Your Life Dream: Pleasure vs Deep Meaning (Freud vs Frankl)

  • This post is part of a #write31days series – click here for a list of other posts in the series Dare To Dream: Finding Your Dream (Again)

When people think about their ‘life dreams’, we often think of dreams to make our lives easier, or more enjoyable. When asked, “What is your dream?” (as we did in the previous post), many people answer “Win the lottery” or “Travel the world””Become famous”. There is nothing wrong with those answers. My first thought is that I would want to travel more. I love traveling, and I hope to have the opportunity to do more.

Who wouldn’t want that? It’s natural as humans (we’re all in this boat together), to think that having money or fame or the ability to travel where we want and buy what we want would make us happy. Yet how many stories have we heard about people who win the lottery and are more miserable than ever? Or the movie star with perfect looks and a multi-million dollar contract and a team of people working to meet their every need, yet they are still searching to fill the whole in their heart with a drug or alcohol addiction. Some even take their own lives in despair. Those who seem to ‘have it all’, as society would define it, are often still unhappy. Sometimes even moreso.

You may have all the money in the world, but on the otherhand you may also be plagued by friends and relatives and even strangers who just want a piece of you. That might make it hard to trust people and their motives. You may be able to travel the world, but if you area traveling alone, it might feel empty unless you have someone with whom to share your experiences. There is also value to having a safe place to land, to call home.

When we think of a life dream, it’s an easy go-to to think of things that bring us pleasure. Having a nice home, buying your dream car, winning the lottery, traveling the world, building a successful business or career. These things all might bring one pleasure. Sigmund Freud’s Pleasure Principle theorized that man’s core instinct is to seek pleasure and avoid pain. And that makes sense. Don’t we all want to be happy? to feel good? to experience pleasure? And of course we all want to avoid pain.

Recently I read, “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor Frankl, who challenges Freud’s Pleasure Principle. Or maybe I should say that he takes it a step deeper. Frankl believed that man wasn’t seeking pleasure first. He theorized that man’s core search was to find a deep sense of meaning. Frankl believed if a person can’t find meaning, they distract themselves with pleasure.

Let that sink in for a minute.

“When a person can’t find a deep sense of meaning, they distract themselves with pleasure.”    Viktor Frankl

That is a lot to ponder, I know.

So get that paper or notebook or tech device from yesterday. It’s time to think about another question.

The journaling question or meditation for today is this:

What gives your life meaning?

What are you most passionate about?

What sparks your heart to life, or puts a fire in your belly?

If you want to share your answer, please comment below or go to our Facebook page and comment there.



When Your Dream Has Died (or You Have Simply Forgotten How To Dream)

My life for the past couple of years has been about learning how to dream, and becoming brave enough to take a risk. We recently left our family, our friends, and great jobs to move across the country to a new city where we know no one, to start new jobs, and to start new lives. As if being empty nesters wasn’t enough of a change.

This whole process started a couple of years ago. I went to a conference that encouraged you to dream and to live a more purposeful life. Thankfully my husband of almost 30 years was on the same page, and we started exploring our hearts and looking at our passions and gifts, and we decided to be open to change. I started writing again, and we both decided to see where the path of being open to change would lead us, and here we are. My friends have been amazed that we would be willing to up and leave everything we loved. Many have said that they were jealous, and they wished that they were also brave enough to do a big ‘do over’ in their lives.

But when I dig deeper, I find people are scared to even talk about their dreams. At first I thought it was just women in my life station – middle age-ish women with grown kids. That made sense – we had spent the past eighteen-plus years raising kids, possibly juggling a career, and pouring much of our lives into being a wife and mom. Now that the kids are older and don’t need us as much – now what? For years our lives revolved around meal planning, school activities, homework, sports, laundry. Once those activities trickled to a close, we faced a vacuum. So in many ways, I understood how women in that life station had a hard  time remembering what it meant to dream. Heck, when I was in the midst of those busy years with tinies, I could barely remember to brush my teeth or shave my legs. Forget about dreaming big dreams.

But as I talk to people about living a new dream or pursuing a passion, I see a common thread. It is not just moms, or empty nesters, or even women. We have forgotten how to dream.

Maybe you had a dream, and it was crushed, and now you dare not dream again because you are so broken you are just surviving. Maybe you have been so busy with life – work, school, family, building a career, buried in a screen – that life just rushes by you and it doesn’t even occur to you that you could have a dream, let alone pursue it. Or maybe you have spent years in a role – mom, dad, boss, caregiver – and you have built your identity around that role so much that you have forgotten that there is a whole world out there. Maybe you have forgotten what it even means to dream. Or perhaps you don’t feel worthy of a dream. Maybe you have been in a relationship where you were not encouraged to dream or grow. Perhaps you were abused and told that you were not worthless, that you are not allowed to have feelings. How can a dream grow when it keeps getting smashed and crumbled to pieces?

Together we are going to look at what it means to dream, and how to find your purpose,  passion, and perspective. Short daily posts will ask questions to get you thinking, give you exercises to help you along the way, and share stories about what learning to dream looks like in other people lives. Sometimes we will laugh, sometimes we might cry, but hopefully we will all just learn together about what it looks like to find and follow a dream that will lead to a more meaningful, purposeful life.