“Suffering is wasted when we suffer entirely alone.” -Thomas Merton, No Man is an Island, p.85
There is a myth in our modern culture that we got to make it on our own. A month ago, I was working with a bright young man in his early twenties. Tommy (not his real name) has a passion for the arts and literature. He hasn’t been able to sustain meaningful employment. He was struggling with bouts of depressed mood, existential crisis, and what I would call “analysis paralysis.” We hit it off well when we started, as we shared our deep love for the creative field. But I had a sense that he wasn’t too keen to continue. I wasn’t the first therapist he has seen. It was under the insistence of his mother to seek help. I broached this openly with him, asking if he would like to collaborate further in our work together to help him out of this rut, and he confirmed my hunch. He went on to tell me something important, that is pervasive in our modern culture: “Daryl, thanks, but no thanks. I think I got to do this on my own.” I began to understand that this wasn’t just an issue with not wanting to seek help in therapy, but rather, he was buying that myth of independence across all aspects of his life; he was alone. He had no help in guiding, coaching, and feedbacking with him in his literary work. He had no pastoral or community to walk with him in his journey of faith. He has cut off from friends since his was bullied in secondary school.
I suspect that this notion that we got to make it on our own is fueled by what we read in self-help books, popular media, and maybe even in biographical accounts of iconic personalities. When we think of successful people in the limelight, we are enamored by their achievements. They make even inspire us to persist in our dreams and aspirations. What we fail to realise is that we often only see the fruits of their labor. We see their outputs and not their inputs. What we also fail to see is the community of others that has helped them to reach great heights. In turn, we begin to value the myth of independence.
What we fail to realise is that we often only see the fruits of their labor. We see their outputs and not their inputs.