My book is being released on Amazon this week and before you read it, there’s something I need to tell you. I need to tell you because it’s an important theme in the book and I want you to be prepared. Why am I being sheepish about this? Read on.
Okay – here goes.
A funny thing happened while I was grieving the death of my mother, adjusting to my new life as a wife, stepmom, and puppy owner. I started therapy to assuage my grief and learn how to live well as a motherless daughter when I found myself falling desperately in love (or something like it) with my therapist, and soon became convinced that having him would be the answer to all my sorrows.
Now don’t rush to judgment! It wasn’t as salacious as it sounds – there are many other blogs to check out for that kind of material. And frankly, as I’ve learned, it’s not all that uncommon. But it was quite intense. And poignant. And funny (though it didn’t feel that way at the time).
Most of all, because I was in the care of an ethical therapist and stayed the course, it was transformative.
I won’t tell you all the lessons I learned – you can read the book for those – but I will say that one of the things it showed me was the degree to which I let longing serve as a substitute for living and for receiving – truly receiving the love that was available to me.
Does this situation sound familiar? You don’t need to have fallen in love (or something like it) with your therapist to have experienced this. It happens every time we make our happiness, wholeness, and dare I say worthiness, contingent on someone or something outside of ourselves. I heard similar stories twice last week: once when a client – already an accomplished and well regarded director in a pharmaceutical firm – told me she wouldn’t be truly happy until she was a senior vice president and her son made it into an Ivy League school; and again, when a Wharton student I met with lamented that the only way his degree would have been worthwhile is if he receives at least three high-paying job prospects to consider after graduation.
Now there’s nothing wrong with wanting to reach higher and achieve our goals. Longing can be a tremendous motivator. I wouldn’t have written my book, run a half-marathon, completed my education, etc. etc., without it. The danger is when we let longing – and the fantasies it fuels – get in the way of being in the present moment and fool us into thinking we are not enough unless we have the object of our longing. For what I now know for sure is that even if I had had my therapist in the way I thought I wanted him, and even if my clients achieve the career and personal successes that they are defining for themselves, it won’t be enough. In fact it will only fuel the next round of wanting unless we also recognize that the most important things in life, the things we truly want and need, can’t be earned or bestowed on us by others. They can only come when we are willing to validate ourselves from the inside.
Phew…that was scary. I feel better now. What about you?
- When have you used longing as a substitute for living?
- How do you balance your desires for more with appreciating the present?