Finding Direction Through The Process of Self-Discovery

George, 44, described his own personal and painful experience of what it meant to feel lost, depressed, and directionless.  “It feels like I am in the middle of a large lake, in a boat without an oar, and no idea where the shore is I need to get to.”  His description, and use of metaphor, gave me a much sharper image of what he was experiencing then had he simply told me he was “sad,“ “lost,” or “depressed.”  I think what he described that day in my office is also something that we can all relate to in our own lives.  At times we may feel isolated, directionless, and helpless as we try to sort things out, and steer ourselves in the right direction.   

There are countless reasons why we end up here.  For George, and so many others, it was the feeling that he was on the wrong career path.  He was having a hard time reconciling his dream of helping others in a large non-profit, and the reality of what he described as a toxic work environment.  I encouraged him to slow down, explore his options, and avoid making any hasty decisions that included him jumping ship.  I know that there are times where decisions just have to be made, but the times we are in crisis are rarely the times we want to significantly alter course.   It is worth gathering advice from those who know us well, spending time in reflection, and perhaps processing with a therapist in order to weigh out our options.  But of course even then there are no guarantees.

Through our discussions, George was able to slow down, and spend some time unpacking the various thoughts and feelings that were contributing to the haze.  He realized that a big part of the problem was that he had been so focused on the world around him, and what others expected of him, that he had neglected to spend time discovering what truly mattered in his life.  As we went into deeper waters, George discussed how he had spent a lifetime terrified of rejection from those around him. He believed that if he worked hard to please others, he would effectively avoid thoughts of not being good enough, feelings of shame, and the experience of isolation.  He discovered rather quickly, that in his best efforts to avoid feeling separate from others, he had neglected his own needs and interests.  He had lost his way.

The next step in his therapy required him to spend some time in discovery.  This is always the fun part of the therapeutic process, as it allows us opportunities to engage in exploration.  We may even get to revisit our youth, and remember what we enjoyed as children.  This practice reminds us of the times in our lives where we were free from the painful experience of comparison, judgement, and/or thoughts of inadequacy.  And if you have had childhood trauma, how wonderful to remember that it was not all bad.

Taking the time to revisit these places is a wonderful endeavor, because ultimately this is where our true selves reside.  And becoming clearer about what we want, and not out of the need to please others, allows us a way to set sail in a direction that is congruent with who we are.

After our work together, George realized that he would stay at his place of work, but vowed to advocate for the changes his workplace so desperately needed.  He also found that he felt connected to those around him when he focused on contribution.  He described feeling like he belonged when he was in service to others, and this also bolstered his sense of self worth. As he reflected on the work we had done together, he realized that his truth had been there all along, just waiting to be discovered.  Trusting his own intuition, he realized how resourceful he truly was, he just needed to look inward to find his childhood wonder, along with the courage to chase it.

Clear Reflections

What did you enjoy doing as a child?  What were your favorite activities or hobbies?   Do you still do any of those things?  If not, why? How could you reinstate some childhood wonder into your life?  For example, if you enjoyed riding your bike, start biking again.  If you liked making mud pies, make them with your children. Be around children and animals. What do you do now that you enjoy?  What are the activities, or hobbies, you engage in that allow you to lose track of time?  Are you doing these things now?  If not, what can you do to create space for these activities? Find Wonder.  Be Courageous.

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