I hated vegetables as a child. The only way I would allow them to pass my lips was in the form of vegetable soup. Combining many ingredients made the individual items palatable, tasty. The sum was greater than the parts. Today I love almost all vegetables, but I still like to make vegetable soup on a regular basis. I like the result of combining many ingredients and coming up with a unique creation and flavor. I almost never make it the same way twice, yet, by adjusting the balance and the spices, I can make it tasty and satisfying every time.
Lately, as a therapist and as a constantly evolving individual, I find myself thinking of life as soup, as a combination of many diverse ingredients, that, once balanced and spiced carefully, can be quite tasty, nutritious, and satisfying. This perspective on life has largely replaced my former way of looking at life as a set of problems. I think of that approach as the “what is wrong with me” or the “pathology” approach to life.
Ingredients in life’s soup include our genetics, all our experiences from early childhood to now (whether we like the experiences or not), our innate talents, and our formal and informal education. In the spice category I include emotions, passions, and spirituality. I once heard a TV talk show host say that she was always in trouble in school for being hyperactive. Yet her high energy level and need for constant stimulation made her very successful in her occupation. I used to hate the fact that I am short in stature. Once I added dancing to my soup, I discovered that my height is often an asset on the dance floor. Viktor Frankl used his horrible experiences in a Nazi concentration camp to write his wonderful book, Man’s Search for Meaning.
Pathology exists and must be addressed on a micro level. What I am talking about is the big picture: cooking up a delicious pot of soup.