This past weekend, I saw Creed, the latest installment in the Rocky series.
I’m a big fan of all the Rocky movies, but I thought this film was especially good. One of the most interesting parts of the movie was that it depicted an older Rocky Balboa dealing with his own existential issues. In one particularly poignant scene, Rocky reflects on the loved ones he has lost, his former career, and his own cancer diagnosis, believing that time has passed him by.
One of our most important psychological needs is to have a sense of meaning and purpose in our lives. We gain meaning and purpose through a variety of activities. For some people, their career provides them with a sense of meaning and purpose; for others, their relationships with friends and family meet this need. Religion and spiritual beliefs can instill one’s life with meaning and purpose. Others find meaning and purpose in money, possessions, or in how they look.
One of the most painful things about life is that sometimes we lose the things that provide our lives with meaning and purpose, or they might shift or change over time. You can see this clearly in the life of the older Rocky. His career as a boxer—done. His relationship with Adrian, the love of his life—lost to cancer. His own body, which used to provide him with a clear sense of purpose, was beginning to betray him.
What happens when we encounter these inevitable losses? What happens when the things that used to provide us with meaning and purpose just aren’t working anymore? One option is to get angry at life for changing. If you stay in that place, eventually it can lead to depression and despair. The other option is to grieve the loss and then refocus your energy on a different possibility for meaning and purpose. For Rocky, this involved rethinking his understanding of family, as well as training and mentoring Adonis Creed.
Discussion: Is there something in your life that used to provide you with a sense of meaning and purpose, but isn’t working anymore? What would it look like to grieve the loss and then refocus on something different?