If you were wrong about something or if there were something important that was relevant to you, would you want to know? What if you couldn’t do anything about it, but it was still relevant? Would you want to know that you were missing the depth of experience you could be having? Would you want to know if you could have a better job, but it was risky? Would you want to know that there are people in your life who might be more unhelpful than you think or more helpful than you think? Would you want to know if your assumptions were wrong or if your understanding of something were wrong? Even if you felt bad about it, would you rather know what is true or better or more accurate?
Now stop a moment and think about this. Are you breathing? Can you notice your breathing? When you are breathing, is your stomach moving or is your chest moving or are both moving? For the most part, when you are more relaxed, your stomach is moving when you breathe and when you are more stimulated, your chest moves when you breathe. So you know if you are in a more reflective frame of mind or a more active frame of mind.
We alternate between being reflective and being active. We live our lives. We connect with other people. We work. We move. We eat. We are active agents, seeking. And then at other times, we are noticing who we are, what we are doing, and what is happening. We are measuring our choices against an internal set of values or ideals. Sometimes we are satisfied that our choices are in line with those ideals and sometimes we readjust. But we are alternating between living our lives and reflecting on ourselves in the world.
It is the reflective space that allows us to come to terms with our choices and gain an insight into ourselves. Life cannot be only reflective, of course. We have to go out and live it. We have to make mistakes. As Ronny Cammareri said, “We aren’t here to make things perfect. The snowflakes are perfect. The stars are perfect. Not us. Not us!” We have to take risks and tolerate uncertainty. We have to embrace the perfection of an imperfect world.
Would you want me to tell you that long-term therapy is about integrating all of that? That you can begin to inhabit your life in a conscious way, pursuing an ideals-focused sense of personal agency? That you need not spend a lifetime chasing elusive moods and temporary pleasures? That you will, one day, come to the end of your life, and you can look back at it and say to yourself, “well, I thought about it. And I am satisfied that I did the best I could with the information I had and the gift of consciousness that I was given.”