Art - Philosophy - Psychotherapy

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Self love

A couple of quotes about love today. It has been an odd week, this last 7 days. I am not sure why the theme has been so prevalent, but self love has been a constant in my therapy room. “how can I love myself?” “why don’t I love myself?” “I am so broken, how am I supposed to love myself?” “who would love someone like me?”just a few of the many questions asked in the last 4-5 days.

Here is Irvin Yalom on love. “to fully relate to another, one must first relate to oneself. If we cannot embrace our own aloneness, we will simply use the other as a shield against isolation.” Clearly this is a good description of dependency, and perhaps, following the theme of objectification, a form of objectification, as the other becomes an object, a shield, to be used against distress. It means there can be no meeting between the two authentic people as one is not seen as a person at all. They are “needed” to protect the other.

It is a challenging one to wrestle with, as we all need someone to be with, some of the time. We all need affection, companionship and warm regard. But Yalom was not talking of mere social connection, he was talking about running from ones own sense of isolation and our existential fears surrounding it. Using the other as a thing to avoid those.

Here is a second Yalom quote on the same theme “To love means to be actively concerned for the life and growth of the other.” It is active, you must act in order to love fully. And, self interest not withstanding, as there is no altruism in the true sense, to act for the betterment of the person you love. That does not mean to your own detriment. Though occasionally this may be a choice you make, it should never be a pattern. If love in this sense is active, then to love oneself, one must also be active. If you are in my room as a client then it can be assumed this is already taking place to some extent. But only if you are actively seeking to help yourself as well. Not if you are looking to me as just another shield.

As to the how to love myself… Well I have another Yalom quote for you. “In order to love yourself you must behave in ways which you admire..” Still speaking of action, to act toward, to promote, to move in accordance with self. We all have narcissistic wounds of one sort or another, which we must fill ourselves; Heal ourselves. And we must, if we are ever to see the other clearly, and not seek dependency. That is one of our chief tasks in psychotherapy, learning to love the parts others abandoned or rejected. That requires a good degree of courage. But helps us avoid dependency in long term relationships.

One last quote, this time from Fritz Perls “Our dependency makes slaves out of us, especially if this dependency is a dependency of your self esteem. If you need encouragement, praise, pats on the back from everybody, then you make everybody your judge.” In essence we judge ourselves as unworthy and give that judgement away to others we meet and imagine others think the same was we do. The judgement came from our narcissistic wound and it is that we need to tackle, let go the judgement of others, give it back to the people it came from. Accept our authentic self and love it. Freeing ourselves from the tyranny of judgement.

Then to connect again of course, requires great courage, to make oneself vulnerable, to pain, of rejection but also the inevitable end. We must find self acceptance, to allow a connection, to find the courage.

Finally, as a last word, one of my poems. An older one this time, from about 2 years ago.


The greatest virtue, all others pale beside; All backed and driven,

As though without they fail, guttering half-hearted light

struggling to reach even the brightest eyes.

Love then without courage behind its veil?

All dependency.

Great love in contact,

through vulnerability,

must accept the end writ large;

In days to come, to tear with rending tears your thou from your heart.

For if you love, with courage, inevitable ends;

Will create for you a void of unimaginable pain,

yet fill before your moments with contentment so rich,

your breast cannot contain.

Finding contentment

We have been conditioned to believe that having a thing will make us happy. So, conversely, when we do not have that thing, we feel unhappy. Its a total misnomer, I could buy a car and feel happy, crash it the next day and the happiness is gone. That isn’t true happiness, that’s a flight of fancy. fleeting at best, really just an attempt to fill a void with an object.

The art of finding happiness is to recognise the conditioning for the nonsense it is and let it go. Your happiness is not dependent on having things, it is only found in acceptance of what is and expression of the authentic self. What we really need to look for is contentment.

Contentment is possible, but you will never find in one book a list of commandments which give a framework which is perfect for you and helps you in all things be content. This is something only you can achieve, by being in contact, without the hindrance of expectation. In contact with yourself and your environment. With others as they are, not as you expect them to be, or wish they were.

In allowing the full expression of your love, to love others and yourself and to be loved; to be self-directing, always following the desire of your authentic self in contact with others. Finally, by understanding and being understood, being able to make yourself understood. If you can do these things, you will find some measure of contentment.

By allowing full expression of your emotional world, engaging with your sadness, anger and fear, being human, allowing your authentic self to be, without hindrance and without resorting to abusive endeavours. In this, you may find contentment. In the clarity of contact, when I and thou meet, when we truly see each other and accept ourselves and the other; in the knowledge that this will inevitably end. When we experience that awe, that spiritual connection, here we may find contentment, here we may find joy and sometimes even peace. But this path is different for all. My path is not yours, though perhaps one day they may collide, if only for a moment.

Self acceptance

Theme of the week for me. It has been rummaging around in most of client and personal work. I suppose most psychotherapy is really just the process of getting out of our own way and accepting what we are, and allowing our authentic self to flourish.

Once you allow the authentic you there is no more comparison required. You are finally you, not better or worse; No value judgement required. It won’t matter what others think you are, you will just be you. And, with that realisation you will know and understand you are not what others imagine you are. Neither will you need to put them straight with justifications, it just won’t be necessary. What possible difference will it make if you have accepted yourself. There is freedom in self acceptance freedom from neurosis, freedom to be authentically you.

Expectation as a foundation for objectification

Most of us have expectations, we have been brought up in a society which suggests they are healthy and useful. But everyone knows someone who comes across as entitled, and this is just the expression of those expectations. Most narcissistic behaviour is based upon Expectations. Every should you ever experience is someone else’s expectation, its a form of coercion, manipulation, to make you dance to a tune not your own.

I provide couples therapy as part of my private practice. I wish I had £10 for every time I was told that expectations are necessary and that relationships wont work without them. Yet, the reality is that relationship fail because of them.

So here’s the premise. If you expect someone to be something or do something they are not comfortable doing, then its unhealthy. The boundary between healthy and unhealthy is again consent. Think of all expectations in exactly the same way you would sex. If there is no consent then it ain’t happening. And, if someone changes their mind at any point, then its not happening. Their life, their choice. Anything else is objectification.

If you require someone to be a certain way or to behave a certain way, in order for you to not feel insecure, then by all means have the conversation, but be aware, we don’t get to control other people. If they don’t want to change then you have to find a relationship that works for you, not expect the other to change for you. You cant be limiting others in order to feel secure.

How about cleaning the house? If my partner says “I’m going have a good clean up today as I’m off and you are at work.” that looks like they are agreeing to something they want to do. But if I come back and there is nothing done, I have no right to be angry, there can be no retaliation. If I am angry because nothing was done it is only because of my expectations. They get between me and my partner and stop me seeing them clearly. In that moment I will see them as a means to an end, not the end in themselves. It is there life, if they choose not to tidy up, that’s up to them. If they decide to go out for the day, that is up to them. If they are ill, or depressed, I have no right to expect anything.

So can I expect respect? Well no not really, and here is the thing, if it is unhealthy, it is down to you to express your disappointment, and leave. Find someone who does offer you the respect you deserve.

Respect given because is it expected is not respect at all, it is sycophancy at best. Cleaning up because someone else expects it will only generate resentment at what is actually coercion. So, now I know someone amongst you is saying, but we must clear up, so we don’t live in squalor. And rightly so, if that’s is what you need then that is what you need, but don’t expect it of someone who doesn’t know what self care is. Its not your job to educate them either, find someone more on your level, change yourself, your own circumstance.

If my partner wants to smoke and I don’t like it, I can not expect them to give up just because it seems healthy to me. But I don’t have to stay either.

If my partner stops washing, then I can and will challenge that, and with some concern. But should she wish to continue not washing and I don’t like it, I can not expect her to wash. This goes for literally anything, any behaviour (inside the law) which is not harmful. Harmful behaviours fall into a different category, but we can discuss that another time.

So, I challenge you to look at your own expectations, examine them and see if they are justified, explore why you imagine they are and see if you can let them go.

Imagine a world in which there are no expectations! Imagine if you could be authentically you without having to live up to someone else’s ideal of what you should be! And understand that every time you do, you are self objectifying.


Requires that you know your self. Allow all that you are to be,
without concerning your self With others people’s judgement;
Or bending yourself to meet another’s expectations.
Authenticity has no should’s, you can play no roles, have no expectation of others.

It’s requires courage and vulnerability in equal measure. It will make you more attractive than you can fathom. True confidence comes from knowing it does not matter what anyone else thinks you are. Accept that not everyone will understand you; And Those that do are unlikely to forget you.

Find your centre, authenticity follows. You can’t hide it again once you find it. It is too precious. Be bold, and others will follow.
Not because it is expected, but because you make authenticity safe. When that happens vulnerability becomes easier to bear.

Beauty is essentially someone unafraid to be themselves.

Ending, change and tolerating uncertainty

Endings are hard, often painful, and we imagine nothing will be good again. In my experience they are the gateway to growth, creating space for new things, as long as we embrace the lessons pain brings and take responsibility for the next path we take.

Change is hard, the ability to tolerate uncertainty is a rare skill, and one we must develop if we are to ever find a sense of meaning in this world. Change often looks painful, but I don’t like to call them negative, its our reactions, our choices within the situation which determine our outcomes. Always when things change, if we tolerate the uncertainty, we will find we grow and create space for our developing self. Nothing is certain except the inevitable end.

Part of this development is accepting my past self. It is easy to berate myself for mistakes made and poor decisions taken, far harder to accept that this self, exists only because I came through that version of me, this version of me only exists because that older version of me made those mistakes and I learned from the fallout. This one here and now, this one is actual, there and then that one in the past, must be accepted. And that one the future me, there is no point telling myself I should be this or that. If I accept myself as I am I will change as a matter of course, that is the great paradox. If I do not accept myself as I am and everything that is, if I just look at what I “should “ be, my expectation will prevent any change occurring.

life is too short

The older I get the more I become aware of how rapid life passes, and perhaps how much of mine has been wasted on meaningless chatter. I am less and less inclined to spend time with anything or anyone who does not inspire beauty within me. If it does not sustain the life I want to live then I let it go. I have realised that thinkers are generally not welcome in social gatherings. There is a freedom in this, but also the realisation that I am seeking meaning in a world which is in essence meaningless. I create meaning for myself, through my relationships, though my work as a therapist, and through the creative outpouring I call my art. It has taken me a long time to understand what Erich Fromm meant when he said “man’s task in life is to give birth to himself”.

I have started drawing again of late, after a long time in abeyance. Painting will come again soon. The most difficult moment is the one just before the start, in leading up to it there is procrastination and fear, but as soon as the brush hits the canvas all that falls away.

I think we are all responsible for the creation that is us, we can change what we were into what we want to be, but first we must accept ourselves just as we are and let go the idea of what we should be. in doing so we might be able to change, but not before.

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