The four coordinates of self-discovery


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The four coordinates of self-discovery.

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Counselor.

Your journey of self-discovery requires a map.

You will spend more time during your life with yourself than with any other person. So it makes sense to spend some of that time exploring yourself, who you are, and what life experiences made you think, feel, and behave the way you do.

One aspect of the self is your personality. It’s important to explore your personality and the life events that may have influenced your development of a sense of self. But the self is not an island. It’s more like a river that is constantly flowing downstream until it finally reaches the sea of destiny.

As you take the journey of self-exploration, there are four cardinal influences, like the four directions found on a map. These four factors influence how your personality develops from early childhood until late adulthood. Examining these factors can help show you where you are and what direction you should go in your effort at self-exploration.

Your relationships shape you.

Relationships are systemic influences. They will affect every other part of your life. The process of getting into and of leaving relationships changes you. By relationships here, I’m not restricting myself to your primary sexual relationship.

For good or bad, we have relationships with everyone we interact with. One of the most challenging relationships you’ll ever have to navigate will be your relationship with your exes. Romantic partners may come and go, but baby’s Mamas and daddies are forever. Even after you end a relationship, that time you spent with that other person leaves its mark on you.

One part of self-examination is to look at the relationships you’ve had, the friendships, the romantic relationships, and the people you met you decided you were better off without. Examine those relationships. Why were you attracted to this person? Was there a reason why you selected them for a friend? Or for a lover? Who you spend your time with and why tells you a lot about yourself.

Those bright shiny objects, meaning, purpose, and mastery.

Just like our attraction to people, we all have objects and activities that grab our attention. One of the most important things to discover about yourself is what gives your life meaning and purpose. Those important characteristics may be grand items like saving the planet are there might be many more personal ones like a collection of photographs of all the places on the planet you have visited.

One crucial human need that is often overlooked is the quest for mastery. Mastering something, no matter what it is, adds to your self-worth. When was the last time you took up a new hobby or practiced a new skill? Think about taking a class just for fun or picking up a new hobby.

Consider also what motivates you.

To understand what drives you get clear on your values. Be very careful about the mountains you choose to climb. A common calamity in life is getting to the top of whatever mountain you decided to climb and realizing you have been climbing the wrong peak.

More time and effort may result in more money in the bank, but it won’t be very satisfying if what you valued the most was the relationships with your partner and your children.

Significant life events can reshape your personality.

Who we are is massively impacted by the times we live in. Growing up during the Great Depression produced a very different group of people than those who grew up during World War Two. Even two people who lived through the same period in history may have experienced it in very different ways.

Consider whether you were in college during the Vietnam War or whether you joined the army and experienced that conflict firsthand. How is your life been altered because your parent or grandparent lived through one of these significant events?

The many aspects of the self.

One exercise I suggest to clients in my therapy practice is to write their autobiography. Start with the very first memory you have in life. Often this will be a picture from the time before you had the words to remember a story. Next, you should think about various events in your life you can reexamine them. Did something someone said to you in elementary school change your opinion of yourself?

As your work on your life review, examine the many roles you’ve played and how they have shaped who you are today. Many of the things that you do today automatically are the result of habits you developed early in life. Do you want to keep those habits? Would your life be better if you created a new habit to replace one of the old habits that are no longer working for you?

Look for one of those lists of 50 questions to ask someone on a first date. Go through the list and see how you would answer each of those questions. Charting where you are now and how you’ve gotten here can help you set a new direction for whichever way you want your life to go in the future.

Does David Joel Miller see clients for counseling and coaching?

Yes, I do. I can see private pay clients if they live in California, where I am licensed. If you’re interested in information about that, please email me or use the contact me form.

Staying in touch with David Joel Miller.

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

For more information about my writing journey, my books, and other creative activities, please subscribe to my blog at

Seven David Joel Miller Books are available on Amazon now! And more are on the way.

For more about my books, please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

For information about my work in mental health, substance abuse, and having a happy life, please check out

For videos, see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel

Finding yourself – the search for you

Searching for yourself.
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Finding yourself – the search for you

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Who are you?

Trying to find yourself is a challenging task. I remember back in the 1960s when a large portion of the student body at the local college and colleges everywhere were psychology and/or sociology majors. In retrospect, I think that most people were either trying to figure out who they were or they were trying to fix what was wrong with them.

In these uncertain times, with the world changing yet again, it’s never been more important to get a clear picture of who you are and what really matters in life. Let’s look at some of the challenges you face when trying to find yourself.

One personality test won’t define you.

It’s tempting to try to divide people up based on one or more theories of personality. We used to try to define people by specific personality characteristics. For example, you could take a test and find out if you are an introvert or an extrovert. Increasingly we find the answer to who you are is much more complex than one or even a dozen personality tests.

The characteristics we use to describe personality are far more likely to be on a continuum rather than discrete categories. People are extroverted in certain situations but behave more like introverts in others. You may be anywhere along the continuum of introversion – extroversion, or you might be better described as an ambivert, someone who sometimes likes to be around others and other times needs to be by yourself.

Who you are will change as you grow.

Long-term research has also shown us that personality types are not fixed. Basic personality characteristics change slowly across the lifetime. One research article I read suggested that changing a personality characteristic takes about five years of intensive work. On the other hand, reading a book such as Learned Optimism and following the principles can change your level of optimism in a very short time.

The basis of cognitive behavioral therapy is that changing your thinking results in a change in feelings which will alter how you behave. Those connections also work in reverse. Changing your behavior, say you start exercising more frequently, will begin to change your feelings, and those new feelings we’ll begin to alter your thinking.

Whether you prefer the Big five personality characteristics, Myers Briggs categories, Enneagrams, Character strengths and virtues, or attachment theory, there’s much more to defining yourself than selecting a label from a theory.

You can’t define yourself by your occupation.

There was a time when almost everyone could answer that they were a farmer. Some families, for generations, would define themselves as soldiers. Today our occupations are much more diverse, but still, if you ask most men, they would define themselves by their occupation. We have subdivided the occupation of merchant into many categories. Is anyone hoping to become a redsmith or a cordwainer?

Women used to routinely describe themselves by their relationships. They were either a wife or a mother or both. Over the last 100 years, more or less, the options for what women could do has expanded. With more choices than ever before, it has become difficult for many women to define who they are.

In your life, you will fill multiple roles.

Who you are will be both defined and shaped by the roles you fill. In various settings, you will perform the tasks of these various roles. You will spend a certain amount of your life as a child, an adolescent, an adult, and eventually a senior citizen. The role of senior citizens is changing also. In your lifetime, you are likely to also be a student and possibly a teacher. Most of us become relationship partners, and many people will fill the role of parents.

Roles such as parents are becoming increasingly nuanced and harder to define. Parenting goes beyond being a mother or father. Some people also become stepparents or spend part of their lives in a blended family.

During various times in your life, you may be called upon to be an employee, a supervisor, a manager, or a business owner. While none of these roles is the whole of who you are, filling those roles can shape or define your understanding of yourself.

You’re not your problems or disorders.

The more we learn about neurodiversity, the more we realize that everyone has potential that can be developed and that we all have challenges to overcome. We should think of people as more than the sum of their challenges.

It’s better to think of people as someone with bipolar disorder or who has depression or experiences anxiety rather than the bipolar or depressive or whatever other label might be applied based on your challenges or disabilities.

How do you define yourself?

Spend some time learning about who you are. While you’re going to be you for your entire life, that person has the potential to change and grow.

Staying in touch with David Joel Miller.

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

For more information about my writing journey, my books, and other creative activities, please subscribe to my blog at

Seven David Joel Miller Books are available on Amazon now! And more are on the way.

For more about my books, please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

For information about my work in mental health, substance abuse, and having a happy life, please check out

For videos, see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel

Three life questions you need to answer.

Questions you should ask yourself. Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

The answers to these three questions can change your life.

To figure out your path in life, you need to figure out where you’re going. Some people get lost along the way and end up in therapy, trying to find themselves. I’ve come to believe that the first task ought to be finding the answers to three basic life questions. Throughout this coming year, I want to talk a little bit about those questions and how you go about finding the answers to them.

Resolutions are not the way to go.

This is the time of year a lot of people are making New Year’s resolutions. I fear that if I don’t get this published quickly enough, you will already have broken some of those resolutions. Some of those resolutions are external. Habits you want to change and things you want to accomplish.

Most resolutions fail because they specify a result rather than a process for reaching that result. Resolving to lose a certain number of pounds, get out of debt, get more education all sound like great goals. There will be plenty of articles throughout the universe I how to reach these goals. It’s usually missing from all of that is any discussion about if when you arrive at that goal, if you ever do, will you be happy? Will it have been worth the effort?

For most people paying off the debt only opens the door to creating more debt. Losing the weight may make you healthier if you can keep it off, but most people don’t keep it off because the process of dieting makes them miserable. Many people get more education expecting that to lead to higher income and more happiness only to find they don’t like the job there now qualified for.

Why can’t people find the answers to creating a happy life?

Despite a higher standard of living and more material possessions today than ever before in the history of the world, we also see more mental and physical illness. Looking for something external to make you happy is looking in the wrong place.

The idea that someone who is miserable can achieve happiness by finding the right romantic partner often turns out badly. It’s common for people to go through multiple failed relationships wondering why they always connect with the wrong partners. Eventually, some of those people, by trial and error or as the result of personal counseling and therapy, discovered that the answer to their questions isn’t external, but it’s internal. If you need to change something in your life, that change will need to take place inside you.

As I’m writing this, I’m thinking of all the things I’d like to talk to you about. I hope I’ve learned a few things through the years, and one of the major lessons I’ve learned is that the journey of self-awareness is an ongoing process. So here are the three essential questions I think you need to consider; otherwise, everything else you’re doing may be wasted effort.

Who are you?

Ask most people who they are, and their immediate answer will be a job title. I’m a teacher, an accountant, a clerk in the store, or some other occupation. Take that job away, whether by unemployment or disability, and suddenly the person must figure out who they are when they don’t do that job anymore.

Other people define themselves by their relationships. Traditionally that was more the way women define themselves. Ask a woman who she was, and she would say she was Mrs. so-and-so. Or she might tell you that she was this boy or girl’s mother. This is changing as more men define themselves by their relationships, and more women see themselves as professionals in an occupation. Both things are important for people’s understanding of themselves.

While your occupation and relationships are important, who you are is so much bigger than both of those.

Who do you connect with, and how, and why?

Relationships can enrich your life, but they can also impoverish it. A recurrent theme in therapy is why people keep getting into the same dysfunctional relationships. Someone who grew up in an alcoholic home falls in love with Ethel alcohol or marries an alcoholic.

People from dysfunctional homes frequently enter relationships with other people who have those same dysfunctions. One name for that losing yourself in your relationships is codependency. There’s a lot of codependent people out there. The way they eventually escape their codependency, if they ever do, is not by learning more and more about the dysfunctional person in their life but by learning more about themselves.

What gives your life meaning, and purpose?

Last week I wrote a blog post about what gives your life meaning and purpose. You might want to look at that post. I suppose it’s entirely possible to have several things that fill your life with meaning and purpose. It’s also likely that the thing that gives your life meaning or purpose at various points in your life may change.

What I’m getting at here is it’s far more critical to learn about your relationship with money and debt and decide how that affects the rest of your life than it is to go on a tight budget for a month or two to get out of debt only to end up back in debt again.

As we move through the year 2021, I want to talk to you about some of the implications of these three big life questions and how you might go about finding the answers to them. I’m continuing to learn more about my answers to these questions through research and living life.

If any of this interests you, maybe you will want to subscribe to this blog. Feel free to leave a comment or use the contact me form. Whatever the challenges this year, let’s all work on making 2021 the year to get straight on what matters.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Seven David Joel Miller Books are available now!

My newest book is now available. It was my opportunity to try on a new genre. I’ve been working on this book for several years, but now seems like the right time to publish it.

Story Bureau.

Story Bureau is a thrilling Dystopian Post-Apocalyptic adventure in the Surviving the Apocalypse series.

Baldwin struggles to survive life in a post-apocalyptic world where the government controls everything.

As society collapses and his family gets plunged into poverty, Baldwin takes a job in the capital city, working for a government agency called the Story Bureau. He discovers the Story Bureau is not a benign news outlet but a sinister government plot to manipulate society.

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Dark Family Secrets: Doris wants to get her life back, but small-town prejudice could shatter her dreams.

Casino Robbery Arthur Mitchell escapes the trauma of watching his girlfriend die. But the killers know he’s a witness, and they want him dead.

Planned Accidents The second Arthur Mitchell and Plutus mystery.

Letters from the Dead: The third in the Arthur Mitchell mystery series.

What would you do if you found a letter to a detective describing a crime and you knew the writer and detective were dead, and you could be next?

Sasquatch. Three things about us, you should know. One, we have seen the past. Two, we’re trapped there. Three, I don’t know if we’ll ever get back to our own time.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

For videos, see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel



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Sunday Inspiration.     Post by David Joel Miller.

“Many a book is like a key to unknown chambers within the castle of one’s own self.”

― Franz Kafka

“Through pride, we are ever deceiving ourselves. But deep down below the surface of the average conscience, a still, small voice says to us, something is out of tune. ”

― Carl Gustav Jung

“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.”

― Rumi

Wanted to share some inspirational quotes with you.  Today seemed like a good time to do this. There are an estimated 100,000 words in the English language that are feelings related. Some emotions are pleasant, and some are unpleasant, but all feelings can provide useful information. If any of these quotes strike a chord with you, please share them.

Look at these related posts for more on this topic and other feelings.

Emotions and Feelings.


Who are you?

Sunday Inspiration    Post By David Joel Miller.

Who are you?

Finding who you are.

Who are you?
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“Do you want to know who you are?

Don’t ask. Act!

Thomas Jefferson

Wanted to share some inspirational quotes with you.  Sunday seemed like a good time to do this. If any of these quotes strike a chord with you please share them.