As I sit down to write this, I am two weeks away from my 60th birthday. That means that 240 seasons, 720 months, 21,900 days and 525,600 hours have come and gone while I have been alive. If nothing else, I have experienced a huge amount of changes during my lifetime. I have been exposed to enormous amounts of information. I have interacted with many thousands of people. I am old enough to recall the Kennedy and King assassinations, the British Invasion (the Beatles on Ed Sullivan), Woodstock, and the Vietnam War on TV. And thanks to the era of information technology, I feel like I knew FDR, Lincoln, Washington, Jefferson, etc. My knowledge base crosses many centuries. So given this information, it would seem that 60 years should afford me plenty of time to establish the most effective and rewarding life here on Earth.
Yet, I must admit that the life I have currently living was jaded by many things: my childhood (I was raised by two narcissists who never should have been parents), the economy, crime, world crises, environmental disasters, war, poverty, sickness, slavery, pollution, racism, and the increasing effects of communication breakdown due to texting and email. Yes, there is a lot wrong with the world we have created. But I also must admit that there was a lot wrong with the life I created. I may not have had a huge effect on the world order, but I certainly had a large contributory effect on my own disordered life.
So how is it that after so many years on Earth, I was still feeling like my life has not yet begun? What was it in my experience that continued to keep me from reaching my ultimate goals? Was I a victim of societal decay, or was I, like everyone else, conditioned to a specific reality that is portrayed in the media? On the other hand, being raised by punitive narcissists made it very difficult to tap into my authentic self-directed persona that lied in wait.
Getting older has its challenges, yet it also has a funny way of getting you to pay attention to everything that isn't ideal. It makes you look at yourself, not for the fantasy that you sub-consciously created, but for the stark reality of the real suppressed thoughts and feelings that actually run the show. If getting older forces us to take a real objective and honest look at ourselves, it will ultimately reveal all the years that were wasted on focusing on the wrong things. So we get to the point of life where we have lived enough years to be able to "look back" upon our lives and evaluate the experience.
I have spent most of my adult life in therapy. This, I thought, would help me overcome a traumatic childhood, enable me to connect emotionally, and become the successful parent and adult that I never experienced my own parents to be. Yet all the years of "talk" therapy actually robbed me of living in the present and cemented the adult me into parts of my life that I never had any hope of changing. Obviously, if every moment we experience is now, learning how to cope with, effect control over and thrive in the now of our lives would have made a lot more sense to me. Is this a blanket condemnation of current psychotherapy? Well, for sure, it is a condemnation of my experience of it.
What society did for me by becoming as disordered and troubled as it has was to just mimic what was going on inside of me. It almost had a way of making me feel content in my struggle, since the world mirrored back to me the same difficulty in being. Is life supposed to be a struggle? What exactly is the human experience? And have we missed the boat completely? Is my situation unique? Am I supposed to still be in therapy? Does therapy, the way I have experienced it, really create a healing of deeply embedded traumas as well as those things that I will never know that I did not get as a child of parents who really could not be bothered parenting me?
The way I see it, life calls upon us to navigate the waters of time and expectation. Should the investment in healing be made by looking back? I think it is obvious by now that I think not. When we look back, it should be to put perspective into the present, so that we can nurture each moment we are alive in. My present understanding of life, a life that works, is a life that focuses on making now a success. Each and every moment we are here, we have the capacity to make it a very different experience. I wonder what would happen if the paradigm of psychotherapy changed from focusing on hurts, inadequacies and trauma to focusing on life skills that are success oriented. That would include relationship skills, business skills, self-care skills, critical decision making and self-esteem building. I wonder how much healthier our children would be if instead of focusing on their weaknesses and sending them to tutors in those challenging areas, our educational system began to focus on their bright spots. How does every child become all he is capable of becoming when the educational system breeds low self-esteem and stress in the learning environment?
Sadly, it has taken me 60 years to realize that there is no "system" that any one of us can rely upon. We are all unique. As such, we should never be assumed to be a round peg, pushed into a round hole. If any "system" of societal success is going to succeed, it must take a very proactive look at the strengths we each possess and teach us to capitalize on them. If we come out of childhood scarred and beaten, rather than spend the energy and time looking back and trying to make sense of things, come to terms with them and hopefully move on, we need to be taught to go straight to forgiveness and then to pro-action. Much the same way the captain of the ship cannot steer toward his destination if all he does is look at the wake he leaves behind and tries to understand why each wave formed as it did. In every moment there are gifts to be honored and enjoyed. We need to keep our eye on the core desired feelings we want to realize and be taught methods of getting there so we can maximize every moment we exist.
In our own authenticity lies the secret to our earthly happiness and contentment. Success in life must be defined individually. It is a dangerous and hopeless trap to live in a world of trying to please others. That may or may not fulfill them, but it definitely won't fulfill you. Giving is a wonderful thing. But sacrificing your core truths is nothing but painful. The time has come for our society to STOP medicating their histories and experiences with SSRIs and come up with a more penetrating solution so people can start expressing their truths and be given the tools to execute effectively.
We have been given the gift of intelligence by nature. We have also been given the gift of emotions. We are a species that craves connection, love and acceptance. If you put this all together, there seems to be an incredibly potent potential for a wondrous life here on Earth. So if you are one of the millions of people who, like me, suffered emotionally throughout life, I appeal to you to stop feeling victimized by your circumstances. Become the forward facing captain of your ship. Work to be living in the now of your life. Do not let the past shape your experience. Let your goals and desires shape your reality. My life has made the greatest shifts since I began to focus on my goals and desires and mapped out a path to get there. And that means staying focused on now. On today. On those things I DO have control over. I have learned that my expectations shape my reality. That means that we must re-program our subconscious minds by affirming our capabilities and strengths. Once we do this, we need to recognize that change does NOT come from the outside, it comes from the inside -- through conscious attention and intention. So, regardless of what we have experienced in life up to this point, what dictates our experience now is what we decide we want it to be. What you expect is what you will get. How much more time do you want to accept less?