Becoming Your True Self with Life Mapping

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The older I get, the more I am drawn to returning to Christ at my death as my true self. My spiritual walk has recently been affected by reading Thomas Merton and learning more about my Enneagram type.

I had hours to pass on a flight to Florida to see my grandchildren, so I was thrilled to have The Relational Soul; Moving from False Self to Deep Connection by Richard Plass and James Cofield as my traveling companion.

In seminary, I studied narrative therapy and have always believed of the value of a life story as I have counseled people in the last ten years. Plass and Cofield recommend using life mapping as “Our story carries the emotional and existential meaning of our life experiences”. They say that “remembering and telling our story take us home to ourselves. There is no possibility of soulful relationships without an integrated soul that has embraced its story (the good, the bad, and the ugly)”.

Could life mapping my own life help me to come home even more to my true self? I’ve done my own therapy and told my story, but Plass and Cofield recommend being intentional about exploring the interpretations of significant events in our lives. They contend that as we heal our interpretations, we shift from mistrust to trust, from reactivity to receptivity, and we become more relational at our core. It sounds to me like I would have no need for my false self.

The following are two excellent resources for learning how to do a life map:
Online Life Mapping Exercise
Life Mapping by John Trent

Thomas Merton says that “All sin starts from the assumption that my false self, the self that exists only in my own egocentric desires, is the fundamental reality of life to which everything else in the universe is ordered. Thus I use up my life in the desire for pleasures and the thirst for experiences, for power, honor, knowledge and love, to clothe this false self and construct its nothingness into something objectively real. And I wind experiences around myself and cover myself with pleasures and glory like bandages in order to make myself perceptible to myself and to the world, as if I were an invisible body that could only become visible when something visible covered its surface […]” (New Seeds of Contemplation).

As I look forward to life mapping my own life, perhaps I will see this as a valuable tool for my own pastoral counseling client.

Kathy Milans is the lead team member for Soul Care Collective’s Steering Committee.

1 COMMENT

  1. You have just put a name to what I have been doing over the past several years. It has been hard and disruptive and I am still dealing with the fall-out, but on a daily basis I am at a much better place and have a contentment with God and myself I never thought possible. It was not anything I planned to do; the shortest version I have been able to come up with is “I did the best I could with what I had been given until absolutely nothing made sense anymore.” It was the result of the wheels coming off in multiple areas of my life in a sequential fashion; I can even pinpoint a time when I had the realization that whatever I thought I understood was no longer valid; my life as I had tried to create/mange it had been nothing more than a train wreck waiting to happen and it happened in a most spectacular fashion. I am sure different people would find different ways to do this, but what I found extremely helpful was discovering the spiritual discipline of word processing: I would type out a thought and then spend time with formatting and the fonts until the appearance of the written piece would be representative of what I was trying to say; everything I wrote took on a life of its own and it was done when it was done. Most of what I wrote was understandings that I would then have to live into; they still function as my guides, and when I get impatient with myself they serve as reminders of where I am coming from:

    On the other side of abandonment all of life becomes an expression of gratitude.
    The journey through loss was long and filled with pain.
    It cost us our lives.
    At the bottom of abandonment the only thing that was left was the love of God.
    But to be alone with the love of God is the only way to find life again.
    M. Craig Barnes, “When God Interrupts”

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