The Meaning Under the Surface and How it Prevents You from Reaching Your Goals

Whether you’re aware of it or not, there is meaning that follows you around. It’s meaning about yourself. It impacts the decisions you make and the relationships that you’re in. However, we’re not always aware of the meaning and how it is impacting these things in our lives. These types of meaning are very important in the psychotherapy work that we do with our clients. 

The meaning that lingers can lead to voices that questions who we are and our worth. We can walk away with labels that we don’t identify with. We can develop negative feelings about ourselves. Therapists help people uncover these meanings and voice so that they can identify ways to live meaningful, connected lives. 

What makes this so important is that regardless of whether or not we decode these meanings, we’re often trying to prove them to be untrue. What is even worse is that when that proving doesn’t work out, we don’t let it go and try to do something else. We try even harder to prove the negative meanings to be wrong. Ironically, this can lead to major struggles with emotional, relationship, and behavioral problems (such as addictions). 

So why do we do this? It’s because it’s actually pretty logical to try to change things in this way. If you have a problem, change it… right? The problem is that this often does not work, which can ironically lead you to develop meaning about yourself that is even more critical. For example, if you’re failing at doing the logical solution, you must be [insert any bad comment about yourself here].

Here are examples of background meanings that can impact our lives and keep us from moving forward:

  • You’re a loser. 
  • You’re worthless.
  • You’re unlovable. 
  • You’re a failure.
  • You’re lazy.

Sadly, this is only the tip of the iceberg on what we can believe about ourselves. 

How can you become unaware of this meaning?

When I’m working with clients, they will often say “I logically don’t believe these things about myself.” And I believe them when they’re telling me this. The truth is that you don’t have to completely buy into these meanings for them to impact you. 

We are all impacted by how we grew up. Our families and our culture teach us lessons about success, worthiness, etc. So we often live our lives in a way to satisfy those lessons. However, we don’t always realize when we’re doing it because we’re so used to doing it! 

When these lessons actually line up with what we value, we don’t have problems. When they don’t line up, we can start to struggle in our lives. 

Many of us have also learned how to think rationally through things, which is also another good tool to have. Yet, when we are using rational thinking, we’ll often tell ourselves we don’t believe negative meanings about ourselves. This can happen even when we’re actually trying to prove those old negative meanings wrong. 

What does it look like when we’re reacting to these meanings?

There are a lot of negative situations we can end up in. We can stay in relationships we don’t want. We can avoid the vulnerability it takes to enhance our connections. We can become increasingly isolated and alone. 

But here’s the main thing to remember. You don’t have to erase these negative meanings to change your life. I would even tell you that you can’t entirely erase them. But just because you can’t erase them doesn’t mean that they’re true! 

Instead, you can identify what you want out of your life and establish goals to make that happen. Unfortunately, you’re not going to erase those voices by doing that. But you can also practice giving those voices less meaning and importance as well. 

Finally, you can share difficult emotions with your friends and loved ones. These meanings and voices can leave us feeling a lot of pain. However, we don’t have to try to outrun the pain. We can learn a lot from it, without letting it smother us. 

If you’re in the Dallas area and you’re looking for a therapist who can help you learn about background meanings and voices that impact your life, feel free to contact us