Just trust yourself
Then you will know how to live.
Everything you need to know about living your life is within you. It may be covered over with dust or layers of old experiences, messages and beliefs, but there is a place within you that knows what you need, that knows the life you want to live and even knows how to attain it.
Our culture teaches us to look to others, to look outside ourselves to figure things out. Generally, we don't spend much time looking within to find our heart's desire, our passion, our wisdom. We read self-help books that promise us 5 easy steps to.... ( fill in the blank).
A good teacher, mentor or psychotherapist will not give you answers but will help you clear the path to the self-knowledge and answers that lie within. We are each unique beings with distinct gifts, desires and passions.
No one other than you can possibly know what your life is meant to be. Time spent in contemplation, in conversation with others on the same path, in meditation, listening to both your night and day dreams will reveal your life to you. Trust that all you need is within, that you were born "preloaded" with all the hardware and software necessary to live your life fully!
The psychic task which a person can and must
set for himself is not to feel secure,
but to be able to tolerate insecurity.
~ Erich Fromm
From the moment we are born, we need and seek a sense of safety and security in a world that is not reliably secure. A baby is completely helpless and has no choice but to trust it's caretaker for a sense of security,(available to greater or lesser degrees), since it's very life depends on it.
As we grow up we continue to seek a sense of safety and security, through our parents and family, our teachers, our friends, our signficant others, our jobs, our homes, our community, our country and our world. These are some of the things we come to rely on to feel safe. Many of us like the security of a regular routine, the safety of knowing what to expect. We feel safe within our comfort zone of the familiar and seemingly secure.
But are we, and is life ever truly secure? Or do we simply create this illusion to keep ourselves from feeling the existential angst of the often arbitrary and uncontrollable nature of life? Despite our most carefully constructed lives, so much is out of our control. How do we deal with this? Do we hang on for dear life and try harder to control things and feel secure? Do we avoid reading the news, not take risks, feel afraid of people who seem different from us?
Or can we learn to tolerate insecurity? Can we make space for it, can we learn to step, cautiously or boldly, outside our comfort zone? Can we be in that space between the two trapezes ( see previous blog post)?
Fromm is suggesting that a primary psychological task is for us to tolerate, to endure, you could almost say, to befriend insecurity. To be able to hold the tension of the opposites of longing for security while acknowledging the essential insecurity of life. To love another fully, knowing that there are ultimately no guarantees. To follow your heart's desire even when it takes you into shaky terrain.
Ultimately by learning to tolerate or even sometimes, embrace the essential insecurity of life, we live a life that is more present, more in the moment, more aware and awake. We give up the trance of security that can numb us into a very small life. When we can find a place within us that can withstand and tolerate the shifts and ups and down of life, that can surf the waves that life brings us with balance and at least attempts at grace, we have achieved a certain freedom that makes life more interesting and less threatening. Psychotherapy and mindfulness practices can facilitate and enhance this process.
· The fastest way to freedom
is to feel your feelings
- Gita Bellin
In a way, the above quote is obvious and at the same time, it is often the thing we resist the most. Or we want to be selective about the feelings we are willing to experience: only the "good" ones and not the "bad" ( ie painful or uncomfortable ones).
Yet true freedom is indeed having the courage to feel whatever feeling arises, trying not to judge it as good or bad, simply experiencing it in all ways. How does it feel and where do you feel it in your body? What thoughts arise as you have this feeling ( or sometimes, what thought caused the feeling) ? Is this a familiar feeling or something you haven't felt before? If it's familiar, what do you know about it? In what circumstances does this feeling arise? If it's new or less familiar, can you allow yourself to be curious about it?
And maybe most important, practice allowing yourself to simply "ride the wave" of emotion. If you truly allow yourself to feel whatever is arising, if you can tolerate it and not distract yourself from it, it will pass, just as a wave swells, crests and dissipates. This is real freedom!
As long as the earth can make a Spring every year, I can.
And as long as the Earth can flower and produce nurturing fruit, I can.
· ~ Alice Walker
All of nature (of which we are part) goes through cycles of birth, growth, death and rebirth. This is just as true within us, in our emotional life, as it is in our physical lives. In the fall and winter, many of us, just like the seasons and just like much of the natural world, go into a more introspective, inward or dark place, or into a time of hibernation.
In the Spring, the light returns, the days are warmer and longer, the trees and plants begin to flower again and we hear the birds singing more clearly. This time of rebirth and flowering in the natural world is often mirrored in our internal world. Thoughts and feelings that may have been weighing heavily throughout the winter suddenly become lighter and shift, or creative solutions to seemingly unresolvable problems or issues appear.
why should we be any different than Nature of which we are human expressions?
Peggy Handler, MFT, is a psychotherapist in San Francisco's Noe Valley