by Diane M. Gartland Psy. D
"Hey you're fast!" we think as we watch a really good technophile, competitor, nerd, entrepreneur.
"Wow, that is really original and inventive!" we muse as we explore some random web site, art project, new business, even a new movie.
"I wish I could do that . . .be like . . .have that . . ." we might murmur to ourselves watching some favorite icon, star, athlete.
What is it that limits the ordinary everyday working slob from achieving all that he/she wants? Indeed, what limits anyone from even imagining a future of happiness, satisfaction, excitement and/or peace?
The answer to the question was pretty much discovered more than a hundred years ago when it became apparent to great writers and thinkers that humans had a mind and used it in the process of becoming human . . .that everyone has an inner life. In fact, it is to our benefit and sorrow that we are able to think because, as we think, we are vulnerable to depression and disconsolation. In essence, every thinking human may be somewhat depressed.
When we do not think, we are given over to action; often mindless and certainly only partially informed, action. Actions which are ill conceived can very often lead to errors in judgment, embarrassment, hurt. . . storing up more to be depressed about . . .if one were to stop and think about it.
Thinking may be experienced as an enemy . . .something to be avoided since it might bring only psychic pain, self recrimination, remorse, anger, regret, envy. So we act.
This type of action, in a world which rewards speed and victory at all costs, is expected but not desirable and not likely to accomplish the ends for which it is undertaken. Why? Because beneath or behind such action (depending on how you conceive of the human mind) lies an ever deepening sense of futility and hopelessness. It is not a helplessness about current ambitions perhaps, but a hopelessness about fulfilling a deep human desire for love.
Depending on the person, the depression over a loss of love, desire, self value can be mildly or moderately debilitating . . .sometimes severely so .. . but in all cases, self trust and self confidence are not everything they could be. Depression, even a little and even when not admitted to, also impedes creativity, innovation, imagination, momentum, enthusiasm, ultimately passion for life and the various opportunities it might bring.
"I don't need that!" one might say. "I can tough it out on my own and push through". Yes! You can. That is what most people do, isn't it? Most people in the herd, fraternity, club, gang, (fill in the blank) . . . , get by. . . sadly . . . without ambition, interest, incentive, passion, even enjoyment (except perhaps for a bit of unrefined sexual encounter to break up the boredom). But is this what is really wanted or needed? I think not.
It is convenient to flit from one new fad after another in search of that elusive .. something ...palmistry, fortune telling, BFF, gadget; searching for the latest "guru", Dr. Phil, yogi, comfort food, Mr. Goodbar, fan club, drug . . . but nothing quite gets it . . .nothing satisfies. Here is the problem.
The thing we are aiming for and do not acquire, sometimes the thing we fear the most and cannot escape, often both . . . is not in the future . . .where we think it ought to be located. It is in our past.
If we take a slight detour to find this "thing", to mourn over its loss, to understand how we can replace it and improve on it, we can often experience life and ourselves as truly "special". If we can understand how our phantoms and phantasms are ephemeral and not substantial (a straw person we ourselves have constructed), we can have what we want and want what we have.
This may require a lengthy "gestational" period. . . a period of thoughtfulness, during which not much of import is done. In many modern cultures an arrival at a final craft and vocation may occur only in the thirties. But the lengthy "prep" time may be more than worth the time spent and the financial and interpersonal rewards deferred. But here's the thing. Such a period of mental wandering is best done with a guide. It is important to engage in the journey thoughtfully and attentively . . . only then will the learning and becoming occur. Otherwise, the need to repeat and enact a disappointing past will most certainly be activated. So, in order to avoid the "Ground Hog Day" of eternally reliving an unhappy past (most of which is completely unconscious), a chaperone is needed.
While it is frequently the case that our own sense of pride and worry over losing our few personal (and financial )resources can often get in our way; it is helpful to recall the lesson of Oedipus. Oedipus was a king in Greek mythology whose royal parents had been told of an ugly prediction . . . that he would one day kill father and marry mother. The parents took Oedipus to a mountain top and abandoned him there, thinking he would die and no longer be a threat to them.
Oedipus, instead, was found by a woodsman and raised by the man and his wife. On attaining his maturity, Oedipus heard the prediction for himself and determined to get as far away from his "parents" as possible in order to save them and himself. Along the way on his journey, he got involved in a scuffle with others on the roadway. He killed a man. It was, he found out later, his biological father, King Creon. Journeying further, he arrived at his father's kingdom and met a woman with whom he fell in love. He married her and found out later that she was his biological mother. In anguish, he gouged out his own eyes. Ironically, he had been blinded by his own pride and lack of foresight and only on learning the truth could he, in fact, see.
The journey is difficult. At times, we may have to kill off our own illusions of who we are. Kohut once indicated that it was similar to the journey told in Dante's Purgatorio where Vergil, the poet, accompanies the pilgrim on the perilous road through Hades. But in the final analysis, one most often finds his/her place.
Because the young adult period is often one of struggle, I am willing to help in any way I can even to the point of fee reduction if necessary. Please call me at 734-302-0309 to discuss the possibility of setting up a consultation.
October 2014 - Contact author for permission to cite