The journey of empowerment the long path to happiness

Last week we discovered a researched formulation of happiness. 50% of our happiness is determined by genetics, 10% by our circumstances and 40% by our internal state of mind. This week we are going to look at how each of us can build and maintain that mindset in our journey to empowerment.


Depression, although not proven completely, is thought to be up to 50% genetically inherited, involving childhood trauma, severe life stress and environmental factors. Research suggests that people with a depressed parent are historically twice as likely to inherit a genetic disposition to depression. People inherit a combination of genes at birth from both parents. However, depression can be inherited without being historical.

Psychodynamic therapy is rooted in recognising and understanding any negative patterns of behaviour and feelings arising from past experiences and working together to resolve them. When looking at unconscious processes bringing them into awareness is a good way to begin the journey of empowerment. Cognitive behavioural therapy helps assess and change patterns of negative thinking associated with depression. The goal of this structured therapy is to recognise negative thoughts and coping strategies.

The environment we live in will influence any present level of depression so let's take a brief look at some contributing factors.

Certain medical conditions such as thyroid or sleep problems are linked to depression. It is known there is a link between depression and early parental neglect or abuse, when these conditions are present we grow into adults with a wide range of self-esteem issues. When substance abuse is present it can make depression worse and lead to increased substance abuse this becomes a cycle hard to break. Poor nutrition and high sugar intake also contribute to depression. 

So this leaves us with just under half (40%) of what we can do being in our total control. If you include the environmental factors (50%) that’s a considerable proportion, so what can we do to make life better? Like any journey, the one to empowerment is always best taken with guidance.

The earlier we realise we always have a portion of control in what we decide in this life, the better equipped we can become. Better equipped to eliminate the self-limiting beliefs of low self-esteem and lack of confidence the mainstream would like to confine us to because they feel we don’t fit in. Often made to feel isolated, it becomes so easy to fall into the trap of addiction. Then people have the opportunity to truly stereotype us. The sad factor then becomes some people point to us to cover their own failings. The addiction sufferer has no doubt had years of internal conflict that anyone judging will never be able to understand. No one notices the struggle until it manifests as anger and then the suffering person is branded the bad one. 

In all my experience I have never yet met a person who chooses to be homeless. I came to learn from my work with homeless shelters in London that this matter is indeed classless and affects all sectors of society. It only takes a divorce or a bad business deal – as they say, never judge a book by its cover.

As yet I have to meet the person who gets out of bed one morning and decides to become an alcoholic or addict. It is more likely to be a series of unfortunate events, so judge not. It is essential for such clients that their environmental and physical needs are met before any other intervention.

This is where acceptance plays such a key role. The medical model will state once we have a disease it is a structural or functional failure. I say if we show people empathy and understanding along with patience we can walk a long way with the suffering from their frame of events. 

Counselling is not about fixing, it is about relationships and offering the core conditions of unconditional positive regard (acceptance) empathy and being real to those we walk with congruent. Family members might struggle in this role from being too close but still play a massive role in the support network. The person with the addiction needs to want recovery for themselves as it cannot be maintained long-term when the motives come from others.

So much of various suffering can be overcome by genuinely meeting clients where they are at in life empathically it's about a meaningful connection of being in a position to help within professional boundaries.

If you are reading this and it rings true, do not give up hope you can begin to turn your life around. It's not an easy ride and it takes commitment. There will be hard days and days when you begin to feel on a mountain top in emotional strength. 

SMART goals 

Anyone who decides to better themselves from a difficult background deserves support. One of the issues I noticed in agency work was that a lot of clients at first felt they had been passed to another cog in the big wheel of the system. It takes time and trust for a client to realise counselling is not about making assumptions or judgement.

For the person who has been traumatised by any event in life, any help or facilitation must be structured. One of the biggest problems that face non-profit and agency counselling is the time limitation. 

Private practice is more flexible in this aspect of any suffering. Recovery should never be an 8-12 week splint. To be fair this is about the demand and limited resources of these hard-working professionals. As a client, you will find your experience of suffering has taken place over a substantial period, so your recovery period should not be expected to be any different. 

As I close this week I would like to introduce the concept of SMART goals. 

When a client is overcoming any issue it can feel very overwhelming to know exactly where to begin the journey. Your emotional well-being is key to finding stability Knowing what the first step is can be the most difficult part. SMART goals can be extremely helpful if you are trying to work on your relationship with drugs or alcohol to have clear goals in mind because setting goals for yourself is a very helpful motivator.

The first question to ask should be how would I like my life to be. Once you know what you are looking for you can set goals to reach your destination to improve your life.

Once you have a goal you have a purpose but it is essential to set any goals out in a way that you reach them without becoming frustrated and disappointed. Setting clear, achievable goals will get you off to a good start.    

I like to use SMART goals when working with my clients. Did you Know? SMART is an acronym that stands for: 



Being specific is important for clarity, if you tell yourself 'I'll probably address this problem' it is much the same as 'one day when the circumstances are right'. When we are specific we become focussed on our objective.


When you feel you are making progress it is a great incentive to keep up the hard work.


The journey is about the mindset of success. There would be no point in holding unrealistic expectations as these would drag you down. Whereas if you see yourself meeting your goals you feel inspired to keep going.


Choose goals that are relevant to your well-being right now. Keep it real it can be tempting to set lofty goals but these can be followed up later. Goals need to be a balance between striving and not giving up in despair.


Your goals must be tied to a specific timeline. Otherwise, we find ourselves back at one day.

So, following the SMART steps we introduce a goal timeline that can act as markers along the route; it’s extremely important to be very clear with yourself on what your goals are. Stop the wishy-washy approach and set a clear goal for yourself that is specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-based.

I hope you have enjoyed the article, if you wish to know more you can take two steps: save my profile here at Counselling Directory for my weekly contribution or make your way over to my website.

Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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