Over the past two very difficult years, I am learning that a person with a healthy idea of self can manage not only the routine ups and downs of daily life but also serious crises as they develop. Social, personal, financial and professional crises, while always upsetting to one’s normal pattern of life, are not paralyzing or totally defeating. In fact, we should grow and mature through crises, coming out of them richer, more understanding, and compassionate human beings. In biblical terms, suffering brings wisdom.
Here are 10 ways to live, work and love better.
1.) The ability to experience a wide range of feelings deeply. We should not block feelings or deaden the impact of emotions but rather have a sense of what is appropriate. It is important to be happy when good things happen, and disappointed and sad, or angry, when bad things occur. Allowing for differences in personality and temperament, there is an appropriate range of anger and disappointment to feel when, for example, a relationship is broken, and friends and family express disapproval or make us feel guilty.
Even feeling guilty should be a measured response, varying in intensity and duration according to the stimulus. The healthy person realizes the experience of emotions, both good and bad, pleasant and unpleasant, are a necessary and fundamental part of life, and we should not erect barriers against them and go into hiding.
2.) The capacity to expect appropriate entitlements. From early experiences of success, healthy people build up a sense of entitlement to appropriate experiences of success and pleasure, as well as the circumstantial input necessary to achieve objectives. We come to expect that we can in fact master our lives and achieve what is best for us.
3.) The capacity for self-activation and assertion. This capacity includes the ability to identify one’s own unique individuality, wishes, dreams, and goals and to be assertive in expressing them autonomously. It also includes taking the necessary steps to make these dreams a reality and supporting and defending them when they are under attack.
4.) Acknowledgement of self-esteem. This capacity allows a person to identify and acknowledge he has effectively coped with a problem or crisis in a positive and creative way. It is what keeps us going even when it seems our world is falling apart.
Many people with a tendency to see only the bad side of things, including what we mistakenly believe is our own lack of talent, are oblivious to victories. In order to make it through the bad times, we need to be able to remind ourselves that we are worthwhile persons with skills and abilities.
As important as recognition by others is, self-recognition is even more important. We cannot rely on others to refuel our sense of self-esteem. Our real self must do it. Regardless of whether or not the world acknowledges our worth, the real self has the capacity to keep it foremost in our minds and the capacity to assert itself when necessary to renew the belief that we are worthwhile persons, entitled to setting and reaching our goals.
5.) The ability to soothe painful feelings. A healthy person will not allow oneself to wallow in misery. When things go wrong and we are hurt, the real self devises healthy means to minimize and soothe painful feelings.
6.) The ability to make and stick to commitments. A real self allows us to make commitments to relationships and career goals. Despite obstacles and setbacks (even of our own doing), a person with a strong sense of the real self will not abandon his goal or decision when it is clear that it is a good one and in one’s own best interest. Make goals and meet them.
7.) Creativity. There are many definitions of creativity. The one I like, based on helping people to allow their real selves to emerge, is the ability to replace old, familiar patterns of living and problem-solving with new or more successful ones. For example, when we change our residence, we are forced into adjusting more or less creatively to new physical conditions. In life, work and love we also move into new situations that make new demands on our creative resources. We must devise ways to cope with loss; we may have to rethink priorities when we do not have sufficient finances to realize all of them.
We may need to rearrange internal patterns that threaten to block self-expression—without which there can be no creativity. We may need to learn how to view things differently to eliminate false impressions and replace them with accurate, realistic ones. We may need to diffuse the negative memories or feelings that we associate with certain activities or situations so we can engage in them from an emotionally neutral or positive stance.
8.) Intimacy. The capacity to express the real self fully and honestly in a close relationship with another person with minimal anxiety of being forsaken or being swallowed up. And a strong enough capacity for intimacy to maintain relationships while also pursuing other goals.
9.) The ability to be alone. A healthy self allows us to be alone without feeling abandoned. It enables us to manage ourselves and our feelings on our own, through periods when there is no special person in our life. We also must learn not to confuse this type of aloneness with the loneliness of our soul. A loneliness of the soul springs from an impaired internal consciousness that drives us to despair. It can also drive us to the unhealthy need to fill up our lives with meaningless sexual activity or dead-end relationships just to avoid coming face to face with the impaired real self.
The ability to find meaning in life comes from within, and although we may have the ability to relate well to and enjoy others, we should not be dependent on them to activate our real self.
10.) Continuity of Self. This is the capacity to recognize and acknowledge that we each have a soul that persists through time and space. Whether up or down, in a good mood or a bad one, accepting failure or living with success, a person with a real self has an inner core that remains the same even as he grows and develops. At the end of life, it is the same person who was born many years ago who passes on.
These insightful ten ways to live, work and love better are found in the current book that is rocking my world. The Search For The True Self by Dr. James F. Masterson. I have paraphrased them slightly.
Question: What are your initial thoughts and insights?