What’s the Point of Living?

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It’s a loaded question.  Like a cryptic social media post, it’s hard to tell if this is a cry for help or a random question to instigate a philosophical debate.  What is the person is asking in earnest?  What are they really saying?

  1.  “I feel like I’m useless; a burden to society.”  This is usually the voice of a people-pleaser, the giver, whose chronic illness or disability is preventing them from feeling useful. At the core of it, the person is saying, “I don’t feel like I deserve to be loved unless I’m constantly giving, and right now I can’t.”
  2. “I feel like nobody would notice if I’m gone.”  This is the voice of someone who feels they don’t belong to anyone or any community.  They’re really saying, “I don’t feel loved.”
  3. “I feel like nothing I do matters.” This person feels miserable or disappointed much of the time, because things haven’t worked out the way they wanted, or if they did, they’re still feeling hollow or incomplete inside. They’re really saying, “I don’t feel justice for what I’ve done and I think the world is a harsh, unforgiving place.”
  4. “Life is pointless”.  This can be an existential crisis whereby someone is really asking, “Why are we here?  I don’t believe love exists.”

For those that are spiritual, you can switch in “God” or “a higher power” for love.  If you believe that a higher power exists, loves you as you are, no matter what you have or have not done, and the love of this higher power is all-encompassing and forgiving, you probably won’t be asking this question.  It’s when you feel rejected by that higher power, ignored or punished by it, or question its existence that this question comes up.

Biologically speaking, we have a strong instinct to create strong attachments with others. Babies and youngsters are quite helpless and totally dependent on caregivers (parents, usually) for survival. The more nurturing and attentive the caregiver, and the stronger the bonds of attachment, the better chances for survival.  Animals that don’t raise their young have a very poor survival rate, such as baby sea turtles that get eaten on the way to the ocean and very few make it to adulthood. Human families usually only birth one child at a time, and raise them pretty much until adulthood, and sometimes stay together in multiple generations. Raising children involves more than just feeding, clothing and housing them.  It involves teaching them how to behave in society, teaching skills to be independent, and giving them a safe place to return to when life doesn’t go as planned.

Our early life experiences often dictate our views on life, love, attachment and spirituality. The people-pleaser commonly has the following background:  love was often withheld, or life was unstable.  Perhaps the parent couldn’t express love, didn’t bond with the child, was not physically or emotionally present, or not reliable as a caregiver. This child had learned to be independent at an early stage, and thinks that if they behave better, maybe the parent would love them more.  This is all in the perception in the mind of the child.  The parent may have been loving, attentive and reliable 90% of the time, but the child might have felt unloved temporarily when a younger sibling came onto the scene.  The child may also have an unconscious predisposition to neediness from a previous generation, a “hole in the heart” that needs huge inputs of love to fill.

The disconnected person (scenario #2) can have the same roots as the people pleaser, but has not found their actions can have any impact on the lack of attachment.  The unsatisfactory attachments from early life can lead the child to believe they are unable to develop better attachments, even later in life, and so that person can have a sense of alone-ness.

The third scenario is exceedingly common.  Common parenting strategies, like rewards, punishments, time-outs, and allowing natural consequences to occur has taught many children that love is conditional and the world doesn’t care about your intentions.  Underlying this lesson is the message that, “good things happen to good people” and “bad things happen when you don’t do what you’re told.”  The rule you’re meant to follow is generally, “listen to your parents; go to school and study hard; get a job, get a house, get married and have kids.  Do all this and you’ll live happily ever after.”   Girls also get this guideline from common fairy tales, “Be nice and beautiful and Prince Charming will marry you and you’ll live happily ever after.” What happens when you follow the rules, but don’t get the “happily ever after”?  You’ve studied hard, got a job, but it doesn’t pay enough to buy a house. You’ve gotten married, but it didn’t work out.  You could even “have it all” like beautiful, rich celebrities and still feel empty inside.

The existential crisis is an interesting one.  The person could have a good or troubling childhood.  They could be “hitting rock bottom” or coasting with an easy life. This person could be questioning their faith or never had faith in the first place. Life is seen as a series of random, unconnected events.  By saying “life has no meaning”, they’re really saying, “nothing has meaning”. Some will use this as a jumping off point to seek meaning, to seek faith.  Others stay here, saying, “There is no God.  There is no such thing as love.  We are all alone.”

When someone asks, “What is the point of living?” they’re really wanting to know, “What is my purpose in life? What can I do to bring meaning to my life?”  Very young children don’t have the brain development to think about this.  Their actions are purely reactionary and they impulsively do what comes to their minds. They also instinctively act in ways to encourage nurturing from others, like coming in for a cuddle.  Then, most of us are programmed to “follow the rules” to achieve material success, and do so unquestioningly.  Others are side-tracked by distractions and entertainment, such as TV, videogames, social media and addictions.  They opt out of the rules and spend life in a mindless daze. It takes a “time out” of the rat race, busy-ness and entertainment to ponder this question.

“What is the point of living?”  The people with the greatest conviction will say they do everything they do out of love for the children.  It can be their own children, their grandchildren, other people’s children, their “fur-babies”, helpless animals, or our ecosystem so future generations can have a world to live in.  The people who feel they’re using their time on Earth most productively are those engaged in projects to improve living conditions and raise the spirits of others here, near and far.  The point of living can be to fully experience love – with others and even with yourself.  When you honor the spirit of your own inner child, you are most capable of being free with your love to others.  It’s mostly through making attachments and strengthening them that our lives feel most meaningful.

What does this have to do with chiropractic?  A lot… if you let it.  A person with chronic or debilitating pain can feel a major loss of self-worth, especially if you’re a people-pleaser.  From a physical perspective, chiropractic adjustments can lessen pain and open nerve pathways to facilitate your inborn healing abilities.  Natural healing is evidence that there is an order to the universe; that not all events are random.  There is a benevolence in life in that even decades-old injuries and stresses might possibly turn around, given the right type of attention. Natural healing, however, can and does take time, especially if there are physical compensations, chemical toxicity or emotional overlays involved.  If you are willing to work through all these layers, not only can the current situation improve, but you can gain resilience and a new perspective on life.

Without suffering and a fatalistic view (everything is going to go bad, sooner or later), it is easier to connect with purpose and meaning in life.  You can be more effective at your career and at home. You can better enjoy your kids and other attachments.  Feeling more a part of the wider community and having more resources now available to you, it is easier to contribute to making this world a better place.  You can also be more content with your role in the world and let go of resentments that stand in the way of strong attachments. These changes are not the result of merely moving a few bones.  It’s about connecting on a deeper level, over time, with plenty of positive reinforcements and believing such an effect is possible.

Mental anguish and emotional pain are much more commonly the source of the question, “What is the point of living?”  There is often an endless loop of negative or self-defeating thoughts.  It’s a call for help.  These thought patterns get entrenched in the wiring of our nerves and create interferences to normal patterns.  You can become hyper-sensitive to and hyper-aware of negativity (anything that corroborates your negative views on the world or your self) and simultaneously oblivious or unbelieving of anything that may be neutral or positive. With ongoing chiropractic care, it is possible to reduce stresses on nerves and allow a better sense of self-awareness.  Hyper-sensitized nerves can calm down and dulled responses can perk up.  What might have seemed impossible, permanent and unsurmountable… now you may dare to hope.

If you’ve felt lost, the right community of positivity may help you find your way. We’ve seen evidence of that in how our community, plus dozens others, have come together in Love Has No Color to help the children of the Fort Peck Indian Reservation.  Half a century of being told “you’re worthless.  You’ll never amount to anything” has meant most people have given up on life, often without a fight.  Giving them handouts doesn’t change a thing to the entrenched hopelessness; it re-inforces their sense of helplessness.  Respecting their roots and forming positive attachments with the younger generation, however…  this is what empowers people to change their self-perception we’re seeing an amazing turnaround in the statistics, too: a dramatic decline in child suicides, murders, crime and drug addictions.

Are you looking for a meaningful way to make a difference I the lives of troubled kids?  Talk to Dr. Sabrina about joining us in our summer mission trip to Fort Peck.  Can’t come?  You can help support our mission by donating money to purchase backpacks with school supplies.  You can also refer in new patients to our office for a win-win-win situation.  Until July 30, 2019, all new patients can get a free assessment and report (325) with a donation to Love Has No Color at www.savethereservation.org.