Who will you be when you grow up?

„I’m losing my will,“

„I can’t set goals for myself,“

„I feel empty,“

„Every day is the same, I don’t know what to do.“

Clients can call their worries by various names. But I believe, more than most therapists might think, clients often talk about their search for meaning. Is this search part of the answer to why we find stories like „The Christmas Carol“ so interesting, where the main character abruptly changes his course of life on Christmas Eve. Or those attractive ideas where we also suddenly meet the love of our life in one day, which completely changes the course of our lives. Or even, finding people with a „gift“ that removes „something“ in a few movements and we are born again. What do these stories have in common, I wonder. One thing is for sure, the idea that everything can be turned aroundwith a magic wand. This rarely happens in life. And when it does, I believe that even then the result did not emerge in the middle of the night, but as a consequence of longer, quieter and patient work at hand.

The second idea is that apart from having to be lucky for our „turnaround“, we don’t have to do much. This also rarely happens. There is no something for nothing. Except when we’re kids. And sometimes not even then. That puts us in another inconvenient situation. Even if something happened (pay attention to the words „something happened“ – again, it is not us who does it, but someone or something else) the responsibility for well-being is not ours. Not for the satisfaction of success, either. Nor for the growth of self-confidence and self-esteem. Again, useless. We remain in the position of a child. So even if, by some miracle, satisfaction comes, our position as a child remains. We are not in charge then, it is essentially someone else. We are not the creators of our lives but obedient or rebellious children waiting for other creators to decide their fate. More correlations are coming to me, but the one that inspired me to write this is now the most important to me – the need and search for meaning. I was surprised myself at how many stories this topic stands behind. At some point I could say it stands behind every one of them. We live in a world that is quite devoid of inner meaning. Our task, as many therapists of this subsection say, is to find (and we do) that meaning is resistant enough to sustain life. The job of the therapist is to help clients along the way. And while in the background of my thoughts I hear the voice of the educators asking „how“ the idea of Jalom’s answer comes to me – through constant search, engagement, questions, searches. Our job as a therapist is to help identify and remove obstacles to the client’smovement. To be able to start, to immerse oneself in life, and not in one’s defenses, to embark on a path (of individualization). Simple „you can do it“ is not enough and that is why the therapeutic process exists.

Backstage of everyday life

When you were a child, you have been asked what you want to be when you grow up. Maybe even who you want to be. What you do and what you are. And no matter how abstract this question may seem to some, take a look – it is hidden in much more banal questions and topics. What you choose to do every day, how you feel, whom you love, what you strive for, do you have ideals, are they really yours, what you think about while doing chores, what you feel, do you ask for approval, for what, whose approval. The topic certainly is beautiful, sometimes even difficult and broad. But the search does indeed make it, so let’s not forget that and don’t mask it with other more banal things, if it is not really necessary – Many client topics are the consequences of a crisis of meaning.

Every crisis is a chance for development. The therapist’s job is to help along the way, and the client’s is to make it just that. –

Ivana Paunovic


Integrative psychodynamic psychological counselor,

psychotherapist and educator- OLI Center