Defining You

In varying degrees, we tend to define our selves in vulnerable places. Temporal locations, such as our physical health, our occupational status, our money, and so on.

During times of inevitable loss, we may therefore break down. That’s when we’ve used or relied on those shaky locations for our self-definition.

A client, Vic, retired from being CEO of a company he founded after undergoing brain surgery. He went through deep depression. Once his title was gone, he felt useless or don’t matter any more.

Sure, his board members who took over the company still consulted him. They remained happy to engage with him socially. Yet for Vic it was a difficult adjustment.

Psychiatrist Dr. Robert Peck, in his book “Psychological Developments in the Second Half of Life,” wrote:

“Some people cling to physical powers, both as their chief ‘tool” for coping with life, and as the most important element in ... their self-definition. Since physical powers inevitably decline, such people tend to grow increasingly depressed, bitter, or otherwise unhappy as they grow older.”

It’s dangerous to rely on our physical powers for self-definition. The same upon our occupation or business. It too falls away in time.

This temporal self-definition is what I want to address always in therapy. It does not serve us.