Wilderness = Metaphor
The psychic geography of a wilderness passage goes something like this:
Our dream/calling/true self is percolating inside us. We sense this on some unconscious level and it scares the crap out of us. We don’t want to face it. So we deny it, suppress it, push it deeper into the shadows.
But our dream/calling/true self will not be dismissed so easily. It finds a path to daylight, perhaps in the form of “acting out” in the psychiatric sense, i.e. bursting forth as a negative—an addiction, a breakup, a wild-and-crazy stunt that gets us ejected from our Ordinary World.
Here’s where the metaphor comes in.
The wilderness passage that we find ourselves on—for me it was blue-collar jobs in far-flung corners of the country—is a metaphor for our dream/calling/true self. It is that Self manifesting as a crypto- or shadow version of itself.
The drama-queen life we find ourselves living is a sublimated form of the drama we’d like to produce in the theater or dance or literature.
The addiction that consumes us is a shadow version of the passion we really should be putting into a new startup or a non-profit philanthropic venture or simply the love that we fear to expose to others or to accept from them.
Pick your affliction–sex, food, booze, drugs, abuse of self or others, depression, alienation, political extremism, physical or emotional violence. (Granted, such conditions can be truly clinical … I don’t mean to play psychiatrist here). But, to repeat, pick your Wilderness. If we examine it as a metaphor, we will find, hiding in plain sight, the authentic dream/calling/self that we have been so terrified to bring forth into material being.
A Wilderness Passage reaches its climax and culmination, as Odysseus’s did, with a “return home”—meaning a moment, brought about by our own exhaustion with our ordeal, when we can no longer remain in denial of the True Self that has been trying so hard to be born from the wreckage of our flight from it.