Has your world come crashing down when someone betrayed your trust? Could you never trust anyone again, and yet never realised why? Or, never fallen in love again and always wondered why the right man/ woman never crossed your path? Yes? Welcome to Riddhi's world. Riddhi, a homemaker, and Abhay, an executive, came in for relationship counselling. The following is an extract from one of their therapy sessions.
Therapist: So, Riddhi, what happens when Abhay goes on long business trips?
Riddhi: I feel very lonely and I feel insecure.
T: What do you mean by that?
R: All kinds of negative thoughts come to my mind... like he is having an affair. Or that he is going to leave me and go away. I feel miserable.
R: I feel he does not love me. And I know there is no rationale to it.
T: So you feel unloved.
T: Do you feel not loved only when Abhay is out of town?
R: (Long pause) Actually, I always feel this way... with Abhay, my parents and even my friends...
R: It all started with a broken engagement with another guy. Abhay knows about it... (Abhay nods) I was engaged to this guy and I poured my heart out to him and then suddenly they broke off the engagement without giving any reason.... I was devastated for a long time. I didn't know what happened.
T: I see...
R: I blamed myself for the whole thing... I blamed myself for loving him and feeling miserable. I felt nobody could love me ever. It was too much pain for me... I felt I couldn't trust anyone again...
We selectively try to 'learn' from our negative experiences how to avoid them. These mechanisms become our survival skills for sometime, but they also close us up.
To protect ourselves, we create walls around us and then we get disconnected from our inner selves.
We learn 'never to love again', 'never to trust again', 'never to be open again' and hold on to the pain, anger and hurt inside us as a reminder of our learning. We yearn to fill the void, desperately waiting for ' others' to love us.
Blindfolded, we look for the connection outside which we have severed inside.
It is difficult to find love and happiness outside when there is no love for ourselves. And it is impossible to love oneself fully if we can't accept ourselves in totality.
So, let's step out of our comfort zone, overcome our fear and embrace our vulnerability. And a great way to inch towards this is by practising Metta meditation.
'Metta' is a Pali word meaning loving kindness. This is a Buddhist meditation with an inside- out approach to fill your heart with positivity and love for yourself first, and then extend it to others.
How to practise Metta meditation:
Relax and sit upright. Take a few moments to quiet your mind by focusing on your breathing. Begin by offering Metta to yourself.
Visualise your heart filling up with love for yourself, allow yourself to feel safe and cared for. Gently repeat to yourself: .. May I be safe and protected.
.. May I be peaceful and happy.
.. May I be healthy and strong.
.. May I be able to take care of myself, joyfully.
When you are comfortable, try offering Metta to someone you like, love or care about. Imagine them standing in front of you and allow the love from your heart to flow to them. Repeat the same lines for them. Once your Metta flows easily to a loved one, do the same for someone you neither like nor dislike, and then a slightly difficult person. With practice, and if you are ready, you can offer it for someone who you felt had hurt you.
For each person you offer Metta, including yourself, recite the phrases for a few minutes. Finally, imagine this loving kindness spreading to all the people you know and then spreading further to all living beings.
It may seem a little unreal at first, but it will change with practice.
If you've distracting thoughts, acknowledge them. Remember it's all about acknowledging and accepting. One needs to practice this for six to eight weeks daily to experience a change. Regular practice not only helps you stay positive but also helps you stay calm in difficult situations.
Dr Sangbarta Chattopadhyay and Dr Namita Bhuta are medical practitioners, psychotherapists and life coaches.