What Creates True Fulfillment?

The Positive Psychology Perspective


At age 21 when I was in the Clinical Psychology graduate program, I wasn’t like the other students. I was interested in learning how high achievers learn to lead exceptional lives. Human potential theories such as Abraham Maslow’s Self-actualization fascinated me more than curing diseases and disorders. I’m still that way. The way I see it, we’re all evolving – all the time. It’s our natural inclination.

Don’t get me wrong. It is extremely helpful to heal the wounds that bind us, but we can’t stop there if we want to live truly fulfilling lives.

I want to help all my clients flourish. That’s why I named my psychotherapy website: flourishing-lives.com.

During the period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, I like to review the past year and contemplate how I can make the next year even richer for my clients and for myself.

*** When you’re thinking about gift-giving during the Holidays, keep in mind that it may NOT be the material things that generate the most joy.


In his book, Flourishing, Martin Seligman’s positive psychology research reveals some surprising insights.

Dr. Seligman’s early work focused on what makes us happy. He called it Authentic Happiness.  In Flourishing he says, “I’m trying to broaden the scope of positive psychology well beyond the smiley face. Happiness is just one-fifth of what human beings choose to do.”

Seligman continues, “I used to think that the topic of positive psychology was happiness, that the gold standard for measuring happiness was life satisfaction, and that the goal of positive psychology was to increase life satisfaction. I now think that the topic of positive psychology is well-being, that the gold standard for measuring well-being is flourishing, and that the goal of positive psychology is to increase flourishing. This theory, which I call well-being theory, is very different from authentic happiness theory, and the difference requires explanation.”

Now, happiness is often known by another name in positive psychology research: subjective well-being, or SWB.

“A pattern of mistakes is a call to change your life. The rest of the tapestry is not determined by what has been woven before. The weaver herself, blessed with knowledge and with freedom, can change—if not the material she must work with—the design of what comes next.”

“Curing the negatives does not produce the positives.”

― Martin E.P. Seligman, Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being


During this holiday season, as you contemplate gift-giving and what you want to accomplish in the new year, consider what creates enduring fulfillment.


Seligman found five elements (PERMA) that create well-being.

  1. Positive emotion. For me, it’s the pleasurable feeling I get when I walk through a forest to a waterfall. Or a warm hug, or dancing to the beat of “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor. Or, when I buy a new plant for my garden. It’s more temporary than long-lasting.
  2. Engagement. Sometimes called “flow”, it’s when we enter the state of consciousness where we are totally absorbed in a project we love. Two hours pass in the blink of an eye.
  3. Relationships. Healthy loving relationships are the number one thing that helps us feel healthy and whole. This also includes the relationship we have with ourselves (self-compassion) and our spiritual connection. Even when relationships are rocky, we can cultivate secure attachment within ourselves and our spiritual connection. That can become the solid ground from which we push off to create healthy external relationships. A good round of therapy helps people develop this internal relationship, as well as strengthen external relationships.
  4. Meaning. What are your core values, your guiding light, your North Star? Mine are health, beauty, excellence, and spirituality. No matter how difficult my life is, when I choose activities that reflect my core values, I am leading a meaningful life. For example, when I was in several dysfunctional relationships, I used them as opportunities to learn how to become a wiser person. That’s an expression of health, excellence, and spirituality.
  5. Accomplishment. Seligman suggests that when we’re motivated to win for winning’s sake, we feel fulfilled. We all have a core need to grow and become better, whether that’s winning a tennis match, cooking a delicious seafood dinner, or climbing a mountain. A big accomplishment for me was pushing past my fears to write and publish a book.

― Martin E. P. Seligman. Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being


I also like the term, “self-happiness.” It refers to a sense of happiness or satisfaction with one’s self. It is often associated with self-confidence, self-esteem, and other concepts that marry “the self” with feeling content and happy. In general, it means that you are pleased with yourself and your choices, and with the person that you are.



If you are eager to learn how to create a truly fulfilling life, expert coaching will accelerate your progress better than working by yourself.

Don’t just focus on getting rid of what hurts. That’s only half the issue.

Learn how to be the conscious creative force in your life while partnering with your spiritual connection.


Join us for the Conscious Creating Class.

When: New Year’s Day 2024. 12noon-3 pm Eastern

Where: Zoom

Early Bird Discount: Register by December 20.

Click here for all the details on the Conscious Creating Class.


Reflections: Now It’s Your Turn.

Take a few minutes to get peaceful and quiet. Journal your ideas about the following:

  1. What would make your life richer in the five PERMA areas?
  2. What have you done in the last year to make progress in each area? Acknowledge your progress. Pat yourself on the back. Research shows that our mood lifts and our sense of empowerment grows when we focus on what we are grateful for.
  3. As you contemplate the five elements, what is your next step to move toward the expression of your Authentic Self? Where is your spirit directing your attention? Spend a few minutes writing from the voice of your Wise Self and your spiritual connection.


“Authentic happiness derives from raising the bar for yourself, not rating yourself against others.”  – Martin Seligman


Author: Benita A. Esposito, MA, LPC, LCMHC.

Benita A. Esposito is a Licensed Professional Counselor in Georgia and a Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor in North Carolina.  

My profile has been certified by PsychologyToday.com.

I have practiced psychotherapy for four decades, helping adult individuals and couples in private sessions, groups and intensive retreats. I love the retreats best because so much transformation occurs in such a short time. I like results!

Education: I earned a master’s degree in clinical psychology (1976) and a bachelor’s degree in psychology (1973) from Illinois State University.

I am certified in Brainspotting.


  1. Counseling with adult individuals over the age of 21 who want to reduce anxiety, stress, depression, grief and trauma. I also help people heal the emotional roots of dis/ease with my holistic practices.
  2. Couples Counseling to create a secure attachment bond and heal the wounds that have caused attachment breaches. I use Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy and Gottman Couple Therapy.
  3. Counseling Highly Sensitive Introverts is one of my greatest joys. Read my bestselling book: The Gifted Highly Sensitive Introvert: Wisdom for Emotional Healing and Expressing Your Radiant Authentic Self available on Amazon. Take the quiz to see if you are a highly sensitive introvert: www.SensitiveIntrovert.com.



Thanksgiving Message 2021

I am thankful every time you slow down enough to listen to your innermost needs.

I am thankful every time you soften your Inner Critic’s quips with self-compassion.   

I am thankful every time you pursue your dreams instead of running from your fears. 

I am thankful every time you laugh and play like an innocent child. 

I am thankful every time you explore your psyche to deeply understand yourself.

I am thankful every time you meditate to soothe your frazzled nervous system.

I am thankful every time you exercise, eat right and get enough sleep.

I am thankful every time you bring forth possibilities that others never thought of. 

I am thankful every time you look beyond reactivity to soothe the pain inside.

I am thankful every time you courageously confront conflict with tenderness.

I am thankful every time you open your heart and receive Spirit’s wisdom and mercy.

I am thankful every time you remember that you don’t have to be perfect to be lovable. 

I am thankful every time you forgive yourself and others for shortcomings. 

I am thankful every time you see yourself as a worthwhile person … unconditionally loved and always growing toward greater wisdom, insight, compassion and creativity.

I am thankful for you. Why?

We each make a difference in the quality of life on this planet, within our families, and within our workplaces. It all begins with the relationship we have with our Selves and our Spiritual Connection. 

“We but mirror the world. All the tendencies present in the outer world are to be found in the world of our body. If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. This is the divine mystery supreme. A wonderful thing it is and the source of our happiness. We need not wait to see what others do.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi 

When you take good care of yourself … when you engage in your personal and spiritual growth … you become an inspiration for everyone around you. That’s how cultural change takes place. One person at a time. One couple at a time. One family at a time. One company at a time.

It’s true that not everyone will understand you or appreciate you. We all have our own free will. You can only be responsible for yourself. 

Carve out the quality of life that you know is good for you. Take a stand for your personal freedom as the pilgrims did. Take risks to foster your vision. Stop analyzing other people so much. Keep your eye on the prize. Make choices congruent with love and wisdom. 

Love always triumphs in the end.

May you be filled to overflowing this day …. with delicious food and even more important … with the Love that enables you to feel whole and complete … right where you are … here and now … no matter what your circumstances. 

Please pass it on.

“Be the change you wish to see.”  ~ Ghandi

Much Love,

Benita Esposito, MA, LPC, LCMHC


10 Things to Expect in Your First Counseling Session

Have you ever wondered what happens in the first counseling session? I thought you might, so I wrote this article for you.

The first session is an assessment, not counseling per se. I need to get to know you before jumping into the counseling phase. I ask a lot of questions and listen closely to your answers. I want to understand you as a unique individual. You may also ask me questions to determine if we are a good fit.

1. I’ll review your intake questionnaire with you and get a crystal clear picture of your goals.
2. We’ll discuss where you are now and the past factors that affect your current life. This will take more than one session, but I want to get an overview in the first session. We won’t have time to go into lots of details.
3. We look at the gap between where you are now and where you want to be.
4. We begin to design a plan for moving from “here” to “there.”  Here’s an analogy: If you were going to build a house, you would begin with a blueprint. We start designing the blueprint in the first session. It often takes more than one session to create the blueprint. If the plan is not prepared adequately, the success of the project will be undermined. I ask for your patience during this phase. This is the first step to help you achieve your goals.
5. We’ll talk about what has worked and what has not worked in the past so I can help you more efficiently.
6. You’ll tell me how you cope with stressors so I can help you respond more effectively.
7. I’ll begin to learn about your personality and help you understand yourself better.
8. We’ll start to build rapport, the most essential element in the counseling relationship.
9. At the end of the first meeting, we will both determine if we feel like we are a good match. If not, I’ll do my best to give you referrals.
10. If we choose to proceed, I’ll gather more information in the second session. When we are finished reviewing your intake questionnaire, we’ll develop a treatment plan. We are still in the planning stage so please be patient. After the “blueprint” is completed, we’ll jump into the counseling phase.

If you have any questions or concerns, be sure to address them. I like to have open communication. No question is too small. I want to serve you in the best way possible so I need to know what you are thinking, feeling and wanting.

I’ll do my best to give you referrals for the following situations. These are not in my wheel house.

• Alcohol and/or drug abuse
• Current domestic violence
• Suicidal or homicidal ideation or attempts
• Severe mental illness
• Borderline personality disorder
• Untreated bipolar disorder

* I do not work with clients who are involved with legal cases where I may be asked to submit my records or to testify in court. I do not write reports to justify absence from work, nor do I write disability reports, workman’s compensation reports or legal reports of any kind. I do not work with child custody cases. And, I do not counsel children or adolescents.

Click here to read about my ideal clients for individual counseling.

Click here to read about couples counseling.

I hope this article has answered most of your questions about what to expect in the first session. I’m here to help you create the most meaningful and fulfilling life possible.

If you’d like a complimentary 10-minute phone call to see if we are a good fit, please click here to complete the Contact Form.

Benita A. Esposito, MA is a Licensed Professional Counselor with a private practice in Georgia. She is also a Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor in North Carolina, and she offers life coaching and spiritual counseling around the globe. She counsels adults who experience anxiety, stress, trauma, PTSD and grief. Specializations include highly sensitive people and couples counseling.

Click here for credentials.


Emergency Hotlines & Resources

If you or someone you know experiences a mental health emergency, call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room. Or call these helplines.

Dial 988 to talk to the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline.

When people call, text, or chat 988, they will be connected to trained counselors that are part of the existing Lifeline network. These trained counselors will listen, understand how their problems are affecting them, provide support, and connect them to resources if necessary.


The Disaster Distress Helpline
1-800-985-5990, is a 24/7, 365-day-a-year, national hotline dedicated to providing immediate crisis counseling for people who are experiencing emotional distress related to any natural or human-caused disaster. This toll-free, multilingual, and confidential crisis support service is available to all residents in the United States and its territories. Stress, anxiety, and other depression-like symptoms are common reactions after a disaster.

Call 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746 to connect with a trained crisis counselor.


SAMHSA’s National Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357), (also known as the Treatment Referral Routing Service) or TTY: 1-800-487-4889 is a confidential, free, 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year, information service, in English and Spanish, for individuals and family members facing mental and/or substance use disorders.

This service provides referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations. Callers can also order free publications and other information.

Suggested Resources

  • What Is Substance Abuse Treatment? A Booklet for Families
    Created for family members of people with alcohol abuse or drug abuse problems. Answers questions about substance abuse, its symptoms, different types of treatment, and recovery. Addresses concerns of children of parents with substance use/abuse problems.
  • Alcohol and Drug Addiction Happens in the Best of Families
    Describes how alcohol and drug addiction affect the whole family. Explains how substance abuse treatment works, how family interventions can be a first step to recovery, and how to help children in families affected by alcohol abuse and drug abuse.
  • It’s Not Your Fault (NACoA) (PDF | 12 KB)
    Assures teens with parents who abuse alcohol or drugs that, “It’s not your fault!” and that they are not alone. Encourages teens to seek emotional support from other adults, school counselors, and youth support groups such as Alateen, and provides a resource list.
  • It Feels So Bad: It Doesn’t Have To
    Provides information about alcohol and drug addiction to children whose parents or friends’ parents might have substance abuse problems. Advises kids to take care of themselves by communicating about the problem and joining support groups such as Alateen.
  • After an Attempt: A Guide for Taking Care of Your Family Member After Treatment in the Emergency Department
    Aids family members in coping with the aftermath of a relative’s suicide attempt. Describes the emergency department treatment process, lists questions to ask about follow-up treatment, and describes how to reduce risk and ensure safety at home.
  • Family Therapy Can Help: For People in Recovery From Mental Illness or Addiction
    Explores the role of family therapy in recovery from mental illness or substance abuse. Explains how family therapy sessions are run and who conducts them, describes a typical session, and provides information on its effectiveness in recovery.

Intimacy and Deep Emotional Healing

Even in the best of relationships, couples sometimes struggle with emotional connection. They want to feel close, but it seems like there’s a wedge between them. Read more


Tired of Conflict?

Whether it’s with your spouse or your mother, if you don’t already experience an emotionally secure connection, even little conflicts can damage the relationship. Read more


Taming the Inner Critic with Meditation

Peacock-Eye-150x150If you’re like me, all too frequently your mind wonders off into a jungle of negative thoughts causing stress, anxiety or depressed mood. Like little kids taunting you on a playground, your Inner Critic harasses you with nasty messages such as: You’re not good enough. Keep trying harder. You don’t have time to rest and meditate. You don’t have time to schedule a day to play with your friend. Keep going. Complete that next task. The Inner Critic relentlessly cracks the whip. Read more


Couples Counseling FAQs

Couple on sofa

Q: What’s the success rate of your Couples Counseling programs?

I use two proven research-based Couple Therapy programs: Emotionally Focused Therapy and Gottman Couple Therapy Method. Research proves these approaches help couples build (or rebuild) the bonds of love and connection. 70-75% of couples move from distress to recovery and approximately 90% show significant improvements. Read more


Healing Abuse. Susan’s Breathwork Story.

A bright 30-something woman, Susan vowed that she would never return to her abusive ex-boyfriend. But two weeks ago, she did.

She was driving down the interstate while he sat in the passenger seat. They were traveling to a concert in another city.  His rage flared into a frenzy.  She had seen this way too many times before. Read more


What Jesus Wants for Christmas

gift-box-redI like to give people what they want, and one of the best ways to do that is to ask them.  So I asked Jesus what he wants for Christmas and this is what I heard him say.

Jesus:  First of all, I don’t need any gifts.  I have everything I want because I am one with God.  So please don’t feel that you need to get me anything.

Benita:  But I want to!  I want to show my love for you because my heart is overflowing with gratitude for who you are and what you have done for us on planet Earth.  You loved us so much that you incarnated to manifest a profound quality of love on Earth that had not been seen before. In only 30+ years you made such a difference here that people all over the world remember you and try to emulate.

Jesus: Please don’t emulate me. Remember when I told you “You can do all these things I do and more, because I go to the Father?” Read more