The Ability to be Happy Alone

I told a couple of you guys about this quote. Here ya go:

The capacity to be alone is the capacity to love.

It may look paradoxical to you, but it is not. It is an existential truth: only those people who are capable of being alone are capable of love, of sharing, of going into the deepest core of the other person – without possessing the other, without becoming dependent on the other, without reducing the other to a thing, and without becoming addicted to the other. They allow the other absolute freedom because they know that if the other leaves, they will be as happy as they are now. Their happiness cannot be taken by the other because it is not given by the other.

– Chandra Mohan Jain


Eye Contact

Eye contact is an interesting thing. Sometimes people come up with a goal of keeping a steady, fixed gaze into my eyes during sessions.  This never goes well because there’s not enough leftover energy to allow thoughts/ideas/concerns to come into the foreground for them. So the person goes blank.  And then they’re very uncomfortable because they’re staring into my eyes and they’ve gone blank.

The opposite is also true.  People bring up their genuine concerns and they can feel their eyes moving around to correspond with their mental movement and then they say, “you probably noticed I don’t make much eye contact.” But I assure them they didn’t seem unnatural. They were simply letting their eyes do what they want while the rest of them searches their soul.

So don’t beat yourself up for “not making good eye contact.”

When it’s natural, a person actually “lets go” of their eyes and only occasionally accesses them again at key moments when (1) they’re wondering what kind of reaction the other person is having or (2) they’re putting extra emphasis on a specific (already formed) thought that they want to make sure is fully delivered into the other person.

So let them go. Let them loose.  You’ll know when to access them naturally.

If you make eye contact your primary goal, you’re probably going to get in the way of something.

And the fear of seeming weird by not making enough eye contact is going to make you seem weird from too much eye contact and going blank while staring.

Don’t get mad at. Get mad that.

There is often no bad guy. Events are collisions of millions of forces that leave people hanging with intense feelings with nowhere to point them. It’s really hard to let anger pass through you when you don’t have a place to put it.

The more intense the feeling, the less helpful this post. But maybe it can be a seed.

In situations where there is clearly no bad guy, try channeling your anger into being mad THAT it happened; rather than being mad AT someone.  The anger is pointed at the event.  At the collision.

Sometimes life just freakin blows. And there isn’t a single person in the equation who would’ve wanted an event to unfold the way it did. Nobody won. Nobody’s happy. It’s an abstract concept – and certainly easier said than done – but if you can grab onto glimpses of being mad THAT it happened, maybe this can be an effective channel to release some of the feelings and free yourself up a little.

Feelings never want to stay. They are best handled when they’re welcomed (once they’ve already entered) and then shown back to the place where they entered from.  The ’empty chair technique’ is beautiful when the feelings can be channeled at a specific person and placed right back towards the person who was the creator of the disturbance for you. But it’s not always that simple. So this post is for those types of events where there’s no bad guy, no single disturber whose needs ran into yours. It is wise of you to realize it would be inaccurate to get overly angry AT anyone involved, since not a single person would’ve pre-wished and pre-created this outcome. But then what to do with your anger?

Lastly, sitting with the words, “I am so angry that this happened,” will likely encourage your system to go deeper into the sadness, which is less pointed and doesn’t get stuck as easily (we generally don’t have a wish to stab someone with our sadness like we do with our anger). Finding the softer sadness can be a little more of a landing zone with more restful spaces (though still intensely uncomfortable). It’s a little easier to be sad without a secondary urge to have to “do something about it.” There is sometimes nothing to do. Life has some brutal edges, sometimes completely vulnerable to chance. Nothing can be done. Be sad. Be mad that it happened.  These are the worst.

A Questionnaire for Existential Therapy. Does it ignite anything in you?

Check out this pre- and post- test for measuring the effects of therapy.  Participants rated each item on a scale of how true/relevant it is for them.  (This is out of Yalom’s text: Existential Psychotherapy.)

I communicate openly with my loved ones.

I appreciate the beauty of nature.

I have a sense of personal freedom.

It is important to me to be liked by everyone.

I obtain much pleasure from life.

I communicate honestly and frankly.

I do only those things I really want to do.

I live in the present rather than in the past or future.

I have moments of deep serenity.

I stand up for my own personal rights.

I have a sense of psychological well-being.

I communicate openly with my friends.

I feel I have something of value to teach others about life.

I am able to choose what I want to do.

My life has meaning and purpose.

Religious / spiritual beliefs have much significance for me.


How neat?? I imagine there could be such a wide range of reactions!

Distracting Versus Relaxing

There’s a really big difference between distracting yourself with something versus genuinely relaxing.

Let’s look at it as if it’s physical.

With distraction, it’s like using one of your hands to push against something that’s trying to come at you; and using the other hand to try and grab onto something that’s somewhat difficult to grab onto.

That’s two different directions of effort.

With relaxation, there’s zero effort from either hand.

Relaxation rejuvinates. Distraction drains in two different directions.

If it feels like you’re distracting yourself, you’re so much better off going directly at the thing that’s trying to get to you (the stressor). Then you’re unifying your energy, putting effort into ONE direction, and hopefully knocking it out so that genuine (effortless) relaxation can occur.

Arrogance and Stubbornness. (from fear)

Arrogance and stubbornness look neat if we look at them through fear.

Stubbornness can be defined as a fear of change/loss.

Arrogance can be defined as a fear of vulnerability.

Change ALWAYS has fear built-in. Change is connected to loss which is connected to death.

If anyone tells you “I don’t fear change,” they’re lying to themselves (denial / lack of insight) or they’re lying to you.

And “loss” has a double meaning: not only losing something, like losing time towards death, but also loss as opposed to winning. Competition. So stubbornness can also be a fear of losing TO someone or something.

Then there’s a fear of one’s soft spots being seen; a fear of vulnerability.  A person over-produces strengths and attempts to look down on people in order to hide.

Fear is a profound motivator.  Even arrogance and stubbornness look pretty neat if we view them through the lens of fear.