Woman's Search for Meaning
I'm in a funk.
I don't know if that's something people say when they aren't feeling happy 24/7 (an unrealistic goal for any human being), when Mercury is in retrograde, or when their lives seem to be at a standstill.
Realistically, though, my life is not at a standstill.
My friendships are flourishing; I find myself much more able to be my authentic self, rather than a contrived version of myself who seeks to defend and explain my life choices.
My career continues to grow in ways that I never knew possible, both externally and internally. I've noticed that for the first time in my life, I've been able to stay in one place of employment for the longest I ever have (3 years!) and not want to flee at the first sign of change or discomfort.
I continue doing incredibly difficult work in therapy, as I have been taught that "the best therapists seek therapy of their own to prevent the potential leakage of their own issues onto their patients."
But, despite all of this, I feel as though there is a vacuum in my life where a relationship with my significant other once was.
This isn't constant; it comes in waves. Dull at first, then paralyzing. It takes over every fiber of my being and I feel consumed with grief. Then, when I feel as though I can't handle this amount of emotional pain, it passes. "Almost without any effort or thought on my part," as stated in the 10th step promises as outlined in The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous:
"And we have ceased fighting anything or anyone-even alcohol. For by this time sanity will have returned. We will seldom be interested in liquor. If tempted, we recoil from it as from a hot flame. We react sanely and normally, and we will find that this has happened automatically. We will see that our new attitude toward liquor has been given us without any thought or effort on our part. It just comes! That is the miracle of it. We are not fighting it, neither are we avoiding temptation. We feel as though we had been placed in a position of neutrality—safe and protected. We have not even sworn off. Instead, the problem has been removed. It does not exist for us. We are neither cocky nor are we afraid. That is how we react so long as we keep in fit spiritual condition."
This is my experience with most things, relationships included.
What a gift!
But in this vacuum-state of mind, I’ve had ample time to channel my energy into finding meaning in my life. Where do I feel most purpose and meaning?
I recently read “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor Frankl. In his harrowing memoir about his time in concentration camps during World War II, he expands on his own theoretical approach to therapy, which he calls “Logotherapy.” Logotherapy is ultimately an approach that condenses the human experience and motivation into the drive, or “will” to meaning.
Obviously, it got me thinking.
As a therapist and an active member of a 12-step fellowship, I know that I glean meaning and purpose from helping others. But why? Where does it come from? How can I continue feeding this meaning without burning myself out on trying to elicit positive change in others, especially when I am struggling with my own personal and interpersonal relationships?
Well, that’s a mouthful.
As with most articles I write, I don’t have a rough draft, an outline, a point I’m trying to make, or a finishing thought. I like to free write and see what comes out and just go with it.
That’s one of the reasons I created my own website domain; I didn’t want to edit and filter my truth in order to make it fit the mold of what a publisher or editor wanted to see.
I find meaning in helping others. I find meaning in personal growth and development, no matter how painful it is. And, ultimately, I find meaning in relationships.
I’m starting to shed that notion that needing connection and utilizing said connections to fuel my fire makes me sick, unhealthy, codependent, or any other kind of spiritual or emotional defectiveness. It makes me human.
The courage that it takes to throw oneself into a relationship, be it romantic, familial, or friendly, is unparalleled. Choosing to be one’s most authentic self - being seen and heard for who you are and unapologetically genuine - that’s the hard part.
What if I’m not enough?
What if I’m too much?
What if they didn’t sign up for my intensity?
What if they leave?
What if they stay?
But what is the meaning and purpose that we are deriving from a relationship if we aren’t being authentic?
I find meaning in connection. And in order to cultivate the most authentic connections possible, I need to be my most authentic self.
But that, my friends, involves a lot of fucking courage.
Frankl writes about finding meaning in suffering. He writes about how, far too often, we label our suffering as a shortcoming, a weakness, and we feel ashamed of the level of pain we do or do not experience.
But finding meaning in suffering is by far more powerful than minimizing it and keeping it in the dark. Suffering fucking sucks, but we grow a whole lot when we are able to walk directly through it.
I think, for now, my own personal mission is to continue finding meaning in helping others, in my own suffering, and in my relationships.
Part of me wants to just shove my head in the sand and live a surface-level life that involves not digging deeply, not feeling or thinking so intensely, and not seeking connection that is full of meaning and lessons. But that isn't me! I've tried that. I really, really have. And it felt as though I was stifling a part of myself to meet the needs of another. This has happened in both friendships and romantic relationships.
Brené Brown writes about how we have a tendency to trade our authenticity and integrity for belonging. But is it really belonging if we aren't being our true selves?
But it's easier at times - I can definitely vouch for that.
I don't want easy, though.
I want real.
And I'll be damned if I won't keep seeking my truth.
I encourage you to do the same.