People Adrift

20 July 2004

Inquiries for help come in waves. Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of counseling with people who find themselves adrift. Men have lost jobs. Women want to go back to work. Homes are broken. Recent graduates are uncertain.

In so many cases, the people we talk to have become obsessed with themselves and their circumstances. They’ve lost the ability to see service to others as the path out of the dilemma. Some are worried about how they are seen by others. Some are worried about keeping up a charade.

Some bury themselves in their appearance. Obsessions with makeup, appearance, exercise and diet block all other thoughts. Some are merely muddling through, focusing on nothing. They are ”hoping” that something will ”come along.” They are without a method.

Others are living in clutter. They see every event through the lens of ”how does this affect me or how do I ’feel’ about this?” They cannot see that their negligence in small things is directly impacting the bigger things in their lives. They seek more ”stuff,” but remain confused about why they are unfulfilled.

What are these people to do?

Many times there are similarities from one case to another. The woman who spends hours in personal grooming each day (her family’s claim, not mine) faces the same issues as the guy with piles of material he intends to read, but hasn’t. Here are a few of the components of the common denominator:

  • lack of discipline
  • lack of focus and direction
  • lack of ambition and motivation
  • selfishness
  • unclear priorities
  • no method for solving problems or making decisions
  • missing or limited structure and routine
  • envy and jealousy
  • sullen demeanor
  • confusion over what’s a symptom and what’s a root cause
  • materialism
  • unable to be alone without feeling lonely

Plenty of psychiatrists would diagnose ”depression” as the problem. Plenty of drugs get prescribed to treat these conditions. Without a doubt, there are cases of clinical depression. They should be treated professionally with the best that the medical industry can provide.

However, every unfocused, selfish person is not a case of clinical depression. Some of them are simply lazy. Some are merely self-absorbed. Some are unwilling to change. Some truly are content in their misery. Others want to change, but need a method. They want a structure and some guidelines for their lives. Someone needs to use a bit of compassion and tell these people the truth.

Deadlines, checklists and accountability work wonders. By simply narrowing their options, some their places of service. Once they realize that there are more important things in life than how they feel or look, they begin to get better. They find meaning.

It sounds harsh, but it is not. If they seek a job, there is a way to go about that. (Wishing is not a method.) If they seek appreciation, there is a way to find real reward for service. If they seek direction, there are methods for finding the way. If they are tired of living a compartmentalized life where they appear outwardly prosperous and well-adjusted while fighting turmoil within, there’s a pathway out.

If you’ve been ”hoping” for a change, isn’t it time to really seek a disciplined way to make change happen?

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