We are all familiar with the purpose of tests, from the schoolroom to the workplace, but do we fully grasp their significance in our personal lives?
Tests are a fundamental part of the human experience, marking our rites of passage and shaping our journey toward personal growth and transformation. The word test originally referred to an earthenware vessel in which metals were smelted to separate ore from dross. Like ancient vessels holding the heat of the refining fire, our task is to contain the tension of the test. Tests smelt fantasy from the ore of reality and force us to adapt.
When we are confronted with a test, we have a choice. We can view it as a challenge to be overcome, or we can succumb to feelings of inadequacy, limitation, or shame. If a test feels arbitrary or unfair, we may be failing to dissolve the dross within ourselves. Tests require us to develop the ego strength to put our courage, morals, and perseverance on the line—and withstand the ego wounding of failure. Ultimately, ego itself is put to the test. As Carl Jung says, “Only if we know that the thing which truly matters is the infinite can we avoid fixing our interest upon futilities, and upon all kinds of goals which are not of real importance.”
This is where the archetype of refinement comes in. At its core, refinement is the process of growth through adversity, where the fire of the test separates the valuable from the worthless. It is about taking control of your journey, rising to the occasion, and understanding growth needs. The process of refinement can be uncomfortable and even painful, but it is necessary for true personal growth.
Eustress, a positive form of stress, is key to optimal frustration, a state where we are stretched to our limits but not beyond them. In this state, we experience the energy and motivation necessary to tackle challenges and overcome resistance. Through the process of refinement, we outgrow problems and build a better self, transforming from the inside out.
Suffering and transformation are inextricably linked. We must be willing to face our pain and embrace the unconscious conflict resolution that comes with the process of refinement. As we grow beyond our limits, we discover that growth and acceptance are not mutually exclusive. We can accept our flaws and weaknesses while also striving to be better.
Time and growth are also intimately connected. We must be patient and allow the process of refinement to unfold at its own pace. It is not something that can be rushed or forced, but rather something that develops gradually over time.
As we undergo the inner transformation process of refinement, we are able to see ourselves in a new light. We develop the capacity to look upon our affect as an object, rather than becoming identical with it. Through this higher consciousness, we can say, “I know that I suffer,” while also recognizing our potential for growth and transformation.
Ultimately, the archetype of refinement through tests is about becoming the best version of ourselves. It is about embracing inner and outer change and recognizing that growth is a lifelong process. It is about outgrowing our limitations and tapping into our unknown potentialities to transform our lives in profound ways.
So, the next time you are faced with a test, remember the archetype of refinement. Embrace the fire of the test, and let it smelt away the dross within you. Trust in the process of growth through adversity and allow yourself to become the best version of yourself.
~ Joseph R. Lee
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