Don’t abandon your life’s journey

In those moments when, like Oblomov, you feel like you’re getting nowhere, try to find the will to continue. Don’t let life’s swamps keep you from following your path.

Don't abandon you life's journey
photo credit: amphalon via photopin cc

‘Twas as though some one had stolen from him, and besmirched, the store of gifts with which life and the world had dowered him; so that always he would be prevented from entering life’s field and sailing across it with the aid of intellect and of will. Yes, at the very start a secret enemy had laid a heavy hand upon him and diverted him from the road of human destiny. And now he seemed to be powerless to leave the swamps and wilds in favour of that road. All around him was a forest, and ever the recesses of his soul were growing dimmer and darker, and the path more and more tangled, while the consciousness of his condition kept awaking within him less and less frequently – to arouse only for a fleeting moment his slumbering faculties. Brain and volition alike had become paralysed, and, to all appearances, irrevocably – the events of his life had become whittled down to microscopical proportions. Yet even with them he was powerless to cope – he was powerless to pass from one of them to another. Consequently they bandied him to and fro like the waves of the ocean. Never was he able to oppose to any event elasticity of will; never was he able to conceive, as the result of any event, a reasoned-out impulse. Yet to confess this, even to himself, always cost him a bitter pang: his fruitless regrets for lost opportunities, coupled with burning reproaches of conscience, always pricked him like needles, and led him to strive to put away such reproaches and to discover a scapegoat….

Once again Oblomov sank asleep; and as he slept he dreamed of a different period, of different people, of a different place from the present. Let us follow him thither.

Ivan Goncharov. Oblomov

If a person is wholly committed to not experiencing any unpleasant or difficult thoughts, feelings, sensations, or images, then that person will be unable to commit to and maintain a course of action because every course will eventually evoke something that is unpleasant. With valuing love comes the experience of loss, with valuing community conies the possibility of rejection, with valuing creativity comes a negative evaluation of one’s abilities. Metaphorically, it, as if you were on a journey called “living well” and you ran into a swamp that stretched as far as the eye could see. Swamps are no fun. They, smelly, they, icky, they, scary, and yet swamps are part of the journey. Life asks, “Will you wade into the swamp or will you abandon your journey,” In order to choose to act on our values, willingness to experience difficult events is necessary. This action of willingness has the quality of a leap of faith. The job of the therapist is to create situations in which clients engage in a leap of faith into a future that is unknown and—to the best they can tell—in the direction of their values. A leap of faith implies the willingness to have whatever happens when one makes that leap, to touch down wherever one lands. We are looking for this quality in client commitments.

Jason Luoma PhD, Steven C. Hayes PhD and Robyn D Walser PhD. Learning ACT: An Acceptance and Commitment Therapy Skills-Training Manual for Therapists.

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