Dear Dr. Norquist:
All my life I thought that the right way to live my life was to find a job, get married, raise a family and be a good Christian. Now that I’ve done that and my kids are grown, I’m suddenly realizing how narrow-minded and judgmental and how prejudiced my views have been. It’s really quite a shock to see myself in this way. I’m in my late 50s now. I need to change the way I’m living my life, but I’m not sure how. I don’t know if very many people could relate to what I’m feeling – but I thought you might understand, from reading your other responses. I’m very lost right now, ironically in the midst of my stable, predictable life.
Dr. Norquist responds:
Moving through each phase of our life is like stepping through a portal into a whole new perspective of what life is about. This is most apparent upon entering adolescence and again upon becoming a parent. All of a sudden, our view of the world shifts and we see the world from a startlingly fresh perspective. Suddenly we are amazed at the clarity this new perspective sheds on matters we overlooked or took for granted before entering this phase of life. Perhaps this analogy fits your current experience.
This is a momentous time. You have over 50 years of wisdom gathered as a result of your life experience. You’ve successfully navigated your way to this point in life. Successfully working, marrying and raising children to adulthood is no minor feat! The completion of this phase of your life allows you the openness for entertaining a fresh perspective.
I believe any move from a judgmental, prejudiced perspective to a more inclusive perspective is a positive one. Be kind towards yourself regarding your new awareness about your old perspective. It is the way of the mind to judge. This is how we categorize and make sense of the world. This is how we get our bearings in the world.
You are in a position now to view life from a larger perspective than that which you lived earlier. Can it be OK to not know what the truth is regarding the way we “should” live our lives? Do you have to find another belief to organize your life around? Perhaps this is a good time to look around and just notice the myriad ways people choose to live and the myriad beliefs and perspectives that support these beliefs. Take a look at history and at other cultures and languages. Who are we to say that our current culture’s beliefs are the “right” or correct ones?
Take time to listen to the new understandings that are emerging for you – the ones that show you that your views have changed. Pay attention to what feels right to you now. By doing this patiently over time you will find you will discover a new perspective that more closely matches who you are now.
(Dr. Sallie Norquist is a licensed psychologist (NJ #2371) in private practice and is director of Chaitanya Counseling Services, a center for upliftment and enlivenment, in Hoboken.) Dr. Norquist and the staff of Chaitanya invite you to write them at Chaitanya Counseling Services, 51 Newark St., Suite 202, Hoboken, NJ 07030 or www.chaitanyacounseling.com or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by fax at (201) 656-4700. Questions can address various topics, including relationships, life’s stresses, difficulties, mysteries and dilemmas, as well as questions related to managing stress or alternative ways of understanding health-related concerns.Ó 2017 Chaitanya Counseling Services