Couples Counseling

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Couples Counselling, sometimes called Marriage Counselling, is for anyone in a committed relationship. They may be married, living together, dating, engaged, separated, considering marriage, same-sex or bisexual couples.

Match Soul has worked with couples for 2 years in her private practice setting in PE and Durban

We specialize in helping couples reconnect on an ongoing basis and after injuries occur in a relationship, such as when there has been an affair, either physical or emotional or both. When one or both partners claim to love the other but are not “in love” anymore and when conflict, illness, financial strain or other situations threaten to destroy the relationship.

A word about infidelity: Infidelity happens both in-person and online and is devastating to the couple relationship. It takes a skilled counselor, one familiar with the unique and complex dynamics couples demonstrate, to help couples through these challenging circumstances.

Match Soul practices Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT). A method supported by numerous scientific studies and practiced around the world. Using EFT she works with couples, together and individually in a comfortable, private setting where each person feelings, fears, and needs are heard and validated; where they are able to communicate without having the same arguments they have at home and where couples heal the injuries of betrayal and reconnect in meaningful ways.

With Match Soul, couples understand how their arguments affect them and their relationship and they learn new ways of interacting. Throughout the process, couples gain clarity, a renewed sense of connection and hope for the future of the relationship and for their family.

Couples end counseling with Match Soul feeling better and with confidence in their ability to resolve issues and maintain a strong, stable connection and relationship.

There is no need to continue feeling bad. Participation in counseling is a sign of strength and a recognition of the importance of relationship and family.

You’ve thought about it before – this time make the call.   


Individual Counseling

Image result for Individualindividual counseling is provided by Match Soul.

It is for men and women over the age of 18 that want to improve their lives, relationships and/or mental health.

In a safe and supportive environment, counseling begins with a one-hour “consultation session.” This session is designed for clients to decide if they feel comfortable and for Match Soul to determine if the services offered to meet the client’s needs.

Individual Counselling offers an opportunity for clients to discuss their situation in an objective and non-judgemental environment. Clients are guided toward a deeper understanding of their emotions, thoughts, behaviors, decision-making processes, and their current situation.

The client is considered the “expert” on their own experience and is guided through in-depth explorations into the events, feelings, relationships or stressors that get in their way of leading their most productive lives.

Most people are not sure what to expect in counseling and usually arrive feeling a bit nervous or anxious. Almost all of Match Soul’s clients report feeling very comfortable and supportive in session. They also report that counseling was much “better” than they had imagined.

Following the consultation session, many clients report that they have thought about going to counseling for a long time and that if they had known it would be “like this” they would have done it sooner.

So if you are considering counseling, please be encouraged by the words of other clients, much like you and contact Match Soul today. You will feel much better, even after making the appointment.


Couples Counseling

Related image

Couples Counselling, sometimes called Marriage Counselling, is for anyone in a committed relationship. They may be married, living together, dating, engaged, separated, considering marriage, same-sex or bisexual couples.

Match Soul has worked with couples for 2 years in her private practice setting in PE and Durban

We specialize in helping couples reconnect on an ongoing basis and after injuries occur in a relationship, such as when there has been an affair, either physical or emotional or both. When one or both partners claim to love the other but are not “in love” anymore and when conflict, illness, financial strain or other situations threaten to destroy the relationship.

A word about infidelity: Infidelity happens both in-person and online and is devastating to the couple relationship. It takes a skilled counselor, one familiar with the unique and complex dynamics couples demonstrate, to help couples through these challenging circumstances.

Match Soul practices Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT). A method supported by numerous scientific studies and practiced around the world. Using EFT she works with couples, together and individually in a comfortable, private setting where each person feelings, fears, and needs are heard and validated; where they are able to communicate without having the same arguments they have at home and where couples heal the injuries of betrayal and reconnect in meaningful ways.

With Match Soul, couples understand how their arguments affect them and their relationship and they learn new ways of interacting. Throughout the process, couples gain clarity, a renewed sense of connection and hope for the future of the relationship and for their family.

Couples end counseling with Match Soul feeling better and with confidence in their ability to resolve issues and maintain a strong, stable connection and relationship.

There is no need to continue feeling bad. Participation in counseling is a sign of strength and a recognition of the importance of relationship and family.

You’ve thought about it before – this time make the call.   


The Inner Child – An Introduction to Dialoguing

“So, like a forgotten fire, a childhood can always flare up again within us.”

~Gaston Bachelard

Have you ever noticed that, despite our best efforts, we sometimes behave like children?

There is a child inside all of us, whether we realize it or not. And sometimes we return to that child-like state. Often, this is a good thing – letting us tap into our playfulness, innocence, and amazement at the world. But at other times, it is the child’s vulnerabilities, dependencies, and insecurities that are reactivated.

A neglected and denied child – reflecting unresolved wounds, old beliefs, and values – can destroy our lives in ways we do not realize. We might interact with the opposite sex with the awkwardness of a ten-year-old, or speak to our boss with the fear of a lost little boy. As Nathaniel Branden said in How to Raise Your Self-Esteem, many of us try to become an adult by pushing away and ignoring this child – but the real path to adulthood is recognizing this child, making friends with it.

This post introduces a simple, versatile and yet very powerful process. It simply involves conversing with your disowned parts. While introduced with the inner child, this process is extremely effective in other forms of personal growth, such as shadow and sub-personality work. (Of which the rest of the series will go into detail.)

Who Has Been Hurt?

A long time ago, I bumped into a woman who was sitting behind me in a restaurant. It was an accident, but her husband began telling me off. I apologized a few times, but he ignored me and kept shouting. Eventually, I told him to stop making a scene, and walked off. At the end of the night, as he walked past me on his way out of the restaurant, he gave me a fierce glare.

And this was the surprising part, for I suddenly felt an overwhelming sense of abandonment, hurt, and fear. It made no sense to me. All the rage he had displayed before had not disturbed me, and I had no reason to be afraid, for he was half my size and twice my age. And yet – why this irrational sorrow, and why did it last for weeks after the event?

One day I found out why. I was reliving the event in my mind’s eye during a session of emotional work, when on a whim I removed the “camera” from out of my eyes and turned it around on myself. I was shocked at what I saw. It wasn’t the adult me who was sitting in the chair being glared at, it was a little boy of about six years old. I recognised that face; it was me.

The Child Has Always Been There

Almost everyone who has been in the world of personal development will have heard of the inner child. For a long time, I refused to do any work with it. Like many men, I cringed at the thought I had a soft and vulnerable side, and that attitude had kept me in suffering. But inside the mental scene, I was stunned. It was the first time I had been brought face to face with something I had denied my entire life, and I didn’t know what to do, for the boy was scared to tears.

I immediately injected my adult self into the scene, and rushed over to pick him up. I put everything else on “pause”, just like a video recording. I sat him on my knee, and held him tight as he began to cry. He was hurt, he told me. He hadn’t done anything wrong on purpose. It was just an accident and he had already apologized so many times. Why did that man still hate him? What else could he have done? Had the man been sitting there glaring at him for the entire night without him knowing?

As I held him, I realised that these thoughts, fears, and questions had been in my mind ever since the event. But I had resisted them every step of the way. I wanted to be strong, and my entire adult life, I did that by burying my sadness so deeply that I had to spend weeks relearning how to cry. I pushed the fearful child away by spending years in boxing and martial arts. And all that did was send an entire part of me, as Branden puts it, into an alienated oblivion.

This was the biggest reason one glare had hurt me for so long. I could not admit these feelings. This is worth re-reading, for many readers will find this difficult to accept. It wasn’t that man who had caused the hurt. He had merely triggered years and years of similar pains, of identical fears.

The Inner Child

As a child, each of us has been neglected, hurt, abandoned, or spat on in one way or another. This is true even for those with relatively happy childhoods. Sometimes it is what others had done to us; sometimes it is our own self-reproach for things we had done or not done, feelings we have had or not had. We might have hated ourselves for being needy, for being hurt, for being angry, for believing in things our parents didn’t.

In other words, we carry unresolved suffering inside us, and out of fear, pain, or embarrassment, we deny it. This is often undeniable for those who have had painful childhoods – the suffering there would be something we would do anything not to revisit. And so we lock the child – us – into a dark dungeon and drown out their cries with cigarettes, alcohol, drugs, sex, and work.

As psychiatrist R.D. Laing said – We choose to forget who we are, and forget that we have forgotten.

And yet, no matter how much we deny it, the child will not – cannot – go away. It needs to be integrated, accepted, and given lots of conscious attention and compassion, even if what they have to say is painful for us to hear. Only then, can we express all of his or her emotions in a healthy, mature manner. Only then, can we allow the child to be reintegrated.

Meeting The Child

So what exactly do we do? Meeting the child is a process that is alive, creative, and flowing. It would be an injustice to reduce it to a series of steps. It would also be unwise, because this process is unique to each person.

It is for these reasons that I have gone into so much detail in my own description, for you to get a feel of the ideas, and to do your own thing. The most important thing is to let everything come to you naturally, without forcing anything. My experience was based on how my mind works, so please don’t get locked in. Your experience can be completely different, and doesn’t even have to be visual. The child can be of any age, as long as it feels right to you. It is important not to have any expectations, or we might simply interact with what we think is inside us, leading to further denial. Allow yourself to be surprised.

Besides working with a specific event, another approach is visiting the child as he or she is right now. Allow yourself to get a clear image of what she looks like in your mind. A photograph will be helpful if you have one.

What is she doing?
Where is she?
What is he feeling?
What does he want to say?
What does he want?
What does she want to show you?
What does she need from you?

William DeFoore, in Anger, warns that sometimes the inner child might be too hurt or frightened to build a proper connection. Sometimes this concept is still too awkward. Please don’t give up too early; it is one of the most powerful things I use.

Interacting With The Child

Interact with the child. Treat him with as much compassion as you can. How would you want to be talked to, if you were in her position? It is important to let them have their say, and let them have their full experience. Some of us might impose our adult views on the child – telling it to toughen up and stop being such a crybaby, for instance. But isn’t that how we have hurt him in the first place? Don’t try to talk her out of her feelings. We can apologise to her for having ignored her for all these years, and promise to love her and hold her the next time she is hurt.

Nathaniel Branden provides several questions we can ask ourselves at this point. The most helpful would be – What can I do to be kinder to the child? What does she do when she feels ignored by me? What does he do when he feels I am treating him harshly? How have I been treating the child up to this day? What did you need to do to survive?

Step into Their World

The final step, then, is to become the child. Step into her world, and see things from her perspective. Feel as he feels. Speak as she speaks. Position your body as he would be. Perhaps he is curled up on the floor; perhaps she is sitting in the corner, or hiding under the blanket.

Become all the things that you have noticed about the child throughout the previous conversations. If she is scared, then be scared yourself. If he just wants to skip work today and curl in bed, then feel it. This doesn’t mean you have to act on it, of course, but in this process, mentally reclaim these traits, tendencies, and feelings as your own. This is perhaps the most vital step. It is to be expected that this feels awkward, as we finally aligning ourselves with what we have pushed aside for so long.

The insights that come from this can be truly striking. I won’t provide examples here, though, as there is always a tendency to start searching for insights similar to what we’ve read. It is always a good idea to return to the adult self and interact with and love the child again, based on what you’ve discovered.

Remember with any process that safety and respect for yourself and those around you is always the top priority.

Cleaning Up After The Dialogue

At the end of the experience, take some time to work with whatever has arisen. There are two general approaches to this – the emotions and the feelings.

There are two ways of working with emotions: Feeling them completely, or releasing them. Throughout the entire process, either one of these should be happening by itself, since dialoguing is meant for us to get in touch with our feelings. However, I can’t be sure, as I’ve been releasing for so long that it happens automatically no matter what I do. Therefore, it is a good idea to try and do this consciously. Try to release or welcome your emotions throughout the entire dialogue, and also to take little breaks in between, and afterwards, to work with them.

Another powerful approach would be using The Work of Byron Katie with any beliefs or statements your child self presents to you. I would recommend it only for the more experienced, though. For example, my child cried and told me that it is hopeless, and that he would be hated no matter what he did. It was very healing to gently take him through the four questions and find that his perceptions had been distorted and he had believed a lie.

Building Intimacy Through Listening 

What is self-worth?


Self-worth is as it sounds: how much we feel we’re worth. How good we are at certain sports, how easily we make friends, how much we weigh, how good we are at our jobs etc.

Self-help psychology tends to assume there is an intrinsic link between self-worth and self-esteem, and that the key to bettering a person’s self-esteem is to change that person’s perception of his/her self-worth. If you believe that you’re worthy and valuable in all sorts of regards you’ll feel better about yourself.

While this can be the case it can also be much simpler than that, provided it’s realized that emotional well-being and self-worth don’t have to be linked.

When self-worth is linked to self-esteem (how good we feel about ourselves) the relationship is pretty proportional. If we have a sense of little or no self-worth we feel terrible about ourselves and if we have high self-worth it’s the opposite.

Our sense of self-worth can fluctuate with our changes in circumstances, and I doubt positive mantras and visualization exercises are always enough to combat the simple knowledge that in some areas you really do suck. There’s an alternative to trying to change your perception of self-worth to weigh up the scales well.

Understanding self-worth

Your self-esteem is likely connected to a sense of worth and value – it’s the same for almost everyone. But that sense is down to the value and worth you can be to others and not necessarily are to others.

Alone on a desert island, what are you worth? A lot? A little? In that situation you are completely worthless – you are of no use to anyone. But would that sense of worthlessness on that island bother you? Could you imagine any lone castaway battling with a sense of self-worth? That would be ridiculous. As Tom Hanks taught us, ice skate dentistry and argumentative footballs will always take priority.

In a more direct example: what might people suffering from low self-worth worry about when they wake up: whether they will contribute value to their work today or whether they can contribute value?

Our concern for self-worth is in our capacity, not in our contribution. Marooned on an island, unable to be of value to anyone, we just get on with surviving. Throw us back into civilization and the business of self-worth appears again. The key to self-esteem is not necessarily in boosting self-worth, but simply in detaching our self-esteem from our self-worth.

Just as self-worth isn’t an issue when it comes to survival on a desert island so it need not be an issue in civilization when you’re just trying to achieve happiness.

People doing very well at what they do…

Most people who do really well aren’t in the media at all, if ever. In the following examples, I’m going to refer just to celebrities though, as it makes for easier writing and reading.

When you see celebrities on TV, especially in interviews, have you ever noticed how some seem very big-headed and others seem rather humble? They all know they ought to look modest, of course, but you can often tell when some are putting on an act and others genuinely have no interest in tooting their own horns.

Such celebrities can have equal levels of success in their different fields, yet behave very differently.

People with low self-worth which is linked to self-esteem

Some celebrities are very successful at what they do, yet have low self-worth. Maybe they’re worried that their fame comes from hype and not their accomplishments, maybe they feel really worthless in some other area…but somehow or other despite the glow of the media spotlight they still feel not quite worth enough. Such people can strike us as cocky, boastful, big-headed or even just narcissistic – using pride to cover up a deeper-seated feeling of worthlessness.

They’re better off with high self-worth.

People with high self-worth which is linked to self-esteem

Some celebrities have high self-worth…and they can still strike us as cocky, boastful and big-headed, but they’re obviously better off than those with low self-worth.

It’s still not ideal though as it doesn’t offer much security. The world’s best ballerina may have soaring self-worth (as in literally her worth as a dancer) but that would vanish if she became paralyzed. If these people lose the thing which makes them valuable to others, they will emotionally crash down into low self-esteem – and it will be a long fall.

They’re better off not thinking in terms of self-worth, thus having no link between that notion and self-esteem.

People who don’t think in terms of self-worth

There are also plenty of celebrities who don’t seem to think in terms of self-worth and these are perhaps the easiest to name.

Tony Hawk, Jackie Chan, Warren Buffet, Stephen King, Will Smith…they’re very down to Earth and quite humble. It’s not so much that they have high self-worth but that they don’t apply any level of worth to themselves – low or high. As mentioned earlier, we can all easily not think in terms of self-worth in various situations, the challenge is to think like this consistently – irrespective of our circumstances.

Transcending the self-worth model

The better cure for self-worth is just to leave that system rather than try to win at it. In the system of self-worth, you’re either low on it and you need more to feel good about yourself, or you have plenty and you’re happy with yourself – but that happiness can be taken away in an instant if you suddenly lose the thing which makes you valuable.

If you opt-out of that mentality you’ll always have self-worth (literally a level of value to others), but it can simply have no emotional relevance to you and won’t be something you give much thought to.

How to do this…

I’m not a perfect example when it comes to thinking beyond self-worth (though the guy I share my blog with is…damn him) but I find as time goes on I get better and better at disregarding self-worth by doing one particular thing and avoiding another:

Remembering self-worth is a construct

Simply reminding myself of what this article is about is usually enough to kick me out of thoughts of self-worth. Self-worth isn’t a mental model I’d have to deal with alone on a desert island and I don’t have to deal with it in my present circumstances here in civilization either.

Not ‘faking it ‘til I make it’

I’m not sure I’ve ever done this. I hope I never do. ‘Fake it until you make it’ is such a business thing and it really promotes the self-worth mental model. Pretending to be more successful than you are until you reach that level of success for real…well it might be good for business but until you get the success for real you’re really stirring up self-worth troubles.

Living in a Sexless Marriage

Why Relationship Become Burden

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Countless couples complain of losing the “spark” in their relationship. Some chalk it up to evolved differences, a slow-growing apart, or sheer familiarity. The wave of “deadness” that can submerge a relationship after the first thrilling months or years has caused many couples to lose hope and even look elsewhere for the excitement of newfound intimacy. With researchers estimating that 30-60 percent of married individuals in the South Africa will have an affair at some point in their relationship, it may be time to really examine what causes our affections to wane. What prompts the shift from helpless love to deep disinterest? What turns our heart-racing enthusiasm for another person to boredom and dissatisfaction?

In order to identify the wedge that’s driving couples apart, it’s helpful to understand the concept of the “fantasy bond.” As the major principle of a comprehensive psychological theory developed by  psychologist and author Robert Firestone, the “fantasy bond” describes a way of relating that serves as a substitute for a truly loving relationship. As my father has written of the fantasy bond, “This illusion of connection and closeness allows [a couple] to maintain an image of love and loving while preserving emotional distance.”

As one woman who was going through a divorce after six years of marriage said, “Growing up I was terrified of being alone, but I also knew that I was afraid of being close to another person. In a sense, my marriage solved my problem: My husband was physical ‘there,’ so I didn’t have to be afraid of being alone anymore, and I acted in ways that kept him at a distance that I could tolerate emotionally.”

The state of physical closeness and emotional distance is what characterizes a fantasy bond. This bond is formed when sincere feelings of love, respect, and attraction are replaced with imaginings of security, connectedness, and protection. Though these may all seem like positive attributes of an intimate relationship, placing a priority on form over substance is a key destroyer of any close relationship.

People who engage in a fantasy bond value routine over spontaneity and safety over passion. They go through the motions of being together or involved but without bringing the energy, independence, and affection that once colored their relationship. The risk of fusing our identity with another person is that we often lose the respect and attraction we once held for that person. We also stand to lose ourselves in the relationship, rather than maintaining the unique qualities that gave us confidence and drew our partners to us in the first place. When couples lose these real feelings for each other, rather than challenging destructive patterns in their relating, they tend to either throw away the relationship or sink deeper into fantasy for fear of losing each other or being alone. The good news is these feelings of excitement can be restored.

Fantasy bonds exist on a continuum. Some couples are deeper into fantasy than others. Most people fluctuate between moments of being truly close and moments of substituting fantasy for real love. By recognizing the degree to which you engage in a fantasy connection as opposed to a sincere form of relating, you can challenge negative habits and patterns, and experience new and exciting stages of your relationship.

Here are a few key ways to identify if you are in a fantasy bond and how you and your partner can go about changing it.

Loss of Physical Attraction – When we form a fantasy of fusion with another person, we tend to eventually lose some of our physical attraction to that person. Relying on someone to take care of us or looking to them to complete us puts a heavy burden on our relationship. We start to see the person as an extension of ourselves, and within that framework, we lose some of that “chemistry” that drew us to them. When we view our partners as the independent and attractive individuals they are, we can keep a fresh level of excitement and affection for them.

Merged Identity – When you look at your relationship, can you recognize ways you and your partner step on each other’s boundaries? Do you speak as “we” instead of “him or her” and “I?” Maintaining our separateness and pursuing what particularly lights us up is the best way to be ourselves in our relationships. Rather than driving us apart, this separateness actually allows us to feel our attractions and choose to be together. Think about the state people are in when they first fall in love. They are drawn to each other based on their unique attributes. Their individuality is viewed with interest and respect, qualities we should aim to maintain even decades after being with someone romantically.

Letting yourself go physically or mentally – When we reach a level of comfort in a relationship, we may tend to care a little less about how we look and how we take care of ourselves. We may be more likely to act out without regard or consideration for the ways we not only hurt our partners but ourselves. We may gain weight or engage in unhealthy habits, drinking more or exercising less. These habits aren’t just acts of comfort. They are often ways of protecting ourselves from sustained closeness. They often serve to shatter our self-esteem and push our partners away. They also tend to have a deadening effect on our relationship, weakening our confidence and vitality.

Failing to share activities – Early on in our relationships, we are often our most open, excited to try new things and share new adventures. As we fall into a routine, we often resist novel experiences. We become more cynical, skeptical, and less willing to do things with our partners. It is important to take our partner’s passions and interests into account and to engage in activities that we really share. Love doesn’t exist in a vacuum. As psychologist Pat Love has said, “You have to show up.” Slowing down and taking time to relate is essential to sustaining intimacy. Consistently doing things that your partner perceives as loving will also help keep the spark alive.

Less personal relating – When you do take the time to relate to your partner, do you still talk about anything meaningful? Have conversations become more practical or less friendly? It’s important to be open and share our lives with those we love. In doing so, we really get to know them. We feel for them as people, independently from ourselves. This helps us to stay close to each other on a real level as opposed to out of obligation. It helps us to form and strengthen a friendship that allows us to be less critical when giving feedback and less defensive when receiving it. All of these efforts nourish our loving feelings, overthrowing cynicism and upholding our attractions.

Harboring anger – When we are with someone for a long time, we tend to catalog their negative traits and build a case against them that leads us to feel cynical. Try to notice if you’re harboring anger or resentment. Are you acting this out in subtle ways? Dealing with problems directly from a mature and open stance will save you from stifling your feelings of compassion and love. Honest communication can be tough, but it helps you to truly know your partner, rather than seeing him or her through a negative or critical lens. When we get into the habit of swallowing our feelings and turning against our partner rather than stating how we feel, we are skating on thin ice. Even when we start to feel close, we will often be quick to become critical the minute our partner does something that rubs us the wrong way. When we feel free to directly say the things that annoy or anger us, we are better able to let them go. The more we develop our ability to do this, the more emotionally close we feel to our partners. The advantage of voicing your thoughts is that you stop viewing your partner through a fog of cynicism. When we face the degree to which each of us acts out the above patterns, we can start to challenge them.

Love and Aloneness – Unravelling the ego and pride

There is a most bizarre word the media and the psychologists have begun to use to describe loneliness in our societies: they say it has become an epidemic. An epidemic! A description normally reserved for extremely prevalent and widespread diseases – that is what this state of mind has become.

And the statistics back it up. A third of the citizens of many civilized countries admit to suffering from extreme loneliness. And the impact on our physical health – one study reported that isolated men were 25% more likely to die than those in a relationship, and the women 33% more likely.

Why is loneliness so painful? There are many reasons – but there is one in particular I’m starting to notice. Loneliness is a curse because we don’t know who we are – and that is our basic anxiety. When you are alone, all your self knowledge, your identity, your personality – your ego begins to unravel. The deeper into your aloneness you go, the more you see all your self-knowledge as they are – false.

And it is scary – what you have known your entire life – false! It is so scary that much of our culture is based around this fear. Social clubs, associations, political parties, and even cafés – they all exist for one thing: so one can avoid being alone. And what if we are by ourselves? Then we turn to music, alcohol, the television, the Internet – all to avoid being in our own company.

But the strange thing is – losing our false identity, it is a blessing. It can be scary, yes, but when we turn around and face it – when we turn our loneliness into aloneness –that is when we begin to experience what is real.

When you are alone, everything that you have disowned, everything that you refuse to accept or acknowledge – they begin to arise. We begin to truly know ourselves, to see the genuine. And that is not something that can be told – it has to be experienced.

Comparison – the unravelling of the self

The first thing we have to know is – when we are in a crowd, we think we know who we are. You are American, Vietnamese, Indian. Why? Because you look around and there are people who look different. Everyone calls you by your name, so that is who you are. Everyone acknowledges your title, your job description – they call you Mister, Missus, Madam, Doctor, Reverend, and that is what you think you are.

You are beautiful, because those around you are ugly. You are tall, because your neighbours are short. You are poor, because they live in mansions. You are rich, because some live in cardboard boxes.

But who you are, is not any of these. As Osho said – your heart is neither European nor African, tall nor short, poor nor rich. Who you are is beyond these little labels.

And when you are completely alone, there is no one to compare to. There is no false standard to measure yourself by – and that is when all these labels and false layers start to unravel. Your identity, your very personality, begins to disappear.

And all our lives, that is who we think we are. Our identity card, our driver’s license, and our passport. Our history, our descriptions, and our reputations. Our jobs and our accomplishments. And when that falls away…some people feel it a form of death. And in a way, it is.

What is left? The genuine. I can’t describe it – I haven’t gone there yet. But the deeper I have gone, the more I realise how beautiful it is. To go completely into aloneness, to find the real – I can’t think of anything I’d want more.

So, go and be alone. Not lonely, just alone. Accept and heal whatever bubbles to the front. Throw away all your masks and your false faces. Go away from society. Stop being afraid of loneliness, and just be alone. Let it become your mirror, the perfect mirror, to see who you really are.

And one day – when you feel ready, when you can say that you have known yourself, taken delight and found Love in yourself. That is when your butterfly comes out of the chrysalis. And this process is different for everyone. How long does it take? I’ve been alone for close to a year – and there is still so much to find!

The proud and the egotistical

And comparison leads us perfectly to a question that I have been pondering for a long time: What of those who are so proud and egotistical? What is the difference between being selfish, and of being self loving?

Love for oneself, for one’s totality – the heart, body, and soul – is perhaps the biggest accomplishment one can ever achieve. Someone who has such Love becomes joyful, peaceful, and content. It is impossible for one who knows Love to be hurtful. I know a few such people – they are the most humble women and men one can ever meet.

And just as someone who loves their garden will spend hours planting roses, picking out weeds, and smelling the fragrances – so, too will such people take pleasure in who they are.

And this is the source of much confusion. There are so many people who seem to be strong, confident, but there is something wrong. You must have met such people before – outwardly strong and powerful, but when they left, they left you feeling drained or weak. What is the difference between the two?

If you look carefully, and you know what to look for, the difference is there for you to see.

I once heard: There is no neutrality in life; there is either love or hate. There is no zero in which you are simply empty. What we think of as neutrality hides a quiet contempt, a let-them-burn attitude. If you don’t love, you hate. It might be a subtle hatred or a cool dislike, but it is hatred nonetheless.

Such people exude an indistinct anger and hatred. They make themselves feel better at the expense of those they come into contact with. They have boosted themselves by trampling on you. They spit on others – “I must be higher than they are if I can spit downwards” – that is their rationale. Everything they have – all their self worth and power – is based on judgement and comparison, based on having someone underneath them!

Vanity, egotism, and pride – they all hide a subtle unhappiness, a cleverly disguised animosity. All hatred is self-hatred – and this lies hidden underneath their actions. And that is why they belittle others. Some of the overt ones rage, or yell – and it is all just an externalisation of their internal self-violence. All their strength, their confidence – just a flimsy façade.

The vain and selfish

And the second thing: their worth is based on comparison. In fact, if taken to an extreme, pride becomes a form of personality disorder – narcissism. And this is the parable that Osho used to explain perfectly. All I can do is use the same story.

The story of Narcissus is a well known one – a young man who was so beautiful that he fell in love with his own reflection in the water. And there lies the difference. A humble man falls in love with himself; a vain man falls in love with his reflection.

And in that reflection – the comparison we’ve been discussing. The psychology manuals list the traits of the personality disorder concretely: A modern day Narcissus believes he is special, that he is more beautiful than others, that he deserves more. She is arrogant; she demands attention and constant admiration. She takes advantage of others, with total disregard for their feelings.

How egotistical! And that’s exactly what it is – pride stems from the ego. Comparison strengthens it. Take them away from the crowd, give them no one to compare to, and their pride and their façade falls apart. When they have no one to trample on and sneer at, the truth is revealed, the ugliness in them arises.

I remember a few beautiful women; they spent hours on their make-up and clothes, and they constantly belittled other women. They seemed to have unshakeable self confidence – but when I got to know them better, all their insecurities – often about their looks! – rose to the fore. And it didn’t make sense initially – many women would kill to look like them, most men couldn’t take their eyes off them. Such empty egoistic pride – it doesn’t stand up to the test of aloneness.

Love is totally different. I have heard: In Love, there is no split, there is no other. The lover and the loved all melt into one. Narcissus – he was split. His object of affection wasn’t himself, it was his reflection.

Fake love rejects – when there is perceived imperfection, fake love kicks away. Real Love knows no comparison. When there is perceived imperfection, real love deepens. It holds even tighter.

Know Love – ego and pride, are the opposites of Love. Cultivate Love, and watch as they dissolve.

A Guide to Handling Guilt and Self Punishment

Guilt is the source of much sorrow; the driving force behind a constant mental whipping, a constant stinging. And from whom? Who holds the whip?

What is one to do? Is one helpless?

This series is not to say one should abandon all guidelines for behaviour, or that we should not follow our conscience. Reparations, the power to change and improve – these are all actions that are done best without the torment of self-imposed shame, and that is what the series aims to promote.

The First Step

The first step is to recognise our feelings of guilt. For many, this section might seem stupid, superfluous, but it isn’t. Guilt is insidious, stealthy and cunning. Guilt is a thief in the night, one that has taken up residence in your home, so skilfully that sometimes you can’t recognise it.

I remember the first time I encountered a racist; my age was barely in the double digits and my self esteem was fragile. I was walking down the street, minding my own business, when a man walked up to me and began spitting, swearing, wildly gesturing. I was too stunned to respond; I stood there in silence until he finished and walked off.

The event weighed heavily on my mind for many years. I didn’t know what I was feeling; it was just a constant replaying of the event in my head. I felt inferior; I felt angry; I felt scared. And one day, I suddenly realised that I was blaming myself for the attack. I hated myself for not being strong enough to stand up to him, and worst of all, I felt I was somehow at fault; somehow I had deserved what had happened to me.

How preposterous, one might think! But it is not uncommon; a friend who works as a psychologist has told me many survivors of childhood abuse blamed themselves. To a young child, their parents are almighty. How can a perfect being be wrong? If their parents were abusing them, they must have been at fault, not the abuser.

And that realisation dropped me into a more subtle trap – I began to feel guilty about feeling guilty.

Take a Moment

Close your eyes, become still, and welcome any thoughts and sensations into your awareness. Is there anything that you have not forgiven yourself for? Bring to mind a person or an event that still carries an emotional charge. Then follow it back to the root. You might be surprised at what you find, for you might be feeling guilty without even knowing what it is.

How does one change what they don’t even recognise, what they don’t even know exists?

We Were Helpless

The second step is to realise that we were helpless. There was nothing we could do; we were not in our own hands, merely dragged along by the force of our past.

This recognition could be enough to drop the self-flagellation. If it doesn’t, at the very least it gives us permission to heal, to take the next step and let go of the pain.

Welcome the pain, feel the sorrow completely without necessarily acting on it. Relax into your sorrow; find compassion for yourself; and let the shame go. Emotions are the wind; we are the flute. Unblock the passage; let the shame be there, and you’ll find that it will leave you soon enough. That is all it takes. And yet we fight it, deny it, pretend it doesn’t exist – and that keeps us blocked, weighs us down.

Penetrating the Memories

There is a quiet meditation I have developed on my own; I’ve found it tremendously helpful for four things.

The first is to find the root of the problem. The second is to see for yourself the strength of the forces that were pulling you at the time. The third is to dissolve the emotion of guilt. The last, and perhaps the most important, is to prepare for the future, to make it easier to catch your pattern the next time it threatens to overwhelm you.

We’ve discussed this meditation in the first part of this series – it is simply to relive and recreate the original situation in your mind.

Take a few minutes for this. Find somewhere quiet and penetrate your memories. Relive the event as vividly as you can. Visualise it – what was happening then? Recreate the external situation, down to the finest detail. What was happening? What triggered it, what led up to it, what did you do in response?

And this is perhaps the most important step: turn your attention to your inner space. What were you feeling, what were you thinking? What triggered your actions? What contributed to it? We’ve discussed this in the first part of the series: your beliefs, your knowledge, your mental-emotional state – even external conditions like the heat and humidity have their part to play in deciding what you did.

Watch, analyse, feel. Go deeply into your unconscious. A journal will also be helpful.

Finding the Root

Use your guilt as a tool to penetrate yourself, to find the origin of your behaviour.

You give your opinion on a minor topic, and someone disagrees politely and respectfully. And yet you fly into a rage. Why? Is your opinion that important? Or is it something else?

I used to know someone like that; she told me she was invisible as a child. No one cared about her opinion; in her own words, “no one gave a damn about what she wanted.” Her entire childhood was spent as a shadow, and the shame had taken over her adult life.

Follow your behaviour to the root, and heal that wound. It will mean the end of your unskilful behaviour.

The Strength of the Unconscious

The second benefit: During the contemplation, you’ve gone some way towards recapturing the force of your emotions, your patterns, and the circumstances that led up to it. Combine that with this truth: No mental image can come close to recreating the pull that you felt at that time.

The truth is reinforced in your mind, and there will be an even greater relief: given what you knew, you could have done no better.

Releasing the emotions

The third benefit: We’ve discussed how feeling the emotions completely are the key to letting them go. This meditation helps tremendously in releasing the emotions you were feeling then; not merely the guilt you felt about it afterwards. This weakens the very patterns themselves, which prepares us for the next step.

Intimacy with your conditioning

The most important benefit: Psychologists and spiritual teachers alike state the key to changing our conditioning is to become aware of it as it arises.

How do we stop something we don’t recognise? First become intimate with your patterns, know what triggers them, analyse how they feel, remember the thoughts and emotions that lead up to your actions.

Delve into it and watch it, feel it from every angle. The more you do this, the easier it is to catch your unconsciousness when it is next triggered.

Mindfulness: The Key to Transformation

Emotional Intelligence is defined as “the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and actions.”

The Buddhist practice of mindfulness has been tremendously helpful in my life. Constantly check inside yourself – ask yourself this question: What is going inside me? What am I thinking, what am I feeling?

When you first begin this practice, you might be shocked. So much tension in your muscles, ragged breathing, an unruly and obsessive mind, a background feeling of sadness or anger…

As Daniel Goleman said in Emotional Intelligence: The ability to control impulse is the base of will and character.

Awareness is the key to transformation and control. For most people, this change might be slow. Old patterns might still arise, for emotional intelligence does not come overnight. But the moment you have become aware of it, the change has begun.

Overcoming your self-defeating behaviours

Someone makes a snide comment; immediately you feel your anger take over. You leap to your feet, you pound the table with all your might, and you begin to scream in rage. Awareness might only come afterwards, a dawning realisation – “Oh no, I’ve done it again.”

But as you practice, awareness begins to arise sooner, interrupting your patterns at earlier points. You might catch yourself with your fist in the air, and stop it before it hits the table. The next time it happens, you might catch yourself just as you jump to your feet, and stop before you go any further. Soon you might catch the anger as it begins, even before it has taken over your actions.

It is important to note that one shouldn’t fall back into self-blame. Buddhist teachers call your past actions and thoughts unskilful; as distinct from wrong. Skill comes with experience; unskilfulness is therefore a result of inexperience and a lack of proper learning. Wrongness is twisted; a lie that we are somehow fundamentally flawed, somehow evil.

When you catch the past, simply breathe. Pause, and breathe. It is also helpful to have prepared an alternative. A simple example would be someone who wants to give up smoking – every time she feels the urge to smoke; she pauses, calms her feelings with a few deep breaths, and reaches for a pack of gum instead.

Out of the hundreds of books on this topic, I would recommend two: Self-Defeating Behaviors, a purely psychological tome with information on the deepest and most common patterns. The second is Emotional Alchemy, a mixture of Buddhist and modern psychology, with a slightly different approach and categorisation.

Combine this with some emotional work, and burn up the pattern before it has the chance to arise.

Making Reparations

Being free of guilt does not mean that suffering and pain was not caused. Very often, some form of reparation is needed. You might have hurt someone; do your very best to fix things and make amends.

Byron Katie told a story once; I forget the exact details. A man had stolen from a retail shop in his past, but he was never caught. How was he to make amends? He tried going back and simply paying for the items he had stolen, but they said the accounting system would show an error for such a strange action. And so he came up with a brilliant solution – he returned to the store, and made several purchases. But after he made payment, he placed the items back on the shelves, walking out empty handed.

True courage is living your change completely.