One of the recurring themes that my patients bring to our work together is the idea of feeling stuck. Rather than feeling that they are actively moving in the direction of their life goals, they experience the opposite. They experience a feeling of stagnation. My motto is to “get my patients out of the trunk and into the driver’s seat.”
There is something wrong when previously ambitious, talented and motivated individuals feel they are motionless, lacking energy, and that they are spectators to their own life. If they wish things could be different but are not finding a way of acting on it, getting help is a great idea! Taking the first step, they start the journey by getting the help of a psychotherapist to find the tools to get into motion. How do I help?
The reasons why people lose their inspiration and energy are many, so the first thing is to ask many questions. My belief is that we all have a deep source of wisdom that guides us through life, yet sometimes life pushes us in directions that we lose touch with the source. My goal sis to align you with the internal wisdom and to help you see and remove encumbrances.
James Hillman, in his book “The Soul’s Code,” writes that each one of us comes to the world with a unique combination of gifts. He reminds us that the ancient Greeks called that source of gifts, drive and inspiration the “daimon.” It has nothing to do with the idea of a demon. You can think of this daimon is a sort of metaphor for what drives us and acts as a source of liveliness. It is a huge source of energy and what pushes us towards movement in life.
As we go through life, the challenge is to anchor that image into the living world and make it “real.” This means that for each person, the path is unique, and that the embodied image can take many different manifestations. This is where circumstances and life paths impact the outcomes.
Often, individuals come to get my help because they somehow are no longer in touch with the internal force that drives them. Sometimes, burnout is the culprit. Many folks have the wrong image of what burnout is.
Many younger professionals imagine a person with burnout as someone who is “down and out”, old, dressed in tired clothing and haggard. The truth could not be different. Most burnt-out people I know are young, good looking and incredibly well-dressed. Inside, they are lost.
Burnout is what happens to anyone after undergoing relentless and continued stress. It is gradual, so most people do not realize they in the throes of it. The condition results in feelings akin to depression, lack of energy, moderate anxiety, and a sort of existential crisis.
It also results in feeling trapped and jaded, often losing track of one’s internal sources of motivation, thanks to the feelings of doubt and insecurity it creates. Many who suffer burnout do not even recognize themselves. A common goal I hear is “I want to feel like myself again.” I see that as good news. Something brings them to therapy, and that something is their internal drive.
Once they come to seek my help, we start moving. There is nothing more stagnating than not trying. The first thing is to actually start exercising and doing active things to engage in radical self-care.
Radical self-care is an attitude of putting yourself first so you can be of service to your goals and to others. It requires to be militant about caring for your health, what you eat, how much you sleep and getting the help you need when it is available. While I did not invent the idea, I have become a fan of it not only for myself but for any ambitious individuals who want to stay in the game of achieving their goals.
Once we manage the level of stress using mindfulness practices and other easy techniques, and connect with other health providers that may have useful contributions (think acupuncture, naturopathy, massage, physio…) we engage in value clarification to bring the person back from the land of confusion and hopelessness. Each one of us has a set of values that guides us in life and making those clear helps a lot. We then look at what is going on and whether what is going on is in line with those values.
We look at habits of mind, at work habits, and at any behaviours and psychological mindsets that are obstacles to the individual’s goals. If we find any that need adjustment, we fine tune them and redirect efforts in the right direction.
The idea is optimizing life habits so life becomes sustainable, rewarding, and fully enjoyable. The idea is to help each person to recover from inaction, feeling lost, and unhappy and find joy and rewards in the motion of moving towards one’s life goals. That is what we are here for.
Ariel Blau has a formidable passion for helping his clients energize a joyful, loving and creative life. He has more than 30 years of experience helping people bloom. His formal education includes a Master’s degree in Social Work from New York University, a Master’s in Fine Arts from Brandeis University, and a great number of workshops, certificates and seminars. He has been studying mindfulness and how to bring compassion into the world for more than 15 years. His passion for helping others is matched by his enormous drive for continuous learning. Ariel completed his professional clinical training at Yale New Haven Psychiatric Hospital and served as Lead Clinician at the Jewish Family Service of Greater New Haven.