As If I Belonged

The holidays are upon us with many gatherings of family and friends. Picture this – you are heading to a party, sitting in your car and getting ready to go inside. What do you notice happening in your body? Butterflies in your belly? Tightening of your shoulders? What are your thoughts as you walk through the front door?

 

In my early 20’s, I loved going to parties. I wouldn’t go so far as saying I was the life of the party, but pretty close. I laughed easily and loudly. You would find me deeply engaged in the latest: “Have you heard that Sarah…? Can you believe that Tom..?”

 

I don’t remember being too concerned with what others thought of me. Probably a drink or two added to that sense of ease, though I have never been a big drinker. Maybe I suffered from lack of self-awareness? It would be hard to believe that I was simply confident. If I were, why did I become more self-conscious and insecure as I got older?

 

At 53, I have successfully raised two children and helped guide them into young adulthood. I have a degree in Psychology and a thriving career. However, in social gatherings, I often start getting nervous and insecure, having feelings of being an outsider, of not belonging.

 

Not long ago, a friend invited me to her daughter’s 18th birthday. We gathered around the living room coffee table, with homemade chocolate chip cookies, fresh from the oven at hand. Mary, the birthday girl, was sitting amongst us with a big smile. We, the 10 women gathered are her so-called ‘aunties’; women other than her mom, who love and support her flourishing in the world.

 

Jeni, Mary’s mother, wanted us to impart words of wisdom before Mary went off to college at the end of summer. We told Mary things like;

“I want you to know that you can count on me.“

“Make mistakes and be kind to yourself.”

“Call me anytime for brainstorming or problem solving, or a hug over   the phone”, I said.

 

As the evening progressed, instead of feeling more at ease, I felt more separate. I doubted my words, and was sure others were judging me. I wanted to get up and leave, though I forced myself to stay until the end.

 

A few weeks later, I experienced similar feelings at a friend’s movie release. After the film, friends gathered around Giorgia as she discussed the movie.

I was horrified when I caught myself thinking, “I don’t know what I’m talking about. I should just be quiet so I don’t make a fool of myself.” Where had such self-doubt come from?

 

I recently went to a meditation weekend with Deborah Eden Tull  (look her up, she is amazing!) Eden is 4 foot 9 inches, with a delicate frame, long dark hair and piercing eyes. Despite her small stature she is a force of clarity and wisdom. Though I have meditated for years with the help of a meditation app guiding me through the basics of mindfulness, I am new to meditation retreats. Eden’s passion is “relational mindfulness.” Eden claims, and I fully agree, that our relationship to ourselves, forms the basis of all other relationships.

 

During the retreat, Ellen, a fellow participant, spoke about her own discomfort in social situations: “I like to be seen as competent and easy going. Sometimes I am so preoccupied with this desire that it can be hard for me to enjoy other people.” As you can imagine, her story deeply resonated with me.

 

Eden responded by saying, “As we have explored today, one truth about being human is that we are all inherently connected. We all belong to each other. However, our ego wants us to feel separate. The ego’s agenda is for us to be preoccupied with wanting to be liked, funny, confident, intelligent or beautiful. While trying to convince others that we are these things, how can we ever be fully present?”

 

I thought of Giorgia’s movie release, of how my ego had convinced me that I was not smart enough to participate, robbing me of an experience of connection. At that moment, I vowed that before going to a gathering I would pause and remind myself that I belong.

 

It wasn’t long until I had an opportunity to practice my new commitment. Michelle decided to celebrate her birthday by having breakfast with 15 of her women friends. On the car ride there, I gave myself a short pep talk; “Ok, Rudi, enter the restaurant as if you belong “

 

There were a few moments when I had to take a deep breath and remind myself of my new mantra, but overall, I did well. I left the breakfast smiling, and feeling connected, not only to the other women, but also to myself.

 

With the holidays, I will have more opportunities to practice my new skill and so will you. Don’t abandon yourself to the ego that wants you to feel separate.  Connect to yourself and enter the gathering knowing that you belong.

 

 

Posted in Blog

Why Would I See a Couples Therapist? – Video

My previous blog post may have answered the question of what happens in therapy but you may still be asking yourself why you should see a couples therapist. This video may help answer that question.

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Posted in Couples Therapy

What Happens in Therapy? – Video

You may find yourself wondering what happens in a therapy session.  This video may help answer your question. Stay tuned for the next video “Why would I see a couples therapist?”

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Posted in Self Discovery

The Wisdom Within

“Finding Self is finding God within.”

— Carl Jung

What I have discovered in my therapy room is that people often know much more than they think they do. There is a wealth of information inside each of us. Sometimes all it takes is slowing down, taking a deep breath or two and a willingness to look deeper into ourselves, to retrieve a knowing that is wiser than what our head tells us. What is it that we are accessing? I would be lying if I said I knew the answer. What I believe happens is that we are able to connect to our Higher/Divine Self, to our Soul, to God within. This Higher Self helps us to see the greater perspective of life and of our place in it; where as our small self only has access to what we ‘actually know’. It is limited and often stuck in fear or the past.

When we are connected to our hearts, to ‘our God within’, not only do we start to feel a greater connection to self and our deeper wisdom but we also feel a greater connection to our surrounding. People, whether family, friends or strangers, as well as nature become more important to cherish and protect. Kindness starts to expand the heart; the need to be careful with words and deeds grows. God within, is a new guiding post. Suddenly I want to be kind, I want to look out for the well being of others and I understand that we are ultimately all the same. When you hurt, I hurt; when you are joyous, I am joyous.

How can I find this wiser part of myself you might wonder? One of my favorite questions to help you connect with your Higher Self is, “When do you feel most like yourself?” Sometimes the answer almost jumps out of the person’s mouth, “When I am painting. When I am with my children. When I am in nature”. And for some the answer is a blank stare; then we have to do a more extensive search for the Self.

I love this part of my work; it seems like a miracle unfolding right in front of my eyes. The room gets quiet, almost holy. It is such a privilege to assist another person in discovering her own, deep knowing. I use guided meditations, mindfulness practices and lots of time. The focus shifts from head to heart, from thinking to feeling and noticing. As mentioned above, I want you to access your wider, wiser perspective and the ability to trust our own decision making without needing someone else’s opinion. It can be difficult to discern your intuition, your heart’s wisdom from the overlay of your upbringing and the cultural norms and expectations. However, with patience and perseverance we find the gem, that is truly You.

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Posted in Self Discovery

Commitment: Liberation or Prison Sentence?

Waking up next to the same person every morning can be less than thrilling. You have heard their stories, some of them you might even know by heart. You are opening your front door to the same face, no matter how beautiful it is; versus kissing a new  face for the first time.

Yet waking up to that same person also holds the key to being deeply and truly seen, to feeling less alone in this world and to knowing that there is someone who has your back and carries the sometimes heavy weight of the world with you.

Do we need to be fully committed to this person to be able to count on them? The author Neil Strauss says this, “Without commitment, you cannot have depth in anything, whether it’s a relationship, a business or a hobby.” I agree. Depth and expertise come from choosing and sticking with one thing and investing in that one thing.

Commitment requires dedication, requires choosing; it is an action, not a passive occurrence. Unlike falling in love, which seems to happen to us, loving and commitment are an act of will, not of chance. We choose to love and to commit and then we act accordingly, whether we feel like it or not. Feelings are fleeting; intentions give us a guiding post for when we do not feel like doing what we promised to do.

We know that it takes about ten thousand hours of practicing that thing we want to be good at. Being good at relationship takes time. Could I become skillful partner by having multiple partners? you might wonder. Of course, but being with the same person has a distinct advantage. You are becoming not only an expert at the art of relationship, but also an expert at this one person. What an amazing privilege and honor!

I leave you with a quote by Criss Jami author of “Venus in Arms”, “To say that one waits a lifetime for their soulmate to come around is a paradox. People eventually get sick of waiting, take a chance on someone, and by the art of commitment become soulmates, which takes a lifetime to perfect.” 

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Posted in Relationships

Rudi Lion MFT
(805) 453-4826

2020 Alameda Padre Serra
Suite 217
Santa Barbara, CA 93103

Near Santa Barbara Mission and downtown Santa Barbara, close to 101 freeway, easy access from freeway, wheelchair friendly, easy access from Goleta and Carpinteria. Click for Driving Directions.

Skype counseling sessions available to remote locations.

Specialties include couples therapy, EMDR, short term therapy, trauma therapy and PTSD therapy.


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