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Sunday, January 27, 2013

Is That All There Is? When "Having It All" Leaves You Feeling Empty

For many people, the meaning of "success" and "having it all"means making a lot of money, buying a big house, having a new car, and being married to an attractive spouse (not necessarily in that order).  For other people, "having it all" might mean being smart, having a graduate degree, and the prestige of being published and recognized as an expert in a particular field.  

Is That All There Is?  When "Having It All" Leaves You Feeling Empty

"Having It All," But Feeling Something is Missing 
But, more often than not, people who have attained their definition of "having it all," are surprised to discover that, instead of making them happy, after a while, they feel empty inside.  They're confused because they feel like there's something missing, but they can't understand what it is since they already have everything they set out to get, so what else could there be?

What Does It Mean to "Have It All"?
How we define "success"' and "having it all" usually determines our focus and the direction we take in our lives.  Early on, we're given implicit, and often explicit, messages about what it means to be successful.  In school and the world around us that usually means striving to be competitive and to get excellent grades so you're at the top of your class with the end goal of getting a well-paid job so you can have monetary success and prestige.

Is That All There Is?  When "Having It All" Leaves You Feeling Empty

Most people would agree that having a certain degree of financial comfort is better than struggling financially.  And while there's certainly nothing wrong with being smart and striving to have monetary success and prestige, if that's all you want, more than likely, when you get it, you'll be wondering, "Is that all there is?," like the song with the same title.  This can be a tremendous letdown, especially if you've invested years of your life to attain these goals.

When Disappointment Leads to Striving For More of the Same
Often, people respond to feeling this disappointment by striving even harder to have more...more money, more prestige, a bigger vacation house, a more expensive car, and so on.  They become even more competitive with their colleagues, friends, loved ones, and neighbors.  But the problem with this is that there will always be someone who is smarter, richer, and more powerful than you are, so where does this end?  For someone people, it ends with deeper disappointment. For other people, it ends with sudden cardiac arrest.

Getting Help When "Having It All" Leaves You Feeling Empty
At about this point, people who might never have come to therapy, seek help.  Striving more, working harder, being bigger and better, smarter and faster hasn't brought lasting happiness, and they're in emotional crisis.  They've done everything they've been told and everything they know how to do to be happy, but happiness eludes them, and they don't know why.  They often come to therapy feeling that their lack of happiness is, somehow, their fault.  

What Is a Meaningful Life to You? 
Rather than looking for a place to cast blame, when "having it all" leaves you feeling empty inside, it's important to take a look at how you're defining success.  Although it might sound like an old cliche, when your definition of success is only narrowly defined by the external things in your life, after a while, these things become less meaningful to you.  If you haven't broadened your definition of success to include a rich inner life and contributing in a meaningful way to the world around you, more than likely, if you're at all in touch with your emotions, you'll feel empty inside. 

Whether you call this empty feeling inside "a spiritual crisis," "a mid-life crisis" or a crisis by any other name, usually, when you get to this point, you can feel desperate because, along the way, you might not have learned any other ways for being happy other than to be more and to get more.  Perhaps you've also surrounded yourself with like-minded people.  And, when you compare yourself to them, they seem to be happy with their lives, so you might ask yourself, "What's wrong with me?"

Psychotherapy:  A Place to Explore and Discover New Aspects of Yourself
Psychotherapy is a place where you can explore and discover what it would mean to you to have a meaningful life.  In the privacy of a therapy session with an objective therapist who is empathetic and with whom you have a rapport, you can start to focus on your inner world, as opposed to being exclusively focused on your external world.  

Whereas friends and loved ones might have their own views of what it means to have a meaningful life, a skilled clinician can help you develop your own new definition of what it means to be successful in a much broader sense without judging you or imposing his or her own views.

Psychotherapy: A Place to Explore and Discover New Aspects of Yourself

Your psychotherapy session is a time and place dedicated to you where you have uninterrupted time to develop and discover aspects of yourself that you might not have even known exist.  It's a chance to discover and experiment with new possibilities of who you are and what might make you happy.

When continuing to do more of the same of what you've been doing continues to leave you disappointed, you owe it to yourself to work with a skilled clinician who can help you expand your defintion of success and happiness.  

About Me:
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist.  I work with individual adults and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my web site:  Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (212) 726-1006 or email me: josephineolivia@aol.com.

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