Finding Meaning

 

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Life with Meaning: – Sometimes, feelings of free-floating anxiety, restlessness, boredom, apathy, confusion, and even depression are related to our need for real meaning and purpose in our lives.  

Everyday, there are more and more books and seminars out there about how to live “on purpose” and how to “find your purpose”. There are times when we ask the “big questions”. Why am I here?  How should I best spend my limited time on this planet? What is really important to me?  What is the meaning of suffering? I have found the principles in the two therapies summarized below, and a holistic approach to counseling, can be quite helpful for people struggling with a variety of life issues – including trauma, depression, anxiety, and relationship problems or conflict.

He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.”, Friedrich Nietzsche 

waterfall.jpgConstructive Living is a wonderful approach for getting directly to what matters and to what can help in the here and now. It is very practical, and behavior focused, and it is based on Morita and Naikan Psychotherapy. These are Japanese Psychotherapies that have been translated and presented to the Western world by David K. Reynolds, and others. This approach to mental wellness often redirects us to our actions and how they are helping or hurting us and the people around us.  Instead of judging ourselves and our behaviors as “good” or “bad”, we consider if what we are doing is effective or ineffective in helping us reach our goals. It also encourages reflection on our relationships with others. You can find out more about these interesting and practical approaches to well-being through the ToDo Institute at www.todoinstitute.org.

Logotherapy

The development of Logotherapy dates back to the 1930’s. It was developed by Dr. Viktor Frankl (1905-1997). He was a neurologist and a psychiatrist. Dr. Frankl is the author of “Man’s Search for Meaning“, and several other books. In this book, he not only talks about the principles of Logotherapy, but he also talks about his personal experiences in several Nazi concentration camps during World War II. I highly recommend his book.

Briefly, Logotherapy is based on these ideas:

Freedom of Will  We are not completely controlled by, or at the mercy of, our circumstances and our environment. We each make choices every day–every hour. While many things may happen that our not within our control, we always have the opportunity to choose how we respond to situations, to people, and to our own thoughts and feelings. We are capable of actively shaping our lives. This freedom of will can help us to overcome the problems we face.

Will to Meaning:   We are not only free, but we are free to do something…namely, to achieve our goals and purposes. In Logotherapy, the search for meaning and purpose is seen as the primary motivation for humans. Sometimes, when a person cannot find real meaning or purpose in their life, they may experience sensations of emptiness and frustration. They may be just drifting through life, rather than living with intention and purpose.  It can also increase the symptoms of other medical problems.

We owe it to ourselves and the world to give the best of ourselves and reach our full potential!  We are all unique, and no one can tell us our purpose or what is meaningful for us.

To learn more about Logotherapy, I recommend this site http://logotherapy.univie.ac.at/

Existential Philosophy

We are complex creatures, and we have big questions about this thing called life.  Often, people wrestle with these big questions during times of transition or loss on their lives. 

Dr. Stephen Diamond says “At its best, existential psychotherapy squarely and soberly confronts the “ultimate concerns”  and sometimes tragic “existential facts of life”: death, finitude, fate, freedom, responsibility, loneliness, loss, suffering, meaninglessness, evil. Choice, personal and social responsibility, integrity of the personality, courage, and authentically facing rather than escaping existential anxiety, anger and guilt are central features of existential psychotherapy”.

 

Holistic Approach:

holisticEver wonder why you feel emotions in your stomach? 

I find that a holistic approach to mental health is the best strategy. The mind, body and spirit just cannot be separated.   This is not a “woo-woo” philosophy, and is backed by clinical research. For example, the neurotransmitters in our brain that influence mood can also be found in other parts of the body (i.e. the heart and the digestive system). That’s why stress can upset your stomach!

We know that many illnesses and physical symptoms are influenced by our emotional state. Our bodies can reflect our emotional health and vice versa – for better or for worse.

I encourage all clients to develop healthy lifestyle habits and learn ways to effectively manage stress in their lives. I teach clients to “check-in” with their bodies and use relaxation strategies every day to stay centered and balanced. While I do not advocate for any particular religious or spiritual beliefs or practices, I also value the role spirituality can play in maintaining or regaining mental health.