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Do You Like the Person You Are Alone With?
By Gabriella Kortsch, Ph.D.
Funny question, isn't it? Do you like the person you are alone with? If you are alone, there is no one with you ... other than yourself. So what about it? Do you like the person you are alone with? Do you like yourself? Enjoy spending time with yourself? Look forward to being alone with yourself? Consider yourself good company? Are you comfortable with yourself? Would you choose yourself as a friend, if you were not you?
Or do you, as so many of my clients admit to me, shy away from spending time with yourself? Find yourself looking for any activity at all in order to avoid being alone with yourself? Literally run away from any possibility of being alone with yourself? Some of my clients find themselves experiencing extreme anxiety if they have to be on their own. They will go shopping, they will eat, watch television, go to parties they don't particularly enjoy, go out on dates with people they don't find very interesting, drink, smoke, take drugs, have intercourse (including indiscriminate, even promiscuous sleeping around), in short, do anything they can to avoid the ultimate confrontation with the self.
Why does this happen? We could blame it in part on a society that places a much higher value on outer, material, social, and professional accomplishment than on the inner quest, where in reality both should be in balance (see also Tending Your Inner Garden). We could blame it in part on a society that does not further - or help us - to take these looks at ourselves (see also The Unexamined Life).
We could also blame it on a society - and a process of socialization within our family, religious, and educational structures, that does not generally give us appropriate tools to begin the process of self-love. Not egotistical self-love, but healthy, good self-love. The kind that airline personnel refer to, when they are giving the little talk at the beginning of the flight and say that if there should be a drop in pressure, oxygen masks will appear, and if you are traveling with small children, please put yours on first, before attending to your child. You understand that one with no problem, so perhaps you can take another look at the healthy kind of self-love we all need in order to be of use to ourselves and others.
If we do not love the self, we will probably not look forward to spending time with the self. But if we want to love the self, we must also come to know it. In order to know it, we have to look at it. And looking at it means that at first we may find much we don't like. That's ok. We can deal with all of it bit by bit. But let's begin by looking inside. Inside the self.
Amazingly, even psychiatrists, psychotherapists, psychologists, mental health counselors, marriage therapists, family therapists, etc., are generally not required to undergo analysis, or encouraged to delve deeply within ... and as my three sons (well-versed in my opinions on the matter) would say ... Hellooooo?. Hello indeed. How is it possible that those of us who deal with the human psyche are not required to deal with our own? That, however, must be the topic of another future article.
Because we do not find this encouragement to embark on the inner quest, those of us who nevertheless do go ahead with it, find ourselves at odds with the bulk of society, if we are courageous enough to speak about it. We are either not understood, we may be mocked, and we may ultimately find ourselves ignored, or our friends may shake their heads and say or think: well, that's just his/her thing.
But what can the person who has not spent time with him or herself do to make this process easier? How can they walk along the path that will lead them into themselves, rather than consistently looking for something external to fill the unexplored void? We could recommend meditation, solitary walks, and so on, but I find that such practices are often too much for the novice, as they are then thrown into themselves to an overwhelming degree, much as someone used to a regular Western diet and who wishes to eat in a more healthy fashion, may find that going raw (eating only raw foods) is too much. (In a side note, I might add, I have gone totally raw from a regular Western diet over the past month after much reflection and reading about the subject over a number of years ... since the 70's, and find the initial effects of this raw diet - fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and sprouts - on my body and mind and state of being, as well as on my energy level and quality of sleep, highly illuminating ... more of this in a future post on my blog).
Here are some transition suggestions:
- Use audio CD's or tapes to spend some time on your own, but initially accompanied by someone (the motivational or inspirational speaker) who fills your mind with thoughts you might not normally get into on your own (see also Nurture Yourself to Happiness and Success).
- Start the daily practice of journaling: write down your thoughts during a period of five minutes to begin with and see where it takes you.
- And if you are already journaling, do a gratitude journal as well. Just jot down five things every day you are grateful for... and remember... things can be something ranging from a material thing, to something about your looks, to a sea gull you have just spied, to the sound of the wind through the trees, to your own particular gifts and talents, etc. Being grateful brings us closer to ourselves. We become more humble in view of the greatness that surrounds us. And so we come closer to ourselves as well.
- Start recording your dreams (listen to my audio clips on dreams on my Radio Page and attempt to interpret them, as this will lead you into the psyche.
- If you enjoy reading, start picking up some books that don't exist merely to entertain, but also to serve as an aid with which you can get to know yourself better (there are numerous books in my extensive Recommended Books section.
- Once you've done some of this, you may actually find yourself desirous of trying that solitary walk. I power walk one hour every day on the beach here in southern Spain, which affords me a superb opportunity each and every day to commune with myself, or be internally creative, or practice open-eyed meditation, or be grateful for this blissful part of my day, etc.
Getting to know the self, becoming enamored of the self, finding the beloved within, is one of the most liberating things you can decide to do for yourself. All it takes is some curiosity (how can you not be curious about yourself??) and desire, and above all, to take the first step.