Getting To Know Yourself
One thing that continues to amaze me in my counseling office is how consistently people learn new things about themselves. I’ve seen it happen over and over again. Someone is extremely upset about something, yet they have no idea the depth of what is really wrong.
It’s like we are deep, amazing oceans and all we can see most of the time are the waves on top.
Couples come in for therapy after being unable to find their way out of continual fights. One of the first things I do is listen very, very closely for what is missing from the conversation. Nine times out of ten, there are some very powerful thoughts and feelings that have never, ever been brought into any of these fights.
I’ll give you a “for instance.” For instance a client may be really angry that her partner never plans a date and arranges babysitting. It’s always her. The angrier she gets, the more she points out to him his flaws. She may call him lazy, inconsiderate, or worse. Yet in counseling, new things emerge. It quickly becomes very clear that what she never talks about or really thinks about is that she’s sad. She’s lonely and bored, and she feels unappreciated.
Ok, So What Does This Have To Do With Yoga?
I’m no great yogi. In fact, I doubt I’ll ever really graduate from the beginningest of beginners. But I love it for a million reasons. One of the biggest is it helps me become very aware of things I normally never notice. Like my posture, how I hold my hands, my feet, and even where my thoughts travel. It’s a cool journey and a way toward health that resonates with me.
I also notice that when I really give myself the time and attention, I get to know my own thoughts and feelings better. I focus less on the world and other people for a time, and in a way I can actually see it all even better.
Tip Of The Iceberg
One sad truth about fighting couples is that so often only a small piece of the problem gets dredged up over and over and over, and some really crucial stuff stays locked away when it could be used to bring you closer than ever.
When I work with couples, I spend a lot of time with each person to help them develop greater awareness of who they are and what they want, what hurts and what isn’t working. Sounds pretty basic, and almost too simple doesn’t it? Yoga helped me notice, for the first time in decades, that I lean onto one side while standing. I put all my weight on one side rather than balance myself on both feet. No big deal unless you also wonder why your knee hurts when you’re walking down the stairs.
Awareness Makes The Difference
Similarly, counseling can help you notice more quickly that you feel unappreciated and sad, for example. Seems so basic and obvious, but until a neutral outsider points it out, chances are you might have spent years focusing instead on some chore that doesn’t get done, or a birthday that goes unnoticed rather than on your own, important emotions.
I won’t spend time here explaining why all emotions are so critical to growing great relationships. Suffice it to say that without being aware of all of them, we might actually be injuring and tearing down our relationships instead of strengthening them. It’s like doing yoga while distracted and in a hurry: if you can’t listen to your body’s signals, you miss so many golden opportunities to grow and strengthen and balance and heal and thrive.
Margie Wheelhouse is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Springfield, Illinois. She helps couples build great relationships and repair broken ones.