Purpose - There has to be More, Doesn’t there?

Purpose and Life – from Healing from the Other Side

by Dr Tom Barber and Dr Sandra Westland


When you think bout purpose, what comes to mind?

The thoughts, feelings, and behaviours that people present to therapy, often makes the idea of personal freedom out of reach and incomprehensible. They distance the recognition that there are choices as to how we live our life and how we respond to what we encounter. The awareness of being responsible for the choices we make and don’t make in this life becomes hijacked.

The myriad of social systems that have been put in place add to this. They look to create order and control, guiding us into what is supposed to leave us feeling content, which is in fact leaving us potentially ever less autonomous, out of control, and drawn into a hopeless, insane quest to finding satisfying and enduring fulfilment. As Roger Walsh and Frances Vaughan (1995) write, “We can never get enough of what we don’t really want” (p. 348).

These are the struggles that can draw us away from feeling alive, and what can create a loss of one’s sense of agency: the awareness that we can initiate, execute, and control our own actions and life in the world.


We see this loss daily in our work as many seek to relieve their symptoms via medication, clinically prescribed behavioural change techniques, and evidence-based, solution-oriented therapies. These methods initially appear to offer answers, but in reality, they lead to the asking of less and less pertinent questions about what the struggles that are being experienced might actually ‘mean’.

It is of course only natural that when somebody is experiencing inner unrest, unease, and dissatisfaction, that they first turn to symptom relief solutions. However, the importance of asking what is underneath these struggles should never be lost, else we are living an unenlightened existence, lacking in agency.

If we move past the problems we are experiencing and push back to the fundamental questions of living, we get closer to the underlying discord that is lurking beneath. The meaning of life, our sense of purpose, our freedom, the reclaiming of personal choice, and what it means to live fully are revealed.

Here we see that all these wonderings are yearning to be acknowledged. A burning question within calls out for an answer. At some point in your life you may have asked it yourself. That question, often rhetorically posed, is . . . There must be more to life than this, mustn’t there?

Continue reading more about purpose in Healing from the Other Side.

Author: Dr Tom Barber

Dr Tom Barber is an experienced integrative and existential psychotherapist and counsellor, who has been helping people overcome personal challenges for the last 25 years. He is a bestselling author of 6 books, and spends his time between private clients, teaching and lecturing internationally, writing, and developing programmes to help people improve the quality of their life. His academic speciality is in the subject of emotion.