What Are We Seeking?

Q:  What do you think of this quote by Joseph Campbell in The Power of Myth: "People say that what we're all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we're really seeking. I think that what we are seeking is an experience of being alive."

A:  It is not an either/or thing. Some people seek meaning. It  is very important to them. And others go to experience the joy of life. They are not mutually exclusive--you can have both.

Only Awareness Leads to Change

Q:  My spouse has so many good qualities. And he has qualities that I now find to be unacceptable. He moves into frustration and anger quickly and blames me for his behavior. When I try to reason with him, he often calls me names and closes me out. When I stand my ground by telling him this is not so, that his feelings are his and his behavior is his, he says I always blame him for our problems. Some days are just fine. Oftentimes I find myself wondering if today will be the day that he will move into anger and accuse me of being the one who "started it." I also wonder if I could live without him. But I do not seem to be able to get through to him that he needs to work on his triggers and make a plan to address his anger. I think he does not think he needs to change but that I do. Although I notice when he is verbally abusive, the next day he is remorseful. This seems to me that we are in a cycle of abuse here. Anything you can address regarding this situation is helpful.

A:  The cycle of abuse can't be broken until the abuser admits that abuse is taking place. The next time he abuses you, you want to pause and ask him if he is aware that abuse has just taken place. There's a difference between him saying that something you did makes me angry and dumping the anger on you. The problem is not the anger but how he expresses it. The key is to catch it while it is occurring so that he can be aware of it. Without awareness, there is no change.

The key to improving your relationship is if each person is willing to look at himself and ask, What part do I play in the problem? Nothing can improve if a person is not willing to look at himself. You seem very willing to do that. In your husband's softer moments, you can try to establish an agreement for each of you to look at your side. You will then be on the road to real improvement. Without that, no growth can happen. That is one of the fundamental laws of successful couple relating.

Have No Fear of Mistakes

Q:  I have strong fear of making a mistake and failing. Is this normal? Can this be helped, because right now I feel pretty helpless.

A:  The fear of making a mistake is a normal feeling. Since we are imperfect beings, we all make mistakes. It is okay to make a mistake. People often view mistakes as an indication that they are a failure. This is not the case. Making a mistake is human, and we humans make lots of them.

You, however, do not sound afraid, but frozen. Someone who is frozen thinks that she is not allowed to make a mistake, but this is not true. You are allowed. Take the chance!

Revealing Your Real Self

Q:  My boyfriend is still friends with his ex-wife. He swears nothing sexual is going on and I believe him, but I still feel threatened and insecure. What should I do? Do I tell him?

A:  By asking whether you should tell him, it means that you haven’t. One thing you must know about relationships is that they are successful only when the other can love you the way you really are, and vice versa. By hiding your insecure feelings, you are depriving your boyfriend of your real self. Your real self is the best gift you can give to the other. Tell him.

Welcome to our Q&A page, where I answer questions about relationships, work, psychological issues, and more. I hope this forum  will help readers deal with the challenges we all face in life.

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