Learn to love and be loved
Today I want to talk about love. I feel love is an important aspect of therapy. I’m not talking in any kind of sentimental way, on the contrary, I think love is the toughest emotion of all. Sometimes therapy is a journey towards love and acceptance for the self.
The world can feel full of images and stories of people competing and striving for expectations of the illusive perfection. Images of the socially acceptable body; judgements about the ‘right’ diet; mountains climbed; celebration of ‘achievement’ and a specific definition of ‘success’. These narratives that bombard us are not ‘reality’ but creations from a given time and culture in history. Sadly, we don’t grow up in a world where we learn we are already complete and acceptable. There are few representations of people simply being.
You are not born with expectations you put upon yourself. You are not born with shame and angst or shoulds, musts or oughts. You are not born imprisoned by self-loathing, comparing yourself to others and the spectre of social norms. And you are certainly not born with a feeling that you need ‘fixing’. You are not born to please others. You are born with a total acceptance of every breath you take, every movement you make, the sensation you feel, need you have and with the tools to get those needs met. Sometimes along the way, you learn your needs are not met, worse still you can feel your needs are wrong and feel a guilt for having them. You can start to feel imperfect, not good enough and question your feelings, sensations, movements, thoughts. That acceptance and love for the self you were born with can erode and become replaced by feelings of worthlessness.
It is a difficult long process towards love and self-acceptance. A process whereby values, and judgements can feel in flux. Maybe thoughts of 'I’m not as bad as I thought' move towards, 'I’m good enough.' Eventually feeling as comfortable with the shadow self as the persona. Love for the silent self as well as the witty or kind. Love for the blemished body as well as the sharply dressed professional. Love for the self that muddles words and needs routine or maybe finds it difficult. Love when we fall as well as the confident stride. Maybe the process moves from thoughts of 'I’m good enough' to 'I am.' 'I am' is more than enough, 'I am' is everything. The feeling of being without question. To take a breath and simply feel the sensation of the air passing through our lips and filling our lungs. To act without question of whether you should or ought and accept that sometimes you stumble and when you do, you need your love more than ever to rise.
In therapy, there is a term unconditional positive regard in which the therapeutic space is an arena of acceptance during this journey. A being beside throughout the angst, the weight of expectation put upon the self, sometimes the self-loathing and an unconditional regard of all of those feelings. A place to be heard and seen when you may have lost touch with yourself. Losing that connection with the self can impede connection with others. The more acceptance for the self the more acceptance towards others and we feel from others.
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