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No, You Aren’t Crazy – We All Long For Things We Can’t Reach

Dr. Trujillo is a counseling and sport psychologist dedicated to helping individuals, teams, and organizations build awareness of self, others, and the world to reach their full potential in and out of their craft. She owns a private practice where she seeks to educate, consult, and provide mental health and sport psychology services that are evidenced-based and collaborative.

 
Executive Contributor Natasha P. Trujillo, Ph.D.

As a psychologist, you would think that one of the hardest things about specializing in grief and loss would be sitting alongside people as I witness heart-wrenching suffering that knows no bounds. But no, that isn’t it. I am honored to sit with those in solidarity as they unravel some of the most challenging experiences of their lives, messy heartbreak and all. Instead, one of the most challenging pieces I have to cope with is hearing the self-critical manner in which grievers often judge themselves. The amount of unflattering self-loathing, shoulda-coulda-wouldas, and negative evaluations far exceed the self-compassion and validation needed when we are hurting in ways we can’t avoid nor control.


woman on the swing on the beach in sunrise and sky background

Stop here and think about how you have dealt with the last set of losses, setbacks, or failures in your life. How have you spoken to yourself? What expectations have you placed on yourself, fairly or not? What timelines or rules have you tried to impose on yourself? How have you judged yourself in ways you’d never judge someone you love or respect?


Now, step outside of yourself just a bit and ask those same questions of others. How have others spoken to you? What expectations have they placed on you, fairly or not? What timelines or rules have been imposed on you? How have they judged you?


Longing defined

Longing is an emotion that encapsulates a deep yearning for something absent. It combines elements of desire, sadness, hope, and introspection. It is a universal human experience that helps shape our motivations, reflections, and expressions. Everyone, at some point, feels longing for something they don’t have, cutting across all cultures and individual differences.


Intensity and depth

Longing is typically a profound and intense emotion. It is much deeper than a simple want or wish, it is a powerful need or ache for something that feels essential in order to feel whole.


Emotional complexity

Longing can be a mix of emotions and is often bittersweet, combining the pain of absence with the beauty of cherished memories or desires. This combination makes it particularly hard to swallow.


Temporal

Longing often involves looking back at what was or looking forward to what could be. It is often tied to nostalgia, reminiscence, anticipation, and grief.


Reflectively existential

Longing can prompt deep reflection of life, values, and desires. It’s common for people to reevaluate their current circumstances, their past, and their hopes for the future while longing.


Motivational force

Longing can be a convincing motivator, driving people to pursue goals, make changes, or seek closure or fulfillment. It is often the impetus behind significant life decisions.


Physical sensations

Manifestations of longing will vary from person to person, but may involve a feeling of emptiness, a literal ache in the heart/chest, difficulty breathing, a heaviness that won’t let us relax, a sense of restlessness, and more.


Creative expression

Longing has been a source of inspiration in all art forms, often being a catalyst for moving works in art, music, poetry, literature, etc.


How do I long?

As you can see, the experience of longing is challenging enough, but when you also throw unrealistic standards at yourself in terms of whether or not you are doing it “right” or “good enough” (whatever that means), you are doing yourself a huge disservice.


The title of this section is misleading. There is no “how-to” for longing. There is no one way to grieve. There is no right way to long. You can’t know how loss will strike you day to day, thus having expectations or timelines will only leave you feeling more alone, and more insane. You are not insane. Instead, challenge yourself to suspend unfair rules and rewrite the guidelines as often as you need to. You can use these tools to help make life just a bit easier as you navigate the ups and downs of longing.


Self-compassion

Sometimes life sucks. Sometimes life is hard. Honor that reality and recognize that the complex emotions you are feeling are human and natural. Cut yourself some slack.


Don’t rush the process

If today is a bad day, so be it. If tomorrow is a great day, embrace it. Trying to rush what is often a natural and necessary process just makes you cope less effectively. Meet yourself where you are.


Practice acceptance

You don’t have to agree or like something to accept that it is so. Longing usually doesn’t feel great, but accepting it and letting things be gives you a break from the running that’s getting you nowhere.


Get support

Talk to those in your life who will allow you to be fully yourself, without any expectations, pressure to change, or solutions to offer. Oftentimes solutions don’t exist for longing, so attempts at trying to solve unsolvable problems just make you feel worse.


Consider the gains and losses

Often, longing for something we no longer have means that we had a connection, attachment, or experience that illustrates the pure beauty of life. Honor that and try to have a balanced understanding of the gains and the losses in your life.


Be flexible

What may work for you one day may not work the next day. That’s fine. Allow yourself the opportunity to adapt, pivot if you need to, and take a different approach to help you hang on. Not every day will be glamorous and graceful, and that’s fine.


Get creative

How can you use your longing in a way that allows you to express the shared humanity within all of us? Can it help you better identify your values, beliefs, goals, and pursuits, or build more sustainable relationships?


Longing is more than just a yearning; it's a complex emotion that threads through our lives, shaping our experiences. One of the best ways I’ve found to express my own sense of longing is through writing. This exploration is deeply connected to my newly released book, And She Was Never the Same Again, where I unravel the layers of longing through heartfelt vulnerability and synthesis.


You don’t have to write a book to cope with your own longing, just step back from self-criticism long enough to listen to what can actually help you move forward, even when what you are seeking is just out of reach.


Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn, and visit my website for more information about my practice. To purchase a copy of And She Was Never the Same Again, visit here for paperback or here for eBook or visit the website.

 

Natasha P. Trujillo, Ph.D., Counseling and Sport Psychologist

Dr. Trujillo is a counseling and sport psychologist dedicated to helping individuals, teams, and organizations build awareness of self, others, and the world to reach their full potential in and out of their craft. She owns a private practice where she seeks to educate, consult, and provide mental health and sport psychology services that are evidenced-based and collaborative. She works primarily with athletes, performers, and high-achievers to help them find balance in their pursuit of success and acceptance of their own humanity. She strives to help people learn how to simply “be”, and get better at what they do. She has specializations in grief/loss, eating disorders, trauma, anxiety, & identity development.

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