Can't commit to life

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    Dear Janine:

    “the problem may be solved if I became clear on what I wanted from therapy”- I am guessing you want to “commit to life”, to have a direction, in life, a road map of sorts,  and be motivated to follow that road map in practical ways, every day. Isn’t this what you wanted from therapy all along?




     I am curious about this:

    The thought ‘I should just kill myself’ could be the subconscious suggesting that your stuckness may be due to an attachment or your sense of self/ego whose time has past.

    And also this:

    What would it feel like to engage with the life that shows up and see where it goes? 

    What does this look like? I think I sort-of understand, but would like to better understand what you mean.

    The two thoughts may be connected. Something about the story you have attached your sense of ego/self to is stopping you from ‘showing up’ to your life.  The practice of mindfulness (noticing without judging or labeling – we tend to attach our sense of self to our labeling and judging) and meditation (watching the cluttered mind while not attaching to it) can help in the task of letting go of our attachment to ego. (An ego remains, it what we communicate our experiences through, however the realization is that You are not your ego.)  The death of this attachment to ego frees you to be you.

    So, what would it look like to let go of the stories you have been attaching yourself to that have left you stuck and instead engage with Life as it shows up so that you might write a better story of which you are consciously the author?

    When you engage with life as it shows up everything is a possibility and your path will show itself.  That does not mean saying yes to everything that comes your way.  It means being honest with yourself so that when you do say yes or no it comes from an authentic place.  Not a place of fear, or expectations, or should s, or what will others think….


    Dear Janine:

    I think that the reason you don’t unpack your boxes, organize and clean your apartment (“My apartment is trash. I have empty boxes, trash, dishes, clothes that all pile up”) is because you are waiting for that fantasy mother who will do those things for you, unpack your boxes, throw away the trash, wash the dishes, fold and put away the clothes and then you and her make you dinner. Or better maybe, she will take you away from this messy apartment to her tidy home (“I often wish that some motherly woman would show up and take me home with her.. her and I making dinner together”).

    Like you wrote: “I am tired of being responsible for taking care of myself”, so quite angrily you are on a strike of sorts: you refuse to unpack, organize and clean. You will not do these things until your fantasy mother shows up.

    Your strike extends beyond organizing and cleaning your apartment. “Most days, I don’t do any class work at all”. You lie in bed, online shopping, watching YouTube videos.. waiting for that mother to show up.

    Half heartedly you set alarms on your phone throughout the day to remind you to do things, “to get out of bed.. to exercise.. to clean up”, but you ignored them all (“So far I have ignored them all”) because you are on a strike. Waiting for a redo of your childhood, waiting to go back in time and finally having the mother that you needed, instead of the mother that you did have.

    What do you think?



    hi anita,

    …Isn’t this what you wanted from therapy all along?

    I suppose so, yes. But it is true that I showed up with very little to work with. At the beginning, all I knew is that I felt lost, and did not know where to go from there. I have uncovered some more specific things about what I want since then. I still have a hard time knowing how I would want those things to become part of my life and what they would look like.

    I find what you said about me wanting a mother to be very interesting. quite angrily you are on a strike of sorts: you refuse to unpack, organize and clean. You will not do these things until your fantasy mother shows up

    …This especially, I had never thought of it this way. I can see it as a way of “calling out for help”… that someone would see the mess and  be able to tell that something is wrong. I am not sure how conscious I am about the anger I feel around it, but I am open to thinking about it more that way.

    When I think of the significance of having a mother around, I do not see it to have that much to do with the care taking.  I have thought about this before. I do not think I would be comfortable having someone do everything for me. I often feel quite guilty when things are done for me. My real mother did many house chores and would often use that to back up how much she cared, how she did everything for me, and how I just did not love or appreciate her despite her doing those things. I often did not like her washing my clothes or cleaning up my things. For example, I would hide my dirty laundry because I felt it was invasive when she would wash it for me. I would feel anxious when I realized she had come into my room and taken my laundry when I wasn’t there. I would try to wash clothes when she wasn’t home, and would even feel anxious about her moving my clothes from the washer to the dryer since I often did not get it done before she returned. I did felt appreciative under the nervousness and guilt, but never was fully comfortable with it. What do you think?

    I imagine if I did have the fantasy mother around, I would feel as if I was living my life for her/she would give my life meaning. I worry this is the wrong way to feel, but also I have heard other people say their mother is their number-one driving force in their life. A guy I met told me that his mother is what keeps him in school and keeps him from doing self-destructive things because he loves her and would never want to disappoint her. He told me that seeing her love for him and all she had done for him made him value his own life.  Something like this is what I think about.



    Dear Janine:

    Regarding your therapist, I don’t see how he has been helping you, and expecting you to .. lead him in the sessions, to direct therapy doesn’t sound right to me. You are only 21 and it is you who is the patient. He is the professional, an older person- he should lead you, gently, but lead you, not the other way around!

    Regarding the rest of your recent post: I don’t think that what I suggested to be your strike is about having your real-life mother come over, unpack your boxes, wash your clothes and so on. Of course not! I meant that your strike is about having the fantasy mother do these things. The fantasy mother will wash your clothes and you will not be repulsed by the idea. She will take care of you but not at all make you feel guilty, complaining about it and accusing you of being ungrateful and whatnot. Your fantasy mother is always kind to you and you can rely on it, depend on her to always be kind to you.

    You mentioned other people’s expressed experiences with their mothers. Focus on your experience. Mothers don’t come from the same mother-mold, different women make different kinds of mothers.



    Dear Janine,

    You lack self discipline and self control. But the excess of it is worrying in that you cannot shut it off to do things like attend class or clean your apartment. Those things tend to point to psychological complications.

    Too easily distracted with lack of impulse control tend to point to ADD (attention deficit disorder).

    Lack of impulse control regarding shopping tend to point to a shopping addiction.

    Excessive lack of control without the ability to discipline yourself might be impulse control disorder.

    If your main psychologist is only trained in psychotherapy, then it’s best to seek the counseling of someone who is trained in behavioral psychology. Those specialists are trained in understanding the driving force behind certain behavior and you’ll find that more helpful when seeking advice on why you can’t clean your apartment or why you can’t concentrate on class work. A neurologist might also be helpful in looking at the chemical aspect/wiring of your brain.

    But regarding the issues of your mother, you have self esteem issues since your mother made it your responsibility to feel indebted to her through most of your childhood. And if you don’t feel grateful to her, then you should feel ashamed of yourself, was the conclusion drawn or maybe outright expressed by your mother? Because for any child exposed to that constant ‘lessons on gratitude’, it’s what the child have learnt to feel regarding their parent(s). And that’s a heavy responsibility for a child still trying to understand themselves as a human being and navigating their way around the society they are a part of. But that’s what probably dominated most of your interactions with your mother and that is the feeling you associate with your mother; shame, disgrace, ungratefulness, guilt, trepidation and on. Hence, your fantasy of ‘the perfect mother’.

    You didn’t have a mother that supported nor encouraged you. You didn’t have someone who created a safe space of validation for you to validate yourself. You didn’t have a mother to have deep conversations about life. You didn’t have a mother on whom you could rely on emotionally. You didn’t have a mother who believed in you. So you’ve learnt to hate the person whom you desperately want ‘love’ from while wondering if you can’t have that sort of love for yourself. You want that love because you want support. But your mother will not be that person for you right now.

    Have you talked about your mother with your counselor? Have you been able to talk about your mother with anyone? Because it’s one aspect that you’ll probably need to process over and over again in your adult life.

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