I’m someone who is an unabashed proponent of therapy. I’ve never really understood the shame that I’ve heard many people have around going to therapy. I look at it like an Adult Continuing Ed. class in Emotional Education.
I’m not saying it’s an easy thing to go to therapy. I’ve also noticed (myself included), that often people would rather do anything (root canal included), than look inward, and take responsibility for their lives, and make the necessary changes internally and externally toward a more fulfilling life.
I didn’t grow up in a home where emotions were valued or expressed. Well, let me rephrase; toughness and do-it-yourself-ness and everything-is-fine, if those are emotions were valued and expressed, but I found myself wanting a broader and more genuine range, so out of a kind of frantic claustrophobia mixed with despair, I went to therapy at around 20 years old. I’m still at it, and hope to be until well into my eighties. I want to keep learning about human psychology and emotions, my own and others.
Things don’t have to be going wrong to go to therapy. And that’s the spirit that my girlfriend and I decided to start going to couples counseling twice a month. A sort of, “Hey how can we really make sustaining dynamics in the foundation of our relationship instead of stale habits?” And we were both sort of talking about this idea of “What does it really mean to be with each other?”
I heard something last time we were there, that has been resonating with me, and that I keep thinking about and wanted to share with you.
The (Buddhist) therapist said to us (I’m paraphrasing), “What makes a good relationship is actually not great communication. You could master all sorts of communication techniques and still not have a good relationship. What makes a good relationship actually, is the ability of each person to be with the other person in whatever state they are in.”
This is where I was sitting there thinking, WTF. I think I said out loud, “Seriously?”
She continued, “Yes. Whatever emotional state arises in your partner, you want to just be fully present with it, without pushing it away, or trying to change it, or give advice, or become annoyed by it, or anything like that. You just want to be fully with them in it. That,” she said, “is real intimacy. And that is what sustains a relationship.”
I have been reflecting on my ways of being towards Meg in light of this rich statement by the therapist. I am surprised by how often I am uncomfortable for whatever reason by her responses to things. I’m a fixer and an action-taker. How often I want to separate myself from her when I am uncomfortable with her state or words. I have been trying to drop those things since our last session and just see if I can be fully present to her and that’s it. Just really be there. In the kind of naked stripped-down kind of thing just as it is.
It’s an amazing and slightly terrifying thing. The intimacy is immediate and full-throttle, and very rewarding. A natural compassion arises for her and for myself and for the situation.
It’s what all the teachers have been saying. Just be fully present to your life. Don’t try to push anything away or force a change because we think it would be better if we tweaked it slightly. Just be with it. Why would the teaching be any different in its application to relationship?