Listening to the Process

Having the privilege of listening to people work through the complications of their lives gives me a sense of the larger movement of social thought. While our task is to pay attention to the specifics of each life, each day, and each moment in each day, we have in common the historical circumstances we inhabit. As we face the profound changes in our government, the global economic situation, health care worries, and climate change, we make the local choices we can to live what feels to us to be a good, in the sense of ethical, life. 

Fundamentally, regardless of the wishes and moods of the specific moment, each person becomes grounded and satisfied to the extent that those local choices are congruent with his or her deepest values. For most people, the experience of feeling like a good person is a necessary backdrop to the complexity of everyday life.

Sometimes if we have not taken the time to recognize what is important to us, we can be living a life that is satisfying on one level but out of sync on a deeper level. We can be doing work that we are good at, but that does not match what we think is important. We can be engaging in relationships that are easy but not deeply significant. We can be spending our free time in activities that occupy or entertain us but that do not provide any constructive experience or effect.

It is not necessarily obvious or simple to know deeply what we value. We have received from our upbringing a certain way of looking at the world and a set of values that goes with that. But we have also had life experiences along the way that may have caused us to question those received values or to change our perspective. We may have thought about it or we may not have noticed those changes. We might have personal opinions that alter our basic received assumptions about what is important. 

Recently, in listening, I have noticed how important it is for each person to come to know him or herself deeply, and most essentially, on the level of what is important and where they want to put the energy of their lives. Taking the time to be reflective is a sometimes forgotten need. There are many ways to do that, and including a clear minded examination of inner arguments can be a helpful one.

About norasblog

I am a psychotherapist with a private practice in downtown Chicago.
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2 Responses to Listening to the Process

  1. hymes says:

    I have had the same inner argument for a long time now and have finally examined it enough to settle it. But it is not a decision that will lead to a more ethical life in my opinion, it is a decision that will lead to a personally happier life. I plan to move away from the state I never meant to move to where I am so often “the only voice” to speak out on issues that matter deeply to me and hear frequently that my state “needs me” from folks who don’t speak out so much. But it is time for me to move to where I am not so alone in my opinions because being that alone in one’s opinions is not good for me. Hope you don’t mind a personal comment. You struck a chord.

  2. norasblog says:

    Hello and thank you for your comment. There are many ethical issues that present us with difficult decisions. Most of the time, they are arguments between two different, but important values. An argument can be made that we need a community of supportive people in order to grow into the best version of ourselves. The pursuit of personal happiness is part of a moral obligation to respect the one life we have been given. It seems to me that your dilemma is about whether it is a good idea to sacrifice your own well-being for what appears to be a greater good. Some people would assert that that is a morally superior act, but I think it would be an extremely rare situation in which that cost would be justifiable. We do have a responsibility to take care of ourselves, too.

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