I took all my fear and grief with me to Bali. I became willing to risk losing everything because of an unshakable longing for the feeling of home I had always felt there. I assumed my practice would fall apart, and that this would be a one-year adventure before I returned home to rebuild. But I followed my heart and decided to once and for all make myself happy, to find wholeness inside myself instead of in a relationship. I chose to stop relying on a man and the illusion that romantic love was the thing that would make me feel complete.
Bali proved to be everything I imagined it would be and more. I realized the fundamental truth behind “following your bliss”—when we find what fulfills us and when we find our own wholeness, we stop needing others to tell us that we are worthy. Instead, we find a deep love and acceptance inside of ourselves, and everything changes.
The messages we receive from Hollywood, the media, and society all play into the belief that, as Richard Schwartz says, “romance, relief, and redemption can all be found in intimate relationships.”
For much of my life, I believed this, and I shared in my last post that it took me many years to learn how to fully engage in deep relationships. Among other unhealthy thought patterns, I believed that my partner’s purpose was to meet my needs. When he fell short, I would try one of what Dick calls the “three projects.” I would attempt to (1) get him to change, (2) change myself into the person I thought he wanted, or (3) give up—and either search for a different partner or numb enough to be able to stay.
The book You Are the One You’ve Been Waiting For by Richard Schwartz changed my life. It made it so much more fun to be in a relationship, to date, and ultimately to create a healthy and deeply satisfying connection. Richard Schwartz created the therapy model called Internal Family Systems, which has been the most helpful modality in healing both my own and my clients’ childhood trauma. It is based on the theory that we all have multiple “subpersonalities,” or “parts.” All our parts have our best interests in mind; they are all trying to help us in some way. If we can learn how to change the way we relate to our parts, we can heal our deepest wounds from the past and create lasting change.
There seem to be an endless number of meditation practices offered in our world today, and I have tried many of them. Unfortunately, some of them lead to “spiritual bypassing,” where we engage in a spiritual idea or practice in order to avoid the painful parts of ourselves or our emotions. This can often backfire, as those pained parts of ourselves might never get the attention they need to truly heal. Starting a meditation practice can feel daunting—there are so many different techniques and approaches to choose from! I have benefitted so much from the Vipassana practice of RAIN, and this week I was inspired to write about it.
In my last post, we explored embracing the seemingly contradictory aspects of ourselves, a strategy known as “dialectics” that is the foundation for dialectical behavioral therapy. Working with dialectics can often feel like we’re tapping into a tug-of-war, or like...
This got me thinking about the DBT concept of dialectical thinking, and how two seemingly opposing things can both be true at the same time. When we think we have to choose only one part of ourselves, we often ricochet between extremes, rather than realizing that we can accept and love both sides of ourselves. We don’t have to choose. Once we are able to get to know and love every part of ourselves, they become less polarized; the parts stop fighting against one another, and we are free to enjoy all aspects of the complex, one-of-a-kind humans that we are.
You are not alone in learning how to be alone.
Finding peace in solitude is something many of us struggle with. It took me years of practice before I really felt like I could be my own best friend, and even now, I sometimes find myself feeling anxious or second-guessing my decisions to spend more time alone.
I know now that true, deep connection to my authentic self was a necessary ingredient in learning how to be at peace by myself.
In letting go of my need to fit in, I found a deeper relationship with myself and others. What are some healthy practices you use to combat the fear of feeling alone?
There is a metaphor I often use in my therapy practice to explain the natural negativity bias that so many of us reckon with. It’s called the “missing tile syndrome.” If we’re looking at a beautiful mosaic, think about how often our eyes might be drawn to the missing...
In my last post, I introduced the dialectical behavior therapy skill of dialectical abstinence, which marries the concepts of traditional abstinence and harm reduction to successfully rehabilitate addictive behaviors. A skill like this can be particularly useful as we approach the holiday season, a time that makes many of us more vulnerable to falling into old patterns. These patterns can include shame and negative self-talk, drug and alcohol abuse, disordered eating, and toxic relationships.
Midtown West, NY DBT Therapist
Phone: +1 (917) 442-7592
New York, NY 10019
Friday – Sunday: Closed