Memoirs are what people write about to record the stand-out moments and events of their lives. Unlike biographies or autobiographies which tell the story of a life, memoirs tell a story of hallmark events from the life of the person. Since memoirs are retrospective of keystones in the life of the experiencer it stands to reason that some memoirs may offer greater value to the reader than others.
In many respects, the value of the memoir to the reader is the value it adds to their own journey for self-realization. While it might be interesting to read recollections of how a person applied their early beliefs and mental models to the ever broadening content of their lives, memoirs of an unexamined life may offer limited value to the reader. It would simply be reading a memoir of what someone thought was important in the content of their life, not necessarily the transitions they negotiated in their search for their truer selves. The latter could be of great benefit to many.
But, this is probably not how the writer of the unexamined life envisioned what they created. As is the case with many, they likely assumed that because the content of their lives was changing, and they were mastering new skills and abilities along the way, that they were in fact gaining access to their truer selves. While this could be true to some extent, expanding the content of our lives is what most people call learning. Hence, as the writer of memoirs reviews the highpoints of their lives sticking with their early mental models and habits actually shelters them from seeing the truth: That they are re-living the structure and function of their earliest conceptions over and over again and in the process creating the illusion of personal mastery; which may actually be preventing greater access to their innate potential. This is what Freud call the recapitulation phenomena. It offers the illusion of growth and progress in the absence of real learning. Memoirs that focus on broadened experience as a result of increasing self-knowledge might have the greatest value to others.
Real learning is changing your mental models. It is the kind of learning that occurs in psychotherapy, psychoanalysis or sophisticated coaching. While there are things you can do to increase the likelihood of profound learning in your own life, it is most effectively accomplished with the help of a trained guide who is objective and has engaged in this level of learning themselves. Memoirs worth reading are the ones that share how the author faced their demons—especially feelings of powerlessness and unworthiness—and gained access to their real power by accepting responsibility for owning and sharing their gifts with the world. Illustrations of how others have negotiated life’s transition to gain greater access to their real self, offer exposure to pathways that may help in our own search for the missing parts of ourselves.
CEO Effectiveness LLC has published two books, Business Success Through Self-Knowledge (2003) to help business leaders, consultants, and executive coaches, and Ascend: Forging a Path to Your Truer Self (2015) for business leaders, parents, young adults and many others who seek greater access to their innate potential and inner genius.
Here are the first two sentences of Ascend: “Most of us have had these feelings before. There is an nagging sense that we are not living up to our potential, that our ‘true destiny’ eludes us, and that we are–for reasons we can’t quite grasp–suppressing our most essential passions We feel limited by patterns that play out over and over again in our lives, even extending into our relationships.”