What is Standing in the Way of Your Happiness?


There is only one reason anyone initially goes into therapy – they sense that something is amiss in their lives. They feel that they are not living up to their potential or perhaps there is a particular relationship or issue that seems to be standing in the way of their happiness or well-being. Often clients come in talking about one issue and then we realize together that there is something deeper that needs our attention.

I have often thought that this process is rather like unwinding a knotted thread. As we undo the knots – which can be likened to knots or complexes in the psyche – we find out where the thread wants to lead us. The thread is like the soul’s imperative – its urgent calling. I believe that each of us has a deep soul imprint that we come into the world with, and that imprint carries our purpose for this lifetime. All of us need to figure that out for ourselves – what is it that we are supposed to be doing in this lifetime, in this body and this personality? Why are we here? What do we need to do, address, accomplish, to give our lives meaning and purpose? Very often, people will follow the dictates and ‘shoulds’ that they have absorbed from the collective or from their parents or schooling, and wind up feeling that they missed the boat, regardless of how much money they are making. There is a soulless feeling of emptiness and the haunting question of ‘Is this it?’ They have never dared to really live their dream or fulfill their life purpose.


In the myth of Theseus and Ariadne, Theseus is the hero figure who has volunteered to kill the raging minotaur that required the flesh of 7 young men and 7 young women every year to prevent the city from being terrorized. Theseus hated this ongoing human sacrifice and volunteered to go into the minotaur’s cave which happens to be very deep and labyrinthine. Ariadne, who was the king’s daughter, and in this case a soul figure for Theseus, tells him that the only way he can safely do this is to take the thread that she will hold, waiting outside the cave.


As he unwinds the thread, descending ever deeper into the cave, he tracks his passage, allowing for a safe descent and then return. She trusts that he will be able to slay the minotaur when he encounters it, and then he will be able to find his way back. Theseus does as she directs, and he is able to return, having conquered a monumental problem, becoming the hero and saviour of the city of Athens.I have often felt that this was a beautiful metaphor for dealing with life’s problems. We have to descend into the gritty depths of the issue, deal with it in an honourable way, and then find our way back into life, recharged and revitalized. Like Theseus we need to have contact with our own deep soul purpose – in his case personified by Ariadne. It is for each of us to do this inner work, in our own way, so that we can follow our soul’s guidance and fulfill our life purpose. We need to address what stands in the way of our happiness. For many people, being in therapy is like having a companion that can guide them in their descent as they tackle their problems, which then allows them to find a way safely back into a more fulfilled life.

Watch this video:


Why is the Soul So Shy?

I have tentatively started – yet once again – to write in a journal, inspired by Virginia Woolfe, Anais Nin and even Kierkegaarde. My earliest inspiration for doing do was The Diary of Anne Frank, which I read  around the same age she was when she wrote that remarkable book – at the ripe old age of 12. I was so moved by her courage in the face of the horror that surrounded her and her family.


Every time I tried writing in a journal in the past, I would face my own inner horror which would say: ‘can I dare to be totally open and true to myself and the page?’ This existential terror would whisper…..’what if someone finds it and reads it? There is no hiding place that is good enough’. On a deep soul level this fear always slammed on the brakes.

 Now I am finally beginning  to see this for what is – the shyness of the soul – and I realize I am not alone. I came across this wonderful quote from Maya Angelou the other day and I realized that what I had been thinking about, she had articulated in another way – but that we were talking about the same thing:

 I am convinced that most people do not grow up. We find parking spaces and honor our credit cards. We marry and dare to have children and call that growing up. I think what we do is mostly grow old. We carry accumulation of years in our bodies and on our faces, but generally our real selves, the children inside, are still innocent and shy as magnolias.

We may act sophisticated and worldly but I believe we feel safest when we go inside ourselves and find home, a place where we belong and maybe the only place we really do.

 Maya Angelou

 As a child I lived much of my life in that presence, but I had no words for it. When I was younger I couldn’t speak about my inner reality or my inner truth, because there was no “I” strong enough to do so. As in the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale of  The Little Mermaid, a story that I adored as a child, I had no voice. It took the long, slow process of growth into maturity to understand that like the little mermaid, I longed for a connection with The Prince. In Jungian terms this is understood as the inner connection to the animus (a woman’s inner connection to the masculine).


 For the complete story from Hans Christian Andersen:


 If we look at the fairytale from the Jungian perspective, the little Mermaid suffers and sacrifices herself in order to connect with her prince in the hopes that it will bring her into a grounded relationship with him. The horrible sadness of it is that she sacrificed her voice in order to get legs, so she could walk by his side and be in the same reality in which he lived. Like the little mermaid, the woman’s connection with the animus is the bridge that brings us into the world, but then the soul has to struggle to find its voice.


In this story, the Prince does not realize that it is the little mermaid who has saved his life when he was on the brink of drowning after a shipwreck. It is a man’s lifework to find and deepen the connection to the inner feminine and to give it voice. It is a woman’s lifework to find and embody the will, the strength and the courage to be and find her rightful work in the world, her true voice, her calling.

 This fairytale is about the longing of the soul for a grounded connection in life, and it also about its essential shyness. Until we are strong and courageous enough to speak from the soul, for the soul – we are silenced by our fear, distracted by our distractions, living a provisional life.

 This is not meant to blame – it takes a lot of time and courage, and perhaps many lifetimes to wake up. We need to be compassionate to ourselves and to others, while not allowing ourselves to be fooled into thinking this is all there is – so that we must rush and grab and step over others to gain a little inch for ourselves.

 When we do begin to wake up to this reality, we can begin to forgive ourselves for our lack of consciousness and our mistakes. Then, and only then,  can we begin to forgive others.  Perhaps they haven’t yet had the strength, courage or enough awareness to listen to their own souls and find their true voices.

 As Christopher Frye says in The Sleep of Prisoners, “It takes so many thousand years to wake, but will you wake, for pity’s sake?”

To listen to Sir George Trevelyan recite this poem go to:


A Sleep of Prisoners

by Christopher Fry

The human heart can go the lengths of God…

Dark and cold we may be, but this

Is no winter now.

The frozen misery

Of centuries breaks, cracks, begins to move;

The thunder is the thunder of the floes,

The thaw, the flood, the upstart Spring.

Thank God our time is now when wrong

Comes up to face us everywhere,

Never to leave us till we take

The longest stride of soul men ever took.

Affairs are now soul size.

The enterprise is exploration into God.

Where are you making for

It takes

So many thousand years to wake…

But will you wake, for pity’s sake?