Last week I discovered a delightful book, Heal Your Self with Writing by Catherine Ann Jones and found myself reflecting on career change as awakening. Heal Your Self with Writing offers many prompts to journal about your life from different perspectives. One set of questions captured my imagination – they asked to reflect on the myths, archetypes or fairy tales you might be consciously or unconsciously living into.
As some of you who like fairy tales or watch Disney movies probably already noticed, I was named after Sleeping Beauty, so it seemed only fitting to try out the process by seeing whether I might unconsciously be living some of that story’s symbols. My parents even had an antique spinning wheel at home while I was growing up – just like the one Sleeping Beauty pricks her finger on!
As I wrote in my journal, meandering through the ins and outs of my life, I found myself strangely captivated by this idea of falling asleep. Fairy tales can be taken literally, but there is also a strong tradition of seeing them as guides for living, or as symbols of different parts of one’s psyche.
Did I fall asleep at some point in my life? What part of me is or was asleep? What does it look like when I fall asleep “inside”?
As I wrote more and more, I found myself thinking of how coaching is akin to a process of awakening, and when a client feels stuck, it’s because a part of them has somehow fallen asleep.
Join me on a symbolic journey through sleep and waking, as a way to explore what it means to feel stuck (asleep), not knowing what to do next, and how to find inspiration to awaken to renew your life.
Career change as awakening.
Sleep as disconnection
When you are not sure what you want to do next, when things are not working out in your career, when you feel stuck, there can be a kind of sleep that comes over you that functions as self-protection. It is a sleep that helps you keep your eyes closed, because you don’t want to really, clearly, see what is going on. You have to check out a bit, dull your awareness, otherwise your work becomes too painful or overwhelming.
This kind of sleep sometimes also masks fear: it is scary to think of leaving a job, or reinventing yourself, or asking for what you need. So instead of feeling the fear, one way to cope with it all is to fall under a sort of spell, pushing feelings just below the level of awareness, but not so deeply that you cannot access them at all.
There is also another kind of sleep: it is the sleep that keeps you from hearing the call of your Soul. Some of us had to fall asleep a very long time ago and have been asleep on and off at different times throughout our lives. There was a part of us that wasn’t understood, or welcomed, even in some cases rejected or attacked, and, to protect it, we put it to sleep from a very young age.
This kind of metaphorical sleep, this not-feeling, not-sensing, can make you feel safe, or in control, calmer, but it comes a time when it doesn’t serve you anymore. In fact it might keep you from living a life of purpose, from feeling joy, from answering your calling. Sometimes you end up spending years feeling disconnected, unhappy at work, feeling like something is missing, or not feeling much, before you are finally ready to awaken.
As I was journaling and exploring how I still sometimes “fall asleep,” and remembering when I had sleepwalked through life in the past, I was reminded of all those interpretations of Sleeping Beauty as a weak and passive character. While that might be an interesting take on the fairy tale if you consider its narrative in a literal way, such a judgement is a barrier to healing if you embark on our faity tale journey as a metaphor for all the parts of your Self.
As I reconnected to the part of me that had fallen under the spell of unawareness, I knew the way to truly awakening was not judgement or rejection, but self love. The way to bring myself back to clear seeing, to sensing what the Soul wanted to whisper to me could only be found through self acceptance, unconditional love, gratitude for my own Self who had tried to do its best to protect me, even when it was past time for me to wake up. I understand now that the way out of sleep and into awakening comes through honoring, loving, accepting, and valuing the part of me who wanted to keep me safe.
I see this often with clients: first there is the sleep of unawareness, the sleep that keeps them stuck, unable to embrace what they love. Their energy is low, they don’t feel excited about anything. And then the awakening starts. Sometimes it is a gradual process, other times it comes all of a sudden: they have more energy, there is inspiration, joy, hope, a sense of direction.
Sometimes with waking comes the newly felt pain of your career – you might have spent years ignoring what wasn’t working, but now, as you awake as if from a dream, your pain is more intensely felt. The only remedy is to focus on what you want, to feel the pain and sense your way to the other side of it, to start the journey towards a kind of rebirth, to see your career change as awakening.
Some other times, clear hearing happens: the Soul finally breaks through and with its voice come Purpose, direction, imagination, ideas, a feeling of Flow.
When this awakening starts it is so important to embrace it and to love and accept that part of your Self that fell asleep, that tried its best but couldn’t cope, that was trying to protect you all along.
This is not the time for rejection, but a time for integration: for inviting all the different parts of you, the dreaming part, the sleeping part, the spell-casting part, the awakening Self to live in your awareness, with unconditional love, acceptance, and understanding.
You did not stay asleep, you awoke. And there is inspiration to be found in the dreams you now remember.
Living into another myth
As I worked through my journaling, I started to experiment with other parts of myself, different characters in the fairy tale, and then with different stories altogether.
You too might realize you have been unconsciously living a certain symbol, a specific pattern. But, as the famous Walt Whitman’s quote goes “I am large, I contain multitudes.”
At any moment you can call forth and feel the symbolic qualities of a different character, a different myth. You can start with a character found in a movie, book, fairy tale, story you always liked since childhood, or one that strongly resonates with you today.
Now write about your life from this character’s point of you: facing your work situation, having just awoken to what is, what would this character do? Feel them within yourself, let your imagination flow freely. Let yourSelf be. Expand.
Years ago I stumbled upon the work of Pete Walker and Scott Peck. I cannot remember in which book, but one of them wrote a beautiful passage about the innate wellbeing we all carry inside of us. As much as we talk about the effects of abuse, neglect, and trauma, we could just as much write about the amazing ways human beings recover, heal, do even just a tiny bit better towards their children than their parents did towards them.
The fact that you are reading this, that you are willing to explore your stuckness, to open up to new possibilities, that in itself is a sign of strength and of courage.
“If you want to know the closest place to look for grace, it is within yourself. If you desire wisdom greater than your own, you can find it inside you.”
Sometimes we need a teacher, or a guide, to show us part of the way, to help us feel, hear, sense our own wisdom. Only someone who has found it in themselves can ever serve as your guide, and when ready you will recognize them.
Career Change As Awakening
Could Your Career Change Be An Awakening?
Don’t ponder the answer, live it. Choose now to awake to yourSelf, play with your imagination, be present in your life, feel what yourSelf is asking you to embody. And live into it.
You might find that career change as awakening takes you on familiar shores or unknown places, but either way, it will be well worth the journey.