We may feel misplaced in life or work. Activities that previously satisfied, no longer do. We wonder, “Where am I headed? How can I feel better?” Our initial reaction might be to rush to a solution to eliminate feelings of misplacement. However, rather than focus on quick fixes, I suggest that when we feel misplaced we prepare ourselves for a future that is beyond our current thinking and present frame of reference. To reach this future we can begin by discovering who we are at our core, our authentic self. We then live in accord with our discovered core being. When we live true to who we are, we are able to trust that we will arrive at a future that supports our being, our authentic self.
Our Authentic Self
Stories and myths across cultures describe animals raising humans or one specie of creature nurturing the young of another. These tales are metaphors of misplacement, about being true to our authentic self, and possible arrival at a future that is different from the present but rewarding for us.
In the ancient Roman myth of Romulus and Remus, for example, twin brothers are born of a mother impregnated by a god. Neither human nor god, the misfits are abandoned by their mother. The boys are found and raised by a she-wolf. Shepherds then rescue the twins. Romulus and Remus ultimately establish the Roman Empire. Their lives were shaped by trauma of human abandonment and by misplacement in an alien culture represented by the wolf. Throughout their ordeal, the boys remained loyal to their human selves. The twin’s authentic selves endured so that when they returned to the human world, they were able create a civilization that was unknown at the time of their abandonment.
Hans Christian Andersen offers the popular fairytale of a mother duck raising a swan cygnet in The Ugly Duckling. Although siblings felt (as described by Anderson) that the ugly duckling was misplaced, mother duck initially nurtured his development. He was shunned by siblings (his alien culture), and eventually abandoned by Mother. The ugly duckling wanted to be like other ducklings and tried to eliminate his feelings of misplacement by leaving his birthplace. In spite of his attempts to find his identity, he ultimately developed into the beautiful adult swan he was destined to become. Even as an adult, however, he never realized his authentic swan-self until other swans (his future) discovered him.
The meaning of these myths is that when we feel misplaced, our first tendency is to adapt to our environment by trying to emulate others. The stories tell us, however, that our best response to our alien culture is to discover who we are and remain true to our authentic self. We are then able to trust that we will be transformed for a rewarding future.
Composing music, for example, often requires trust. My piano includes 88 black and white keys. Pressing a key produces a musical note. A sequence of eight notes is a musical scale. Depending on where I start on the keyboard, a scale of eight notes is called a musical key. When we play music in the key of C Major, for example, we are said to play the key in a natural sequence. We produce sound that is pleasing to hear. We are attracted to listen because the notes are true to the natural properties of a musical key. A correctly played scale is therefore, authentic to the musical key.
Infrequently, certain piano keys on my 125-year old Steinway fail to produce a natural note. I recently composed a song in the musical key of C Major. My patience was tested when G natural failed to produce it’s authentic sound. The piano key was broken. The G natural note was an important part of my composition.
My first reaction was to substitute another note outside of the musical key of C Major (to be like the other ducklings). This change would allow me to finish, but my composition would not be authentic with my desires. A second thought was to use a musical key without a natural G. In this case I would be changing my composition to accommodate (the alien culture of) my malfunctioning piano.
My third idea was to continue to work on the composition without the benefit of hearing the G note. By doing this I trusted that when my piano was repaired, the authentic natural G would function true to its core. I selected this option. After piano repairs my trust was rewarded with a desired result that I could not sense in the present.
If you feel misplaced, can you compose your music that is true to your authentic self? What will it take to reject wanting to be like other ducklings (when you are a swan)? And, will you survive the alien culture of present circumstances if you trust that what you need and desire will arrive in future that finds you?
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Richard Wilberg, MS, PLCC, ACC
Life Coach for Personal Fulfillment and Career Success
About the Author
Richard Wilberg is a creativity coach, musician, photographer, and former business leader who lives in Madison, Wisconsin.