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Self-Care Saturdays: Living In Tune with Your Desire and Passion

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Welcome to Self-Care Saturdays, a series of bonus blog posts that will be released on the last Saturday of each month.  In a world where we are constantly faced with demands on our time and energy, it can feel impossible to slow down enough to pay attention to our own needs and take steps to care for them.  These articles are meant to get you thinking about one small step you can take today to practice kindness and care for yourself. 

What is the thing you desire most in the world?  What gets you out of bed in the morning?  What events or experiences lead to the most anticipation in you?  The most excitement?  What do you enjoy doing above all else?  What do you feel called to do?  What are you made for?

When we think about desire and passion, it can lead to happiness and daydreaming about what you want your future to look like.  Or it may stir up painful emotions.  You might not be able to answer the questions, or you feel that your current life does not reflect your desires and passions.

How do we define desire and passion?

Merriam Webster defines passion as ardent affection; a strong liking or desire or devotion to some activity, object or concept; sexual desire; or an object of desire or deep interest.  On a different vein, desire is defined as a conscious impulse toward something that promises enjoyment or satisfaction in its attainment; something longed or hoped for.

It is interesting that both desire and passion are connected to sexuality or intimacy.  Our sexuality is linked the core of who we are as human beings, to our identity.  Therefore, these passions and desires link into the core of our beings.  However, desire and passion often become warped when they involve constantly searching and striving for that which we desire, just to find that it is disappointing.  Desire and passion need to be tempered so that they do not transform into an addiction to the desired object.

We might respond to the awakening of desire in ourselves negatively, fearing the potential outcomes.  Avoidance and numbness soon follow, but the desires don’t disappear.  Instead, they demand to be expressed, often in the form of addictions.  This addiction numbs and gets rid of the longing, but is only a temporary fix, and the desires rear their heads again soon after.  When we truly get in touch with our desires, we actually protect ourselves from the ways in which that hunger can spill out sideways into addictive behaviors.

Developing desire will be a painful process.  Connecting with our desires and passion can lead to longing and grief as we realize areas where we haven’t been able to experience their fulfillment.  This is why we tend to avoid and numb out when we feel desire come up.  But ultimately, living into our desires gives us a deeper and more meaningful life.

How do I cultivate a life filled with passion and desire?

Identify the moments throughout your life when you’ve felt most alive.

Look for the moments of wonder or awe you’ve experienced in your life.  Pay attention to experiences at work or at play where you’ve felt the power of flow.  Imagine yourself stepping back into memories of feeling alive.  What happened?  How did you feel?  Who was there?  Reflect about moments in your memory of vivid happiness as a child: what images, experiences, or times do you remember most vividly?  Where have you felt an unexpected surge of emotion, maybe while watching a film or reading a novel?  Out in nature?  Sitting across from a friend over coffee?

Consider the moments in your life when you’ve felt the most numb.

Identifying the moments when our hearts have felt dead can actually provide a window into desire.  We avoid desire and dilute our passion by numbing because of the pain that comes with desires.  Where are the areas in which you have numbed yourself to what is good?  Where have you looked at a beautiful sunset or a mountainous landscape and felt nothing?  Answers to these questions can hint at the areas that are closest to your heart.  What is your go-to numbing strategy?  Where do you dissociate? Pay attention to moments when you’ve felt apathetic.

List the losses you’ve experienced that have been the most painful.

These losses could include the death of a loved one, the ending of a relationship or marriage, or the loss of a job or dream.  What did you desire to have happen in those times?  What do you regret, or wish you could go back and change?  Where have you felt disappointed?  Where has hope felt lost?  The people, experiences, or things that are valuable to us are often the most painful to lose.  As we pay attention to these losses, we can become more aware of areas of desire.

Listen to what you want.

Often, we weren’t given the freedom to be able to have what we want.  Maybe you grew up with strict parents or teachers, or had financial limitations that prevented you from attending the school you wanted.  When we experience disappointment of our desires and feel numb as a result, we can become comfortable in doing what is “right” or what is expected of us.  This can lead into the trap of perfectionism.  Instead, pay attention to the things you truly want to do.

Write about the live you wish you could live.

We often dream about a different career or become interested in a new skill or hobby that may or may not have anything to do with our present career or vocation.  What is your dream job?  Is it where you work, or elsewhere?  If you could have a do-over in life, what would look different?  What do you feel called to do?  What are you made for?  Write a story, a journal entry, or even just a list of what you wish your life could look like.  Are you able to take steps to make that dream a reality?

Step outside of the daily grind and into an area of passion.

The drudgery of day to day life drags us down and tells us that we can never truly have what we desire.  It is so easy for our passion to be dulled and numbed as face responsibilities.  To find the passion again, we have to be intentional about eliminating busy-ness and avoiding situations in which we feel we have to do something for performance’s sake or because it is “right.”  Maybe even things you enjoyed at one time have begun to feel like a burden or chore.  As you begin to say “no” or give up those areas more and more, you’ll be able to find the enjoyment anew in those activities.  As you release the control that comes with perfectionism, you’re able to trust.

Finally, cultivate patience.

Desire and passion stir up a longing for what is not yet here, and may or may not come.  No wonder it is scary to go there!  As you begin to become aware of these desires, step into what it might feel like to wait.  Yes, it is painful.  No, it is not easy.  But being aware of our desires and willing to walk into the potential pain of not yet receiving them brings us a sense of life and authentic joy.

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Are you consumed by desires that feel so big and powerful that you can’t control them?  Or are you caught in a pattern of avoidance and feeling numb?  Do you even know what you desire or are passionate about?  At Restored Hope, I offer counseling services in Ann Arbor to help you listen to your life in a way that allows you to recognize your desire and begin to create space for passion in your life.  Give me a call at 734.656.8191 or email me today to hear more about how I can help. 

Self-Care Saturdays: Know Where You're Going

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As we approach the new year, this is the time when we think about New Years’ resolutions.  What do you want to be different in your life this year?  Do you want to lose 15 pounds?  Invest more in your marriage?  Discipline your kids better? 

Unfortunately, the problem with these resolutions is that they’re usually thought up on a whim.  We could have just looked in the mirror two days before January 1st and decided we wanted to lose weight, or had a particularly hurtful argument with our teenager the night before.  If we want to make lasting resolutions that aren’t just forgotten by the end of January, we need to set reasonable goals that fit within a larger version of our future.

In short, we need to understand our why.  Why do we want to lose weight?  Why do we want to stop our bad habits?  We need to create a vision or mission for our lives if we expect to follow through on any of these goals.  This is a form of self-care because as you begin to know yourself and your greater vision, you are able to make choices in alignment with your desires for your future.  It can help you leave behind the pressure of the urgent in favor of prioritizing what’s important.

Why is purpose important?

In Jim Collins’ book Good to Great, he coins a phrase called the Stocksdale Paradox, informed by a conversation he had with Admiral Stocksdale, who was a prisoner of war in the Vietnam War.  When asked how he survived the prison camps for seven years, he answered that he had to both face the reality of the situation he was in, and also hold that in tension with hope and vision that he would overcome.

Similarly, Victor Frankl, in his book Man’s Search for Meaning, speaks about how he survived the concentration camps in World War II.  He names that those who were most likely to survive were those who had a purpose to move toward.

When life gets difficult, it can be easy to lose sight of our vision for the future.  This lack of purpose can lead to hopelessness or apathy about what’s yet to come, which can easily morph into depression.  Alternatively, when you are living out your purpose, you can find yourself in a state referred to as flow by Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi.  You might recognize flow by feeling "in the zone".  When you find yourself in this state, you can find hope and connect to something greater than yourself.

How can I find my purpose?

For most of us, we aren’t born knowing our purpose for our life.  This develops over time as we discover our passions and our gifts.  But what might be some ways to facilitate that exploration and understanding?

Imagine your funeral.

Okay, so this one might be a little bit morbid.  Imagine that you’re at your funeral.  What do you hope people are saying about you?  Make a list of the qualities you’d hope to have describe you, and think about how your life reflects those current values.  As you uncover what you truly desire to be remembered about you, the values important to you become clear.

List your gifts, talents, and skills.

What are you good at?  What do you enjoy?  What have others indicated are your gifts?  What skills do you have?  The place where your greatest passion and talents meet is where you will find your purpose.  These give us a sense of intrinsic motivation, where we do work that we love just for the sake of it.  This intrinsic motivation drives goals more than external motivations, and it also improves our mental health.

Prioritize.

The reality is, you can’t tackle all of your goals at once.  If I could, I’d be a master baker, a proficient knitter and crocheter, and a sewing maven.  Sadly, I am none of those things.  But I am becoming an increasingly skilled therapist by working on that particular area because I know it is a priority for me.  Choose one area to focus on, perhaps that has to do with your vocation or your most important value.

Start big and then narrow down.

I’m a big culprit of losing the forest for the trees, so it’s helpful for me to think about my life in terms of a long-term vision, then narrowing it back to the present day.  Start with goals you hope to achieve five years from now.  Then ask yourself: what can I do in the next year to prepare for that five-year goal?  Once you’ve identified that, look at what you can do this month to meet the yearly goal, and what you can do this week to meet the monthly goal. 

For example, let’s say you want to run a marathon in the next five years.  Maybe that means at the end of this year you want to run a 10k.  This month you want to be up to running 2 miles straight without walking.  This week you need to go out for two 1-mile runs.

Studies show that depression leads to setting vague goals that are difficult to follow through on, which feeds back into the depression.  Breaking these goals into smaller chunks makes them more manageable.  Find that first small step you can take to move toward your goal.  Each step you take can help you to gain momentum.

Create a routine that implements some of these goals.

Schedule these goals in to your calendar!  Adding these activities to your schedule makes you more likely to carry them out.  If you struggle with depression this can be a great way for you to break out of the funk.  As you begin to achieve more simple activities that move you toward your larger life goals, you will feel a sense of agency and control over your future. 

Check in with yourself on a regular basis to make sure you’re living into your goals.

How many times have you set goals for yourself and then immediately forgotten about them?  Instead, display them somewhere prominent where you will see them on a daily basis.  Set an appointment with yourself to review these major goals each week or month.  Do a quick assessment each month to see where you’ve done well with your goals and what changes you could make to improve.

Have patience and don’t beat yourself up!

Change in habits to align with our values is a slow, long-term process.  Cultivate patience with yourself to prevent spiraling down into depression if your goals go unmet.  Give yourself grace to make mistakes, and use that as an opportunity to troubleshoot and see what’s in the way of your goals.

Stay accountable with a friend.

Do you have a friend who’s hoping to change some of their habits this year?  Use this person as a resource and hold one another accountable for exploring your purpose for the future.  Talk with them about your vision.  Discuss your weekly review of your goals or your monthly assessment with them.  Having a friend to talk about it with can make all the difference!

 

My hope is that as you set this intention and begin to make changes to align your life with your values, you’ll experience a sense of achievement and purpose that you wouldn’t have felt otherwise.

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Do you struggle to keep to your resolutions?  Maybe you feel purposeless, or like you don’t really know what you’re doing with your life.  If you’re looking for more clarity and hope about your vision for the future, I’d love to help.  Restored Hope is a therapy office serving the Ann Arbor area of Michigan, and I offer counseling services that help you sort through some of those messy questions in life.  Give me a call at 734.656.8191 today or fill out my form to schedule your first appointment.

The Power of Story: How Understanding Our Narrative Transforms Our Perspective

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What is one of your favorite movies or books?  Do you have a particular story that always makes you cry, stay glued to the edge of your seat, or immerse you in a different world?  What kind of story draws you in? What stirs your heart as you read or watch?  What motivates the main characters to take on their challenges?

The Harry Potter book series comes to me as a prime example.  (Likely because I’m re-reading through it.)  This has always been one of my favorite adventure tales, and it doesn’t take long for me to get drawn back into the world when I pick up a book or turn on a movie from the series.  I love the themes of friendship, good vs. evil, justice served to areas where prejudice has reigned supreme, and development of characters as three-dimensional rather than stereotypes.

Whether you’re a fan of a good mystery, a thriller, or an epic adventure, many of the most compelling stories we encounter share similarities with something called the monomyth, or the hero’s journeyJoseph Campbell studied mythology and found a common pattern in stories of heroes, much of which was based on the human experience.

So what does this hero's journey have to do with our lives?

Joseph Campbell showed how these stories reflect the human psychological experience.  He theorized, “We are all heroes struggling to accomplish our adventure.  As human beings, we engage in a series of struggles to develop as individuals and to find our place in society.”

When we begin to look at our lives as part of a larger story, we can see how the experiences we once thought were devastating can actually serve to further our life stories and move us closer to our reward.  We need to be able to move through trials and difficult experiences in order to experience fulfillment.  In fact, the trials in these myths are often the most exciting parts of the plot.

How might you find clues to the hero's journey in your own life?

Ask yourself these questions to begin to explore how what you're facing in life might be part of the larger narrative of your own journey

  • What is your call to adventure? What is the cave you seek to enter?

  • Who can assist you?

  • What feels like a risk? What’s out of your comfort zone?

  • What trials are you facing?

  • What is your worst fear?

  • What have been some of your worst moments?

  • When have you seen reward or result of your actions? What reward do you still desire?

  • How has your life experience changed you?

My hope is that as you engage with and explore these questions, you'll have renewed vision and hope for what is yet to come in your life, and you'll begin to see your trials and trouble as steps along your own hero's journey.

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Do you wish you were living a different story from the one you’re in?  Do you look at the adventures and excitement in others’ lives and wish you could have that?  At Restored Hope, I know that you likely have stories of victory and triumph, as well as stories of defeat and disgrace.  I would love to walk with you through those stories as you seek to grow and heal from past wounds.  Give me a call at 734.656.8191 or fill out the form here to talk with me about counseling at my Ann Arbor therapy location.