What is meaning?
What am I truly passionate about?
What continues to get me up every morning, when I could just continue sleeping?
According to Irvin D. Yalom, “The sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being.” The struggle to discover meaning in the context of life is a human struggle.
I often have people come to therapy and say some version of the following; “When I was younger, I was told that things like art were important. I was told to express myself; that it was important and valued. I had things I was working toward. But as I age, I feel like the rug is slowly being pulled out from under me.”
Step 1: Orientation – Examine where you came from
When we grow up, we are told a lot of different things. We are given a set of boundaries. Begin by exploring the following questions:
- What were you told to believe?
- What were you told mattered the most?
- What were you told was completely off limits?
We have an original Orientation. We are told to never, ever, touch the stove. The stove is hot and dangerous. If we touch the stove, our hand will get burnt. We are taught which things should be meaningful, which topics are important to care about, and especially which things we must avoid at all costs. Never touch the stove.
Step 2: Disorientation – Challenge what you have been told
As we continue to grow, the things that we have been told may slowly start to break down. Our perceptions of these boundaries start to change as we engage with a harsh world. We begin to realize that the stove is not always hot. Sometimes the stove is cool, even cool enough to touch. When we come to this realization, we often begin to engage in a season of Disorientation.
The season of disorientation forces us to ask several hard questions:
- Who am I, really?
- What are my true values?
- Has what happened to me shaped my identity?
- What are my genuine passions?
- Do my experiences make me who I am?
In the season of Disorientation, we learn more about ourselves. We think about the things that we have been told to think, do, and believe, and identify ways in which our original orientation may not sit well with us anymore. The stove isn’t always hot, and sometimes it needs to be cleaned.
Step 3: Reorientation – Identify what truly matters to you & give it to others
Many people feel that the experiences themselves are what shape us. However, as we transcend the difficult season of Disorientation, we engage in a third stage, a season of Reorientation. In this season, we learn that our responses to our experiences shape the person that we become.
- How can I help others with what I believe?
- What do I want my work in the world to be?
- Why do I continue to wake up in the morning?
As the universe expands, so does the human psyche. The process of evolving into newer and more expansive beliefs, missions, and states of consciousness can be uncomfortable, especially when those closest to you aren’t going through the same transformation.
In therapy, I work with people through the rhythmic life cycle of Orientation, Disorientation and Reorientation. When we realize that the stove is not always hot, we are bound to get hurt at some point. I work with people to help them discover their inner self. Our inner self is our true self, our source of strength, and unfortunately the part of our self that we are often least in tune with.
As a counselor, my role is to set the table for you to journey through the difficult struggle of inner-self-discovery. It is through difficult introspective inner-self-discovery that we come to understand what it means to be human, and what it means to be me.
If you are interested in engaging the therapeutic process of finding more meaning in life or if you have any questions, contact Tim.
About the author: Tim Wilkins is the owner and therapist at Identity Counseling Psychology PLLC. Tim’s counseling focus areas are anxiety, motivation, and identity issues. Tim is also an adjunct instructor at Jackson College where he teaches Intro to Psychology, Developmental Psychology, Abnormal Psychology, and Intro to Counseling.