As it beats us down, parental alienation (PA) can make any life seem senseless. Given how well research has been able to connect our happiness with a sense of purpose and meaning in life, no wonder so many of us feel numb, wrestle with despair, or even question whether there is any point in going on.
I firmly believe there is; that each one of us can discover our purpose through the mire, and come to lead a meaningful life even if it is set amidst the barrage of PA behaviours. However, it needs to start with knowing our purpose.
Do you know what work YOU are here to do? Have you even asked yourself whether you may have a calling? And how to find it?
If you are anything like me, these questions weren’t at all part of growing up. They are something I have since discovered, making sense of my past and focusing my future, awkwardly and with the confronting clarity of hindsight.
In ancient societies you were bestowed with a new name when you discovered what your 'work' was, what unique contribution you would make to society. So you became the Wise Eagle, or the Healing Word.
Modern developed society gravely undervalues this notion of a calling, or of a purpose. I suspect this was first triggered by the invention of currency: it over-simplified how our contribution was evaluated. The subsequent devaluation was fueled by industrialization and its worship of short-term efficiency. Then came individualism, and 'empowerment', and with it, possibly the greatest hoax: that our happiness is the product of what we receive. Thus, we became a society of takers, not givers, and live with an expectation of the good things we feel we're worthy to receive.
Where it comes to the sense of contribution, today we settle on asking ‘what you do’ – and go on to judge your whole value by it. We feel justified to practice our trade without considering its impact on the world as long as it fulfils us. And we demand praise in our own eyes as much as in the eyes of others.
But there is a risk here: we become the stories we tell ourselves. Stripped of the obligation to contribute, our self-worth feels arbitrary and unreliable so we invent elaborate methods of building it up. In the meantime, many of us don’t experience true fulfilment and compensate with all sorts of perversions.
I reckon that ‘what I do’ in a daily, 'payable' sense, is quite distinct from my bigger work in the world.
And I believe that this world, already at risk of getting hollow, will only be more so if we live in it numb and busy.
I would like to argue that we, (especially if ‘we’ fall into any of the privileged populations of this world), must urgently challenge the optionality of contribution and come to expect it. Or look at it from another angle: if we want to make a contribution that behooves us to experience the relaxed breath of life in alignment, and to be disarmingly happy, we should look for our purpose. And let that search focus our living.
For me, this has involved a most counter-intuitive thing: facing my pain, understanding the storyline woven through my life, recognising what wants to manifest itself in the world through me, and letting its energy fuel my fight to do so.
What is yours?