Tell me what you yearn for and I shall tell you who you are

Jan 12, 2022

Tell me what you yearn for and I shall tell you who you are. We are what we reach for, the idealized image that drives our wandering. -James Hillman

Do you know what you yearn for?  Do you have a picture of what you are looking for? I am not talking about a big house or a trip around the world. Let’s go deeper. What fascinates you and draws you towards it? Maybe your picture of the security of a happy home? Maybe some kind of lighter and more playful world? What do your dreams look like? Have you lost touch with them?   

He walked into my office very discouraged.  Everything had fallen apart. Things had just gotten worse and worse lately.  He had believed the “contract.” If he was successful everything would work out.  Now everything that he knew that defined success was gone: his girlfriend, his health, his job, and his accomplishments. He had tried hard.  The “contract” had been broken. Everything important was lost. Now he felt worthless. He felt like nothing.  

Sometimes there are moments where your losses define you. They are all you can see and the melancholy sets in. Ok, you are sad but now what?  What’s next? What do we yearn for?  Have we forgotten what we yearn for? That still small voice of yearning, the only thing left, may be the most important part of who we are.   

Or maybe you haven’t even had any big noticeable loss lately but the world still feels pretty “flat and dull.” You start focusing on “functioning” or “surviving” in the world. Like clients that ask me to help them to “cope” with situations. Coping’s ok, it feels better than failure, but “cope” is a sad little limited word to me. It doesn’t give you energy and you can’t build a life on “coping.” What about the “big exciting pictures of life” that you had in your mind at point in your life before “reality” sunk in. This “reality” that was taught to you that you are defined by superficial stuff like what you have, or what you do, or what people say about you. That message starts to feels oppressive.  It’s an easy way for others to control you. Instead, what if you could really define your own original authentic self.  You don’t want to regret all your “unlived life” someday. You want to do what you were here for. You want to live your own life. OK, welcome to midlife crises energy!  

 I love Hillman’s question: “Tell me what you yearn for?” We start with that. What pictures do you have of future?  What feelings are you looking for?  How do you see yourself? There is a “pull” to this. Good questions lead us in our “wandering” and help us to connect with ourselves.  One of the main quests in therapy is to get rid of the beliefs that block us in answering these questions. When the blocks are knocked down, we can dig up these mental pictures and move towards them.  There is an incredible amount of energy that resides in these pictures waiting to be released. It is so much more powerful than motivating ourselves with fears by beating ourselves up.  It is the image that can fuel us, that can “drive our wandering” and help us to define ourselves.

 Paul, Connections Psychological