Pausing or Stuck?

How can I move on and grow when I’m back at home with my parents?

…I’ve been asked various versions of this question as a counselor.

At best the question exposes the uncomfortable struggle between needing support and wanting autonomy. At worst it hides destructive shame and self-doubt.

Yes, I answer.. this is your question, emphasizing the first important part of the question “How can YOU move and grow … merely qualifying the question with “when back at home with my parents?” Sometimes, a slight shift in tone starts to open up possibilities, a space to grow.

First of all, I want to continue, autonomy is a myth. We all need different levels of help. (Reality testing)

Second, ask yourself “how can I move and grow today?” Find yourself again and again. Imagined paths to independence may look a bit different at first until you find your horizon. (Partializing)

Third, how do you want to grow? Towards self-sufficiency, autonomy, independent social life, self-management and direction? Redefine the sentence for yourself: “A grown up is ……….” (Expressive Arts/ working with introjects)

Some days it may feel like a restorative pause in the rhythm of your life. Other days it may feel like a constraining reversal that propels you forward.

Often, you may just feel stuck.

In any case, it’s the question “how can I ________?” that matters. The if/when qualifiers are secondary. (empowerment)

When I find myself feeling stuck, I try to find some small way to move, to wiggle slightly, maybe even just reach up my arms to stretch, something, anything to keep holding the possibility “How can I…….?”

What do you do when you feel stuck? How do you cope and keep moving?

Hope you move through your day with ease. Thank you for reading.

Hungryphil

Existential Love

A few blog posts ago I talked about whose fault is loneliness. Feeling lonely often corresponds to feeling unloved. I’d like to consider the dynamics of loneliness and love a bit longer. How do you relate love and loneliness in your life?

The following quote from Irvin Yalom might help clarify what we search for in others, and loneliness as those needs, unfulfilled.

Growth-motivated and deficiency-motivated individuals have different types of interpersonal relations. The growth-motivated person is less dependent, less beholden to others, less needful of others’ praise and affection, less anxious for honors, prestige, and rewards. He or she does not require continual interpersonal need gratification and, in fact, may at times feel hampered by others and prefer periods of privacy. Consequently the growth-motivated individual does not relate to others as sources of supply but is able to view them as complex, unique, whole beings. The deficiency-motivated individual, on the other hand, relates to others from the point of view of usefulness. Those aspects of the other that are not related to the perceiver’s needs are either overlooked altogether or regarded as an irritant or a threat.

Irvin D. Yalom. Existential Psychotherapy (Kindle Locations 5185-5189). Kindle Edition.

It is ironic that independent and growth motivated individuals who are able to sustain themselves on their own make the most supportive partners. You are my partner because I admire and respect your existence, independent of me. I don’t need you to fulfill me, rather, I will work to support and witness your existence. I love you in that I offer my attention and energy in service of your existence. This attitude isn’t self-sacrificing per se. It simply resists self-aggrandizing. Your needs are as important as my needs. Reciprocity takes effort. That is the work of love. Many simply concede to lives of loneliness, maybe because the work of love seems out of reach and overwhelming. To honestly answer, why am I lonely? what am I searching for? what do I need? takes courage. Can I accept and receive the answer without judgment? Unless I take responsibility for my own attitudes about love and loneliness, I cannot mature.

“Infantile love follows the principle ‘I love because I am loved.’ Mature love follows the principle: ‘I am loved because I love.’ Immature love says, ‘I love you because I need you.’ Mature love says, ‘I need you because I love you.’ Fromm’s point that love is an active, not a passive, process has extraordinary ordinary importance for the clinician. Patients complain of loneliness, of being unloved and unlovable, but the productive work is always to be done in the opposite realm: their inability to love. Love is a positive act, not a passive affect; it is giving, not receiving-a “standing in” not a “falling for.”

Irvin D. Yalom. Existential Psychotherapy (Kindle Locations 5213-5217). Kindle Edition.

Do you feel immature, mature, in-between in love?

May you be deeply engaged in the work of love,

Hungryphil

Are you enjoying your privacy or are you lonely?
Photography by Nate Dale – New Adventure Production

Self-Aware Ease

It is not surprising that I’m drawn to Existentialist Psychotherapy in the lineage of Rollo May, Irvin Yalom, Vicktor Frankl practicing the philosophies of Kierkagaard, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Sartre, Husserl and others. The basic premise as Irvin Yalom explains below is the humble defense of the ancient belief that self-awareness leads to a meaningful fulfilling life even if the process of self-discovery is painful:

Wisdom does not lead to madness, nor denial to sanity: the confrontation with the givens of existence is painful but ultimately healing. Good therapeutic work is always coupled with reality testing and the search for personal enlightenment; the therapist who decides that certain aspects of reality and truth are to be eschewed is on treacherous ground.

Irvin D. Yalom. Existential Psychotherapy (Kindle Locations 190-192). Kindle Edition.

In working and volunteering at different contexts such as hospice, domestic violence shelter, food pantries, community health, grief and loss counseling, my role and mission is simple: To invite self-aware ease in myself and in others with me. Sometimes that means asking gentle guiding questions, sometimes breathing, sometimes guiding meditations, sometimes just sitting in silence and making space for self-inquiry.

Self-inquiry is painful, as Plato describes in the Republic, the released prisoner is blinded and stumbling, heading out of the cave. The turning towards truth or meaning is daunting and frightening. The journey inward can only be sustained by moments of ease. Self-awareness rests on self-care. This is the balance I’m trying to learn and practice. Each person sitting with me teaches me a different version.

The existential position emphasizes a different kind of basic conflict: neither a conflict with suppressed instinctual strivings nor one with internalized significant adults, but instead a conflict that flows from the individual’s confrontation with the givens of existence. And I mean by “givens” of existence certain ultimate concerns, certain intrinsic properties ties that are a part, and an inescapable part, of the human being’s existence in the world.

Irvin D. Yalom. Existential Psychotherapy (Kindle Locations 107-109). Kindle Edition.

I hope to practice the humility of the Existentialist perspective: I can never know your experience, your suffering, your confrontation with life, however, I can guide you to map your internal valleys and mountains, joys and sorrows, to know yourself . I am able to do so because I walk with self-aware ease despite the sufferings of my own life. This of course leads to concerns of therapeutic transference. That exploration will have to wait for another post.

Whether you are a counselor, therapist, teacher, creative, what is your mission? Why is it your mission? How do you confront the givens of existence: death, isolation, freedom or meaninglessness?

Bring self-aware ease. Seems so simple, yet it is a life’s work. Mine.

Wishing you self-aware ease,

Hungryphil

Photography by Nate Dale – New Adventure Productions