Don’t aim at success – the more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue… as the unintended side-effect of one’s personal dedication to a course greater than oneself.
Victor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning (Beacon Press, 1959, 2006)
LIFE GOALS and IDENTITY
Counseling, Psychotherapy, or Relational Psychoanalytic Therapy can be a very enriching, healing and life-changing process. Your relationships with others can be transformed.
If you can stick with the process, you will wonder how you could have lived such a limited former life. Your awareness, or sense of yourself, your facility in relationships can seem so much smoother and freer. The joy in relating to others can be a bigger part of your life. You may be amazed at how much less you are fazed by events that formerly would have almost destroyed you. You will delight in undertaking new relational challenges. Growing in these areas means developing the emotional muscles to better withstand the emotional onslaughts of life–even more so if you have had a traumatic past.
Getting to this healthier, freer place, however, is challenging.
What is to motivate you to stick with the process of growing and changing your life and your relationships?
If you seek to struggle to improve your relationships, or to improve your ability to either stand up for yourself, or to learn to tolerate your anxiety or depression more effectively, or cope more effectively with other’s hostility, be forewarned that this is a difficult skill-building task. Good counseling, psychotherapy, or relational psychoanalysis requires a commitment of time, emotions, and finances.
Persevering in this growing process, therefore, takes more than learning greater facility in managing your thoughts, emotions, physical sensations, and behaviors. Personal emotional growth is ultimately an affair of the heart.
By the heart, I mean that deepest part of yourself that is tied to your identity of who you are, of what gives your life meaning, of what you want to ultimately guide and motivate you in life. It is your ultimate meaning.
I believe strongly in encouraging you in therapy to find, understand and grow and respect your own personal meaning, life goals, and chosen life style in order to empower your own emotional growth. You will need that internal motivation to persevere.
In my practice patients have expressed their own personal meaning, life goals or identity in some of the following ways:
“Personal relationships and intimacy with another person give my life meaning.”
“If I could do something to make someone else’s life better, I would have deep satisfaction.”
“I have always had a yearning to build something significant that would help others.”
“My belief in Christ and a sense of His surrounding everyday presence has helped me to avoid continued involvement with people who have abused me in the past.”
“Saying Kaddish after my parents’ deaths filled a spiritual void and kept me going.”
“Saying ‘I am Jewish’ positively colors everything I do in the world.”
If you are secular or not particularly religious or spiritual, the ultimate meaningful focus of your life may be your family, or democratic values, or justice, or values of compassion, or accomplishment or entrepreneurship, values that are closest to your heart. Or your life’s ultimate focus may be the achieving of a close emotional link with another human being that brings a sense of meaning and value.
If you are a Christian it may be the Holy Spirit or the Spirit of God or the Spirit of Christ whom you are looking toward to guide you. If you are Jewish it may be the beauty of the Jewish observances and seeking after God that may inspire you. For the person who is spiritual but not traditionally religious, it may be the sense of the mystery of the nature of things, or the unseen, or the unknown force or the unknown God.
Many individuals may find their life’s meaning in a combination of some of the above, or it may be something entirely different.
Beyond our thoughts, emotions, physical sensations, and behaviors is our heart, which is the seat of our deepest identity and the seat of what we want or yearn for. We need this inner staying power and strength to persist in our growth goals.
It is imperative for growing yourself that you have a coherent alignment between your heart, mind and emotions. A lack of coherent value alignment between the heart, mind and emotions generates resistance to flow, resulting in increased stress from anxiety, indecision, lack of direction, frustration, impatience, and self-judgment. A lack of a sense of clear identify and self direction means that external pressures can jam the connection with your heart’s intuitive input.