1. Alan has completed the new Pain Recovery Program. To read or share it, use this updated link: https://www.tmswiki.org/forum/painrecovery/
    Dismiss Notice

Finding Your Purpose

Discussion in 'General Discussion Subforum' started by Ellen, May 3, 2015.

  1. Ellen

    Ellen Beloved Grand Eagle

    I keep running across that finding one's purpose in life is a key component of TMS recovery, or key in the broader sense to having a happy and fulfilling life. I feel quite purposeless at this point in my life, and am not sure how one discovers or uncovers purpose. I used to be very passionate and committed to my work, and that gave me a sense of purpose, but it has been quite awhile since I felt that way.

    So I thought I'd pose the question--do you know what your purpose is in life? If so, how did you find it?
    Misha, IrishSceptic, yb44 and 2 others like this.
  2. Tennis Tom

    Tennis Tom Beloved Grand Eagle

    Good question Ellen and probably at the core of the TMS cunundrum--the "raison d'etre." Anthropologically speaking, from the primitive Sub-C TMS brain's perspective, job one would probably be surviving. In the Western world with Safeways, Walgreens, Costcos, Bev-Mos and Home Depots on every corner, unless you're a cop in Baltimore, our basic survival needs are easily met--and then some-- with a short trip in a Prius to the store. After basic survival, in the interest of survival of the species, would come mating. I believe SteveO coined the word TRACORDIFICATION describing it-- the need to connect with other humans.
    Last edited: May 4, 2015
    Ellen likes this.
  3. Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021)

    Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021) Beloved Grand Eagle

    I discovered early that I loved to write and that it would be my main purpose in life.
    It has proven to be so. But I had to quit my jobs that were not creative enough, even though
    then were on major newspapers and magazines. I had to bite the bullet and become a fulltime
    freelance writer, of books mainly. I'm still at it after more than 40 years, with more than that
    may books published (online at www.walteroleksybooks.com)

    I've especially felt fulfilled by writing books for children through teenage years,
    on history, science, careers, sports, famous people leading good and useful lives.

    Find your passion and try to find work in it. If you can't, do it nights and weekends.
    That can make you fee more fulfilled.

    Also, volunteering to help others can be very fulfilling. A favorite aunt who was elderly spent mornings at
    a hospital delivering mail and books to patients. She felt like she was doing something useful and was.
    Ellen likes this.
  4. Peggy

    Peggy Well known member

    This is an interesting topic Ellen. I am sure I have read many books on the topic and still am not any more sure of myself in this area than I was 15 years ago. I will say though, I probably think about it less. Sometimes I think the thing I am supposed to do is whatever I am doing at the moment. That's it. Period. I thought the academy awards were interesting this year. You would think many actors are fulfilling their life's purpose, doing good work and entertaining people. But what I thought was interesting was how the award winners were showing their activist side while giving their speeches. I particularly liked Patricia Arquette's speech. She broke out into and equal rights speech for women during her speech. It was really quite entertaining. Maybe that's all you have to do, just talk about something and you are making a difference. If more people talk about things that are covered up and hidden, things will change and maybe that's enough for a life's purpose. We think it has to be something big, but maybe many small acts is all it takes. I'm just saying . . .
    Misha and Ellen like this.
  5. Forest

    Forest Beloved Grand Eagle

    A fascinating and important question.

    I had a big transition recently, away from academia and into nonprofit activism (i.e. this!) and technology. For me, my emotional brain basically made the choice for me. My conscious brain still thought that trying to become a research economist was right for me, while my unconscious brain (think limbic system, paleomammalian brain, or emotional brain) had decided that it had had enough. It became almost impossible for me to focus on research and so much easier to focus on the wiki or on technology. It was pure burn-out and eventually I took the hint and wised up.

    I agree with what Peggy wrote in that it can be small things. I don't know if you've read Authentic Happiness by Martin Seligman, but he provides a great deal of psychological research on this topic. It's been a long time since I read it, but I frequently think back on a story he told of a waitress who was able to find authentic happiness in being a waitress. We should all be so lucky as her! But I do believe that we can all find happiness in the little things. Like cooking or walking our dog. (Seligman also has an updated book name flourish which I haven't had a chance to read, but you make me want to download it!)

    More and more I'm coming to think that there is a significant amount of choice in happiness. I love the idea of doing a gratitude journal to cultivate gratitude and satisfaction with life. I think it's very impressive how people like Martin Seligman have shown that writing a gratitude journal actually makes people happier. I think that this is similar to how lovingkindness meditation can make us more loving: the more we exercise the neural circuits of gratitude or being loving, the stronger those circuits become. The wolf that we feed is the wolf that wins.
    Simplicity, Misha, Ellen and 3 others like this.
  6. Gigi

    Gigi Well known member

    Congrats on your life change, Forest!
    I totally agree with A.Lincoln, who said that most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be. I've done gratitude journals when my life was particularly difficult--in part to remind myself that "life is good!" I say that phrase a lot; in fact one of the kids at school asked me why I say that, and we had a great discussion!

    I think everyone struggles with a search for meaning. My purpose has changed during various times in my life. Right now, my daughter is in grad school, so my focus isn't so much on parenting as it is on ministering to the kids at school each day. If I can make a difference to one child, that's a good day.

    At times when the physical pain has been all but unbearable, I've tried desperately to find a way in which to help others--in however small a way. That has always helped me to take the focus off my pain. Sounds corny, but it works for me.
    Simplicity, Ellen, yb44 and 1 other person like this.
  7. Barb M.

    Barb M. Peer Supporter

    Here are a few quotes from an article I really liked, and I'll post the link...

    The Pitfalls of Finding Your Purpose

    "Purpose was just another way of chasing that magical 'someday' that precluded my self-acceptance."

    "I can’t help but think that rather than having a purpose, we simply have purpose. It’s something akin to dignity or meaning, an inheritance of being alive. We can direct our purposefulness through clearly chosen intentions, but ultimately, it’s a quality we possess, not a statement, a job title, or a place that we find."
  8. Anne Walker

    Anne Walker Beloved Grand Eagle

    Its funny, I was thinking about this just the other day. We took care of a really interesting man last year. He had lost his wife six months earlier and was mourning her absence deeply. He had once been a Superintendent of Schools in our County and was friends with all the influential families in our area, the ones the schools, streets, and important landmarks are named after. He had a large, loving family, had written books, and been a very busy, active man his entire life. He's a goer my husband would say. But now he was lost. His children said that they could not figure out what was wrong with him, he had lost his sense of purpose somehow. We would discuss potential strategies to help him get it back. I loved to listen to all his stories, and what I thought personally was that he deeply missed his wife and that six months was not a very long time. The rest of the busy world had moved on without him. He liked to go over to his daughter's house unannounced and sit with his young grandchildren. His daughter thought this was bothersome and wished he could get his purpose back somehow. I had a sense of purpose once, I was driven to make films and I imagined I could improve the world with them. Then I had children and was filled with so much purpose making movies and raising children that I didn't have time to sleep. I felt important and thought what I was doing was very meaningful, but I was not that happy. Now my children are almost grown. I have stopped making films, and ... well, I am still very busy, but I am more present. The other day I took off early from work and grabbed my daughter for a mini road trip. She loves to talk and I am normally juggling too many things and too tired to fully listen. I spent the afternoon driving and listening and we had a great time. I told her I was going to take more time to spend with her, take her to thrift shops and swimming and she just beamed. I have been intentionally trying to slow down and not be so filled with a sense of purpose. I don't believe that we need a purpose to be happy, but when we are happy, I think we naturally engage, explore, give and contribute to the world. The big question for me is how to be happy. Pain, anxiety have kept me focused inward, its constricting, self obsessed... and that is why finding joy is an antidote.
    Gigi, Ellen, yb44 and 1 other person like this.
  9. Andy Bayliss

    Andy Bayliss TMS Coach & Beloved Grand Eagle

    Hi Ellen and All,

    Thank you Ellen. I love the responses so far. To me they revolve around "satisfaction." Forest is finding satisfaction, something closer to his heart. Barb's quote is about us "having purpose." I would say that more and more I am "being purpose," which has to do with what I think Anne is talking to me about.

    If my Superego weighs in, it is all about "justifying my space in the world." More subtly, there is a Superego ideal/striving that "I am a unique person with an elusive purpose which needs to be exactly found and screwed down and fleshed out and perfected ---and then there will be satisfaction." Written like this, I can see the childhood dynamics of "becoming enough" in a world run by larger, smarter people who know things that I don't. Now, maybe that young part of me thinks God knows my real purpose, and He's smarter than me, and not that helpful in revealing it!

    In the moment however, it is about being. For me this means more and more attuning to a flow of life, and where I want to go. I was a school teacher which brought me great satisfaction, and then it didn't. I am studying Somatic Experiencing now, which helps me allow impulses to come to completion, and tolerate more pleasure. I am more trusting that impulses, curiosity, and ease take me toward more wholeness.

    What gives me satisfaction? And what is my unique contribution? If I feel into this as a guide, and don't worry about outer appearances, then the list is more clear: A sense of a tender heart, self-intimacy, care and connection with others, loving others, doing something well that is put in front of me by life, holding and seeing myself through this life as best I can. No one else will do this work for me, or do it as me. This gives me satisfaction. As Tennis Tom said about the Safeways, it is apparent that my basic needs are provided for, so that gives me more freedom than my ancestors had.

    Andy B.
    Last edited: May 4, 2015
  10. yb44

    yb44 Beloved Grand Eagle

    Forest found he was happiest when providing a forum for TMSers to connect with one another, Gigi in helping others even in a small way, Anne in setting aside quality time to be with her daughter; Peggy in realising the importance of communicating with one another and Andy in his care and connection with others as evidenced by the multitude of helpful responses to forum members new and old.

    I left a job this week that was all about helping others or at least meant to be. It suddenly stopped being a rewarding pursuit. I was neither helping others or myself. A few months back I had the opportunity to get involved in a creative community project on a voluntary basis. Normally I would hem and haw, do I/don't I want to get involved. I jumped at the opportunity before that old familiar critical, doubting voice kicked in. I spent so many happy hours focused on completing this project, made many new friends and really felt valued. The project is complete but I am now more open to jump at other opportunities that come my way. This has become my purpose.
    Ellen, Tennis Tom and Anne Walker like this.
  11. Mala

    Mala Well known member

    I personally think that FYP is an overated concept & a cliche. In fact the whole idea puts pressure on you to find 'true meaning' in life & creates doubt in yr mind & I don't really remember Dr Sarno ever mentioning it as being a key to recovery but pls do correct me if I'm wrong.

    Purpose changes with age, circumstances, your role in life at a particular stage, your own evolution & other factors. But one can find purpose in almost anything that they do.

    Purpose sometimes is not so much the result of knowing what u want but by knowing what u don't want or need or rejecting something that is not working for you. I'll give an example. My father was an alcoholic & treated my mother very badly. She put up with him because of her upbringing, her sense of loyalty to him & also because she thought it would be better for me & my younger sister to have both a father & a mother. It was very traumatic & as a kid I felt utterly helpless. When I was 11 my mom sent me to to India for the summer holidays to be with my grandfather & I fell in love with the country, its ppl, my relatives & this wonderful, wise, compassionate yet worldly man who was my mother's father & with whom I bonded immediately. I immediately knew then that I did not want to go back to HK & I made a very quick decision to stay in India & continue with my schooling. There was much resistance especially from my dad but to cut a long story short I ended up having my way & staying there for the next 13 years. My grandfather who was retired now had purpose in his life & I had a new purpose- to make the best of my new life. I had to learn a new language, a new culture, learn how to fit in, and as my grandfather grew older I became his caregiver & stayed with him till he passed away.

    Like Andy I was a school teacher for 23 years & loved it but then one day I just didn't want to teach any more. That was 9 years ago & I was 48 years old and I had no idea what I was going to do next. But I find purpose everyday in things that I do whether it is travelling, playing with my dog or taking my mom out for lunch or watching a movie with my husband, cooking a meal, chatting with my niece & nephew about school or listening to a TED talk. I also find purpose not by trying to change the world but by fighting small injustices I see happening around me & being a voice for those who can't defend themselves.

    For my 11 year old niece her purpose in life is to eat as many waffles with Nutella as she possibly can. Its as simple as that! ;)

    Last edited: May 4, 2015
    Misha, Ellen, IrishSceptic and 2 others like this.
  12. Ellen

    Ellen Beloved Grand Eagle

    Wow, such absolutely wonderful, thoughtful comments! What an abundance of wisdom exists on this Forum. I am very grateful to be a part of it. I've read over the responses several times and they are wonderful in the ways that each one of you is wonderful.

    Whew! Sounds like finding purpose is something I don't need to worry about anymore. Your responses remind of a quote I used to have in my office and should probably dig out and put in a prominent place again.

    "We can do no great things--only small things with great love." Mother Teresa

    Thanks to all of you.
    Simplicity, Anne Walker, Ryan and 3 others like this.
  13. Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021)

    Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021) Beloved Grand Eagle

    Forest, thanks for sharing about your life change. It is helping a lot of people, me included.
    Knowing about the TMSWiki has changed my life, too. I feel like it's a second great purpose,
    together with writing books that can help people. The two fit together beautifully. It led me
    to co-author with Herbie (Eric Watson) our book on TMS,
    God Does Not Want You to Be In Pain. It's wonderful to get emails from those TMSers
    who said it is or has helped them heal.
  14. Cap'n Spanky

    Cap'n Spanky Well known member

    Thank you for posting that! If I could do anything in the world, it would be to play music full-time. But that simply doesn't pay the bills and provide financial security anything close to what my day job does. So I have made the decision stay with my day job until I'm ready to retire (which isn't too far off). Then I will do my music and all the other things "I want to do".

    But I struggle with the stress and the time commitment my day job requires and sometimes it gets me down. That article stated it so nicely and that is we do what we are already doing, but we do it with purpose. That brings the meaning and satifaction to our lives.
    Ellen likes this.
  15. Mala

    Mala Well known member

    Finding purpose is not always easy because of the way we are brought up, conditioned to think & conditioned to behave by society in a herd mentality. For example from a very young age we are led to believe that our main purpose in life is to get qualified, fall in love, get married, have kids , provide for them & the list continues. We are told that this is normal. But how many ppl following these norms are truly happy & how many will admit to being unhappy? Ppl have been conditioned to believe that this is their purpose & there are still many societies & cultures where these beliefs hold very strong & where a lot of pressure is put on the next generation to fulfill what are perhaps their parents dreams for them & they feel a huge amount of guilt if they don't.

    Even when there isn't this kind of pressure many believe that the only way to be happy is by being with someone even though sometimes this can create tremendous amounts of pressure because after all relationships are fraught with challenges.

    So when thinking about purpose I guess you have to think about whether u r living the life u really want or r u living yr life based on the expectations of what others want. If it is the former, then u don't need to question yr purpose because u will be living a life true to yourself.

    Last edited: May 10, 2015
    Simplicity and Cap'n Spanky like this.
  16. T514

    T514 Newcomer

    I too have been searching for my life purpose. I've been struggling for most of my life to figure out what I wanted to with my life, how I could make a difference in not only my life but others as well. It seemed no matter what I did I just didn't see fully happy. I started becoming depressed and not wanting to socialize with people who had been my friends for years. The problem was that I didn't know I was searching for a life purpose, I was just living day to day and not feeling like I was accomplishing anything. The past couple of years though I really started thinking about making a difference in my life and others around me. I think it could have come with getting older and seeing things happen around me that make me realize how short life really is. I started making changes in my lifestyle, how I eat, what I did for fun, etc. Then recently I finally realized I needed to find what really made me happy, what really meant something to me and use that to help others. I've researched a lot of sites and found this book on kickstarter that you all might be interested in. I look forward to it being released so I can really start working on my life purpose and what I need to do for me. Here is the link in case you all might be interested as well.

  17. Misha

    Misha Peer Supporter

    This is such a great thread Ellen and I especially enjoyed Barb's post.

    I think purpose can also just mean living an 'authentic' life - a life that has purpose to you, and not a life that others want or expect of you.
    Tennis Tom likes this.
  18. donavanf

    donavanf Well known member

    This is a GREAT thread!
  19. karinabrown

    karinabrown Well known member

    like this thread a lot because this is my struggle too at this moment: what is my purpose? interesting thoughts too ! thank you all!
    Peggy likes this.
  20. Simplicity

    Simplicity Guest

    I agree @Ellen, there's certainly a lot of wisdom to be found on this forum and in this thread.

    Love this in particular:
    ... and this:
    Thanks everyone for sharing.

Share This Page