On Moving Toward Instead of Away

Many people come to therapy because of difficulty and confusion in their relationships. Those who have experienced ache and hurt in their relationships (let’s face it, that’s everyone!), especially early in life, may tend to feel overwhelmed by certain fundamental aspects of human connection (e.g. conflict, intimacy, trust, loss). Very often, the avoidance of these feelings and experiences can produce a slew set of other difficult feelings and experiences (e.g. isolation, shame, loneliness, rage)!

This avoidance is an example of one of those habit loops described in the previous post: it is doing its best – you are doing your best – to take care of you. Maybe you learned to engage in avoidance through past heartaches that you decided hurt too much to risk experiencing again. What if I told you that you could learn skills that would allow you to take even better care of yourself? That would allow you to take a risk and meet the outcome differently this time? What if I told you that you could learn skills that reduce the likelihood of your continuing to encounter the same wounding – the same outcomes in relationships – over and over again? You will still sustain wounds throughout your life, to be sure, but you will know how to better dress and heal those wounds.

It takes a tremendous amount of courage to pay attention to what is happening when it is happening. It is a skill that can be developed over time, like stretching a muscle to increase flexibility (with the careful intention never to strain the muscle to the point of injury). However, when we decide to do ourselves the kindness of paying attention to the full display of our bodies, our minds, and our environments – to move toward our experience rather than away from it – we begin to show up in ways that better serve our own well-being and the well-being of everyone with whom we come in contact.

 

— Caroline Leach, MA

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