“Because of some obstacle — constitutional weakness or defect, wrong education, bad experiences, an unsuitable attitude, etc. — one shrinks from the difficulties which life brings and thus finds oneself back in the world of the infant.”
Carl Jung, Alchemical Studies
I love Ricky Gervais, that’s really my type of humor. There’s this great standup of his on Netflix called Humanity. In it, he tells a joke about the feebleness of human babies in comparison to other animals.
Think about a Giraffe or a Zebra. The calf is born and in the next hour, he needs to be up and running from imminent death. It’s as if the giraffe just poops the baby calf and says to him, all right, you’re good to go, and proceeds to eat the leaves. Now, think about the human baby. Helpless until 30, some until later in life.
Maybe this premature helplessness of ours is what keeps us infantile until so late in life? The infantile seeks and craves protection and irresponsibility. He seeks it from his mother or from other paternal/maternal figures around him, mostly from authority. We all have that inner child inside of us, the scared and irresponsible creature who just wants the mother’s protection. As Kurt Cobain said, throw down your umbilical noose so I can climb right back.
Not so fun being an infant while being an adult. Sure, protection is nice, but you cannot go out into the world and become yourself while still wanting to be safe all the time.
Not just that, as a child, we are also full of unrealized potential and power. Like the baby zebra, we also have our ways of getting around the world and danger and thriving in this crazy world. We also have the capacity to live fulfilling lives in spite of the dangers of the world, even though we discover them later in life.
“Man has two faces; he wants to grow toward maturity and freedom, and yet the primitive child in his unconscious yearns for complete protection and irresponsibility.”
Joost Meerloo, Rape of the Mind
There’s an amazing world outside the world of the child, but we must make that decision for ourselves. We must cross to the other worlds that calls us.
Stay an infant and suffer, grow into a man or woman, and thrive. The infant man eventually perishes by the same infantile which is no more.
“But the moment may come…when it is too late…” von Franz warned. “the individual walks about in a cloud of [self-forgetting] fantasies…fantasies which in themselves…are full of unlived life. You feel that such a person has a tremendous wealth and capacity but there is no possibility of finding a means of realization…and then the…inner wealth…becomes negative, and in the end kills the personality.”
Marie-Louise von Franz, The Problem of the Puer Aeternus
Where to begin then?
When you don’t know where or with what to begin, any place is a good start.
A healthy mind cannot live in an unhealthy body
Last Sunday, I ran a 30k race. Because it was a race, I gave my everything. By the end of it, I was devastated. The race was at Sierra Tarahumara, a few hours away from my home, so my family and I had to eat there. I was tired, but proud, and felt like going for a pizza and a big ass sundae ice cream. By the time I got back to our place, I had also eaten a hamburger and a whole bag of beef jerky, alongside some dried mangoes and chocolates. The next day, I felt hungover from the race and the shitty foodfest. I was very tired and stressed because I needed to work as well. So what did I do? You guessed it, I kept eating junk food.
Now, as I write this, I notice the paramount importance of nutrition for a happy life. This is a good place to start, eating right.
It’s one small decision that we can control today, what we put into our mouths. It is an easy decision as well. I mean, we all know that a carrot is better than a cookie. What eating right does is that it gives you a small win. It also clears your head and gives you space to think. It’s hard to think about embarking on the voyage of your adulthood when your mind’s blurry.
Eat right, clean your head. And then…
Work on something meaningful
There is the work you do to earn money, and there is the work you do to make the world a better place. It’d be amazing if we could all merge the work that gives us money with the work that we do best to contribute. But it is not like that, for almost everyone.
Do you know why? Because of fear.
Fear drives us badly. The adult-kid remains in that state precisely because of it. Fear takes many forms, and we don’t even realize it. The kid knows that he can’t take on the world, and he, therefore, seeks protection from his parents. But the adult child cannot tell himself that he’s afraid, and so what we do is that we give ourselves excuses for our fears, and make our fears unconscious. That’s what happens with depression and anxiety. Fear takes the form of mental illness and becomes the perfect excuse for our unlived lives.
Think about the most amazing life you could be living. What would you be doing? If you have the mildest answer. Congratulations, you have a little bit of direction now. Excuses will arise in your head, tell me about them. But once you realize it is fear, and become bold enough to recognize it as fear, you will understand that the way out, to the open ocean, is through the confrontation of those fears.
Working on something such as writing for people, or any other thing that you’re good at or feel attracted to works because it puts you in direct confrontation with your fears. Fulfillment lies on the other side of fear.
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