, schools etc. Imagine being given such values and then witnessing them broken consistently by those who had taught you them; not an easy thing to reconcile as a child believe me.
So, you could say my next passion is storytelling, mythology, creative thinking and imagination, and how this influences the personal development of young people, their mental health and their social/cultural values.
The third of my passions is connected to faith. And my faith is something that has evolved over many years and has helped me through some very challenging times; and given that faith can be very personal in its conception, I have only chosen to share it with a select few trusted individuals, as many people who know me, including some within my family and my friends, find my particular way of viewing the spiritual a little fantastical; even if I choose to believe that much of what I believe has a scientific rational to it.
I personally believe that my early experience attending Church and Sunday school directly influenced my personal values, as well as creating a deep curiosity for the mythical and magical. I was brought up C of E (Church of England), and very much enjoyed the biblical stories I was told in Sunday School that had involved angels, superhuman acts, miracles, and other equally inspiring events; yet could never really connect with the dogma. I believe this was mainly due to my Mothers influence, as when I was young I was brought up with many animals, mainly domestic pets, the usual suspects such as dogs, cats, rabbits, horses (not quite domestic, but common enough) I was also obsessed with David Attenborough and anything to do with the natural world; I grew up in the countryside, which was great, as it was a safe place to explore and experience life, where everyone knew their neighbours and no one locked their doors. And this connection to the natural world seemed at its core to connect with me on a very deep level, influencing me in ways I never really was aware of until i reached adulthood.
When I was a teenager life offered another perspective, which manifested as I began to experiment with drugs, and lost myself to altered states of reality, via hallucinations and bad trips. Eventually as is inevitable when abusing such substances, I overdosed and experienced what some now call an NDE or near-death experience (:to be discussed another time)
There were two reasons that prevented these events from completely overwhelming me; one, was my family and friends. And two, being in close proximity to nature and animals, as they offered me some grounding, else I fear I would have lost my mind. Which you might say I did for a time, given that the consequences of near death left me fighting for my rational mind, as anxiety and depression set in.
However, from this traumatic event came a deep curiosity about life and how nature impacts each of us, how many of us co-exist on this big blue planet, and yet seem so disconnected from the world around us. This lead me to study Theology and philosophy in university and read books about religion, mysticism and spiritual practices. I delved deeper and deeper for a meaning, trying to gain some new insight into the more abstract concepts (which often left me on the verge of breathlessness). It wasn’t until I came upon James Lovelocks book Gaia; (which proposed that Earth was a complex self-regulating system of interactive organisms.) That any of my developing ideas and philosophies really began to make sense.
You see I have never been one to believe in something just for the sake of it. I believe myself to be a very open-minded person and yet I have a very healthy scepticism with regards to many of the more farfetched theories expressed by the modern free thinkers. And yet it would seem in this new technical age, that a great many things are now being given credence as science and scientists develop new ways of measuring such things as quantum theory, synchronicity, auric fields, chakra energy systems, spiritual healing practices etc. All of which hint at something just out of reach of the human ability to conceptualise.
And i guess this is where my faith lies, in my passion for expansive thought within the realm of the unknown, and the great mystery that is our universe; which is ever revealing its secrets to us as we ourselves evolve and gain greater self-awareness. And given time we may all learn to trust in this; not always easy with all the dreadful things that happen in the world, but hell that’s exactly why I believe faith to be necessary.
So, by sharing this with you am I living my passion…, is the very act of writing this blog in some way purposeful? I would very much like to believe so! What do you think?