One of the existential traps that I constantly work to keep myself out of is that of questioning the meaning in my life.
It is a constant battle, because somewhere along the line, I picked up the mistaken idea that everything you do in life is a part of a path towards something bigger… so when I would get down about where I was in life, or would start questioning what I was doing (or not doing) I would get super down, thinking that my life was meaningless, because I could not, at that moment, extrapolate a “lesson” or divine some greater “meaning” from the events that had previously unfolded. Nevermind the fact that in a book, you must finish the work before you understand the thrust of the story, I very frequently had gotten it in my head that I needed to have life figured out, and have it under control — right then. Admittedly, this came from impatience with myself and with the situation that I was in at the time.
Because I did not (or could not at some points) have a job, and I did not know what I wanted to do (or worse what I judgmentally thought I ought to be doing), I decided that I, myself, was worthless, and therefore my life was meaningless as well. This sort of thinking is, of course, deeply unhealthy: a combination of overgeneralization, catastrophizing, and emotional reasoning, 3 ANTs (automatic negative thoughts) that go together so frequently you could almost consider them a sort of mirepoix of misery.
Oftentimes, this sort of thinking can continue to eat away at your self esteem and to spiral until you become suicidal, because the thought of ending your life carries with it the only sliver of control that you think you have left. It has a sort of comforting side to it, carrying on death’s shoulders the burden of all of the awfulness you’ve created through the ANTs and saying, “You can make it all stop/go away,” despite the fact that the delusion would end in death and not in an improvement in your life, which is what you actually want. This is how suicidal thinking can become addictive. It lets you abdicate responsibility for your way of thinking and imagine that there’s a way out of your situation without having to work hard for it.
But the truth of existence is something entirely different. Nothing good and lasting ever comes (or stays) without effort. What I have found is that life is something that cannot be experienced passively if you hope to attain and prolong happiness. It must be constantly infused with meaning, the same way that plants must be watered and fed — each day must be lived purposefully, driven with intent to create or to drive you towards one or more of the goals you have set for yourself. Anything less than recognizing your duty to yourself and choosing to be empowered will cause sadness and decline.
Of course, with this empowerment comes the responsibility of taking action, and for many people, it is a difficult pill to swallow. It is not pleasant to recognize that happiness and a good life are the responsibility of each and every person individually for themselves — and that no one can do the work for them, no matter how much they may want to. It is especially difficult to believe that you can rise to the occasion when you are in the depths of depression. We can only tell folks what we know — there isn’t anyone else who can tell them exactly how to achieve it for themselves: not even life coaches, because everyone’s life is special, different, and unique. But what we do know is that everyone inherently has the power to make things better for themselves.
So, for those of you who feel like you’re towards the bottom today, I’m going to ask some questions that I think might help you find your way toward light:
1.) What does happiness mean to me? How does it feel? What people/activities/places make me feel that way? Can I contact those people or find my way to those things?
2.) If I were happy, what would I be doing right now that I’m currently not doing? Can I do that anyway and see how it makes me feel?
3.) What does gratitude feel like? What am I grateful for today? What can I do to show thanks?
4.) What’s one thing I can do today that will bring me or my family pride?
5.) Am I showing myself love by giving myself good care? What can I do today to care for and love my body?
I hope these questions help get you going down the path towards making choices that make you feel good about yourself and better about life in general.
Today, for me, writing this blog entry was something that made me feel like I was making a difference in my own life and in the lives of others. I hope it was helpful for you!