I spend a lot of time in the library. At the school where I teach, the librarians know me and are always looking for faculty suggestions. But I was surprised when the librarian at the New York Public Library recognized me. He was curious about why I delve so deeply into positive psychology. I told him how I help overwhelmed families and individuals learn how to use their strengths to live fulfilled lives. He asked me if I work with post traumatic stress sufferers. I told him that I work with the people who love and care for them.
He began to tell me all about his sister. She is married to a Viet Nam vet. The man has been suffering with flash backs and off and on substance abuse for 40 years. He told how she has sought help from therapists who have explored her issues with resentment.
How terrible! Is it normal for her to feel her own resentment? Of course! That should hardly be made into an “issue.” I pointed out that in most circles she would be considered a hero with great strengths! Here is a woman who has supported a wounded veteran with all her heart and soul, time and money for many decades. And one would have the “chutzpah” to find issues!
Some weeks later the woman called me. It wasn’t difficult to identfy her strengths and virtues. It was much more work for her to begin to identify her own personal goals- she had focused for so long on others. Once she began to experience celebrating attainment of short term family goals she began to allow herself to plan for her own pleasure.
She felt like she lost her life in her late twenties. Now, in her sixties, she is planning for a new beginning. By building on strenghts and incorporating her virtues she is able to make a life for herself without being overwhelmed by her continuing struggle to support her husband. And she reports that her husband has more productive times as well.
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