Terri L. Ciochetti, MFT
We all experience times when we are faced with situations, people or choices and find ourselves stuck, unsure of what, why or how to proceed. Sometimes the challenge is discerning what is true and right for us. Not what we “should” do, but what we truly desire and how to move in that direction. For many of us the process of growing up and trying to fit in with family, friends and culture resulted in our losing touch with vital parts of ourselves that we need in order to find what is authentic . What truly enriches our lives and makes us happier, not just more well liked and accepted. Once we start down the path of self discovery there are myriad challenges as we encounter resistance – ours and others’, some familiar and some previously unknown. It can be challenging to stay on the path of change when the discomfort something new comes up. Even when it is something we thought we wanted but now feels so .... different. At other times life deals us what seem like insurmountable blows and it is difficult to find our way back to safe and stable ground. Having an attuned other by your side to provide encouragement, possibly another perspective or just helping to go deeper can make those challenges less daunting, more something to be curious about than feared. Sharing the struggle with someone trained, unbiased and compassionate can provide relief (though admittedly sometimes it is not immediate), direction and solace.
So many of us spend our lives believing that if we were just grown up enough and smart enough (pretty, rich, thin, strong, flexible, in love enough) everything will be better. Unfortunately, it is often the case that growing up and gaining knowledge doesn’t necessarily lead to happiness and we continue seeking it outside of ourselves. It can be even more discouraging when we believe we are supposed to be able to think and reason our way out of our emotional experience. When we think “I know what I should/need to do, why don’t I just do it?!” Then judgment kicks in and watch out – as Pema Chodron states so lovingly “The greatest harm comes from our own aggressive minds”.
In our relationships, that same aggressive mind can become trained on our partner. It becomes the filter through which we experience our interactions. Minimally, if we are unable to give ourselves compassion and understanding, we cannot truly give that gift to another person. What we end up giving them is the same judgment that we give ourselves.
Generally, insight alone does not lead to deep change. What can be true, however, is that knowledge and insight can lead to awareness and compassion, and experiencing compassion for ourselves and others can lead the way to change.