From my experiences, a core issue to many emotions and mental difficulties revolves around the idea of purpose. So what is purpose? The accepted definition for purpose found in the Merriam-Webster dictionary is:
1 a : something set up as an object or end to be attained : intention
b : resolution, determination
2 : a subject under discussion or an action in course of execution
What comes to mind when I see these definitions of “purpose” is this sense of motion. To have purpose is to be in motion; intentionally living for or towards something. Also, connected to motion is the need for energy. In order to initiate and sustain that motion, energy is needed.
It is this issue of energy, I have found a common theme with numerous clients I’ve worked with. There is a lack of energy for life that has rendered them motionless, and therefore, feeling a loss of purpose. From my viewpoint, this is far more complex than just someone needing more sleep. Although sleep is undoubtedly an important factor, the energy I’m referring to is more all encompassing than just physical energy. It is the combination or our mental, emotional, and physical energy that makes up our will to live, experience life, and exert our purpose in each day. I think it’s important to also clarify that purpose can mean something different for different people. Some spiritual individuals may interpret purpose as a grander sense of a pre-determined plan from God, other’s may view purpose as their own goals and desires to affect change somewhere around them. Whichever interpretation of a purpose you take does not impact my own work from a mental health standpoint. Ultimately, a lack of energy impacts any perspective of purpose a person adopts. I think it is worth noting, however, because this issue with energy affecting motion affecting purpose can happen to ANYONE from any walk of life or worldview.
I think a follow up question that flows from this discussion of purpose is: how does someone lose this? I believe there is no concrete answer for this, but more an unfolding of processes that impact someone’s life to such an extent that they often have no mental, emotional, or physical energy left to sustain themselves. The experience of stress and perception of stressors in our life is a very subjective experience. Something that I perceive as stressful and difficult to manage, you may not perceive as stressful from your worldview and contexts. That is not to then say that my subjective stress is more or less. With this mindset, I don’t think it’s important to ever compare the stressors in individual lives, rather the focus should be on the person’s perception of that stress and ability to manage it. When multiple stressors are perceived as so burdensome, our energy on every level becomes depleted. We start to slow down, lose momentum, and ultimately end up still and stuck.
Once we feel stuck, our emotional, mental, and physical energy may replenish somewhat, but at this point, this energy is misaligned. Have you ever been so physically exhausted from a day on your feet, but once in bed your mind is racing? You have all this mental energy, but it is not aligning with your physical energy. With this, you’ve moved from stuck to feeling like a ball in an empty room, bouncing off every surface, with no control or ability to exert your “purpose.”
Or perhaps, you have so much emotional energy, you feel like you could explode with anger or crying, whichever emotion builds within, however, you have no mental energy to help align your mental thoughts to those emotions in order to best express yourself and exert that “purpose.”
We must work to align our mental and emotional energy with our bodily energy, so that our physical actions allow us to live out our internal intentions, or in other words, our purpose.
This may seem simple in words, but for any of us who have experienced such a misalignment of these energies and an ultimate loss of purpose, it is OVERWHELMINGLY difficult. I think there are a few practices that can help to realign yourself mentally, emotionally, and physically. Initially it begins with the simplest of acts: taking some moments to simply “be and breathe.” Once there is a sense of calmness in the present, set ONE goal for yourself for that day. That one thing is your purpose for that day. This does not have to be centered on being productive mind you. That one purpose could be, “today, I’m going to call a friend,” or “today, I’m going to drink coffee outside in the park.”
Ultimately, purpose does not have to be this grand, momentous act that changes the world around you. It can be as simple as one day re-connecting with one friend. When we lose that energy and motion, we can rebuild it by breaking down our purpose into simpler acts that revitalize meaning within that day. Then the next day, we do something similar. Little by little, we can then feel more in motion.
This leads us to the next explorations of then sustaining this purpose we are now revitalizing.....