Introspection, or insight, I like to label as “I-ness.” The reason for doing so is really to get to know yourself in this process. Many times, I see people in therapy in their 20s and 30s who are truly ‘lost.’ They don’t have any idea of self, what drives them, what motivates them, and what their life’s purpose is. While I understand their parents have wanted what is best for them, and this typically happens, they end up being led towards one field or direction in regards to career. They choose the military because that’s what their parents believe is going to help them become a better or more secure person; or they choose to work in their family’s business because, well, they are in the family and have been ordained to carry on the family business from day one, whether they wanted to or not. Or maybe it’s that they are an artist at the core, yet their parents feel as though there is no money in that field, so they steer them in a completely different direction, causing the child (or now adult) to go down a different path and lose steam, drive, motivation to do much of anything. Whatever the case is, I see this all too often. It is saddening, because here we have someone with so much potential, yet it’s repressed, suppressed, and shoved down into their souls until it has no voice and barely any breath left. They keep those desires and hopes at bay because pleasing others, or at least gaining solid footing on an otherwise shaky ground, is more important. If they don’t please those who wanted them to go in a particular direction, there results a profound feeling of guilt, of resentment, shame, and ultimately of being lost.
A passage from a training I went to in 2016 discussed the uselessness of guilt. Guilt gets us nowhere and has no purpose. Guilt doesn’t stop people from doing what they should not do. It doesn’t stop religious people from doing things that are, for example, forbidden by the Bible, or at least those various activities highly suggested that one should stay away from. Guilt doesn’t stop a man from killing another man. It doesn’t stop us from doing exactly what we think guilt should stop us from doing. Imagine if animals felt guilt. Let’s take birds for instance. If a bird felt guilty, it would probably be preoccupied with this feeling, and have a hard time flying straight because it was wrapped up in what it should have done, how it should’ve flown earlier, rather than how it was flying in that moment. Well, that bird wouldn’t last long because that bird would most likely crash into the first tree that was in its way, or even fly into its own family member or fellow bird because it wasn’t paying attention. So the guilt that the bird is holding onto is not only not helpful, it is not helpful for the greater good of all involved. It is not good for the tree that was flown into, nor is it good for the other birds around it. Lest we forget, it’s not good for those of us on the ground, because we are going to be the ones to have to step over dead birds that keep falling to the ground due to a crashing problem with birds. If you didn’t understand why guilt was useless before, hopefully this morbid avian example will help to make that a little clearer for you!
Back to fulfilling one’s destiny, one’s purpose. There seems to be a generation of people who have become lost in their search for self. I don’t think it’s that abnormal, and actually happens throughout time where people simply get lost and have a hard time finding their way. This is an important part of life and growth. I believe, based on observations, that it’s simply happening at a later age for people nowadays, because parents have (and this is not a judgment, rather an observation) gone above and beyond to protect their children from hurt, pain, and disappointment that they may have seen in their own lives or someone close to them. As a result, the parents have, thus, vowed that they would not do that to their children. That is wonderful, until it comes time for the child to think and stand on their own. Then we’re left with a generation that has a hard time riding the bike without the training wheels, because there has always been someone standing behind them and guiding their every move, every turn, and every fall right there with them. The parents have their own goals, visions, and dreams for their child (again, not a judgment as parents simply clearly want what’s best for their child) and it becomes an enmeshed relationship where the parents’ dreams become the child’s, even if the child truly doesn’t want that.
So the adult child comes into my office and states that they cannot find themselves; that they are lost; that they feel unfulfilled and truly unhappy with where they are in life. It is not how or where they envisioned themselves at this point in life, yet here we are. How do we get from a point of confusion and enmeshment to a point of clarity on who you are? First, we start with how living this way has impacted you.
How does your past currently impact you in everyday life? What have you noticed in terms of how you respond to others and situations around you? Do you find yourself jumpy, fidgety, or defensive? When you go out, do you always face towards the door or exit sign so you can escape just in case something happens?
How does it affect your thoughts, feelings, and emotions? Do you find yourself feeling down, depressed, or often having thoughts that are negative in nature about yourself? Do you find yourself constantly thinking and worrying about the future?
How does it affect your relationships? Do you find yourself detached in relationships? Or even enmeshed to the point where you can’t determine what you actually want and what your loved one wants?
How does it affect your work? Are you doing something you truly love and are enamored with? Or is it something that just “pays the bills?” Do you find yourself just going through the motions, waking up day in and day out, like Groundhog Day, only to realize a deep sense of unfulfillment in your work? Do you find yourself picturing yourself in another line of work completely different from the one you’re currently in, and just for a brief moment are able to smile at that possibility (before the gremlin comes in and says that’s not the good, smart, or sustainable path)?
Your energy level? How is your energy? Are you on a 10, where your energy is infectious? Or is it closer to a 1, 2, or 3? If it feels like you’re dragging your feet constantly, and that each and every step takes the greatest amount of effort, then your energy level is probably pretty low on that scale.
Your diet? Are you eating healthy, nutritious foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables? Spices and seasonings that have been known to have proven health benefits, such as turmeric and cumin? Or do you find yourself reaching for those quick snacks and meals that are lower in nutritional value, but higher in ease and convenience? Do you often skip meals throughout the course of the day because you are so busy or may not even be hungry (or notice that you’re hungry)? Or do you eat consistently throughout the day, whether it’s a full meal or intermittent snacks?
Your exercise? Are you hitting the gym every day, or at least 3 times a week? Or do you keep saying to yourself (or others) that you’re going to get into that gym routine tomorrow, or next week, only to realize that you have continued in that same pattern of behavior for weeks, months, if not years? Or do you start to hit the gym or exercise plan up hard in the very beginning, ready for those changes to happen, yet when you don’t see immediate results you give up and throw in the towel? Or do you simply not have any energy any given day to even give the gym or any type of exercise (yoga, cycling, boxing, etc.) any thought in the first place? No guilt, no desire. Just a seat on the couch or in your favorite chair.
Your driving? Are you able to drive completely relaxed and stress-free? Or do you find yourself cursing everybody out who cuts you off, or better yet, find yourself being mean and snarky when you let someone merge in between you and the car in front of you with no wave of thanks? “You’re welcome, a#*hole!” Do you chase after people in your car after they do something that seems to personally offend you, such as cut you off, until you catch up to them and give them a piece of your mind? Do you shower them with not-so-kind words and gestures, making sure they understand what a jerk they were back there for doing whatever it is they did? Have you even gotten out of the car while it’s running to even more so make sure they understand how upset you are with them, inviting them to step out of the car to have a conversation about this issue face-to-face?
Your sleep patterns? Do you fall asleep and stay asleep with ease? Or do you have a tough time just falling asleep? Once you fall asleep, are you able to stay in that peaceful state for long periods of time, or do you find yourself tossing and turning, or waking up often through the night? Do you get anywhere from 3-5 hours of sleep per night and find yourself ready to get up at that point because the thought of sleeping longer either doesn’t occur, or you have learned how to go throughout the day on this much sleep. Do you say to yourself, “Sleep is for suckas!” or “I’ll have time to sleep when I’m dead?” Better yet, do you find yourself reaching for a bottle of liquor, wine, beer, or any combo of these (or substitute those for over-the-counter sleeping aids) in order to help you with your sleep patterns, recognizing that though they may help in the short-term, it hasn’t been able to serve as a long-term fix?
If you answered yes to a number of these questions, the answer is that you are most likely stuck, and there has been a part of you that has been needing release, yet you have not found that safe, healthy, and effective release or way to do so.
These are critical questions to answer because they can lead us to the source, and to find the sun that is and has always been shining within you. It has simply been too hard to see it through the clouds. However, just like when you fly and it may be pouring rain closer to the ground, once you get above the clouds you realize that the sun is there shining brightly. It has always been there shining brightly. Your perspective has just been a short-sighted one; one that has been blocked and skewed for years either because someone else has been standing in the way, or you just did not know where to look. Now you know. Now it’s time to do something to take ACTION to your next step towards fulfillment.