©Arlene R. Taylor PhD
He sat hunched over in the leather wing chair, his head in his hands. "My life was going so well," he said, his voice taut with emotion. "Now, all of a sudden everything seems to be going to hell in a hand basket." He groaned. "I thought I had the tools to live more successfully but I can’t seem to locate them right now." His face twisted into a wry grin.
Indeed, several issues had surfaced in his life; issues that needed to be dealt with in order for him to move forward. Not surprisingly, in trying to deal with those issues he had reverted to some old, familiar patterns of behaviors. Since they hadn’t been very effective in the past, however, there was every reason to believe they wouldn’t help to keep him centered on his personal growth journey in the present. Indeed, making the transition from repeating old patterns of behavior to implementing more functional ones can resemble the proverbial two steps forward and one step back. It’s all about making choices and consistently practicing new strategies.
"Unfinished business," I mused aloud. "It can be overwhelming, especially if you attempt to deal with everything at once rather than breaking things down into manageable bite-sized chunks."
"My unfinished business is littered with expectations," he continued. "Some of them are my own, based on the way in which I was brought up and my life experiences, and some are being heaped upon me by others."
"Let’s take one of the relationship issues with which you’re currently struggling," I suggested. "In order to be genuinely successful you must first be true to yourself. That’s the only way in which you can identify the relationships you want to take with you on your journey and be true to them. In a practical sense, all that means is that you take one small step every day toward who you are. In my own experience I’ve found that sometimes I’ve circled around my path trying to find it. However, as I consciously identify and acknowledge who I am and move toward embracing and developing my innate giftedness, one step leads to another. That formula can work for all of us. Before we know it, we have found our own unique path."
"But what I think I want for the rest of my life doesn’t match what I thought I wanted in the past, what others think I should want, or what they want from me now." He sighed and the sound was deep and painful.
“I read one of those elevator quotes the other day. There was no source listed but I was impressed enough to write it down.” I pulled a card from my wallet and read:
“We need always to hold onto our dreams; to never give them up simply because they might inconvenience others. To do otherwise means that we might arrive at life’s end with empty hands. We can only hold in our hands our innate giftedness. If we have never become the person we were intended to be, if we have not developed and embraced our giftedness, we have nothing in our hands."
He nodded. "But the tools," he persisted.
"Right there in your hands, along with your innate giftedness and your dreams," I responded.
"Do you recall the ancient story about Moses?" I ventured. "The one where Moses was asked, ‘What’s in your hand?’”
“Matter of fact, I do,” the young man replied. “I learned it in Hebrew school.”
“And what did Moses answer?” I asked.
“A staff,” said the young man. “Just a staff.”
“Metaphorically, the staff represented his innate giftedness,” I said. “And with that staff Moses led a multitude from Egypt in one of the most amazing migrations in history."
A smile tugged at the corner of his mouth. He looked down at his hands; large, powerful, capable. "Well, what do you know?" he said, his eyes twinkling. "My giftedness, my path, my dreams, and the tools are right here in my hands. And I know what they are. "
I watched him stand up, take a deep breath, straighten his broad shoulders, and metaphorically get back on his path—giftedness, dreams, and tools in hand.
The good news, I thought to myself, is that as we embrace the process, in addition to reparenting ourselves, we eventually become strong enough to be our own therapist. We access our support systems and resources quickly and effectively. We consistently make more functional choices.
What’s in your hand?