Friends and patients often ask me what are the most important issues to consider relating to our lives as humans (besides the basic needs of food and shelter)? Here’s what I answer: In my own personal long life and clinical practice, I have accumulated experience and wisdom as I have gone along. I came to consider the following of paramount importance. First, Structure. The second, social interactions and involvement. The third, meaning.
Let me explain: From a biological point, life just is. It is entirely up to us to organize our life under the circumstances we find ourselves in. If you are a person of faith then consulting the holy books – as each faith has one – you find guidelines there for structuring a relatively orderly life, providing you do not become a rigid ideologue hating your fellow humans because of different perceptions of God.
In the structure, rules, restraint, a sense of proportion, and discipline are important. If not imposed from within ourselves, outside structured rules assist us, as the social creatures that we are. An example; the emergency conditions during the war years in Europe, provided a structural sense of emergency for survival, thus depressions and addictions were practically unheard of. Structure and expectancy for certain behavior and mutuality and rules in a family are of paramount importance, especially in preparing the children for orderly and satisfactory lives later on as well. These rules provide a satisfactory enjoyable family life as well for them.
Second, interacting, contributing – lots of it – in the form of acts of affection and empathy and compassion, and being contributed with affection and companionship, from our fellow humans whether with the immediate family or your church groups, or in a hunting club, or in a political activity, and many others, we’re able to live a more balanced and happy life with fellow humans, social beings as we are made to be. After all, humans cannot be understood as alone units, but as components of a network of society. And remember fellow humans are not THEM. They are US! The tall, the thin, the obese, the dark skinned the one with the slanted eyes, the ones with a funny walk or talk! Just us. Just one species; us, for the entire world over.
The third one is meaning, a project, a hobby, a skill, a way of expanding continuous knowledge a passionate devotion thus creating an identity of belonging to something meaningful and satisfactory to our own perception of what each one of us is. And remember, freedom as citizens and as individuals is not license of ‘anything goes,’ of getting lax and loose, and disorderly. If we do, we end up confused unhappy and isolated, overweight, bored and with a feeling that life is a disease, instead of once in a life-time adventure as ought to be. Good luck!