A friend of mine looks like he has everything you could wish for. He has a lovely wife, three lovely, healthy, bright children. He has a large-ish house, no doubt with a large-ish mortgage, and has a successful career in business management. They have a couple of foreign holidays a year and have a lifestyle that many would be envious of. Lately though, he has been struggling to find the joy in his life and is starting to express himself as feeling trapped.
A friend of my daughters who is 25 has clearly had a life plan in mind since she was at school and has set about achieving it. Despite a challenging childhood and difficult family circumstances she funded herself through university and qualified as a teacher. She married her long term boyfriend has bought her first house and is pregnant with her first child. She is beginning to worry that she is not as happy as these life events are “meant” to make her feel and is worried that she may have made a series of mistakes.
These and many other challenges are not uncommon.
In this article I am unlikely to offer many solutions but I can help you think a little about some of the factors that may be playing on your, and others’, situations. Sometimes, just one of these factors may be responsible, for others it may be a complex interplay of several.
Let’s talk about this immediately. If you do not connect with any of the other factors discussed below, then it may be worth considering this. If so, make an appointment with your GP and go armed with questions such as, “if this is depression are there solutions that do not involve medication?” If you are concerned it may be, do not hide away. Meet the issue and get help.
Is it possible that your expectations of your lifestyle, your ambitions and your acquisitions was too high?
We quite often find people who have been using their careers, their life plan and their accomplishments to meet a deep emotional need in themselves. It may be, for example, a need to be admired, respected or valued was what they really wanted. At its deepest it may simply be that doing what they do and accumulating what they have accumulated would prove to themselves that they are worthwhile.
The problem with this tactic for solving emotional needs is that the immediate hit works and then the effect drops away and we need another hit to continue the feeling. Maybe that becomes another promotion, a salary increase or a bigger house or another child.
The issue here is that using external factors to validate yourself is not healthy as you may have thought it was.
Are you comparing yourself to others?
We live in a world where we can compare ourselves to others continually. If I want to develop body image or lifestyle issues, I can go to Instagram. If I want to see how everyone else is having a great time when I feel down, I can go to Facebook. And for the career equivalent, I can go to LinkedIn. Those are just three social media networks that, if we do not gain a healthy perspective on, can seriously affect our emotional health.
The issue is not what everyone else is or is not doing, but that you may feel the need to compare, measure and compete.
I am all for healthy competition but not at the expense of my health.
Remember, most of us are playing the game with social media. We only share the good stuff. Everyone has a time when they do not feel great we just don’t see it.
Has your outlook changed?
Have you stopped seeing the joy in simple things? Has your cynical self overtaken your hopeful self?
It’s entirely possible if your general outlook on life has become a little jaded then it is not your situation, it’s not that life is challenging, but that you have altered the way you view life and this is impacting upon how you feel.
With a little bit of self discipline and effort you can alter your own perspective and may find this is the way for you to see the joyful aspects of your life again.
Are you lacking meaning and sense of purpose?
Linked to the points about expectations and emotional needs, maybe where you have been putting your energies does not feel that meaningful. Maybe you have excluded or neglected your more human spiritual side and that is crying out for attention. It may be that you are feeling like you have been devoting yourself to stuff and, irrespective of the benefits you personally got from that effort, you felt like they were for others. Maybe now is the time to make yourself a priority.
There are many activities from attending church, to meditation, to exercise or joining a social group such as a book club that can help people gain a greater sense of meaning and purpose in their life. This area may be worth considering.
We often experience people in the situations described above, and others, that have been putting their energies into pushing forward with “life” because they were actually running away from something in their past.
If you have any trauma in your past that has never been dealt with, these feelings you are experiencing could be signs that it is catching up on you.
It could be that a few sessions with a counsellor or a therapist will help you gain the perspective you need and help you enjoy life more.
In summary, there could be plenty of reasons for you feeling the way you feel at the moment. There could be plenty of solutions that don’t involve radically changing your life and throwing away much of what you have worked for. Maybe just the exploration of these areas above and more could become the next interest that captures your efforts and interest and helps you restore some happiness in your life.