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Tending Your Inner Garden
By Gabriella Kortsch, Ph.D.
Clients have often told me that they fear being by themselves. That they fear their own company. That they will do anything to avoid an evening on their own. Other clients tell me that while they may not fear being alone, they find it a most boring proposition, and can't quite imagine how to fill the time, other than with TV or a novel. Others refer to being uncomfortable in their own company, and hence, avoid it.
All three alternatives lead us to the same conclusion: if this is how you feel about being alone with yourself, somehow you are not connected to yourself - and - more importantly, you have no real relationship with yourself, and therefore, probably don't know yourself. Why is this important?
Marrying Someone You Fear
Imagine marrying someone whom you fear being alone with, someone whom you avoid spending an evening with on your own. Imagine marrying someone you find so boring, that you would not want to spend time alone with them. Or imagine marrying someone in whose company you feel uncomfortable, and therefore, you avoid this person.
Sounds like a bad joke, doesn't it? You'd run ten miles before marrying such a person. You'd do anything not to have to spend time with such a person. Nevertheless, that's the situation we have with ourselves when we don't recognize the value and importance of establishing a relationship with ourselves that makes us enjoy our own company, find ourselves interesting companions about whom we can always learn something new, and who can always lead us to deeper and deeper levels of understanding, and who is fun and exciting to be with... on our own.
Conjunctio... Are You Interested in Yourself?
Really? Is such a relationship with the self really possible? It basically comes down to what Jung termed the conjunctio, in other words the meeting of two separate parts of the self (generally unconscious) in the process of becoming a whole, or of uniting, and in so doing, of transforming.
But that actually sounds like a lot of psycho-babble. Who can contemplate overcoming what sounds like such a difficult hurdle? Anyway, who has the time and money to go into therapy in order to learn about all these things, and explore the deep dark past of one's childhood? In actual fact, it is not so hard, and it certainly doesn't depend on whether or not you go into therapy. It has a lot to do with becoming conscious and aware of the self, with a desire for knowledge of the self, and with the acceptance of responsibility for the self. So basically it has a lot to do with how interested you are in yourself.
Individuation - Becoming What You Can Truly Be
Jung, who brought us the idea of the integral, or holistic human being, said that becoming what we can truly be, growing into that which is inherently in us when we are born, is what the process of individuation is all about. Maslow, who brought us the hierarchy of needs said that in order to self-actualize, we need to become everything that we are capable of becoming. Joseph Campbell said we should follow our bliss.
Being Bored with the Self and Finding Meaning
All of these concepts refer in some way to self-knowledge, but also to meaning. (See my June 2006 Newsletter Finding a Meaning in Your Life). One can only be bored in one's own company, if there is no meaning in the life; if the individual has not yet bothered to think about what meaning he or she could give to his or her life. I won't delve more deeply into that subject, as it has been dealt with in some detail in the afore-mentioned article, but I do encourage you to explore it in order to begin to understand how to find the meaning in your life.
Fear of Being Alone with the Self
If you fear being alone with yourself, perhaps you feel there is so much in you that you hate, or despise, or judge, or criticize, that it is simply a very dangerous proposition to spend time there... together with yourself. In other words, it is scary to be with someone towards whom you have these very negative feelings. So doesn't it make sense to get to know this person that you are inside and out, and to clean out, if necessary, all those parts that are reprehensible, or, even better, to come to realize that there are actually no really truly reprehensible parts, and that you are, in fact, a rather enjoyable person to be with? But this is only possible if you take the journey inside in order to begin to get to know yourself...more importantly, in order to begin to love yourself.
Many of the difficult feelings you may have about yourself can be addressed by using the "energy barometer" I refer to in the article Your Energy Barometer: Make Your Mind Body Connection Work for You. Shifting your energetic vibration, in other words deliberately making yourself feel better will automatically take you to other levels where your thoughts and feeling about yourself will change. On those other, higher levels, it is so much harder for negative or low energy thoughts to find a breeding ground. When you are feeling good, how often do you dwell on downward-spiralling thoughts? When you are feeling good, you don't want to cry. So shifting your energetic vibration to a higher level, is something I encourage you to start practicing every single day, each and every time you recognize that you are spiraling downward.
Being Uncomfortable with the Self
If you are uncomfortable with yourself, it may have much to do with the fact that you have simply not much knowledge of yourself, and so feeling uncomfortable is similar to how you feel with a comparative stranger, about whom you know little, and who therefore does not create the sensation of ease and comfort a good friend does. Doesn't it make sense to try to become your own best friend? Again, in so doing, you will begin to not only appreciate yourself, but also like and love yourself. Even admire yourself. Imagine spending all your time with a friend about whom you feel this way... and this friend is you!
Tending the Inner Garden
This process need not be difficult, tedious, and certainly does not require the services of a therapist. It does, however, entail something akin to gardening. When you plant a seed in the garden of your house, or in a pot on your terrace, you know very well, that in order for it to grow into a strong oak tree, an elegant palm that sways in the wind, a rose, a geranium, sweet-smelling rosemary, or a flowering perfumed hibiscus, it first needs soil (preferably rich), water, sunlight, care, and constancy. The inner garden is no different.
Enriching the Soil
Possibly the soil in which you are beginning your process of growth is not particularly fertile at this time. You know that out there, in the external world, you can create a compost heap in order to enrich the soil you use for your plants. In the internal world you can begin to feed your soil (your mind, heart, and soul), with reading and viewing material that will convert into great compost, rather than trashing your garden with leftover junk food and plastic waste (which on the inner level might be likened to the mass media shows and books or magazines that many people like to read and view as a steady diet, and which has no hope of ever converting into rich soil).
For more concrete pointers on these ideas, have a look at my blog, specifically at the April 2, 2007 post Keep Energy High! Watch How You Feed Your Brain, Heart & Spirit in order to better understand this concept of maintaining rich soil in the inner garden. Read also the last few paragraphs of the April 29, 2007 post Baelo Claudia: Roman Ruins and the 'Now' in the same blog. Tend your garden well and watch the lush process of your own inner growth that will take place. Only you can do this for yourself, and only you can make the decision to begin it now...