My problem is that I have no idea who I am. I feel lost and desperately need guidance.
I am an 18-year-old male, I just graduated, I live at home with my family at the moment and am going to enroll in college classes in the fall. I am the youngest of 4 children and the only boy. Two of my older sisters live at home as well. My parents have been separated since I was one and my mother has raised me. I've never really had one home as we moved around a lot throughout my life.
Reply by Coach Doris Jeanette
My problem is that I have no idea who I am. I say problem because I already know it's not really a question you can answer but something I have to find myself but I feel lost in a way and desperately need guidance. I for so long have put on an "act" of what I feel everyone wanted me to be or what I feel was less of a burden to anyone, but now I just don't know who I am anymore. I'm not happy because I don't know what makes me happy anymore and it frustrates me because that should be a question with a simple answer, but for me it's something I just can't grasp.
I find myself becoming a recluse. I try to avoid social situations because now that I am aware that I don't know who I am, it's become harder for me to try to be someone I am not and every time I do I feel even more unhappy. At the same time though, not being around people and being alone makes me unhappier as well. I'm burrowing myself into a hole of sadness that I know will be extremely hard to get out. I'm completely aware of it and I know ways I could get myself out but then I'd sacrifice finding out who I really am as well as being truly happy and not just content.
I've also tried talking to family and friends about my dilemma but they either gave me a "I don't know" answer, or they just walked away not saying a word about what I talked to them about. As well, when I think about it, or try to ask myself big questions, my mind seems to give me answers from so many perspectives but I never get the answer of what I would do.
Your problem is a universal human problem. No matter what culture children grow up in, they learn what they "should do" and "should not do." As an adult they do not take the time or spent the energy to discover what they really do want to do and what they do not want to do. Many do not even ask the questions you are asking.
Thousands of years ago the Greeks chiseled on their temples the words, "Know Thyself." The Classical Greeks spent their life listening to their inner voice, following oracles and respecting the psyche, which means the soul.
In contrast, humans in 2010 look outward for answers in drugs, gurus, relationships, sex and money. This is one of the major reasons I do not like traditional psychology as it is practiced in the USA today. American psychologists and physicians often tell you what is healthy or unhealthy instead of encouraging you to listen to your own inner voice like Socrates did.
Currently, you put on an "act" and present to the world an image that is based on what you learned. This is what I call the ego. As a result you are depressed. And I can tell you that you will never be happy, fulfilled or satisfied as long as you live solely in your ego.
In order for you to find real answers to your real problems you need to stop listening to your ego and listen to your heart and soul.
As you said, you do know what is best for you and you do know what you need to do with your life. However you do not know how to tell the difference between your ego and your authentic self.
While there is a huge difference between the energy of the ego and the energy of the authentic self, it is hard to tell the difference until you learn to feel, read and sense the flow or lack of flow of energy. The ego is so sneaky it often masquerades as your true self! This is the reason talk therapy and psychobabble are not very helpful in finding out what your heart really wants, needs and desires. You have to feel the difference in the energy to know the difference between what you learned and who you really are.
When you are in the middle of a messy maze of energy it is hard to find your way out. However, it is very interesting that you are aware of being untrue to yourself. This is fantastic! This awareness is the first step out of your ego and depression. In addition, the discomfort you feel is a very healthy sign that you are motivated enough to be successful in leaving your ego behind.
I suggest you stop spending your time alone in depression. Instead, spend your time learning how to feel the difference between your ego and your authentic self so you are clear about what you really want, need and desire. Then you will be able to take the actions which will lead to your heart's desires.
For starters read Robert Bly's "A Little Book on the Human Shadow" - and find some skillful energy teachers who can teach you to feel the energy difference between the voice of your ego and the sounds of your authentic self.
Doris Jeanette, Psy.D. is the director of the Center for New Psychology and author of Opening the Heart, a guide through the learned ego energy to your authentic self. Learn the difference between the the controlled ego, the out of control ego and the true energy of your heart. Find and follow your emotional self to your soul. Cultivate Life! readers get a 30.00 coupon off the regular price of 97.00. Put HEART in the coupon box when you check out. Read more and order online here.
Read more questions on this topic
To the reader:
We welcome your perspective on this important question. Email us your personal experiences, views and advice—your comments will then be added below...
Warwick Begg comments, June 2010:
Thanks, Doris, for your glowing wisdom over the years. I agree resoundingly that the young man's issue is "normal."
Young Man... I can remember at 18 saying to relatives and anybody who showed interest in me that I was "waiting for my personality to consolidate itself." It was a painfully insecure and lonely time. Not everyone will have quite this sensitivity, and while giving your life an added and difficult challenge, the very sensitivity which highlights uncertainty and fear in your early years will be a blessed tool towards perceiving and empathising with the true needs of your fellow humans in later years. This is a rich gift.
I understand this world to be a school, a training ground for achieving depth and wisdom (which feel excellent). Each spark of Universal Intelligence, each spirit, enters a physical body much as you would take on a persona in a computer game (WOW, etc.- great!). We cannot possibly expect to know everything from the start. The object is to PLAY the game, to hone our skills, gain insight into the parameters, and see what happens! Now, also, I understand that we plan a basic itinerary of our lives (destiny) so as to maximize gain from said life. No mistakes, just useful experience.
You may TRUST your life path, to teach you the best stuff as hard as you can go. As Doris said, listen to your heart (intuitive, deeper intelligence). The mind is a useful tool, but left alone in a quiet space will buzz us into knots unless we use up its energy out in the world, and perhaps also learn to kick it into neutral through meditation - checkout fabulous Einstein quote at top of this June 23rd newsletter: "The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and have forgotten the gift."
Get outta da house, do some fun stuff however childish or wacky, try to seek out like-minded people (e.g. join a UFO club!), expect help from the Universe and you will find that the resulting crazy adventures will start to give you a feeling of who you are, by doing, rather than thinking. "You definitely ain't alone, kid," as alien as you may feel.