Last week we wrote a “feel good Friday” post featuring the popular wisdom guide by Don Miguel Ruiz, “The Four Agreements”. This week, continuing in that same refrain, let’s cover the topic of love and finding happiness. Many people search for love their entire lifetime. For those that watch the popular TV show “The Bachelor” a series of people put their hearts on the line, in a very public forum, to find “love”. There are many examples; dating applications, dating websites, social media, reality TV, speed dating… all are intended to connect people and find that special some one to share your life with. It seems that more and more people suffer from loneliness in a world where we are so connected with technology. Searching for love when you have significant trials in your life can seem impossible. When the trials include addiction, substance abuse or serious mental health conditions, love can be the motivation that gets you through each day. Ruiz published another self-help “wisdom book” called “The Mastery of Love”. In this book it gives some background to Ruiz himself and the origins of the wisdom he is looking to share through his literature. It also gives us some principals to master love.
The Public Health Hazard : Loneliness
Loneliness can be the cause to a great deal of inner turmoil and pain. Shockingly, The Washington Post recently published an article stating that loneliness is so severe in today’s society that it is a serious public health hazard. People that suffer from loneliness are more susceptible to health problems such as heart attacks, cancer and other illnesses. It even impacts health on a cellular level, literally effecting the way our bodies develop over time. Studies have proven that being lonely can impact health negatively. Although loneliness is not depression, the two are very closely linked. The article cited many examples of mental health professionals giving examples of contributing factors to loneliness; one of these factors being social media. Seeing others with connections that the observer may not have causes feelings of sadness and loneliness because they compare their relationships to those that they see online.
“A study published online last month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests there is also a parallel effect with health and loneliness. With every positive increase in social relationships, researchers in North Caroline and China saw improvements in specific physiological biomarkers such as blood pressure and body mass index.
The largest positive effect was associated with those who had a variety of relationships, such as with friends, romantic partners and co-workers.
“Each one of these may provide different pathways… [that] can potentially impact health,” said Julianne Holt-Lunstad, a psychologist at Brigham Young University who recently analyzed 70 different loneliness studies form around the world. They covered more than 3.4 million participants over a period of 35 years.”
The Washington Post – “Loneliness grows from an individual ache to public health hazard“
The antidote to loneliness is building relationships. The variety of relationships are also important, but of those relationships, we must also find time for love. For one to be able to build a relationship with others, they must first have self awareness. Many people have a difficult time communicating because of anxiety or personality disorders. Behavioral problems can often get in the way of developing relationships outside of your support system. For people with Borderline Personality Disorder, it can be especially difficult to maintain any healthy relationships. By identifying the disorder and with treatment and counseling, healthy relationships are possible and thrive. It is possible to find happiness while living with Borderline Personality Disorder and maintaining a healthy life balance through relationships.
There are three “masteries” on the journey to love; awareness, transformation and love itself. The wisdom shared by Ruiz comes from an ancient line of traditions handed down from generations. Before the Americas were discovered, the Toltec people were known through the southern parts of Mexico for their wisdom and knowledge. The masters (naguals) of Teotihuacan came together to protect the wisdom they had developed as the European conquest took place. Ruiz is a nagual from the Eagle Knight lineage. The Toltec knowledge is said to be derived from the same traditions found around the world that contribute to different religious thoughts. Though it is not a religion of itself, it honors all the “spiritual masters”.
Mastery of Awareness
Understanding who you are, you can then begin to build relationships with others. Living your life with the principal of self awareness and giving to others can lead to finding happiness. Many times when people understand what challenges they are facing, they can learn to overcome them with the right skills. Many people that find out they are living with personality disorders or mental health conditions excel after they have a diagnosis simply because they have identified their barriers and have learned new skills to manage and overcome those challenges. In the case of borderline personality disorder, many people that identify that they are living with BPD become more self aware and can maintain relationships that were impossible beforehand.
Ruiz covers a very sensitive subject of “The Wounded Mind” early in the book about mastering love. Acknowledging that each of us has challenges, wounds, aches, pains, we can then begin to lend understanding in relationships. Fear is another feeling that needs to be understood. How often do we let the fear of rejection, punishment, judgment rule our decisions? If we are constantly trying to be some on that we are not to impress or please others, how much happiness can that bring? While we need to find ways to integrate ourselves into society and become part of a group, it is important to live honestly. Becoming aware of who you are and the way that you feel around people is important to know what finding happiness can bring to you. Although life is a harsh teacher as we grow up and lose the innocence we had as a child, the knowledge that we gain through these experiences teaches us.
Ruiz tells a story of the man who didn’t believe in love. The man that didn’t believe in love, thought that love was like a drug. It makes you high but it also creates an unhealthy dependency. The man viewed love as highly addictive. Relationships were a balance of two people who needed a drug and there was typically a provider and a drug addict. The one that had the biggest need in the relationship used the other. There was one of the two that feared losing the other, so they would become possessive and demanding. The provider could manipulate the other and this toxic cycle was love. The man was very educated and started preaching this idea that love didn’t exist.
One day he found a woman that was very sad. He was curious and asked her what the cause of her tears was. She explained that she had loved a man, had done everything correctly; took care of the home, the children, her husband but at the end of all of that, there was no respect and no kindness. The man that didn’t believe in love and the sad woman both agreed that love didn’t exist and they became very good friends. They spent a great deal of time together talking and sharing their ideas. They didn’t keep anything from each other. They were always honest, enjoyed each others’ company. There was mutual respect. He wasn’t jealous or envious.
One day, the man had a crazy idea that perhaps the relationship he had built with this once very sad woman could be love. His feelings grew stronger and stronger until one day he was certain he loved her. After telling her his thoughts, she agreed and said she had the same thought. They respected each other, supported one another. Their love grew.
He wanted to give her a token of his love, so he pulled a star out of the sky. This miracle happened and his soul merged with the star. He was intensely happy. As he extended the precious gift to the woman, she had a brief moment of doubt and dropped the star shattering it to a million pieces. Now the man wonders swearing love doesn’t exist and the sad woman waits for the man to return, wanting the happiness she once had but because of one moment of doubt it had disappeared.
The story is quite paraphrased, but the meaning that Ruiz is trying to convey by telling the story has many parallels to the relationships we encounter. No one can give some one else their happiness. The man wanted to give the woman his soul; but that was a huge responsibility. She would have owned his entire soul. He was happy because of the love he felt, not because of her, necessarily. The moral of the story is that you alone are responsible for finding happiness. It should not be dependent on another person or other outside factors. It is yours alone and if you base it off of another person, you are setting yourself up for failure.
The Mastery of Transformation
The track of love versus the track of fear can be confusing. Love has no obligations where fear is full of them. Love should have no expectations, while fear has many. Love is based on respect but it is also ruthless in the sense that it doesn’t ‘feel sorry’ for others. Fear doesn’t give others respect and it is full of pity; you feel sorry for others and don’t build them up. Love is responsible. Love is always kind and never acts in anger. Ruiz calls anger, sadness and jealousy “fear with a mask”. Love is unconditional.
By analyzing these tracks, it is clear to see that a transformation of thought must take place. Being realistic with relationships sets you up to succeed.
“To master a relationship is all about you. The first step is to become aware, to know that everyone dreams his own dream. Once you know this, you can be responsible for your half of the relationship, which is you. If you know that you are only responsible for half of the relationship, you can easily control your half. It is not up to us to control the other half. If we respect, we know that our partner or friend, or son, or mother is completely responsible for his or her own half. If we respect the other half, there is always going to be peace in that relationship. There is no war.”
Page 80 – The Mastery of Love
Love is something that is intentional and practiced. It is an action. Respect and love should exist in every healthy relationship. But how does this help us on our journey to mental health? Fighting loneliness, we become more happy and more healthy. Scientists have studied both of these and we know them to be fact for almost everyone. In the case where life has given you trials and those trials have been answered with substances; drugs, alcohol or unhealthy behaviors, it takes real awareness and intention to battle those negative forces and regain clarity. Many times when clients enter treatment programs, they are battling multiple challenges. Through professional help and dual diagnosis, the correct treatment can be given to help guide recovery and medical intervention.
By surrounding yourself with others that understand you, provide structure hope and encouragement, you can then begin to get back to a place where this kind of thinking is possible. Residential treatment is a supportive environment that gives opportunity for growth. The biggest myth in recovery is that you can do it alone. That is a catalyst to failure. Asking for help, joining with others that understand where you are is the best thing you can ever do for yourself. There is no shame here. There is never defeat. Even in the case of relapse, it is not a failure. As long as you keep trying, you are always succeeding. Reaching out beyond yourself, allowing love into your life through healthy relationships, you will always succeed.
There is an element of adventure in working with young adults in recovery. That element of excitement makes each day different. Reaching outside of yourself and allowing positive changes to take place is exciting.
The Mastery of Love
Mastering awareness and transformation is difficult for those that are facing challenges. Mastering love is no different. Here are a few rules that pertain to healing the “emotional body” as Ruiz calls it. To summarize, it is not to trust others blindly, not to listen to self defeating messages and to always look for truth through your own actions. Forgiveness is another big key to mastering love and healing yourself from past challenges. Learning to truly forgive can be the most difficult lesson in relationships, life and love.
Catharsis is achieved through each of these actions. Looking back on relationships, perhaps you can find clarity in decisions and choices that were made and see the lessons. While you are in the middle of trials it can be difficult to have perspective, so reach outside of yourself. Look for help. Find healthy ways to improve your life. It’s not just about eating right, going to the gym and projecting this illusion of a healthy lifestyle. Taking responsibility for your mental health and finding happiness is an action that requires a great deal of effort, time and commitment.
Structure and Change
Chris Surlage, one of our professional staff members at New Roads Behavioral Health helps explain two important principals for recovery: structure and change. While you need to be able to count on things, you also need to acknowledge change. Eating right isn’t just about eating specific foods. You can eat a variety of healthy foods and go beyond what you have experienced in the past. As you go about daily activities it is also important to learn new things. Extend your knowledge beyond what your day to day life can bring you and accept the positive changes in your life to add balance. Adding variety, mixing in different things helps create balance in a healthy lifestyle.
Feeling good isn’t just about looking good or even making the right choices. Incorporating healthy relationships to battle loneliness and depression can help not only your mind to be healthy, but also your body. With all the scientific studies that have been conducted recently on loneliness and health, it is important to reach outside of yourself and find supportive friends or family members to help build meaningful relationships. By building relationships, we can express love. Reviewing “The Mastery of Love” as a guide to bringing awareness and transformation can help encourage healthy choices. Treatment that includes Dialectical Behavioral Therapy encourage mindfulness and awareness. What better way to gain perspective than by reading good literature that is positive and encouraging.
“The Mastery of Love” by Don Miguel Ruiz, M.D.