Good emotional and relational health requires a balance of healthy connectedness and healthy separateness. Central to healthy separateness is our ability to cultivate a “solid sense of self.” Since we will ever be works-in-progress, how can we work on building a healthy sense of self?
One of the most important concepts in therapy is today, you have a choice. The ability to deal constructively with the past is important, in order to grieve well and learn from our traumas and from our own mistakes. A healthy orientation toward the future helps us to exercise foresight and plan well, but it’s also true that “the past is history, and tomorrow is a mystery” – all we are really able to influence are the choices we make today. Where can we find guidance in making healthy choices that are in line with who we really are?
Ignatius of Loyola, the sixteenth century founder of the Jesuit order, developed a spiritual exercise that is helpful in distinguishing between what he called “consolations and desolations.” Consolations are patterns of thinking, feeling, behaving and relating that are life-giving, while desolations are patterns of thinking, feeling, behaving and relating that are life-denying.
A simple way to think about this is in terms of “highs” and “lows.” At the end of each day, or at an appointed time each week, we can reflect on what we’ve been doing and what has happened to us: have our health, well-being and relationships been enhanced by our choices, or have our choices diminished us? Has my life become more manageable or less manageable? We can undertake this reflection by ourselves, or we can share our “highs” and “lows” with others and ask for their feedback.
Successful adult functioning requires us to have “tri-focal” vision:
“Taking inventory” of what’s been life-giving or life-denying in the past
Being fully present to our lives today
Using the information from our past and present to make life-enhancing course corrections for the future
Old man Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” By using a process of thoughtful discernment, we can build a solid sense of self. I am at your service to join you in this important process.