Caring for yourself can take many forms. For most, it can bring to mind going for a massage or treating yourself to something nice, or simply taking your time over a cup of tea and cake and savouring it. There is however another element to self-care which is often overlooked, yet which has a powerful effect on our lives and relationships. This element is the act of caring for our inner world, and is a more soulful aspect of self-care.
Our most important relationship is the one we have with ourselves. We can have better, more intimate and fulfilling relationships with our loved ones if we have a meaningful relationship with ourselves.
When we are fully present to our own inner world, with awareness of our thoughts and feelings and our own tendencies, this gives us vital information about how the world impacts us, what our needs are, and what is okay and not okay for us.
Building a relationship with ourselves also builds our self-esteem, which is based on the authenticity of one’s own feelings and not on the possession of certain qualities, as we are commonly led to believe. The self esteem and self knowledge which come from self-care can be invaluable if, for instance, you have a pattern of choosing the wrong partner or your relationships tend to break down. Care for the self in this way can help to change an unconscious pattern you may have been stuck in, so that you are attracting and attracted to people who are easier to be with and more ‘right’ for you.
“Emotion is the chief source of all becoming conscious. There can be no transforming of darkness into light and of apathy into movement without emotion.” C G Jung
Coming into relationship with our inner lives is a courageous and life-affirming step. Even though it is often because of difficult or traumatic events that someone steps through the therapist’s door, accessing therapy doesn’t mean that we are ‘broken’ and need ‘fixing’. Rather, it is a healthy impulse towards the integration of unexplored feelings and aspects of ourselves which also brings about more sublime feelings such as joy and happiness. When we are accessing feelings which may have been repressed or denied, it is important to move at a pace that is right for us. We may find that we need a guide for this part of our journey. We carry around with us quite harsh inner voices which we have picked up along the way – you’ll recognise them – these are the ones which often begin with ‘should’! In a therapeutic relationship you’ll learn to notice these voices and to gradually replace them with the kinder, more gentle voice of your true self. This is not to be confused with ‘positive thinking’, which can sometimes deny how we are really feeling.
“To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance” – Oscar Wilde
The role of a counsellor is to help people to re-learn how to love themselves and to be gentle towards themselves. In therapy we sow the seeds of a life-long nourishing relationship with oneself and this is the key to having more fulfilling, peaceful relationships with those around us.
Three key things which can help to create a healthy relationship to ourselves are:
- Meditation – either guided or silent meditation can be transformative. There are many approaches and styles out there. One resource is www.tarabrach.com
- Journal writing – if it appeals to you, journaling can help bring things to consciousness – expect lots of ‘a-ha’ moments!
- Psychotherapy – this gives you a safe space in which to explore un-tapped areas of your life with the aim of feeling more whole, fulfilled and with greater self-esteem.