Life is as good as
your relationship with yourself.
~ Cheri Huber
Many people are unhappy or dissatisfied with their lives. They often seek therapy to figure out how to have a fuller, more enjoyable life, with better relationships and more satisfying work. Often the first things people focus on that seem to be wrong in their lives are externals: job, partner, friends, family and other things outside themselves.
As time goes on in therapy, attention often shifts from the external to the internal world. Certainly there are many external circumstance in life that you have no control over that are challenging, difficult and tragic. Yet frequently over time there is a realization that how you relate to yourself effects how you relate to the external circumstances and world. If your inner world is inhabited by disconnection, judgement, self-doubt, distrust, low self-worth and fear, it is unlikely that anything in life will feel good.
In therapy a lot of time may be spent exploring how your relationship to yourself developed in this painful way. And then we undertake the often arduous, yet fulfilling and so-important journey of healing that most primordial relationship.
Your relationship with yourself is the only one you will have for your entire life. Many people try hard to avoid dealing with this essential relationship through endless distractions and addictions, but at the end of the day, you come home to yourself.
What better investment of time and energy could there be than in improving your relationship with yourself?And it comes with the added benefit that your experience of life will also improve substantially. As the quote above states, your experience of life is a reflection of your relationship with yourself.
the pain of being alone
and solitude expresses
the glory of being alone.
~ Paul Tillich
Being alone can evoke many different feelings and experiences, often depending on the context. Are you spending time alone voluntarily or would you rather be with people, but for whatever reason there is no one there? Are you an introvert or extrovert? Introverts need a lot of time alone to recharge, as too much people time may be draining. Extroverts are nourished and enlivened by being with people, and may have more difficulty spending time alone.
If you are a parent or work in a busy work environment, time alone may be precious. If you live alone, work from home or have little human contact, you may yearn for being around people.
There is also the issue of how comfortable you are being with yourself. Are you happy spending time alone? Do you have activities and hobbies that you enjoy and can you simply be content doing nothing at times? Or do you get antsy and feel the need to distract yourself? Are you comfortable in your own company or do you feel disconnected and like something is missing?
As the quote above states, aloneness experienced as loneliness is a very painful state of feeling isolated and separate. And yet that same state of being alone can feel glorious and luxurious in other circumstances.
You may want to observe when you experience being alone as painful or difficult and when you experience it as welcome solitude. What does the experience tell you about your needs in that moment? And how can you give yourself what you need, soothe yourself or reach out to others if necessary? Do you have ways that help you in this process like meditation, journaling, walking in nature, talking about it with a trusted friend or therapist? It is rich territory in which to explore and get to know yourself more deeply.
How beautiful it is
to do nothing, and then
to rest afterward.
~ Spanish Proverb
Maybe because it's summer, I am drawn to revisit this theme of resting and doing nothing. Or maybe the motif keeps coming to mind because our culture is on high-speed auto-pilot and it feels like balance is essential to our physical and emotional well-being.
The image of doing nothing and resting afterwards may elicit a smile or laughter as it's so contrary to the way most of us live our lives. And it's no surprise that it's a Spanish proverb as Siestas originated there! The tradition isn't as strong in Spain as it used to be, but still exists as life generally has a slower pace.
Maybe we don't have time every day to do nothing and rest afterward, but the image is a good counter-point to the general frenetic pace of life. For parents, it may be even more difficult to imagine finding time to do nothing and/or rest. However, children are great examples of this principle. They are masters of living in the moment, of playing, of being dazzled by the slightest detail, the smallest newly noticed thing. And then they fall into deep sleep easily ( usually)!
Many large companies now have meditation rooms or scheduled meditation times, yoga classes, quiet rooms. Even in the midst of your busy work place, can you find time and space to do nothing? Can you gift yourself with moments of doing nothing ( and not feeling guilty about it) and rest? Could you imagine embodying this Spanish proverb and seeing what it's like?
Peggy Handler, MFT, is a psychotherapist in San Francisco's Noe Valley