Welcome to Edition 246 of Institute Inbrief! Suppose someone asked you: “Why are you here? What is the purpose of your existence?” Would you be able to answer that in a meaningful way? Aligned to that question is: “What do you value? What has meaning for you?” In this edition’s featured article, we highlight the importance of connecting with our purpose in order to live happier, more fulfilled lives.
Also in this edition:
A brief comparison of psychologies (video)
Loss and grief: Why we all grieve differently
CBT interventions for trauma
Study Strategies to enhance your learning
Social media updates, quotes, seminars, and more!
Enjoy your reading!
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Imagine Being Passionate About Your Work
And Assisting People Every Day Lead Better Lives
It’s rare these days to hear people talk about their work with true passion. You hear so many stories of people working to pay the bills; putting up with imperfect situations; and compromising on their true desires. That’s why it’s always so refreshing to hear regular stories from graduates living their dream to be a Counsellor. They’re always so full of energy, enthusiasm and passion. There’s no doubt that counselling is one of the most personally rewarding and enriching professions.
Just imagine someone comes to you for assistance. They’re emotionally paralysed by events in their life. They can’t even see a future for themselves. They can only focus on their pain and grief. The despair is so acute it pervades their entire life. Their relationship is breaking down and heading towards a divorce. They can’t focus on work and are getting in trouble with their boss. They feel they should be able to handle their problems alone, but know they can’t. It makes them feel helpless, worthless. Their self-esteem has never been lower. They’re caught in a cycle of destruction and pain.
Now imagine you have the knowledge and skills to help this person overcome their challenges. You assist to relieve their intense emotional pain. You give them hope for the future. You assist to rebuild their self-esteem and lead a satisfying, empowered life. As a Counsellor you can experience these personal victories every day. And it’s truly enriching. There is nothing more fulfilling than helping another person overcome seemingly impossible obstacles.
Video: A Brief Comparison of Psychologies
What is it about a counselling or psychotherapy process that makes people change? In other words: what are the mechanisms of therapy? What does the paradigm supporting a given school of psychology assume about the nature of human beings and therefore how they can change? What are the main concepts of a given psychology and who were their famous proponents? With what kinds of client issues does a given psychology naturally sit well?
In this video, part of AIPC’s YouTube lecture series, Richard Hill attempts to answer these questions by briefly exploring and comparing chief counselling modalities. Whether you are a counsellor, psychotherapist, psychologist, psychiatrist, social worker, or simply a lay person with an interest in mental health issues, it is helpful to be clear on what different psychologies assume and what, therefore, they can offer the client and the therapist.
Connecting with the Power of Purpose
Suppose someone asked you: “Why are you here? What is the purpose of your existence?” Would you be able to answer that in a meaningful way? Aligned to that question is: “What do you value? What has meaning for you?” In my psychotherapy work, the question of MPV – meaning, purpose, values – often comes up. Some people claim to be “drifting”: just being carried along in life without any clear sense of why they are here, or what values are most meaningful for them. Are they happy? Of course not. Do they need to stay stuck at that place of ill-defined purpose? Absolutely not.
The importance of purpose
Many writers have tackled the age-old question of purpose, as in higher purpose. We can define it as that motivation for living which gives life meaning. You may have heard the saying that, on our death bed, most of us will not wish we had spent more time at the office. This is not to say that work itself is not meaningful (my work is supremely meaningful to me!); but that we would not value more time spent working, because the extra time may not be meaningful in the context of our overall purpose and values.
You’ve probably guessed that MPV goes together: that is, it is difficult to connect with our purpose without knowing what is meaningful to us. It is difficult to find what has meaning if we have not identified the values we cherish.
The consequences of clarifying MPV
We realise several major advantages when we get this stuff sorted out. First, it is much easier to be happy; we know where we fit into the scheme of things, for example we can say: “My life is about this; it isn’t about that.” It makes goal-setting possible, because how do you set objectives for yourself when you aren’t clear on what you are “meant” to be doing and where you are going? And it makes decision-making much less tricky, for example: “I value health over momentary sense-pleasure, so I (usually) choose a breakfast of fruit and egg over chocolate croissant.” “I value relationship over blind productivity, so I am available to support friends and family members even if it isn’t always convenient.”
Why don’t people identify their MPV?
Roberto Assagioli, the founder of Psychosynthesis psychology, posed the question of why some people seem to be going blindly along the road of life. He observed that, at least in some cases, people are afraid to identify their higher motivations for valuing something because they fear that they also have “lower” motivations for that same thing. He gives the example of someone being afraid to connect with their value of creativity – something that might be highly meaningful for the person – because of fear of not being able to live up to the ideal of using it for “pure” purposes, but rather the “lower” motivation of making money. Assagioli is reassuring, noting that – for most people – many types of motivations co-exist (we are all human!) and that, in fact, they are not always in conflict with one another. He gives the example of Dostoevsky, who wanted to finance his gambling habit and thus produced more literary works than he otherwise would have.
Other people may simply not know how to engage the process of finding purpose.
A short purpose-finding process
So, how do we identify our higher purpose? The short answer is: your purpose is always something you love. I like Steve Pavlina’s blog on how to find your purpose in 20 minutes.
He suggests a three-step process:
Get pen and paper or a blank document on your computer.
Write at the top, “What is my true purpose in life?”
Write an answer (any answer) that pops into your head. Either sentences or short phrases are fine.
Repeat step 3 until you write the answer that makes you cry (it could take 100 or even 500 answers). This is your purpose. Pavlina’s process might seem weird, or even silly, but I think he’s on to something, because when we are disconnected from our purpose, it is like wandering in the desert. That “aha!” moment of recognition – discovering the answer that makes us cry – is poignant. Our purpose is beautifully bewitching: that raison d’etre too precious to be spoken, or sometimes, even imagined. It is that most joyful of moments when we see the oasis shimmering on the horizon, and realise that we need not travel anymore.
You can work it backwards or forwards
I said that meaning, purpose, and values are connected. While Pavlina suggests starting from purpose, Assagioli notes that we can go in the other direction: that is, starting with what has meaning and what we value. With our main values identified, it may be easier for some to say, “Because I value these things, my purpose is ____.” You can find Pavlina’s list of 418 values here. Note that the surge of emotion, that profound joy at discovery, may be a clue regardless of the method you use.
Let me close with a sample life purpose statement: Pavlina’s. His purpose is:
“To care deeply, connect playfully, love intensely, and share generously: to joyfully explore, learn, grow, and prosper; and to creatively, brilliantly and honourably serve the highest good of all.”
Now, that’s a purpose! Enjoy crafting yours.
Written by Dr Meg Carbonatto B.S., M.A., and Ph.D.
This article was originally published in Asteron Life’s Balance Blog. AIPC regularly contributes to Balance’s wellbeing blog category.
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Loss and Grief: Why We All Grieve Differently
Grieving has as many forms as there are people grieving. It is guaranteed to be painful, hard work which sucks up a huge amount of emotional and physical energy. It is also highly individual. Like snowflakes, no two grieving paths are exactly the same, and the precise support needed varies accordingly. In this article, we look at some of the factors and circumstances which create very different experiences of grief, and also explore common characteristics of grief.
CBT Interventions for Trauma
While the therapy-types on offer to treat PTSD abound, three different types of psychotherapeutic approaches come up again and again in the literature as workable and appropriate for trauma. These are: cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT), eye movement de-sensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR), and psychodynamic psychotherapy. In this article, we explore the use the CBT and CBT-related therapies to treat trauma.
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Working with Trauma
Case Studies in Trauma
Adolescent Capacity to be Mindful, Not Mind Full
Five Clinical Interventions to Address Traumatic Stress
How to Survive the Corporate Psychopath
Adolescent Depression: A Biopsychosocial Approach
Translating Neuroscience into Clinical Practice
Treating Postnatal Depression with Interpersonal Psychotherapy
Have you visited Counselling Connection yet? There are over 650 interesting posts including case studies, profiles, success stories, videos and much more. Make sure you too get connected (and thank you for those who have already submitted comments and suggestions).
Why Bother Setting Goals?
You are here on this planet for the duration. What will you do with the time that is allotted to you? Who will you become? What will you have in your life: which people, things, and experiences? What will your legacy be? When you know the answers to these questions, you will be able to direct your energies, impulses, and activities – your will – with greater clarity toward the achievements that really matter to you.
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