Living a Meaningful Life

  “Being empty is a lot like knowing the words to a song but not knowing the music. Feeling full is just the opposite. You know both the words and the music to the song and are able to sing them aloud with your whole heart.”   “I don’t know why I’m I so unhappy. I’m proud of being successful. I make a comfortable living with a good job. My wife is gorgeous and we are reasonably happy together. Our kids do well in school. We have savings for our retirement years. We go to many parties with our friends … Continue reading

Being Used is Different from Being Loved

John Driggs

“It’s not the pretending, but the pretending that we are not pretending that hurts us.” — Sheldon Kopp, psychoanalyst and author Most of us at least intellectually understand that real love is different from exploitive caring. Caring for someone because of what they do for us is not the same as caring for someone because of who they are. However such clarity soon fades when we become emotionally vulnerable in relationships. Often then, the mind cannot see what the heart already knows. Inevitably heartbreak happens in exploitative relations. Often what hurts us the most is not having our hearts broken … Continue reading

Managing Stress in an Impaired Culture

John Driggs

“You are not entirely your circumstances. Work on your own life and happiness. Never give up. For starters, embrace the miracle of love, love strong enough to guide or drive one into the great estate of maturity, or, to put it another way, into the apprehension and acceptance of one’s own identity. Do this with everyone you meet, where possible and with cautious respect where impossible. Your worries will be birds that take flight and unburden your shoulders.” Adapted from a quote by James Baldwin, 1964 In case you haven’t noticed it already, we’ve just had a very traumatizing presidential … Continue reading

Can I Leave my Partner After Years of an Unfulfilling Relationship?

John Driggs

Our greatest life decisions are always made on the basis of incomplete information. ~Sheldon Kopp, psychoanalyst and author Probably the most difficult decision we’ll ever make in our lifetime is deciding to stay or leave a life partner when the relationship has been continually unfulfilling. Certainly the right decision is generally unclear to us. Most of us can’t even stand the thought of ever separating from a loved one even when we are continually unhappy. We automatically put our own happiness on the back burner and stay loyal to the bitter end. We deny how bad things really are. This … Continue reading

Do I Really Need to put up with my Crazy Family

John Driggs

It never fails. About this time of year every year I start getting a pain in my gut and dread with no clear explanation why. Upon later reflection I realize why. It’s because I have to see my family — who are incredibly crazy… and the holidays are coming. I feel guilty thinking this way. Shouldn’t I feel grateful for even having a family? Doesn’t everybody have to put up with relatives they don’t like? Am I not responsible to love them all no matter how they act? After all, my relatives are family. They are the only family I … Continue reading

Hidden Shame: A Curse and a Blessing

John Driggs

Hidden shame is a powerful emotional and physiological reaction. It fills our being in covert ways. It can cause us to become violent or withdrawn from life and it can prompt us to bring out the better parts of ourselves in ways we never expected. It is both a curse and a blessing. Typically we may have some glimmer of how it operates in our lives but mostly we’re unaware of how much of our existence is driven by shame. It is often the obscured answer to such questions as: “Why did he murder all those people? or “Why can’t … Continue reading

The Importance of Character and Why we are Blind to it

John Driggs

Good characteris doing the right thingwhen nobody elseis looking. When I first met Jamil I didn’t know what to think. He is a charming, funny and intelligent man from Somalia who is active in his community here in the States. He helps many of his own country persons to make it in America as he has done well himself and has a good civil service job. He came across as somebody I would like to know, particularly because I hadn’t known any Somali people before. I would often tease Jamil about his adjustment to our culture as he would with … Continue reading

Cultural Savvy, Staying Healthy in an Often Unhealthy Culture

Most of us don’t think about our circumstances. We are like fish swimming in a body of water that is getting ever more poisonous. We don’t see how sick we are becoming simply due to the toxicity of the water. Wea adapt to living with environmental hazards and minimize toxicity. After all, other fish swim in the same waters we swim in. When we eventually do get sick we blame or pathologize ourselves and don’t see the option of jumping to another pond. Few of us take seriously the harmful aspects of our culture and how we are poisoned by … Continue reading

Perilous Self-Deception: When we have a distorted view of how much others care for us

John Driggs

Many of us fool ourselves into believing that other people care about us more than they really do. Or else we don’t grasp just how much some people have to offer us and push away real love. Too many of us are in a no-man’s land of self-deception when it comes to getting close to others. Some of us admit that we just don’t “get” relationships; others of us feel we are experts on relationships. Actually neither is true. Many of us have inaccurate ideas on how people feel about us but only later on know when we are truly … Continue reading

Forgiving Yourself When Your Children Suffer

John Driggs

Imperfect as we are, parents today deserve all the credit in the world for raising children in challenging times. Many of us fret over how we’re doing as parents. Examining our part in our children’s pain can be the most painful thing we do in life. Seeing our kids suffer today due to our own failings is often more than most of us can bear. We can hardly stand to think about such topics. It’s especially hurtful when our children are aloof from or conflicted with us today due to the wrongs we have done them in years past. Often … Continue reading

Duped in Love: When your spouse mysteriously turns into someone you don’t know

John Driggs

“The heart already knows what the mind has yet to perceive” — Antoine de Saint-Exupery Life is hard enough when we and our partners go through life changes. We change careers. We are faced by major health challenges. We age and cannot do what we used to do. All of these normal life stresses pale in comparison to learning that our beloved life mate of so many years is really not the person we thought he or she was. Discovering a secret life in a spouse, facing relationship-threatening changes or simply watching our partner become a mysterious remote stranger is … Continue reading

When Married Couples Drift Apart

John Driggs

My best friend Nancy was recently blindsided by a big hit that is changing her life forever. I really feel for her. Her husband Stewart, who has been unemployed for the past five years, announced out of the blue that he is filing for a divorce. I was shocked and saddened beyond belief by her news. I mean, here is a wife supporting the household with a successful law practice, extremely grateful that her husband has chosen to be the primary caretaker of their two children. Stewart has always been nuts about the kids and she thought they had a … Continue reading

In a World Without Empathy

John Driggs

Imagine living in a world where no one is capable of understanding anybody else’s feelings. In such a world, someone could grasp how you feel only if he or she had exactly the same experiences you’ve had. If they hadn’t had those experiences they would have no idea what you are talking about. Consequently, you’d likely feel all alone in your solitary circumstances. Of course then you would have no way to feel loved since the experience of true love is about someone else accepting us as we really are and not for how we match up to their expectations. … Continue reading

Letter to the Editor

Dear Reader, I can well appreciate your response to my article on parents who are abandoned by their children. Certainly people who were abused in childhood ought not be judged or pressured to reunite with their parents unless they are internally lead to do so. Some abused people actually may lessen their damage by trying to reconnect with parents. My intention in the article was to specifically address parents who were not abusive to their children who nevetherless get rejected today by their adult children. The example at the start illustrates this intent. Although I tried I could have been … Continue reading

Is it Healthy to Live Only for Yourself?  

John Driggs

In all of our lives there certainly are those times when it is very healthy to live only for ourselves. If we are just about to give birth to a child, if our recovery in a hospital from a lifethreatening illness like alcoholism is at stake, or if we are powerless over another family member’s out of control behaviors, it’s rather wise and necessary to focus only on ourselves and our well being. Detachment with love has an essential place in our lives. However, what if we are just going about the business of living and only want to focus … Continue reading

Unspeakable: When our Adult Children want Nothing to do with us

Unspeakable:  When our Adult Children want Nothing to do with us You know, e v e r y holiday and birthday is like a dagger in my back. Sometimes I just lie on my bed and cry my eyes out. I adopted Maria when she was two-years-old as I couldn’t have children of my own and had no husband. Her mom died of a drug overdose. She was the cutest little girl and loved following me around. I became her everything. Every time I left the room without her she would scream for attention. It took a long time for … Continue reading