May 10, 2006
BOOK THERAPY TWO
Last week we started a discussion of a book, The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho because as I noted, reading can sometimes be a means of helping us to alter our perspectives. This little book, about a young man's quest for meaning, can offer some gems if you can make yourself available to them of course. Our young hero Santiago has been made aware of the dream that lies within each person, the search for a "Personal Legend," by an old mysterious man, a wizard of sorts with biblical overtones. Inspired by this meeting, he sells his flock of sheep and travels across the straits to North Africa from his native Spain, all in search of a treasure that he'd been told in a dream, and confirmed by the mysterious man, exists for him in the shadows of the pyramids of Egypt.
Now he undertakes the journey, though in this time period, roughly the end of the 19th century, such a journey is fraught with trials and dangers. He is robbed of all his money on the first day and then finds work with a kindly merchant who sells glassware.
Now what Santiago has learned is that there are four obstacles in the way of anyone seeking to fulfill their personal legend. First, we are discouraged from believing in it by our families and culture in general. This is not usually meant in a mean way, but rather parents want their children to follow well-worn paths to some sort of security in life. When they exhibit desires that deviate from those paths, then pressures are brought to bear to discourage exploration outside of the well trodden roads to safe success.
So first you have to keep the dream alive and not let it be buried by the experience of growing up. The second obstacle is paradoxical in a way. It is love! It is connected with the first obstacle in the sense that we do not want in any way to hurt or disappoint those who seem to want the best for us. So we are likely, in the name of love, to abandon our quest. This can of course lead to our feeling disappointment and even resentment as we go along towards those we love because we feel we somehow had to make the sacrifice of our dreams in order to retain their love.
The third obstacle is a central one: fear! Fear is the acid that eats away at all forms of motivation and inspiration. We fear failure. What if we follow the dream, do all we can to our utmost and then fail? How will we feel then? Are we ready to deal with and accept the trials and defeats that inevitably will be part of our efforts to achieve our goals? Often we are not and we abandon our dream.
The last obstacle is related to the third, i.e. it is not fear of failure, but fear of success! Yes, we may fear feeling guilty for succeeding where others have failed, feel it is wrong for us to prosper and to enjoy the fruits of our dream while others languish, mired down in the earlier three obstacles. Often people snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory at the last moment. Where are you in this spectrum? How does our hero actually fare in his quest and struggle to find meaning? Well, that is for you to find out by actually picking up the book and reading it. Let me know what you think.
Frank Mosca Ph.D. is a marital counselor, life coach and teacher with a private practice in Hampton Bays and Garden City. His views can be seen at frankmosca.com.