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The Role of Fate

In the film, Crazy Heart, Jeff Bridges’ character, Bad Blake, referred to doing what he shouldn’t do (drinking, multiple failed marriages) as his fallings. He wisely stated, “It all happens for a reason, even if it’s wrong, especially if it’s wrong.” Blake accepted his fate, even when tragic. 

Fate is used to describe whatever is unavoidably given. It is derived from the Latin fatum, meaning “a prophetic declaration, prediction or that which is meant-to-be.” It also refers to “having been spoken or sentenced by the gods.” However, just because it is spoken does it mean it is inevitable? How much control or free will do we have in our lives?

Recall the tragedy of Oedipus Rex, destined by Apollo’s oracle that he would kill his own father and marry his own mother. Even when his parents and Oedipus were told their fate and sought measures to avoid it, it still occurred. Oedipus does for the most part act on his own free will. He investigated the murder of Laius, he consulted the oracle about the plague and he forced the truth from the shepherd. 

Like Oedipus, our lives are often tragic, filled with suffering and mishaps that seem incoherent with our intentions. However, there can be a positive aspect to our tragedies. As Jung suggested, “The right way to wholeness is made up of fateful detours and wrong turnings.” With self-awareness we can begin to see the underlying currents at play in our fateful situations. 

Fate has many factors – genetics, culture, family of origin, personality and unconscious forces. From a psychological perspective, Jung stated, “When an inner situation is not made conscious, it happens outside, as fate.” Elaborating this idea of unconscious influence, James Hollis suggested that tragedies occur as we make our believed-to-be best choices with our “wounded vision.”  

Our unavoidable childhood woundings skew our perceptions of the world and ourselves. We adapt, develop coping mechanisms and create personal messages that are unconsciously at play during most decision-making times. We knowingly do not choose unhealthy partners, addictions, chronic pain, disease, depression or accidents, yet these happen. 

Believing that we know who we really are and what is best for us, and that we have control over situations challenges fate. Hollis wrote, “Puffed by our inflated fantasy of control, we choose our wounded ways, and then have the temerity to curse fate.” There is merit to singer-songwriter Jim Cuddy’s lyrics, “Sometimes the world you want is different from the one you find.”

Jung advised, “Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.” Fate brings the repetition of dysfunctional relationships, addictive behaviour and situations that evoke strong reactions until we hopefully and eventually see that how we are living is not how we want it to be. This discord signals that something is psychically off and is trying to get our attention. 

Begin by asking, “What underlying issues am I not taking responsibility for or am avoiding?” or “What would I have to change in order to decrease the (undesired) circumstances that keep appearing in my life?” Next week, we’ll look at how the ego prevents us from facing these responsibilities. 

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Diane Hancox, MA, CCC provides counselling services to Parksville, Qualicum Beach, Nanaimo and Vancouver Island.