Copyright 2006 Ingela Berger

An excerpt from “The Role of Your Life”.

Life often takes us on detours. Let me guess; when you look back you have come a long way to get to where you are today. Sometimes you feel that, after all, you have learned a lot on your long journey, but you keep wondering why you didn’t choose a different path that specific time in the past, and you regret that you weren’t wiser.

Many times we feel regret. The detour we are on is so unnecessary because we know what we once wanted. We can picture ourselves in surroundings that could have been so good. But many of the detours may be necessary. We just don’t learn some things until we have made painful experiences. We could call the detour an unconscious maturity process. We grow, but we do not know how or into what. That can be a costly way to reach maturity and development. Some of us do not seem to learn anything despite all the difficulties we go through. But if we discover a way to consciously work for personal growth, if we take hold of our own development and don’t let it lie in the hands of unpredicted occurrences, we can face our crises and sufferings with open eyes, and hence seize the possibilities of development that they give us. We can also avoid some of the detours further on along the road.

Henrik Ibsen’s “Peer Gynt” reminds us of the importance of not letting ourselves down, not choosing these unnecessary detours. He reminds us of the questions we have to ask ourselves: Who am I? What do I really want with my life? Peer Gynt was a man who took many long detours in his life. He fooled his mother, his friends, his beloved Solveig, and himself. He went through life without really living it. When things were too difficult, he fled; from others and from himself. He joked and jested about the serious things that he was terrified of, and made himself and others some real trouble. Peer Gynt walked “roundabout” his own life, bragging, blaming others, and taking no responsibility for the people who placed hope in him. A bad conscience followed him in the shape of a troll, but he kept fleeing away, putting off all problems to the future. After many years and as many dearly bought experiences, he was reminded of his mortality in an accident at sea. In a key scene he peels the symbolic onion, peel by peel, from the outside in. He then realizes who he really is and finally he returns to the waiting and forgiving Solveig.

Peer Gynt finally asked himself the important question: Who am I? One wonders if he would have found his answers sooner, had he listened to his dear mother Aase’s mild admonitions in time. Maybe he could have spared some agony and pain.

Life doesn’t have to be constant detours and labyrinths. We can teach ourselves a better way of living. We can steer our own development into a desired direction. I want to suggest that there is a way that is right for you. I believe you can learn how to find it. I cannot find it for you. I can give you the tools you need, but you have to do the job. I also believe that there constantly will be new chances and opportunities for us to choose direction. There isn’t just one right way for me in life. If I miss a side road there will most likely be another one further along the road. There will also be side roads that will mislead us, and it’s not always easy to decide which the best road is in advance.

Finding the way to ourselves and to the inner resources and qualities that we all possess, learning how to use them to grow and develop, and sharing them with other people, those are great tasks and challenges in life. At every new crossroad we have a new opportunity to do just that. Let’s not miss these opportunities over and over again, like Peer Gynt did.