The True Meaning of Self Love
The Dalai Llama, in one of his interviews in the West, stated that in his culture, there was no word for low self esteem. He was very surprised and saddened that he found so much inner disturbance and unhappiness in the West. In our culture, where we do so much and are so oriented toward achieving and being "successful," people often chronically feel unhappy and not good about themselves. If psychotherapy focuses on "fixing" the person it can become part of the problem.
"What does love have to do with it?" Love in this context means a willingness to be with ourselves and all of our feelings. It means making space for oneself. In psychotherapy, it means being aware of oneself with gentleness and compassion before attempting to change or fix anything. It is in giving space to all of one's feelings that movement naturally occurs. In future articles we will discuss bringing Loving presence to oneself, for now, we are talking about developing Witness Consciousness.
In Psychospiritual psychotherapies this manner of being oneself is considered an essential aspect of the treatment if not the cure! Meaning, that the capacity to be with oneself in a supportive and aware fashion, observing one's feelings and emotions and patterns with a non-judgmental awareness would be curative for most of us. What would it be like to have such kindly internal support. Instead of the critical voices we often hear within, to have an observing presence that watches us with interest.
Actually, this capacity is always available, but we don't learn it as a tool or skill in our culture. In other cultures, where meditation is part of a daily practice, this ability to calmly and dispassionately observe oneself is naturally developed. Even though clients don't usually know how to do this when they start therapy, it is a very important part of knowing oneself. This kind of awareness combined with acceptance truly is the underpinning of self-love. We throw that word around...yet if we think about it, what does it mean to love oneself. We can't even begin to adequately take care of ourselves and know what's needed until we know all of ourselves. We can't know ourselves, until we find the quiet seat within the storm of feelings and thoughts, to watch these aspects come and go.
Finding the ability to have a quiet, observing place within is already healing. We soon see our repetitive types of thoughts, and feelings, our tendencies and patterns, and yet, from this seat, we are not so identified with them. The danger at this point is to want to change what we see...to fix. Strangely enough, the very action of sitting with our feelings and contradictions, begins to make a change. Were you ever in confusion- and turmoil...and having a caring person just sit with you without interference allowed a new view or perspective to emerge? This is the case with being with ourselves in such away. Bringing awareness to one's self in this way, is loving and nurturing.
You can experiment with developing the Witness Consciousness:
Make a commitment to yourself to discover this way of loving yourself. Over the next few days, every time you remember, just observe yourself. When you remember, you will feel as if you are stepping out of the drama of your life and watching yourself. What are you feeling, what are your thoughts, body sensations, background emotional state... just watch and do not judge. Find that seat of simply observing with no judgment. That is pure awareness- Witness consciousness. How does it feel to be the observer rather than in the story?