Now he's trying to find a direction. The second quality that consolations will always point toward is intimacy. Research in positive psychology points out that happy, peaceful people work hard to make their relationships as strong and healthy as they reasonably can (Seligman, 2004). Our Catholic tradition agrees that strong, healthy, intimate relationships are a critical part of living a healthy, abundant life. God did not create us to be alone (cf. Gen 2:18). A major theme of Saint John Paul II's Theology of the Body is that, from the very beginning, God created us for communion. In fact, our job as Christians is to spend this life developing our capacity for intimate relationships with others so we can spend eternity in joyful union with God and the entire communion of saints. In preparation for this heavenly destiny, the Holy Spirit will always whisper consolations in our heart that encourage us to choose to make our relationships healthier and, where it is safe to do so, deeper. Tim and Jay worked together in the same company. Tim was responsible for sales and Jay was responsible for the service department. There had been historic problems between the two departments, and a cold war had polarized them into two separate camps. As a consultant to the company, it was my task to see if there was a way to bring all parties together, figure out what the issues were, and try to resolve them. In the meeting, we started tracking back to when things went from good to bad, and we stumbled upon an incident, that had occurred six months earlier. You have just written the book of your current life, a concise, direct, and powerful overview of critical knowledge that will help bring your life into focus and articulate what is of true value to you and what needs to be set aside. This will help accelerate your journey to the daily experience of meaning and happiness. Why is this simple exercise so powerful? It is most likely because you received almost no mentorship regarding happiness, and you have never been asked to answer these questions before--certainly not all of them, one after the other in a single sitting. The answers to the ten questions paint a picture, a concise image of your life at the present moment, but you may also have noticed that there is a cumulative effect from the entire one-hour program; you may feel an accruing emotional opening. I recommend that you take notes to record any insights that may percolate to the surface as a result of this work.

Sometimes with a new patient I begin to consider a diagnosis of ADD right off the bat. Someone calls and makes an appointment. Then they call to ask the time of the appointment again; they either didn't write it down or they lost the slip of paper. Then they show up late -"got lost" or "couldn't get away". They forget to bring the questionnaire they had "mostly" filled out. And they can't find their check book to pay me for today. Finally, when they leave the office, their car keys or their cell phone are still sitting on the sofa in my office. By that time, I'm more than a little suspicious. Ego-centered perfectionists generally have difficulty establishing and keeping satisfying intimate relationships because they stifle their partners' autonomy and self-expression. They don't recognize others' beliefs, values, preferences, tastes, and desires as valid if they differ from their own. Consequently, partners are driven to either give up their individuality or suffer persistent attempts to undermine, belittle, or otherwise degrade their status as distinct, autonomous persons. In either case, the relationship is dysfunctional and often short-lived. Ego-centered perfectionists do not generally fare well in the workplace for similar reasons. Insofar as they clash with colleagues, a constant state of antagonism arises, which generally ends with a pink slip. If the ego-centered perfectionist is in a managerial position, there is animosity and resentment among employees, which tends to impact employee productivity. As Daniel Goleman (1997) has shown, emotional intelligence, which includes other-regarding skills such as the ability to empathize with others, may be an even greater indicator of success in management than cognitive ability. By contrast, desolations from an evil spirit always push us to choose isolation. Sometimes this means avoiding people altogether (especially if these people would be the source of good, godly, and healthy support). Other times it means putting up with unjust treatment in unhealthy relationships that make us feel isolated even though we are surrounded by people. The final quality consolation points us toward is virtue.

Many people think being virtuous is the equivalent of being nice, of not rocking the boat. That isn't true at all. Virtue is strength. Virtues are the dispositions that help us to use whatever life throws at us as an opportunity for personal, relational, and spiritual growth. Even though positive psychology is not at all religious, a great deal of positive psychological research highlights the fact that authentically happy, healthy people work hard to use all the circumstances of their life to cultivate virtue. Of course, our Christian tradition is also deeply concerned with the cultivation of virtue. Consolations always challenge us to take whatever we are going through and use it to become the whole, healed, godly, grace-filled people God wants us to be. Sales finally landed an account they had been working on for almost two years. When it got passed to the service department, some problems were mishandled and the account went elsewhere. The problematic situation then backfired on the sales department. Tim was furious and tried to get Jay on the phone. Jay was out of town, in constant meetings, and busily putting out fires. The account was a top priority for Tim, but unfortunately it wasn't for Jay. Tim decided that the service department didn't care about the sales department, nor did service care about the customer. Tim started making offhand comments about the service department that his staff picked up on and this added fuel to the fire. The schism between sales and service grew until the tension could be felt by everyone. It is arguable that when it comes to personal media and electronic devices, we use technology in every way except in the ways that could actually help us to become more self-aware. As noted above, you might feel anxious whether you are listening to consolations or desolations. At this stage of the process, you are not attempting to alleviate the anxiety. You are simply trying to discern how God wants you to respond to the anxiety you are feeling.

Are you feeling anxious as a response to an immediate and present danger to your physical, emotional, relational, or spiritual wellbeing and growth? In such a case, your anxiety is revealing something you should avoid, so the anxiety is actually a consolation. On the other hand, you might feel anxious about something that could potentially lead you to experience greater meaningfulness, intimacy, and virtue in your life. In this case, the impetus to avoid the situation or thing could be a desolation. Would doing whatever you feel like doing in this situation mire you in an even deeper sense of powerlessness, isolation, self-pity, or self-indulgence? If so, the impulse is a desolation and a counsel from an evil spirit. We love to record ourselves at our best--at weddings, athletic events, parties, and celebrations--but when it comes to recording ourselves when we are upset, we shun the idea. We do not want to hear or see ourselves when we are angry, petty, afraid, or in grief. We have a habit of pretending these expressions never happened. Like the way we sort through snapshots of ourselves, keeping the flattering photos and throwing away the less than flattering ones. We have conditioned ourselves to seeing only images and videos in the way we want to see ourselves, but not as an honest portrayal or account of our entire personality and behavior. ADD tends to run in families, especially on the male side. My daughter-in-law, Queenie, read a draft of this book and said she thought her two sons, my grandsons, have ADD. I don't know. The older grandson is extremely bright. He's personable and in many ways mature for his age. He doesn't do homework. The teachers generally don't appreciate this. Yet he does well on tests. He's done well in some advanced placement courses but sometimes they drop him from the class because he doesn't do homework.

He explains that he understands the material so he sees no reason to do the homework; he is a teenager, after all. His mother explains that he's so bright that he's just bored. I thought he might be just a wee bit lazy; however, he's on the wrestling team and I've seen him work his butt off in practice, so I can't say that he's lazy. I'm not clear why their mother thinks the two boys might have ADD, but from the book she thought she recognized some patterns. Because they hate to admit mistakes, ego-centered perfectionists have a hard time learning and adapting to new situations. If you think you're always right, you are not going to make changes to correct what you have done wrong. You will be inflexible and impervious to change--setting yourself up for mismanaging your own life and the lives of others who may depend on you. An incident occurs which causes feelings that are unresolved. These unresolved feelings become externalized into judgments. Then a decision is made based on the judgments and unresolved feelings. Decisions grow and multiply until they formulate a belief. Ultimately, a self-fulfilling prophecy surfaces and unless the sequence of events is unraveled it will create polarization among the parties. This is exactly the cycle that countries become locked into that is the catalyst for many wars. Because ego-centered perfectionists tend to dismiss other people's suggestions when they do not agree with their own ideas, they narrow the range of creative ideas from which they can draw in addressing life challenges. As most creative people will affirm, creative products are built from a synthesis of alternative approaches. For instance, cognitive-behavioral therapies combine behavioral therapies with cognitive ones. Ego-centered perfectionism can impair your ability to see past your own stale ideas! Desolations, on the other hand, lead us to self-pity and self-indulgence. Rather than seeing the good and bad circumstances of life as invitations to grow and become stronger, better people, desolations convince us that life is just a series of things that we have to get through. When things go badly or get hard, desolations tell us that the only appropriate response is to remain stuck in a place of perpetual self-pity.