The Good Doctor tells a tale of an emotional re-awakening
With the kick-off of summer comes opportunity for lots of fun. Outdoor art exhibits, athletic events, races on the water, theatre in the park, free concerts, Riverbend, gay pride festivals, food and drink festivals, and much more. Something for everyone.
Romance is in the air, too. As we emerge from hibernation and vacations are planned, and stress is lowered (hopefully), we put the metaphoric top down and enjoy freeing ourselves to enjoy the summer highway of good friends and good times.
This got me thinking. About romance, intimacy, summer flings versus serious commitments. About the different kinds of intimate relationships, and how we go about making choices that are healthy, and attracting people who are good for us. In the spirit of awakening ourselves to healthy romance (in any season), I want to share with you the story of my friend, Grace.
When Grace was single for the first time in her adult life, she was extremely lonely and thought she’d never survive the hollow, depressed feelings that plagued her during those first few months. It was very difficult for her, never having been without a boyfriend. She didn’t know how to do it. Always having a companion created for her a kind of emotional safety net where her own personal issues were mostly disregarded. She was “blissfully” distracted by her involvement in her romances.
But now Grace was experiencing something quite alien to her. After those early months of purposely filling her time with myriad distractions, some healthier than others, Grace finally took a breath and took stock of her situation: she was a single woman in her late 30’s.
While she wasn’t happy about this, she realized that she hadn’t spent time being much of a friend to herself, since she had been living a life where she didn’t create any opportunities to find out who she was on her own. Now devoting most of her time to staying busy, she still was not putting any energy toward caring for her internal needs…so she couldn’t honor those needs…in fact she could barely identify them.
At some point this became a source of great discomfort and conflict for her, and Grace realized she felt like a hamster on a wheel, avoiding grief from the past…and joy of the present.
This wasn’t the life she wanted.
With some gentle nudging and guidance from her therapist, a discovery, an unfolding, eventually came into Grace’s awareness as she explored her own landscape of emotions and thoughts like she’d never done before. She began to get in touch with past traumas, which were fueling her never-ending series of distractions. (The urgency with which she avoided knowing herself illuminated how painful those past hurts really were.) But as she carefully navigated those memories, she began to experience a relief, a lightening of burdens.
It was a process, and processes take time, but rewards came as revelations about how good a friend she could be to herself (and others), and how she deserved every moment of feeling whole, on her own, without a sig other to fulfill her every need. As a result of this expansion and awareness of her true self, Grace started liking herself again.
“It was a little like Christmas,” she’d say. “Without someone to run off to and find out first and foremost how they felt about something, I was left to find out how I felt. That was new. I never took the time to pay attention before. It was a kind of emotional laziness I think. How do you feel about…whatever? OK. I’ll go along with that.”
It’s no accident that about a year later she met a man who turned out to be the person she would marry. Being more of a whole person in her own right—and knowing that person better than she ever had—allowed Grace to have much more to offer, and to attract someone who complimented who she was, as opposed to someone who was tasked with filling all her missing parts, or overshadowing her own sense of self. Learning to know—and love—herself, was the best gift she’d ever received.
Until next time: “I am not what has happened to me. I am what I choose to become.” ~ Carl Jung
Dr. Rick Pimental-Habib, Ph.D., is a psychotherapist, author, minister, and educator in private practice in Chattanooga. Contact him at DrRPH.com, visit his wellness center at WellNestChattanooga.com