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Seeking guidance: dealing with an old refusal

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    Hello fellow travellers 🙂

    I discovered this forum at the perfect time and I would be extremely grateful to have some feedback on a dilemma I am having after reading “Pathways to Bliss” regarding a refusal of the call.


    To explain the situation thoroughly I need to give a little background information. I am currently 25 years old. I grew up in Milan to an italian father and american mother. I always had a dream to go to the United States growing up. When I turned 18 I got into a prestigious art school in the North East, and so I finally got my chance to go and have my american college experience. My mother is an artist and my father an intellectual so I was kind of taking on the family tradition for lack of a better term; I’m also the oldest of my siblings which might have played a role in me taking it on.

    In any case, my first great calling came to me at this threshold of graduating from highschool to embark on this five year art school journey, and I accepted the call with full enthusiasm. The journey went from age 18 to 23. It was a heck of a journey, with many great accomplishments and many great moments of suffering, in particular when my first love left me and I face the dark night of the soul.

    I reached my fifth and final year of college exhausted and battleworn, and I had to still slay the great dragon of thesis, which I did. My thesis was actually partly inspired by some of Campbell’s thoughts, but I did not read the texts in depth for lack of time.

    When I reached the threshold of graduation from college, a small crisis occured where I had your classic tensions between shadow and persona. I had gone to Austin Texas a couple months prior to graduating and my gut was telling me to move there, but I was being suggested from my institution and from my parents to go to the jobs fair and seize that opportunity to get my first job. So I went to the job’s fair I found a company which seemed rather fun to work at in Brooklyn, NY who wanted to hire me. I was also being told by my parents that Austin was just really far from home and I don’t even have a license so how could I live there and all that logical thinking parents love doing.

    I remember after the jobs fair sitting at a table and one of my old painting teachers came to talk to me, and I told him I was struggling between Austin and New York. I was being pulled very strongly to go to Austin, but everyone around me was telling me to go take the job in NYC, not to mention my brother and sister were starting their college in New York that very year, so there was a sense of duty as well. The teacher told me to go to Austin, to follow the heart.

    In the end, however, I decided to go to New York. My familial duty (which is the heart in a way) and the suggestions of the institution overrode my unconscious. I was 23 at the time.


    So I begin my job in New York, and the well dries up. Its still an adventure because New York is always an adventure, but it just didnt get my blood pumping with joy when I went to work, and I found I was exhausted and uninspired while living there.

    I was heading for a burnout when covid hit and I got ejected from my design job New York due to a mass layoff; I was secretly elated when this happened; I felt freed. I went to live with my aunt in Upstate New York and then moved back home to Europe 6 months afterwards. I weather covid at home with my parents. There I began a process of reevaluating myself which is ongoing.

    I got a calling six months afterwards to go move to Spain to help my other aunt (who has a school here) on an artistic agricultural project. The calling was not quite as potent as that first Austin calling, but it was definitely a calling all the same, and thanks to my previous experience of refusing a call I took it no questions asked.

    Since I’ve moved my vitality has increased hugely. I’m learning flamenco dance and guitar and I’m feeling vital. I’m also working on a project directly involved with climate change which is something I’ve always felt as an important crisis that needs to be solved.

    But something bugs me still about my college graduation refusal of the call. It was very potent and completely unconscious as it made no sense rationally for me to move there.
    Now, when I think about Austin I think guns, no healthcare, car culture; qell my conscious thinks those things. I am more drawn to flamenco dancing and the south of spain than Austin. In fact, there is a similarity between the two, both dry hot places with very cheerful upbeat cultures; “yee haw” feels like the spanish version of “ole”! The capital of the lone star state still feels like a cool place to be and those memories of my time there still spark inspiration, but I don’t feel that same burning sensation I felt two years ago; now it feels like an unruly complicated mess of a place to get involved in and I am actually rather repelled by it. What I do feel most of all is disappointment in my past self for not having had the courage to follow the unconscious, and a desire to never refuse the call again and to answer future ones. I just wasn’t aware of my psyche like I am now.


    So the questions I have are about this first refusal of the call. Do we get multiple chances at answering the call? And is the call always the same in terms of location and task? Or can you refuse a first call and then get a second calling but the adventure is different in location and whatnot? And is this feeling of having missed out on something in the past just a feeling I’m gonna have to live with? Can it be overcome through following new calls? For example by following my new calling in Spain and not picking up and moving to Austin to live a past outdated dream (something I sincerely feel like I don’t want to do)? I am quite young so I am eager for adventure (which is what I’m currently doing) and I just want to do this life as heroically as possible, and I don’t want to lie to myself. Also, part of me thinks that this is all just life interpretation and that as long as one is happy and realized they are what they seek then thats it.

    I am curious to hear people’s thoughts 😉






      Hello Lollo, and welcome here, so glad to be here with you.

      I was so impressed by your extremely thoughtful questions and the way you have approached your life. So far from what you have said, (at least to me), is that you are in a really good mental place to figure this out because life “is full of conflict”; and part of the hero’s journey is to become who you truly are; and that means inner conflicts are also “a source as well as a hurdle” for finding the answers that you may need. We all want to feel like we are making the “correct” choices; and “crossroads” are tough business because you are up against your own decision. Well, what if we don’t know which way to go or what we should do, and we are stuck not knowing what direction we should take and are looking for answers trying to read the road signs we may be missing?

      There may be many suggestions to choose from, but all I can say is your post reminds me of something I remember Joseph said to Michael Toms in his book: “An Open Life”; on page 110, where they are talking about this same kind of life crisis:

      Joseph: “I think the individual has to find his own model. I found mine.”

      Toms: “Isn’t it important to respect our own uniqueness?”

      Joseph: “I think that’s the most important thing of all. That’s why, as I said, you really can’t follow a guru. You can’t ask somebody to give “The Reason”, but you can find one for yourself; you decide what the meaning of your life is to be. People talk about the meaning of life, there is no meaning of life—there are lots of meanings of different lives, and you must decide what you want your own to be.”


      We all need advice from time to time and sometimes sounding boards are a really good thing. But from my understanding much of Joseph’s message about “following one’s bliss” has to do with making decisions about following what one’s sense of their own eternity is; that deep sense as he said of being: “in it”; and if you follow your instincts that way doors will open where you did not know there were going to be doors because it is your life course you are considering; and part of the hero’s journey is into the dark forest where: “there is no path”; right? It is “your path”; and no one has been there before; because if there is a path: “it is not your path”. It’s a sort of alchemical cooking that’s going on inside you that’s leading you forward and as Joseph mentions: “all you get are little clues”; (sometimes an occasional helper); but in the end it’s your journey. And when you look back over your life it will inform you about who you are and the importance of your choices. So, to me this is not a question of out there somewhere but looking inside you for the answers you may need.

      From your post it sounds like you have really good instincts for figuring this out; and others may have things to add; but you are the only one who knows if any of this resonates for you. (I really like the way you are thinking this through; so best of luck on what you decide; and again; a warm welcome here.)


        Lollo; as an addendum I went looking and found something I want to add that may help further answer some of your questions.

        On page 63; of Diane Osbon’s: “Reflections on the Art of Living – A Joseph Campbell Companion”; where Joseph is reflecting on his years where he dropped out and read for 5 years and here are some insights he got from that period.


        “I don’t know what it was during those five years, but I was convinced I would still be alive for a little while. I remember one time when I had a dollar bill in the top drawer of a little chest, and I knew as long as that was there I still had resources. It was great. I had no responsibilities, none. It was exciting—writing journals, trying to find out what I wanted. I still have those things. When I look at them now, I can’t believe it.

        Actually, there were times when I almost thought—almost thought—“Jeez, I wish someone would tell me what I had to do,” that kind of thing. Freedom involves making decisions, and each decision is a destiny decision. It’s a very difficult to find in the outside world something that matches what the system inside you is yearning for. My feeling now is that I had a perfect life: what I needed came along just when I needed it. What I needed then was life without a job for five years. It was fundamental.

        As Schopenhauer says, when you look back over your life, it looks as though it were a plot, but when you are into it, it’s just a mess: one surprise after another. Then, later you see it was perfect. So, I have a theory that if you are on your own path things are going to come to you. Since it’s your path, and no one has ever been on it before, there is no precedent, so everything that happens is a surprise and is timely.”


        One last thing that might be of interest is this clip with Joseph discussing the “Left Hand Path” of the Hero’s Journey.

        Hopefully all of this will be of extra help to you!


        Hello JamesN,

        Thank you so much for taking the time to compose such a wonderful and insightful answer to my post. I really appreciate it and it does give me some clues as to how to move forward. I am going to take a look in my dream journal and see if I get any insights there; that’s the clearest image of my subconscious I have on hand.
        I grew up to atheist parents so I feel my best shot at this point is to live for the bliss.

        When I felt that first pull to Austin I felt eternity awaiting and that sun door with JC speaks of. Now I’m trying to find it again, and moving to Austin just doesn’t feel as obvious of a pull as it once did. I think my consciousness is definitely not pro Austin and for good reasons; moving there would be a mad man’s move; only someone with clear pull would do it, and I’m not sure I have that pull anymore; I just have the desire to answer a calling of the same potency. In fact, I think the reason this is all bubbling out of me two years later is because there’s a sense of picking up the trail where it left off. I last felt the major pull then so going to Austin would be simply picking up the trail. But it ain’t that simple of course; I have also been looking at images of Granada, Spain, and the flamenco dancers who dance in the medieval streets; I feel I need to go there too, and my consciousness is totally pro Spain.

        There’s something about Austin that truly feels beyond the horizon however, a really pitch black forest, Mordor, the underworld, out of sight; Spain feels a bit more secure to me with its socialized healthcare, proximity to family, and the lot, which is something that I actually appreciate greatly. As you can see the conflict is real haha

        Not to mention the fact that I slayed the damn dragon once already with my 5 year journey in american college; isn’t my return to Europe the return home?

        Thank you again, very much for your thoughtful answer it really does help me.



          Lollo; what a deeply thoughtful response; and I was very touched that I was helpful to you in some small way. Apparently, your crisis dilemma touched off something in my subconscious as well as I had dreams relating to my own inner journey which I will provide suggestions from that I hope you may find helpful as you look through your dream journal. Jungian analysis often deals with “transference” between both people involved because there is a dynamic interplay of cross-communication that may stimulate unconscious material in both people, (especially if emotional content is involved). Archetypes and Complexes are worthy of note here; and one such example is the “wounded healer” archetype. And your wonderful post was a prime example for “me” of this, and I will take a quote from: Daryl Sharp’s Lexicon that may help explain the relevance.


          Wounded Healer:
          An archetypal dynamic that may be constellated in an analytic relationship.This term derives from the legend of Asclepius, a Greek doctor who in recognition of his own wounds established a sanctuary at Epidaurus where others could be healed of theirs.

          Those seeking to be cured went through a process called incubation. First they had a cleansing bath, thought to have a purifying effect on the soul as well as the body. Uncontaminated by the body, the soul was free to commune with the gods. After preliminary sacrificial offerings, the incubants lay on a couch and went to sleep. If they were lucky, they had a healing dream; if they were luckier, a snake came in the night and bit them.

          The wounded healer archetype can be schematized by a variation of the diagram used by Jung to illustrate the lines of communication in a relationship.[See “The Psychology of the Transference,” The Practice of Psychother-apy, CW 16, par. 422.

          The drawing shows six double-headed arrows, indicating that communication can move in either direction-twelve ways in which information can pass between analyst and analysand.

          According to this paradigm, the analyst’s wounds, although presumed to be relatively conscious after a lengthy personal analysis, live a shadowy existence. They can always be reconstellated in particular situations, and especially when working with someone whose wounds are similar. (They are the basis for countertransference reactions in analysis.)

          Meanwhile, the wounded analysand’s inner healer is in the shadow but potentially available. The analysand’s wounds activate those of the analyst. The analyst reacts, identifies what is happening and in one way or another, consciously or unconsciously, passes this awareness back to the analysand.

          In this model, the unconscious relationship between analyst and analysand is quite as important, in terms of the healing process, as what is consciously communicated. There are two other significant implications:

          1) Healing can take place only if the analyst has an ongoing relationship with the unconscious. Otherwise, he or she may identify with the healer archetype, a common form of inflation.

          2) Depth psychology is a dangerous profession, since the analyst is forever prone to being infected by the other’s wounds-or having his or her wounds reopened.

          No analysis is capable of banishing all unconsciousness for ever. The analyst must go on learning endlessly, and never forget that each new case brings new problems to light and thus gives rise to unconscious assumptions that have never before been constellated. We could say, without too much exaggeration, that a good half of every treatment that probes at all deeply consists in the doctor’s examining himself, for only what he can put right in himself can he hope to put right in the patient. It is no loss, either, if he feels that the patient is hitting him, or even scoring off him: it is his own hurt that gives the measure of his power to heal. This, and nothing else, is the meaning of the Greek myth of the wounded physician. [“Fundamental Questions of Psychotherapy,” ibid. para. 239.]


          Unfortunately, the picture of the drawing of the “Transference diagram” from the quote did not appear, but it is readily visible in the link I left above to the online version of Sharp’s Lexicon which is a wonderful resource for Jungian terminology that many analysts use regularly.

          The second thing that struck me in your response was about “The Call”; and one’s calling I think is not necessarily; (at least to me); a one-time affair; but more an inner connection to one’s true self that they are “yearning” for. Joseph talks about going where one’s: “Heart and Soul” want to go; and to “follow” that call. And to my way of thinking we as human beings are looking for that thing that gives us authenticity that tells us: “thou art that”. That: “tat tvan asi” that is mentioned in several places Joseph points to of the recognition this is my heart’s calling; this is what I was born to do; or my destiny calling that says: “this is what I was looking for that was missing from living the inauthentic life of the wasteland”. (And when you find it: “You Know”); and there is no guessing or question. And from a lot of the stories and tales that are often recounted: “it may often find you”; and the question I think is more about: “are you ready for it?”; are you paying attention to your path?; and are you listening to your heart that’s leading you forward? Self -doubt often gets in the way as well; when Joseph mentions: “Oh I couldn’t do that – I couldn’t be a writer or whatever it is that catches your attention, and you “refuse the invitation” to go on a journey you feel has major significance for you. That’s denial of your deep inner wish; and it may come back to haunt you in later life that you missed your moment of opportunity. Joseph says: “grab it and don’t be afraid”. So, keep looking if that is what your inner compass is telling you because you are “Following your star”; and don’t let anyone throw you off course or dissuade you of your mission. There are a lot of “virtue managers” out there who may attempt to do so; you know the ones who say that you should live a certain way; and that your way or what you are doing has no value.

          Here is the thing I see as the hero path; it’s journey to find your life in all its glory and wealth of possibility and meaning; but it’s a dangerous one too; and you can get lost or fall off or get sidetracked or be challenged as to whether you are serious about following it through till you find it. And one of the secrets as I understand it is all the little things that happen along the way are part of the most important components that compose it’s meaning; and it’s “your meaning”; not someone that tells you have to follow a script or that there is only one way held together in a certain sequence. People lead complex and complicated lives full of all kinds of mistakes; but are you listening to your own insides and what they are telling you is the main question, I think. And yes; we need major help sometimes; but are you up for what’s calling you when you find it; and able to say: a hearty “Yes” to your path no matter where it leads, or whatever disappointments you may encounter when things don’t quite turn out the way you thought. And if you are thrown off your horse can you get back up and remount and continue on; because we know there are going to be hurdles and obstacles and demons and heartache; but we also know that our heart’s desire is worth it. There may be detours, road-stops, or reconfigurations involved as well. You may meet your future wife; you may have kids, you may lose people close to you; you may get fired from whatever job you have at the moment; and the possibilities are endless; but it’s all part of the grand opera of your life; and you may find at your journey’s end that all of this was its’ greatest reward.

          Sorry to go on so much; but I have a real problem with “set-in-stone scripts” that tell you there is only one way the hero journey is revealed. And your determination to follow your own path has been such an inspiration to witness. And I hope my jumble of sincere suggestions may be helpful to you. Thank you for sharing your personal journey with me and I wish you much luck in your adventure from here. As a close here is a familiar clip from Bill Moyers: “The Power of Myth” taken from the JC foundation’s YouTube channel that contains dozens of small portions of Joseph’s lectures throughout the years. It’s a fabulous resource for learning about more of Joseph’s insights; and can be accessed by clicking on the foundation logo or link provided within the clip window. “Follow your Bliss”


          Hello Lollo (love the assonance of that salutation, the feel of the words the way they roll off the tongue),

          I’m curious what decisions you may have reached and where your journey has taken you in the last four months.

          I, too, experience a similar ambivalence about Austin – an opportunity arose some six years ago to move there. I was one of four people on a team behind a brand new start-up headquartered in Austin. Exciting as the work was, it soon became clear that working long distance wasn’t cutting it; to answer the Call I’d have to uproot my family and move from California to Texas. I visited, very much enjoyed Austin – but the question I had to answer is “when is a Call not a Call?”

          Difficult choice, which led to a parting of the way; considering that project is now a multimillion dollar company, might seem a mistake to many, but it was by no means my “passion project” – no burning desire, and many aspects of the job were far from my bliss. I made the choice that was right for me, though not necessarily for someone else in that same position. (Turned out not answering what seemed “the Call” prepared me to answer a more fulfilling Call when it knocked on my door.)

          But what drew my attention about your last post above is the following:

          Not to mention the fact that I slayed the damn dragon once already with my 5 year journey in american college; isn’t my return to Europe the return home?”

          I realize that’s mostly tongue-in-cheek, but I do think it’s worth pointing out for the benefit of other readers that we aren’t issued just one “hero’s journey” with our birth certificate. A number of people seemed to think we take that journey just once in life, which strikes me as misreading of Campbell – so I’ll just leave his words right here:

          What I think is that a good life is one hero journey after another. Over and over again, you are called to the realm of adventure, you are called to new horizons. Each time, there is the same problem: do I dare? And then if you do dare, the dangers are there, and the help also, and the fulfillment or the fiasco. There’s always the possibility of a fiasco.

          But there’s also the possibility of bliss.” (Pathways to Bliss, 133)


          Dear Lollo,

          Thank you for writing such an interesting – and heroic – post. For me, your question goes to the heart of Campbell’s teachings as you are wondering how to live your life heroically and, if I may say so, you are approaching your life as a quest. I am delighted by the replies you received from James and Stephen – particularly James’s reference to the dark forest (aye!) and Stephen’s beautiful quote from Pathways to Bliss.

          My thoughts are that at the tender age of 23 you did what so many of us do at that age: looked outside of yourself for counsel when the answers lie within. I would suggest that your old painting teacher gave good counsel at the time: namely, to follow your heart. Campbell, as you know, said ‘Follow your bliss’.  The principle is the same. Your teacher was the embodiment of the mentor then, but it is not always easy to follow one’s own instincts or to discern whose counsel it is best to trust.

          I know that we have more than one chance in life. In his book The Fisher King and the Handless Maiden, Robert A. Johnson writes about this. He believes that we attain a grand vision early in our life and we have two chances to achieve the vision: once in youth, and again in midlife.

          ‘Fate is kind and allows us two chances in life when the veil between consciousness and the unconscious grows thin. One of these is mid-adolescence when one is gratuitously allowed to see a great vision and the other is in mid-life when he has a second chance to touch his visionary life if he has earned the right.’

          Robert writes this in the context of  the story of Parsifal, the fisher king and the Romance of the Grail. He goes on to write in the same book that ‘The Grail castle is close at hand every night of one’s life and may be experienced at any time.’ I understand this to mean that, in fact, we have many more than two opportunities: we have choices every day of our life and our night dreams are always seeking to guide us too. For that reason I like your reference to a dream journal 🙂

          Perhaps you would find it helpful to study Campbell’s teachings about the Romance of the Grail and the quest of Parsifal? (I think these might be my favourite of all of Campbell’s teachings.)

          Other thoughts: when I hear the name ‘Austin’ I tend to think of Bill Hicks, because that’s where he was from. In my view Bill was a great teacher. Remember he said ‘it’s just a ride’ and we can ‘change the ride at any time’…? I love that questing, freedom-loving spirit towards life.

          Mostly, I think we have to be kind and patient and forgiving with ourselves whenever we feel we have erred, or missed a mark; just be kind and understanding and patient with yourself. Keep dancing and doing what gives you a sense of vitality and joy; try to be in the present rather than the past or future; and try to ‘love the questions’. On that note, I will leave you with some wise words from Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke:

          ‘I want to beg you, as much as I can, dear sir, to be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.’




            Lost a love, lost a call, lost an opportunity.
            Did not lost loving, did not lost sensing, did not lost life.
            A countless multitude of dancing waterdrops is the flow which takes you through the rapids and tranquil pools. All enchanting, all moving, all calling.
            In retrospect, don’t worry. Abraza tu destino.

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