What Should Love Feel Like?

At least once a week, a client asks, “I know that love isn’t all butterflies and fireworks, but what should it feel like? Since I’ve never seen a healthy relationship and I’ve never been in one, I have no idea what it should be like.”

I usually balk at the word “should”, but I know what they’re getting at. They want me to offer some kind of template or description of a healthy relationship so that they know if they’re on the right track. How sad it is that most people are bereft of this model! How tragic, really, that because our culture doesn’t offer these templates we’re left groping around in the dark, grasping at some idea of “healthy” and most often left feeling like we must be doing something wrong or that our relationship is wrong in some way. As Alain do Botton writes in The Course of Click here to continue reading...

Loneliness is a Part of Life

One of the biggest obstacles to finding more wellness and equanimity is the belief that we shouldn’t be feeling what we’re feeling; that if we were more evolved or healed or with a different partner we wouldn’t feel so ________ (anxious, depressed, lonely, confused, empty, bored). Because we live in a culture that disseminates the message that everyone else is living a happy life, it’s easy to fall into the trap of believing that there’s a manual that you didn’t receive that outlines the steps for happiness. There is no manual, and if you look closely enough you will find that everyone struggles. The problem is that very few people talk about their struggles and so we collectively perpetrate the illusion that everyone else has it together.

One of the ways we perpetuate this illusion as a culture is that we’re not honest about our inner worlds and the struggles … Click here to continue reading...

Deconstructing the Family Story

One of the essential spokes of the growth and healing wheel is being willing to see our parents clearly. As children, we almost have no choice but to see our parents as infallible heroes and gods, and many people continue to carry these fantasies into adulthood. But if we’re to know ourselves, which is essential to healing ourselves, we need to know where we come from. We need to be able to trace at least some of the lines of our negative patterns back to their origin.

This origin doesn’t always lie with our parents, of course. We are social beings and subject to many other sources of influence; siblings, peers, religion, and education all play a fundamental role in our development (as does temperament, personality type, and learning style). In fact, I’m often surprised and disheartened by how little attention these other factors – like sibling relationships – have … Click here to continue reading...

10,000 Hours of Love

Alongside the adolescent view of love we hold in this culture that says that love is a feeling, we also believe that love should be easy. Of course, this attitude of effortlessness and ease extends far beyond the bounds of love; more and more, people seem to believe that life itself should be easy. We shouldn’t feel pain or discomfort, jealousy or frustration. We shouldn’t struggle through transitions, or should only feel happy emotions around death-and-rebirth thresholds like becoming a wife/husband or a parent. In short, we should, somehow, always be fine (“How are you?” and “I’m fine.”), which is another way of saying that anything uncomfortable is pushed underground and we shouldn’t have to work for wellness.

I have a feeling this expectation of effortlessness is connected to modern technology, where everything is easier and faster. From the automobile to the vacuum cleaner, from online shopping to texting, modern … Click here to continue reading...

Television and Anxiety

If you’re a member of my Break Free From Relationship Anxiety E-Course, you know that I follow a holistic model when working with anxiety. This means that in order to break open and discover what’s embedded inside the messenger of anxiety, we must address the four realms of Self: cognitive, physical, emotional, and spiritual/soul/creative. When anxiety and intrusive thoughts hit we ask, “What’s needed in these four realms of self? Which realm is asking for my attention?” Anxiety and intrusive thoughts are the distress flare. Our loving and compassionate action is the response.

In order to do our inner work and even slow down enough to ask what’s needed, we need to create time and space in our lives. Yet when I ask people how much time they’re spending turning inward, they often say, “I just don’t have the time.” Tell me your day, I respond. “Well, I … Click here to continue reading...