One of the challenges of living in a society that encourages its members to think of themselves primarily as consumers is that it encourages a passive rather than an active posture toward reality. The flow of energy is from the external to the internal, from the world to the person. The purpose of life is to have one’s needs met and one’s desires fulfilled.
The reason why this approach has not worked for us is that having the fulfilling of one’s own desires as a purpose is the psychological equivalent of water flowing uphill.
Personality forms as an interpretive response to a primary wound. Purpose is an existential attempt to overcome that woundedness by acting to undo it. This is why, in non-psychotic personalities, purpose is framed in positive terms.
Real purpose flows from the internal to the external, from the person to the world. Real purpose is generative or healing in some way, as the personality seeks to do for the world what it struggles to do for itself. I think this is why JFK’s famous “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country” still resonates so many years later.
It is literally crazy making to live in a culture that bends over backwards to convince us that water should properly flow uphill, or that a human’s reason for living is self-gratification. This is why we need some kind of support and encouragement as we inquire into what constitutes meaning and purpose for each of us.
In the face of ten thousand messages telling us that we will find satisfaction according to what we take, we need at least one friend who will tell us the truth: that such satisfaction really comes through what we give away.
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