This week I introduce another lovely colleague, Nicole Beasley, Ph.D. Nicole is a soulful, soft, and intelligent psychologist with whom I share numerous cases, so I was especially happy when she agreed to write a guest blog. Her contact information is below.
In my view, the feeling of love is a grace. Feeling love for others and for oneself is a gift. The feeling comes, without our effort, and in the presence of the feeling, behaving in a loving way is easy.
Much of therapy is about learning to be love in the absence of the feeling. Many of us feel intolerance and even hatred toward the aspects of ourselves and others that we dislike. And, a common response to these strong feelings is to use our energy to change what we dislike. While we may succeed in changing the size of our body, or in pushing away painful feelings, such efforts in and of themselves do not bring true and lasting relief. This is because change that is driven by intolerance does not take us toward self-acceptance.
In my practice and in my life, I turn to mindfulness training to support the evolution of self-love. Mindfulness meditation is a practice that develops self-acceptance, self-understanding, and compassion. It does this by training us in letting go of the judging mind and returning to the experience of breathing, the experience of bodily sensation. Like exercise, it is a practice. The more you practice, the more familiar you become with your own mind, with the process of letting go of your mind, with the experience of being with yourself.
Listening to the chatter of your own mind, you may find a very critical presence, a judge that lets you know when you or others are getting it wrong. If you find such a presence, rejoice, you are not alone! I have yet to meet a person who is free of the judge. We breath the critic in; look carefully at the culture that has shaped you. How does your inner critic reflect your family culture, your ethnic culture, the culture of the popular media? This isn’t about blaming. It is just about noticing.
Noticing, just noticing, is the practice of mindfulness. Nothing to change. Nothing to do. Mindfulness is not about changing the critic. It is not about transforming you from a self-hating person into a self-loving person. Mindfulness is the process of aligning yourself with unconditional acceptance. You might notice judgment and then drop it and return to noticing breathing. And in the process of repeatedly moving our attention away from trying to change toward accepting, we grow our experience of being acceptance.
Being acceptance! Don’t we all yearn to be held in the gaze of such love? Love says, “I see all of your flaws. I know each imperfection and you are enough. I accept you just as you are.There is no other place I would rather be.” What a nice place to sit.
Next week: Josh Gressel starts a series on "How to Find a Therapist."
Do you have a question about your marriage or relationship? Is there a particular topic on relationships or individual psychological issues you would like addressed in this blog? Ask Josh in the comments below or email him at email@example.com.
Nicole Beasley, Ph.D. is a certified Imago (couple's) therapist who sees adults and couples in her office in Pleasant Hill, CA. You can view her website at http://www.amadorfamilycenter.com/nicole_beasley_ph_d.html, call her at (925) 685-9463, or e-mail her at Beasley.Nicole@gmail.com.
Josh Gressel, Ph.D., is a couples and individual therapist based in Pleasant Hill, CA. Visit his website at joshgressel.com. He is currently accepting referrals.