We live in a society in which no one wants to be alone. We are glued to our technologic devices and addicted to social media, which serve to suppress the ache of loneliness that defines the human condition. But intentionally getting in touch with your Self is critical. You learn how to soothe your Self. You come face-to-face with certain realities that have been clouded by distraction. You become more attuned to your emotional and mental structure as you move through the process of change. You fuel your momentum to keep going.
I would like to offer four practices that helped me break free from the bondage of emotional dysfunctions (these work in conjunction with the Step to Transformation [link to post]). I can say with confidence these steps helped me not only recognize and learn how to handle my emotional strongholds but also discover, define, and love my Self.
- Pray—all the time. Prayer became a discipline not as a channel to ask God to help save my marriage but as a means to develop a personal relationship with him. Simply talking to God regularly as I would a trusted friend helped me on a daily basis to surrender my pain, my confusion, and my will. I was amazed at how over time my prayers morphed from selfish monologues to quiet times of meditation as I simply asked God to guide me in this process and uncover my true Self. Whatever your spiritual background, prayer is important. It is a critical component to the process of surrender, an admission that you desperately need help outside of your Self.
- Take responsibility for your part. No matter how strongly I believed I was standing on moral high ground in my marriage, the fact was I was not. I was a major contributor to the problems. I had not acted well, led well, or exemplified how to love well, and for that I was ultimately responsible. Consequently, I needed to apologize for the state of the marriage and in the process surrender my need to be right. It didn’t matter if my wife accepted my apologies or returned my words with hostility. I simply had to say I was sorry. When we admit we are wrong and become accountable for our actions, we open the door to healing. It is another way of telling the universe we are ready to embrace change.
- Be vulnerable. I would have to do the one thing I feared the most: make my Self Ironically, doing so opened the door to my ultimate liberation. After much prayer and contemplation, I felt God leading me to tell my wife “I love you” three times each day until the marriage was either repaired or over. I started three months before she left and did this from the bottom of my heart, absent of expectation. God was teaching me about true love, giving my Self without expecting anything in return. If I was to love in that manner, I had to trust that he would give me so much more love in return, that his love was more than enough. When you trust in God, in his provision, in his plan, and in his timing, you are better able to open your Self in humility to others. You tend to do the right thing regardless of the outcome.
- Spend time in solitude to Self-reflect. My counselor asked that outside of work and spending time with my four children and new granddaughter, I stay home for five months, even on the weekends. He wasn’t being a killjoy; he just wanted me to, for the first time in my life, face my Self. No distractions. No opportunities to escape or numb my Self at cocktail parties or get-togethers. I used that time to pray, meditate, and Self-reflect. Being alone was difficult at first, but the more time that passed, the more I learned to love and take care of my Self. I will admit my counselor paid a heavy price for this directive. At first, I suffered panic attacks and was convinced I would go crazy without some form of live social stimulation. I can’t tell you how many 3:00 a.m. phone calls we shared over my fear that I would not be able to continue this practice of contemplative solitude.
Rewiring our minds takes months, even years. When you fall back on your old patterns or behaviors, know that you have not failed. Look at these setbacks as opportunities to pause, recognize your mistake, and do things better the next time. Human beings aren’t perfect, and our emotions are real. As we move through painful transitions, scars run deep. It takes time to learn and grow and progress into a stable, strong, and flexible Self. The most amazing part of my journey is that daily weaving in the four practices ultimately helped me rewire my mind in the midst of incredible pain and anxiety.