This is not a book to just read in the ordinary sense of the term. This is a book that is best judged by the results it produces for the reader, and the reader will need to work, not just read, to attain them. I read the book. I did the work. I gained some splendid benefits. For that reason, the following essay is as much a testimonial as a review.
We all have unlived lives. In the process of making the decisions that defined our destinies, we decided not to do other things, which often were things we very much wanted to do, but for circumstantial reasons we could not. These desires may not just go away. They might, and often do go underground, into our subconscious minds, which silently remind us of unfinished business, of things we are "incomplete" with, or of things--sometimes we don't even know what they are--that need to be "fixed" before we are worthy of enjoying an ocean view. They find ways to seep out of us, in little acts of self-sabotage, in disruptions to our concentration when we're trying to work, in sudden uncontrollable obsessions, or in strange dreams. Or they exist as a set of values and beliefs about ourselves and the world that limit our options as we see them and lock us into a state of bland resignation to a life that seems destined to fall short, maybe by a long way, of the hopes and expectations we had when we were young.
The authors take this universal aspect of human experience as their point of departure. In the early chapters of the book, they help you to become aware of this and to apply it to yourself. You begin to see that there is a shadow within you, a repository of your unlived lives. . .other people's unlived lives, too. You begin to see how these have impelled the trajectory that your life has followed. You might even see how these unlived lives affected how you got to where you are, and where you think you want to go from there. Or not go. That is the question, isn't it?
In the middle of the book you are invited to create a dialogue with yourself, or rather, between two of your "selves." It is helpful in this connection to let go of the idea that we are "one," that we are unitary, integrated beings with a single persona that is always in control and always consistent, whether we are asleep or awake, aware or on automatic pilot. The truth is that most of us are just psycho-physical apparatuses playing the role of the rope in a tug-of-war between the gang of selves that live within us. It would be good, even empowering to know more about the members of this gang, and that is where we are led by the authors and the exercises they invite us to do.
In response to the authors' invitation, I found a couple of these entities and had conversations (on paper) with them. It was one of the more productive exercises in self-awareness I have ever done: I was liberated immediately from a complex I had carried for most of my life concerning money. I reviewed a couple of long-standing relationships in my life that had masqueraded as friendships for years and decided what to do about them. That was liberating, too. Not least, I made an important career decision. These were all good things.
There are a number of other exercises, some more effective than others (for me). One involved creating drawings, one on each side of a piece of paper, of the opposite ends of a polarity in your life. I resisted doing this at first since I am not much of an artist. I did it anyway. To my surprise, the effort produced an attractive set of drawings that became the basis of a powerful moment of awareness concerning the way I approached my work. I attained additional clarity on that career decision I mentioned earlier. This was a very good thing, too. And by the way, it was fun to do.
Living Your Unlived Life isn't for beginners on the path. Readers who are already familiar with Jungian concepts, or who have invested serious time in one or another technique of meditation, or who have already done fairly considerable "work on themselves" will have a much easier time with this book than newcomers. Having said that, I believe anyone can benefit from this book, as long as it is treated more as a study than as a read. Just be sure to do the exercises and take them seriously.