Written for lovers of literature interested in self-actualization, Literature: How to Read and Understand the World teaches readers how to derive principles of wisdom from literature and apply them to their lives. The book achieves this through a series of five essential steps, including identifying with literary characters, aggregating principles of wisdom from their experience, and applying those principles to readers’ lives. Along the way, the author reveals his own transformation through this process. Literature: How to Read and Understand the World will help you to enrich your life and world!
Over the next several months, I will be releasing excerpts from the book along with questions to keep readers thinking after reading the posts. If you are intrigued by what you read, please share with a friend!
To definitively make this choice of rooting wisdom in the context of our lives, a practice I have found useful is one I call Affirmations. In this practice, we seize and apply the wisdom available in our Psychic Maps to the context of our lives, using the vehicle of first-person, present tense writing.
To write an Affirmation, look over your Psychic Map and allow your eyes to center on a location where a choice seems to be evident: for instance, in my map on Hamlet, the moment where the state of “fear of rejection” transitions either to “listening” or to “sarcasm,” “evasion,” and their self-perpetuating cycle. From here, ask yourself the nature of the choice being made at this juncture: what are we deciding to do when we shift from “fear of rejection” to “listening”? What are we deciding to do when we shift in the other direction? Alternately, what are we not deciding? Asking yourself questions like these for all such decision points in your Psychic Map, answer your questions in the first-person and present tense, thus articulating the choices you have at each juncture of the Map.
For instance, answering the immediately above questions in my Psychic Map from Hamlet yielded the following Affirmations:
I can force others to reject me by hiding from them who I am; this is a natural reaction to falsehood
I can always choose to listen to myself, no matter how painful the content
In these Affirmations, I clarify for myself first that in the machinations leading up to rejection, there is often a choice—the inner choice to hide my true self that in fact precipitates rejection—and second, that listening to myself is a parallel choice, one I can make every time I would instead hide myself. In both these Affirmations, I take responsibility for my choices and their outcomes in the context of this map, a seizure of power that is painful for the admission it contains, but simultaneously liberating for the possibilities it illuminates.
It goes without saying that writing Affirmations like these for the whole of a Psychic Map is an emotional act, since it means identifying one final time with the course through suffering that our characters have taken, leaving them to their respective fates along this course for the purpose of freeing ourselves from those same fates in our lives. Because we have seen the choices a set of characters have made, where they’ve ended up, as well as where they could have ended up had they chosen differently, we’ve now seen the full gamut of where we ourselves can end up depending on how we choose, thereby gaining the ability to articulate this understanding in ways that enhance our freedom. In this identification of knowledge we bring home to ourselves through first-person Affirmations, we become navigators of our own inner mazes who can articulate our knowledge in simple statements. As such, we become wise.
Have you ever written first-person Affirmations for yourself, whether in or outside of literature? If so, how did this practice change you? Do you think that there’s any danger in using affirmations for self-growth? What do Affirmations show us? What do they obscure? For more on these topics, please follow my blog or grab a copy of the book for yourself.