I have been experiencing an overwhelming feeling of dissatisfaction with my life, specifically my career and my relationships. My job, relationships with boyfriend, friends, and family are just 'okay'. But I don't feel happy or any sense of satisfaction from any of these. I want to find something that will fulfill my needs, but I don't know where to start. I think maybe my spiritual self needs nurturing, but my inner conflicts (from childhood, etc.) keep me from going there.
What steps should I take to find out what it will take to make me happy?
It sounds to me that you are depressed, probably not severely but still enough to matter greatly.
Depressed people are angry people who won't admit it. They tend to say nothing at all when they should be saying: "Get out of my way!" or something similar. Your "blahs" (depression) probably started when someone hurt in some way and you told yourself that you "understood" and were not angry.
Anger is a natural emotion, which occurs whenever there is something in our way. We probably get at least a little angry about 20 times each day.
When we act on our anger in a safe but fully expressive way, we are saying: "I count, and what I want matters." When we don't take action we are saying: "You count, I don't." Ignoring our anger too well for too long can eventually make us feel that nothing matters at all.
Professionals debate whether truly major depression is biological, psychological, or both. But everyone agrees that all depression, mild to severe, shows the need for better self-care.
You have probably heard: "We all get depressed sometimes." To the extent that this is true, it is a sad reflection of our guilt-ridden culture. It is not a reflection of some biological predisposition toward being depressed. (Some large cultures don't even have a word for it in their language!)
Any depression is a problem, and regularly occurring depression is a serious problem. If the suggestions given here do not help, therapy (either with or without medication) can speed things up considerably.
Here are the most concrete ideas I have for you. Just work your way down the list and spend as much time on each item as you need. You'll notice that you are finished with an item when you have experienced what I describe under "What You'll Learn".
- Notice how prevalent anger is. Just go about your normal day and notice every time you see even the slightest sign of anger in the people around you.
What You'll Learn: You'll see that anger does occur about 20 times every day.
- Notice how safe anger can be. Notice how people use their anger to get what they want, and how seldom they "get in trouble" for it.
What You'll Learn: You'll see that some people almost always get angry responses from others when they express their anger, but most people do not. Decide to learn from those who do not.
- Make a list, on paper, of the best examples you can find of how people around you use their anger effectively. Put an asterisk on the examples you like most. Notice how often these people get what they want when they express their anger.
What You'll Learn: You'll show yourself how safe anger can be. You'll see that everyone has their own unique style of expressing anger, and that one or more of these styles "feels right" for you to use. You'll learn that people who express their anger get what they want much more often than people who do not.
- Learn the physical sensation you feel whenever you get angry ("tight shoulder," "tense stomach," "pain in my chest," etc.). Notice that you get this same sensation every time you are angry - and that it varies from very slight to very strong depending on how angry you are. Get good at noticing even the slightest sensations of anger.
What You'll Learn: After accomplishing this task you will always know when you are angry, how strong your anger is, and how much energy you have to deal with each anger-inducing situation.
- Begin to express your anger more and more, based on what you've learned about how others express their anger. Notice what happens to your depression.
What You'll Learn: The more anger you use, the less depressed you will feel.
- Continue to experiment with expressing your anger. Focus on the results you get. Compare what actually happens with what you thought would happen. (In other words, compare reality to your scary fantasies.)
What You'll Learn: You will learn that your scary fantasies are far worse than what happens in real life. Most people will learn that their scary fantasies were based on childhood realities, not on adult realities.
When you are no longer depressed you will feel stronger, more energetic, and more enthused. You will have a renewed interest in all kinds of pleasure. Daily problems will still be there, but they will bother you much less. You will even begin to find opportunities where you used to find only problems!
Your relationships will improve immensely, just because you are less depressed. Everyone will enjoy being with you more because of your energy and spontaneity.
You mentioned that you think that you may be wanting a better spiritual life but childhood conflicts prevent you from going there.
Our desire for a mature spiritual life, however, does not usually spring from times when we are feeling "blah" or pleasureless. Urges for mature spiritual growth are more likely to occur when we are filled with joy and happy about the pleasures in our life.
Therefore, I wonder if your reference to childhood incidents involving spirituality might be a clue to one of the "base angers" you have kept since childhood and that still need to be faced and expressed fully and safely.
I sincerely hope these words are helpful for you.
I hope I'll hear from you again with some news about how you are doing, what worked for you and what didn't work, etc.