Q I am a man in my mid-40s; I’ve been married for 18 years and have three children. Things are very stable in my life. Our family has established routines, and we get along pretty well. However, I have very little excitement for anything. It seems like I don’t do anything spontaneously just for the sake of fun. I envy some of my single friends, who seem to really be living life. I don’t know if there is a way out of feeling this “stuck.”

A It sounds like your stable life is also getting boring. Many of us spend years seeking and creating well-functioning and predictable lives, only to find ourselves tired and oppressed by them. The juice of life gets squeezed out or forgotten. It’s good that you are clearly observing how dry your life feels.

Think about some of the goals you’ve had up to now. How have the expectations of your family influenced your choices? Being a responsible male in today’s world often means being financially successful in order to provide for your family at the cost of your own freedom and joy. We are all affected and pressured by the socio-cultural environment we live in, and our lives can get very imbalanced. Looking at these initial questions will give you some clues to the roots of your current lifestyle and values.

What excited you as a boy at home, at school, and while playing? Every child has natural spontaneity and interests—sports, art, stories, drama, science, fixing things, and more. Reflect on what you loved as a kid, and feel the bubbling enthusiasm in your memories. You may also feel sad and angry if your interests and passions were criticized, devalued, or limited in some ways. Seeing and knowing your experiences is part of recovering what you have lost and becoming un-stuck.

Notice how you feel and what blocks your encounter as you explore the tension between what you want and what you now have. You might be afraid that you will want to take off on an adventure without your wife and children. Do you want to quit your job? By listening to those squelched feelings and desires within, you are beginning to value a side of yourself that is seeking new life. Start sharing your inquiries with someone you trust; being heard in this way will validate this side of yourself. Perhaps, it was never okay in your family to share your dreams or fantasies.

See where in your life you can begin to make some changes. Even altering a simple routine will make a difference. Drive on a different road to work. Go to a new restaurant for dinner. Take a dance class or arrange a weekend getaway with your best friend. Notice how some of that feels? Your wife and children may notice more energy or a new smile on your face. Begin to share with your wife what your life is missing and ask her about her satisfaction and concerns. This dialogue could open up a range of feelings and issues. Sometimes we keep our predictable, yet lifeless routine going to avoid the deeper dissatisfaction in our personal lives and relationships. Some people just stay busy all the time, fearing that if they stopped they would realize their life has very little purpose. Only by slowing down and feeling this emptiness can we really start discovering what is meaningful and satisfying. To be happy we need stability, belonging, and order, but we also need freedom, passion, and joy.

Alzak Amlani, Ph.D., is a counseling psychologist in the Bay Area. 650-325-8393. www.wholenesstherapy.com

 

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