Can Pursuing Your Dreams Leave You Vulnerable To Depression?
Everyone has a dream; whether it be something pie-in-the-sky like building a rocket ship to Mars or something more humble like having a child. But very few people reflect upon what kind of affect their dreams have on their mental state.
More often than not, thinking about our dreams can make us feel fuzzy inside but at times we are left feeling sad, and this can develop into a depression.
When it comes to dreams, a depression is born out of the inner-conflict between our dreams (the end goal) and our reality (the present moment). The further these two things are away from each other, the stronger the depression becomes.
My name is Philip Andersson and the following article is based on the knowledge and experience I have accumulated over my years as a psychotherapist.
Losing Yourself In The End Result
This is something which a lot of people are guilty of doing.
When we think about our dreams (which is often) we tend to think about the satisfaction of achieving the dream. We may see ourselves landing on Mars or cradling our new born baby in our arms. This, of course, is very motivating but it takes us away from the present moment and as I mentioned earlier in this article the inner conflict between something that motivates us (in this case achieving our dreams) and the reality of us not having achieved it yet (us not reaping the rewards of our hard work) is a mental state in which depression can blossom.
Another thing to consider is the pressure this puts on the end result. The dream is essentially responsible for making us happy. Then, if we’re lucky enough to achieve our dreams, we will realize that 1) the experience is not as satisfying as we thought and 2) the experience is short lived. In other words, the inner-conflict period is long and the resolution period is very short. Then we are forced to come up with a new dream in order to motivate us and distract ourselves from the pain of the current moment.
What we need to do instead is to find joy in the process. We need to change what motivates us from being something which exists in the future to being something which exists in the present. This may involve changing our definition of joy and may even entail lowering our standards a bit. But by doing this, we will eliminate the inner-conflict permanently since we are no longer comparing a good situation in the future to a bad situation in the present.
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Pursuing A Dream For The Wrong Reason
Have you ever wondered why you are pursuing a particular dream?
A lot of the time, we embark on our journey towards self-fulfilment, thinking that we’ve drawn the map and chosen the destination by ourselves, when in actual fact we have been made to do so by someone else.
What I am trying to say here is that a dream can be more about healing from the pain of a broken relationship than a desire to achieve self-fulfilment. And by this I don’t mean that it has to be a specific relationship. We might want to build that rocket ship to Mars to show all the people that treated us badly what they’re missing out on. We might want to have that perfect family to show others that we’re deserving of it.
When we are pursuing a dream for this reason, we are unable to enjoy the process and the end result becomes more important. And as I mentioned earlier, comparing the end result to reality is what creates inner-conflict and depression.
One example could be being a writer. If we truly want to be a writer, we can enjoy the process of writing regardless of whether or not we receive accolades. But if we’re pursuing the dream to heal from the pain of a past relationship, we won’t be able to enjoy the process until we have received accolades. That is not to say that wanting to receive some sort of recognition is not natural, but if not receiving it is a deal-breaker then we’re doing it for the wrong reasons.
By reflecting honestly on the purpose of your pursuit, you will be able to stop yourself before you invest too much in a dream that exists for the wrong reasons.
The Illusion Of Control
I touched upon this in a previous article. When we are pursuing our dreams, be they being a successful entrepreneur, an athlete, a musician, a writer or having a good career, we are indoctrinated with the notion of “as long as we give it our all and don’t quit we will get there in the end”.
Whereas the intention of such as statement is to motivate us, the fact of the matter is that it leaves us entirely responsible for the end result of our pursuit despite the fact that there may have been external factors beyond our control that have affected the result.
For instance, we might get an injury, we might not have the budget to pursue our entrepreneurial dreams, we might have a boss who doesn’t like us for personal reasons or a company that isn’t interested in promoting from within etc. As you can tell there are many reasons why pursuing your dreams can go wrong that have nothing to do with you.
What’s important is to not allow the illusion of control to trick you into feeling that you are fully responsible for the end result. Otherwise, the sense of guilt that comes from being responsible will affect your self-esteem which will leave you more vulnerable to depression.