By: Benjamin Reisterer, MA, LLPC
As human beings we all have strengths, weaknesses, hopes, fears, etc. Over our individual lifetimes, we have all developed and honed very specific personalities in reaction to the world around us. Our personalities are multi-faceted programs that run scripts or automated files based on the input we receive, either from the world around us or the thoughts, feelings, and emotions within us. These scripts are designed to protect us and theoretically they cover our weaknesses and bolster our strengths.
So what happens when our activated scripts no longer do what they are designed to do? What happens when our automated files begin to harm our relationships, our careers, or get in the way of us attaining our dreams? Unfortunately, the answer is often that we double down (which is normal because after all, it has worked so well for us in the past) which often times makes things worse. I compare a life based on personality scripts that were developed in reaction to past experiences as being on autopilot. Usually it gets us to where we need to go, but when there is turbulence it’s really not too helpful. Furthermore, when we are approaching our destination and it is almost time to get off the plane and move onto something better it keeps us in the air, frustrated and circling the runway.
Socrates is attributed with coining the phrase, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” It’s a harsh stance, but I think there is a lot of wisdom here. A life worth living is authentic and is marked by being fully present and aware in the actual moment. An examined life is most assuredly not on autopilot. To beat the plane analogy to death, examining one’s life is essentially getting very familiar with your cockpit and all the instruments that keep your life on track. There are many instruments that need to be examined and fully understood simply for what they are. These instruments include (but are not limited to) our minds, our bodies, our emotions, our fears, our hopes, and so on. These all play an integral role in moving us forward. It is only when we fully engage these instruments, understanding what they are and how they effect us, that we can be fully present and authentic. This presence and authenticity gives us much more control over our lives as we are now making conscious decisions. We can slow down and collect more information, we can speed up, we can change course, we can navigate turbulence, we can land.
As a psychotherapist, I am honored to work every day with individuals as they do sacred work examining their lives and become more comfortable with the controls.