Life is a series of transition for which we have no language
Our modern culture has created a new and complex set of circumstances that make the transition from childhood to independent adult a longer, and more difficult process. Young adults, especially men, are struggling more then ever to create career and life paths for themselves.
As a young adult you may look back on childhood with great appreciation for its exceptional quality. You had strong family support, good schooling, and opportunities to develop personal interests. You may have had many advantages. All of these riches may be exacerbating your pain as you struggle to find the motivation to define or work towards your life goals.
Inertia in the hotbox
Feelings of frustration, disinterest and boredom may have started to dominate. As you juxtapose your early life opportunities and your family’s support to your current lack of energy a snowball effect of self-criticism may take-over.
Harsh self-criticism creates stuckness. Once you fall down the trap of listening to and absorbing the harshest, most destructive messages in your head that tell you that you are “worthless”, “lazy”, “idiotic”, or worse any possibilities of knowing or understanding yourself more sail out the window.
Without healthy introspection, you lose all opportunities to gain traction in your predicament. To ascend through complex, sequential processes the human mind needs to be able to organize, connect, evaluate, work and re-work the problem over and over again.
In evolving disintegration – re-integration process you learn about yourself and the tasks you are trying to master. A partial list might include how you might get motivated or not, lift yourself up or not, approach and relate to people or not, ask for help or not and so on. At the core of it, self knowledge can offer pathways about how you get relief from the pain of failures so you can better and more quickly recover and move on from the inevitable setbacks, and rejections that come from going after something worthwhile in life..
Less obvious, but crucial to the current focus on negative self talk is the reality that there are enormous upsides to listening to extreme negative messages that you might tell yourself. Although it keeps you stuck, and brings you down by negatively affecting your mood, and conjuring up a spiral of bad feelings it serves you by keeping you right where you are in life. It is so very hard to exchange known, albeit uncomfortable, limited experiences in life, for the unknown.
The known destination of inertia, in this case, may make you suffer, it’s a suffering you know. Other alternatives may offer you some relief, but then again maybe they won’t. It would be quite natural for you to wonder if you will arrive at even your loftiest of aspirations in life and still feel bad. If this is so, then why bother with the messy and difficult process of trying to live through your anxieties and fears if in the end these feelings will haunt you anyway?
Progress is an illusion
Sheldon Kopp, a famous therapist who conducted a very successful practice and wrote many powerful and compelling books and articles once wrote a pithy statement: Progress is an illusion.
I sometimes push back on my clients who seem to become relaxed by the notion that their crisis seems to somehow be getting resolved. They often look at me as if I am from a far off, distant planet. I go on to explain that while you may think of yourself as working to a better place with a current crisis in your life, it’s often times much less about the immediate crisis, but what you learn about your self on the way to overcoming, expanding your horizons, creating new possibilities heretofore unimaginable in your life.
This may encapsulate the deepest goals in therapy. As the task moves away from crisis resolution and into learning how to become more and more efficient at being able to work through life’s inevitable challenges, valleys, rejections, losses, hurts and disappointments. There is a famous saying in the martial arts, whoever recover first wins. In this the challenge is to win a path to a good life.