I am honored to be included in this excellent piece on the psychological pull towards rigor and rules when life feels empty, hard, and unguided. Well done, Eve Fairbanks.
Excerpted from the article:
…I used to think I was the only one whose outwardly awesome-seeming life—I was following my “passion” in a rocky economy, maintaining my friendships, looking good on Facebook—bore almost no relationship to her roiling inner monologue, until a friend of mine showed me her diary. It was shocking because the sentiments sounded so much like my own and also so little like anything most of us are courageous enough to reveal: ceaselessly self-scrutinizing, ceaselessly self-punishing. “Am I less interesting at 24 than I was at 17? Where has all my discipline, all those self-imposed exercises gotten me?” She spoke of trying to recover some potential life and world that had, in her early 20s, already been lost. Contemplating her desire for securities like money and a nice husband, she wrote, “I’m realizing I’m much more conservative than I thought.”
When I read this passage to Satya Doyle Byock, an Oregon-based psychotherapist who focuses on counseling young adults, she laughed grimly. “That’s the essence of what I hear over and over again,” she said. “We’re raised in a quantitative culture with quantitative goals.” She works with young people who believe society has given them all of the tools and the technology and the science to construct an ideal life. But they still feel like failures. And they feel shame for feeling it, and thus they are trapped in an ironclad double bind. Declaring everything achievable tends to dig a well of grief in people because it implies that any problem we encounter is a result of our miscalculation. “It causes suffering,” she said, “by denying the necessity of suffering.”