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Posts Tagged ‘best self’


I received the following letter regarding humankind’s on-going battle with its own impulses:

Hi Will,

I really enjoy reading your blog, you give great insight. I have often been told that I need to focus (I do not have ADHD or any other attention disorder).My problem or what others see as a problem is that I tend have a large array of interests and life goals that are not necessarily connected for which I have much passion. There so many things I want to do, but the older I get the more I feel like everyone is right. I need to pick an area or two at most on which to focus. I have heard the arguments for and against the jack of all trades approach to life, but I am still not sold. I don’t want to focus; I want to do it all. I am I being overly idealistic? Is it necessary for one to focus on their energy on one specific passion? If so, how does one decide how to go about focusing their energy on something specific?

-DH

And here’s my response:

To submit a question to Ask The People’s Therapist, please email it as text or a video to: wmeyerhofer@aquietroom.com

If I answer your question on the site, you’ll win a free session of psychotherapy with The People’s Therapist.
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If you’re interested in learning more about the scientific and philosophical underpinnings of psychotherapy, you might enjoy my first book, “Life is a Brief Opportunity for Joy”

My second book takes a humorous look at the current state of the legal profession, “Way Worse Than Being A Dentist”

(Both books are also available on bn.com and the Apple iBookstore.) 

For information on my private practice, click here.

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A reader wrote recently to ask about the effect of multiple moves on a child.

It got me thinking about the concept of “home.”

There’s no more powerful trope in human society.  “Home” as a concept relates to the child you once were. It triggers a universal longing.

The word resonates so strongly that real estate listings often use “home” instead of “house” to describe a property for sale.  They’d rather market a concept – something we all long for – than the thing itself, a heap of wood and brick, cinder block and glass.

The word “home” is ubiquitous in our common language, as well – embedded in everyday phrases:  welcome home, home base, home run, homing in, heading home, home sweet home, writing home, home-making, come home.

You need a home.  You may search for it all your life.

As a child, you long for stability – a regular schedule, predictable places and events.  A child savors routines that would bore an adult to tears: watching the same dvd over and over again, having the same book read to him over and over again, eating the same meal (chicken nuggets or pizza) over and over again.  A child wants to stay put and feel safe. Familiarity is like food – he gobbles it up.

The effect of multiple moves on a young child is that he will feel destabilized and anxious, and turn for succor to the one place whence he believes all stability derives – his parent.  That usually means mom, literally his first home, where he first found food and warmth, love and care.  Mama equals home.  She is the original safe place.

For an adult, that’s no longer the case.  The illusion of mom as an omnipotent, omnipresent figure fades as you mature.  In its place, a real woman emerges.  She was once a child herself, and she has her own struggles to wage.

So you turn vagabond – and search for a new home, elsewhere.

You might seek it in a big house.  Or maybe a bank account or a heap of possessions represents your vision of stability and safety.

Ultimately, home must be a person, just as it was when you were a child.  Money and things cannot offer you a true home.

But seeking your home in a partner doesn’t work either.  A relationship must be a meeting of equals – two whole people, not two half people.  It cannot be a rescue.

You cannot build a home with someone else until you feel secure in yourself.  No other person can make you feel secure in your life, and partners cannot run to one another for something they both lack.

You have to build your own place of safety.

Home must exist within you.

Luckily, it already does.  Home, for an adult, is nothing more than acceptance of yourself – the person you truly are when you are your best – your most conscious and most authentic – self.

You are already home.

You always have been.  You always will be.

Always there, always ready to offer love, security and safety.  For yourself.

What a house symbolically offers.  What mama used to offer.  What the word “home” promises.

You can provide that for yourself.

Welcome home.

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Watching the most recent Oscars ceremony was a healthy reminder of the most fundamental instinct in human nature – the desire to please.

You want everyone to like you.

Admitting that is a big step towards authenticity.  Because it’s true.

It is also true that everyone will not like you.  Not even such masters of public relations as Bill Clinton and Barack Obama can make everyone like them.  Some people have their own issues – they might dislike you simply for being liked by so many other people.

Why do you want to be liked so much?  It relates back to the evolutionary necessity to please your parents.  A young animal must please his parents in order to survive.  Often, in the wild, where food and care can be in short supply, only the young animal who pleases survives to adulthood.

You crave delighting others because it regresses you into a happy child, secure in having pleased his parents and thus surviving and flourishing.

Even as an adult, you have a place in the back of your mind where everything you do is still directed at pleasing your parents.  That promotion at work, the book you published, the shiny diploma on your wall – there’s some part of you that’s hoping mom and dad will notice, just like those folks up on the stage at the Oscars, thanking their mom and dad.  And you’re watching those people because you enjoy identifying with them – pretending to be them for a few moments of rapturous pleasure in receiving approval.

Some part of you also wants to experience that cliched but endlessly replayed scene from every “feel-good” movie ever made.  It’s the scene where, after a lifetime of commitment and hard work, the unsung hero is finally recognized by…everyone.  Think “Mr. Holland’s Opus” or any of thousands of other cheesy Hollywood films.  Finally, after quietly doing your part to improve the world, you get your standing ovation.  The entire auditorium (or the stadium, if it’s a sports flick) is on its feet, cheering, applauding, weeping with joy – for you.

Moi?

I’d like to begin by thanking the Academy.

The problem with this instinct to please others and seek their approval is that it displaces your source of assurance about your own value onto other people.  They become the arbiters of your value as a person.

It’s lovely to receive accolades – the little kid within you dances for joy.

But the judgment of others cannot become a referendum on your value as a human being.  An adult needs to look within himself for approval.  And you can only achieve that approval by becoming your best self.

That means staying conscious of who you are at all times, and checking in to be certain it is your most authentic identity, the person you want to be – the person you can look back on afterward and be proud of.

Your respect for yourself must be earned.

The respect of others is nice, but it can be fickle.  Back in 1985 , when Sally Field won the Oscar for Best Actress for “Places in the Heart,” after having won in 1980 for “Norma Rae,” she didn’t actually say “You like me, you really like me” – although that’s what she’s remembered as saying, and that’s what she still gets made fun of for saying.

Here’s what she actually said in 1985: “I haven’t had an orthodox career, and I’ve wanted more than anything to have your respect. The first time I didn’t feel it, but this time I feel it, and I can’t deny the fact that you like me, right now, you like me!”

Perhaps it was her putting it so bluntly – telling the audience that they liked her – that made them flinch, and change their minds, and switch to making fun of her.

Sally Field probably realized once and for all in 1985 what will always be true – that you must look within yourself for the approval that matters. No one else – not even your parents – can satisfy your craving to be accepted as the person you truly are.

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