The Meaning of Life

ImageThe meaning of life starts with the notion of The Absurd. Hang on here and take the philosophical journey with me. It will be well worth it…

Albert Camus talks about the Absurd in his work, The Myth of Sisyphus and notes that the concept of Absurdity is not original to him. What is original to his philosophy is that he considers the Absurd to be the beginning of his philosophy (rather than the end, as in most other philosophies). Also, even though the concept of the Absurd is an idea that is accepted among French philosophers, Camus does not bother to go into an argument about proving it exists. For him, as well as other scholars, it is quite evident that it does. So what is “The Absurd” anyway?

For Camus, the way of the world is not absurd. Camus defines the absurd as the relationship that people have with the world. He believes this relationship is absurd because the world puts out questions in the relationship that have no answers. He states that the absurd relationship between human beings and the world “is that divorce between the mind that desires and the world that disappoints, my nostalgia for unity, this fragmented universe and the contradiction that binds them together” (pg. 37). What he means is that human beings receive a bunch of empty replies from the world about the nature of their existence. He gives the example of people trying to find order in the world and not being able to find any order at all. No answers are provided to us. We ask how to solve the problem of evil in the world, and we find out that goodness in the world isn’t even guaranteed (Denton, 1967). It is in this frustrating relationship that we have with nature that forces us to be tense and, in that, confrontation is a constant theme.

As he ponders the nature of the Absurd, Camus has one question – how do we live within this absurd relationship we have with the world? Once a person becomes aware that this absurd relationship exists, he or she is faced with the quandary – is life worth living? At some point, according to Camus, a person will wake up from day to day life and realize the world provides no answers to the questions he or she has for it. Innocent people continue to suffer. Prayers go unanswered. Except for the present moment, the world guarantees nothing. As people begin to realize this reality, they begin to wonder whether they should live or die. Once they realize they must make a decision about living or dying, people will feel many things – sadness, scorn, and even joy, but most of all, they will feel futility. However, within this quandary, most people will realize that their lives are their own, and they will choose to continue life. When they make this conscious choice, a passion for life will ensue, and the way they experience the world will be richer. For Camus, the most important and enduring emotion from this decision will be joy!

The ultimate point about this realization of the absurd is responsibility, what Camus calls Rebellion. In essence, because people are trapped in this absurd relationship with the world without the desire to escape (die), they must realize that they are called to change the world. In consciously choosing to live life (and, in this realization, living it fully), people have a calling to make life worth living. That’s quite a responsibility, but it makes sense! What is the point of living if you never make a difference? The meaning of life is changing our relationship with the world. So what legacy does your life leave when you are gone? If you choose to live, how will you make it a purposeful life?

 

Resources

Camus, A. (1956). The rebel: An essay on man in revolt. New York: Random House.

Camus, A. (1959). The myth of Sisyphus. New York: Random House.

Camus, A. (1960). Resistance, rebellion, and death. New York: Random House.

Denton, D. E. (1967). The philosophy of Albert Camus: A critical analysis. Boston, MA: Prime Publishers.

Levoy, G. (1997). Callings: Finding and following an authentic life path. New York: Three Rivers Press.

 

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How to Get Over a Break Up

ripped heart

Being in love is something that is intense and elating. There is almost nothing more intense than the feeling of having fallen in love. As can be expected, the loss of that love can be just as intense. It can feel devastating, like you’ve just been dropped off of a 50 story building. It’s crushing. It’s overwhelming. It can really do some major emotional damage, sometimes for a long time, if not handled well. So how does one get over a break up? Well, first and foremost, it is important to remember that you cannot get over a break up. You have to get through it. Here’s how.

What is Love?

Before discussing how to get through the break up, it is important to understand what love really is. Where does it come from, and why is it so painful when it ends?

Love is in everyone. It is the core of our existence. We are all connected through love. It is more of an energy than a feeling. It might be easier to understand this by looking at how we connect through love as energy. Here are some examples:

  1. When we have an intimate conversation with someone else, we feel connected. The act of being able to express where we are coming from and actually being heard and understood builds a connection. This is love.
  2. Creative communications like writing, dancing, listening to music, cooking, and dancing are just a few examples of how we find a connection with the universe. This is love manifested.
  3. Praying, meditating, or participating in a yoga practice are examples of love energy. These exercises connect us to the universe, to God, to others’ energies. This is love.
  4. Connecting with nature is love. We feel connected to the universe, to the world around us when we take a walk, lie down and look at the sky, listen to the rain, and swim in the ocean.
  5. Sexual orgasm is connection. This is a form of love, yes, as disconnected as we might be with sex, orgasm brings physical connection. There are is a lot of literature about forming emotional bonds through sex, and the Dalai Lama has written about connection through orgasm as well.

Plain and simple, when someone falls in love with another person, he or she is actually experiencing the love that is within. The love interest is a mirror, reflecting back the love we already embody. It is in the love of another that we see the love and beauty that is within ourselves. Unfortunately, we do not appreciate that this is what is truly happening so the love interest is credited with giving us love. Not true. However, because we understand love in this way, we can become hyper-focused on that individual. We do not want to lose the feeling we have. We want this heightened feeling to last forever. It can become an obsession. Not good.

This yearning and need to keep this intense form of feeling in love permanent can often become a problem. We begin to fixate on an ideal for the relationship. We want it to stay the same, to always make us feel this good. That is unrealistic, and in time, destructive.

Everything changes. That is the truth! Change in inevitable. With that, as we change, so do our relationships with others. This includes not only romantic relationships but friendships, family bonds, and working relationships alike. As these relationships ebb and flow, some get stronger as some grow distant. In time, distant relationships can become close again, and previously strong relationships can dissipate.

When relationships change for healthy reasons (perhaps we learned all we needed to learn from a certain relationship, perhaps we grew apart in our growth), it can be scary and hurtful, just the same. Instead of moving on from a relationship or from the way a relationship is going (short-term intimacy changing into long-term intimacy), we may want to keep it the same. This is unrealistic and unhealthy. We must accept changes as they come, process our emotions, and re-evaluate long-term relationships time after time. When we refuse to do this, we change the relationship anyway, only into something destructive. Often, break-ups happen because of this act.

Giving True Love

Love for self must happen first before a healthy relationship can be created. Relationships are about ebb and flow, give and take, self-awareness, and patience. It is impossible to accept and participate in those things if we rely on our love interest to “fill us up.” With this attitude, it will never be enough. We will destroy the love that we so desperately want to hold on to because this type of exchange is not sustainable in a long term relationship.

Security and love come from inside of us, not from another. By accepting yourself, you can then begin to truly have a lasting and healthy relationship. It may be a work in progress, and that’s okay! You don’t have to be at your goal of self-acceptance to start a healthy relationship, you just have to be aware of it and continue to work on it. When you slip and fall, you get back up with your partner’s support. The difference in that scenario is that your partner is not the sole source of your happiness, he or she is just what a partner should be, a partner, a support (and you, of course, are the same for your partner).

Break-ups will still be difficult, but they will be tolerable, and you will recover while learning something about yourself and what you need in the world. With that said, how do you manage what you are going through now? Here are 7 tips to get you through.

6 Strategies to Get Through a Break Up

1. Mourn, and Let Go (Death and Dying in Existential Theory – Death as Loss)

No amount of angst will undo what has been done. Although, upsetting, you’ll want to begin to let go. With that said, give yourself some time to mourn it. Don’t feel like you need to let go before you have had time to feel the pain of the loss. Take a few days to yourself and mourn the loss. Then, begin the process of letting go. This means not obsessing about whether your partner will come back or not. Usually, when people break-up, it is for the best. Something was not working, and if neither can figure out what the “something” is and work on it together, it’s a fruitless venture to keep going back.

2. Release Tension and Use it In a Positive Way (Existential Anxiety – Can be Beneficial)

It is important to release any anxiety or tension you might be feeling so fresh after the break up. It’s a tough time, and releasing all that extra negative energy is essential to your positive mental health. Talking with a friend, a family member or a therapist is one of the best ways to release negative vibes. Processing your feelings and bouncing your thoughts off of someone else is extremely therapeutic. Other positive ways to release tension are:

  • Writing feelings and thoughts in a journal. If you don’t know where to even begin, do an internet search on journal writing. There are plenty of “how to’s” online. (Also some tips in strategy #5.)
  • Talk to a close friend – venting is a good way to release pent up energy
  • Exercise – body movement helps get the blood flow going and increased endorphins (those “feel good” chemicals in our brains)
  • Meditate – try a guided meditation to start. There are many available online you can use to get you started.

3. Learn to Love Yourself (Embodiment – the existential concept of understanding healthy emotions)

To achieve true stability in your emotional life, learn to love who you are. This is comes with practice, and it needs to be a conscious and intentional act. Consider it a skill building exercise. Here are a few tips on building love for who you are:

  1. Do something nice for yourself. If there is something you have always wanted to do but you avoided for one reason or another, do it! Treat yourself to a beautiful piece of art you have been eyeing. Take that 3 day cruise you wanted to take. Take a nice long bath with candles and your favorite tunes. Whatever it is, if it is good for you, do it. You deserve it.
  2. Think about qualities that you like about yourself, and tell yourself in the mirror. State, “I love that you are so organized and a good worker.” “I love that you make people laugh with your jokes.” “I love that you are a compassionate person and care about people’s feelings.” It will feel odd at first, but go with it. Remember, this is a skill you are attempting.
  3. Face some fears about being alone. These do not have to be anything major. You might find it intimidating to go out to the movies by yourself. Go anyway, and find the joy being in that experience and conquering something you avoided doing. Practice doing things on your own to challenge your fear of being alone.

4. Understand that Time Will Help (Again, Death and Dying and the Stages of Grief)

As time passes, things can come into perspective. Wounds can begin to heal. You can begin to move on. Remember that this intense pain is only temporary, and know that this too shall pass. Keeping this in mind helps with perspective and may keep you from acting irrationally and on impulse.

5. Journal about It (Embodiment and Personal Responsibility)

Try to write freely and see what come out. With pen and pad in hand, avoid the computer and let your penmanship do the work. If you need some guidance, here are some suggestions:

  1. Think about the lessons you might have learned from being in the relationship.
  2. Write about how your life is better because of this experience and the history you lived with this person.
  3. Think about your future and how it will be different.
  4. Ask yourself what the purpose of your present feeling is.
  5. Journal about your hopes, your fears, and your goals.

6. Do not Discount the Self-Help Section

Grab some books to help you get through this tough time. Reading about your experience and that there is light at the end of the tunnel is extremely helpful in these first moments of angst. You will, inevitably, learn something about yourself in the process, and it may be just enough to help you pass the time to a better tomorrow.

Here are some recommendations:

In conclusion, remember that the end of a relationship is not a negative thing. With all relationships, current or ending, we learn something about ourselves. This could be insights about what we do well or information about what we can do better. If we let ourselves, we can use the wisdom from past relationships to build even better future bonds. Be thankful for past relationships as wisdom-builders, and remember that if you allow, you become stronger and wiser each time your heart feels broken. Do not think of the end as a failure. It is not. It is an opportunity to grow. Nothing is lost, and remember, you will never find the right person if you do not let go of the wrong one.

 

Resources

Bruce, M. (2011). Break up ethics. Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/angst/201106/break-ethics-0

Chearnaigh, A. N. (2014). The Existential Side Of Grieving. Retrieved from http://thoughtcatalog.com/aleanbh-ni-chearnaigh/2014/02/the-existential-side-of-grieving/

Hoffman, L. (2009). Emotion, Experience, and Embodiment . Retrieved from http://www.existential-therapy.com/special_topics/emotion.htm

Kubler-Ross, E. (1969). On Death and Dying. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Piver, S. (2011). Buddhism & Heartbreak: 3 Suggestions for Mending Your Broken Heart. Retrieved from http://www.elephantjournal.com/2011/11/buddhism-heartbreak-3-suggestions-for-mending-your-broken-heart-susan-piver/

Saybrook University (2014). You cannot cure a broken heart with a paper-and-pencil test. Retrieved from http://www.saybrook.edu/newexistentialists/posts/03-06-12

Sun, S. (2008). Love & Relationships: What the Buddhists Teach. Retrieved from http://www.shambhalasun.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=3273

 

Is Therapy Working? 5 Ways to Tell

A therapist is not a friend, and this is good. Therapists are paid to help you make changes that improve your life. The challenge is often that positive change is slow to come, and it may seem that nothing is happening. It is easy to overlook the positive progress you may already be having.  Evaluating how therapy is working for you is important. Here’s how to tell that your therapy is working well:

ImageTracking Progression

Good therapists continually help you track your progress. This tracking can look differently depending on your therapists’ style. If you are working on anxiety issues, your therapist may ask you to track your mood in certain situations that you noted as being anxiety-provoking. Another way a therapist helps you track your progress is through verbal process. He or she may ask you what you’ve learned so far and what changes you have made since starting therapy. Tracking milestones through processing is a common practice of good therapists. If your therapist helps you look at how you are progressing, it is a good indication that you are working with a good clinician. Through your processing, if you can see improvements in your behavior, mood, or life, continue to work further in therapy. This may be the best way to see constructive and lasting changes.

You Start Accepting Yourself

Therapy is a means to help you deal with the challenges around you and to achieve a balance in your life. No matter how much therapy you might participate in, you will not be able to change people. You can only change yourself. With that said, changing how you respond to others in your life or to stressors you encounter will help you live a more balanced life. That is what you want. If you start to discover that you are feeling better about who you are, among all the stressors you encounter and the imperfections you might still be working through, it is a good sign that therapy is working well in your life. This takes some time so first and foremost, be patient, be determined, and track your progress with your therapist.

Autonomy is the Goal

Relying on your therapist is not a bad thing! Of course, you do not want to be dependent for months or years on end! At first, your therapist serves as a surrogate for what you might need or lack. You might find primary comfort in therapy and depend on your sessions to get you through difficult times. After some time in therapy, your therapist should become less and less of a crutch. Good therapy creates autonomy, not dependence. Good therapists are always trying to put themselves out of business. Over time, you should feel better for many reasons, and only feeling good during therapy or feeling like you cannot function without advice from your therapist may be a sign that the therapy is doing more harm than good.

You Have the Power

Although there is a hierarchical dynamic in therapy, your therapist should always be working against it. Your therapist should be an expert in the field, but you should hold the reigns to your decisions. You should feel that you have control in the therapy process. If you have a question, you should feel comfortable asking your therapist. If you disagree, it should not be a problem for you to say so to your therapist. In this way, your therapist can help you make more meaningful choices to better your life because those choices will be based on your thoughts and feelings. If you feel disempowered in the therapy process at every turn, you might need to look for another therapist.

Others Notice Your Changes

If you continue to make positive changes in your life, chances are that the people closest to you will notice. A friend might like that you are more sensitive to her needs while a daughter may be angry that you are tightening the reigns of discipline. While others might have positive and negative reactions to the changes in you, the fact that they notice is a good sign that your therapy is working. 

 

If you are curious about online therapy or want to build a relationship with a new therapist, contact us at MeaningfulOnlineTherapy.com. Your first session is always free. We want you to be fully informed about the process, answer any questions you might have, and decide if this is the right step for you, without any financial obligation. Call us today!   

 

Resources:

Elejalde-Ruiz, A. (2011, March 23). Is it time to leave your therapist? Retrieved from http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2011-03-23/health/sc-health-0323-fire-your-therapist-20110323_1_patient-therapist-relationship-end-therapy-issues

Andrews, G., Cuijpers, P., Craske, M.G., McEvory, P., & Titov, N. (2010). Computer Therapy for the Anxiety and Depressive Disorders Is Effective, Acceptable and Practical Health Care: A Meta-Analysis. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.001319

Titov, N., Andrews, G., Kemp, A., Robinson, E (2010). Characteristics of Adults with Anxiety or Depression Treated at an Internet Clinic: Comparison with a National Survey and an Outpatient Clinic . DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0010885

Marks I, Cavanagh K, Gega L (2007) Hands-on help: Computer-aided psychotherapy. New York: Psychology Press Taylor and Francis.

Titov N, Andrews G, Robinson E, Schwencke G, Johnston L, et al. (2009) Clinician-assisted Internet-based treatment is effective for generalized anxiety disorder: Randomized controlled trial. Aust N Z J Psychiatry 43: 905–912.

Heitler, S. (2013). I know I need therapy help, but is my therapy working? Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/resolution-not-conflict/201307/i-know-i-need-therapy-help-is-my-therapy-working