Search

Psycho Legal Babble

Where Psychology and Law Meet

Love and Growth: Finding a Path Within

Image

As a Marriage and Family Therapist and Life Coach, I am often asked what it takes to make a marriage successful. Couples thinking about taking the plunge into matrimony, want the secret key to find marital bliss, dreaming of reaching the Golden Anniversary with one another, as puppy love turns to wedding plans, shadowing the real work to come. Married couples, the experienced, look for ways to deal with the torrential currents common to family life, as the rose colored glasses of the honeymoon period give way to the reality that relating to another person entails. And finally, the one’s who have failed at love, the majority, seek ways to pick up the broken pieces of past relationships, attempting to make sense of what went wrong, so they will not be doomed to make the same mistake twice. If love is such a beautiful event, why is it that this single most important emotion comes with so much baggage?

Like relationships, the answer is simple, yet can get very complicated as the relationship progresses. Let’s start by examining the honeymoon of a relationship. 

When two individual connect, a strong bond is formed between them based on factors of physical attraction, common interests, values, and goals in life. In the beginning of a relationship, two individuals develop strong attractions based upon biological needs to choose a life-mate, psychological needs to minimize loneliness, and spiritual needs to realize one’s full potential. During this time, the newly formed union learns about the key interests, value systems, and the driving factors that motivates the individual towards their personal goals in life. The sex is grand, and the emotions are hot, as two individuals begin to realize they may have stepped through the gates to find sustained happiness through the eyes of another. They quickly learn that two can co-exist in harmony for the price of one, and the budding couple begins to engage their future plans with one another. But let’s face it, life doesn’t always go according to plan, and soon after the honeymoon stops, we are faced to work on the very thing that seemed so perfect at the onset. 

As life transitions, we too must transition. When the ship pulls into port, the honeymoon stops, and we return home to the life we created before marriage, we are faced with the most arduous journey of learning how to live in relationship with another person. Vows of marriage most commonly reflect this, when we make a promise to another person to love them in “sickness and in health, for richer and poorer, in good times and bad.” Let’s face it, we all know that life has many ups and downs, so why would we believe a relationship with another person is any different. We must learn how to relate with that person, growing into the relationship as we undertake our personal journey towards physical, psychological, and spiritual wellbeing. So with all the work involved, why should we undertake this most difficult, yet sacred journey. 

A priest once told me that “God is Love.” I could not fathom this, until I explored it from the perspective of my history with Love. In failed relationships, I have learned to let go. This is a key component of spiritual development, and a lesson we must all face as we learn to let go of the individuals we love, whether in failed relationships or in death. This should not be viewed as a failure, but as an opportunity to pursue further individual growth so that we can learn to relate more with others. Going further into the subject of love, I began to recognize how the love we project on others grows as we progress through life. Love moves from a perspective of being dependent toward independence, only again to return to a state of dependency when the individuals we choose to love learn to care for our emotional, physical, and spiritual health. Through this perspective, I saw my wife anew, and began to understand the idea that our personal development is somehow linked to the love we share with one another. 

Relationships, like love, grow as we personally mature. We are programmed to seek completion through the eyes of another. Whether this completion occurs through spiritual union with God, physical, and / or emotional attachment with another person, we inherently understand that love fosters our personal journey towards optimal growth. Therefore it is imperative we foster an attitude of playfulness though out our relationship, so that the driving force behind our personal growth does not become stagnant, and ultimately begin to fail us.

Love is a multifaceted and complex emotion. In this blog, we will explore the many faces of love, relationships, and journey we undertake to become whole. As a provider of Marriage and Family Therapy, I have seen that many individuals face difficulties as their personal development begins to interfere with their Marriage, or vice versa. By opening a forum for discussion, we can learn to grow beyond the realm of premarital counseling or marriage therapy, and begin working on our personal journey as we learn how and why we yearn to relate with others. 

 

Dr. Thomas C. Maples, Ph.D. is a licensed psychotherapist, Marriage and Family Therapist / Counselor, and life coach. He practices at The Stockton Therapy Network, Stockton, CA, assisting others to make sense of their life journey as it relates to the pursuit of body, mind, and spiritual wellbeing.

Coping: Functional Life Skill, or Copout

As a psychotherapist, my career exposes me to the odd, the quirky, the downright scary, and at times stories that make me wonder, why do we have such a need to understand the one thing we can never truly understand, our Self. The other day,I was taken aback when I heard an individual talking about their coping skills,  as  if it were a badge of honor to be flaunted for everyone to emulate. As a person, I found myself relating to their need to develop effective ways to handle stress. But, as a psychotherapist, it brought up the questions: is life journey something we are doomed cope with; or, is their something we are missing? Coping, is it a functional life skill, or a copout to disengage from our personal calling? 

I am taken aback when I hear others speak so openly about their coping skills.  As a psychotherapist, I teach ways to effectively cope with the stress caused by problematic emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. I understand that the we all have a need to develop skills that will help us navigate the daily stresses we all face. Our need to cope seems as universal as our need to make sense of our personal life journey. From the richest to the poorest, the blue collar assembly worker to the white collar executive, the student to the working professional, I see people wearing their coping skills like a designer shirt, flaunting their skills for the world to see. While we must all develop ways to handle stress, to develop a coping attitude towards life can have severe repercussions on continued personal growth.

Simply defined, a coping skill is a concerted effort to manage stress. Successfully employing a coping skill allows us to regain emotional equilibrium and a general sense of wellbeing after a stressful event has occurred.. By relieving the effects stress has on our emotional equilibrium, we return to a state of balance, finding harmony within. However, not all coping skills are created equal; in fact, many do more damage than good for the individual coping, becoming in themselves the seed for  further problematic behaviors.  

Our ability to deal with emotional stress is unique to each person. Let’s face it, we are all unique, and we each find personal ways to deal with the problems we face. By nature, we are inquisitive beings. Most people yearn to find a higher sense of purpose, seeking to belong to something greater than our individual life. Questions like: Who am I? What do I want to be when I grow up? What have I become? or Where are we going from here?  These questions open our mind to our personal potential; but oftentimes, fear, anxiety, and self doubt paralyzes our capacity to engage our future dreams in a manner that assures our personal wellbeing and success. We want to know about ourselves, but oftentimes become sidetracked by the development and successful implementation of coping skills. 

The ability to cope is both a blessing and a curse in disguise. The development of coping skills not only helps us deal with situational stress, but can hinder our personal growth. In psychotherapy, my job is to help others learn new and effective ways to replace problematic emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. By taking a personal inventory of the problems at hand, I help others chart a course of action that can lead to the realization of their personal potential. By exploring the problems that affect a person’s life, whether it is trauma or guilt from the past, problematic or habitual behaviors in the present, or anxieties about the future, by an individual can deal with and move beyond beyond issues from the past while learning new and effective ways to deal with the daily stresses that impede the realization of future dreams.

In life, we must develop coping skills in order to survive. But, the coping skills we develop can also imprison us, if we rely upon them as being The Answer for all our problems. By limiting ourselves to the use of a limited set of coping skills, the very skills utilized often become the foundation for other problematic behaviors, addictions, and the seed of further stress. That is why we must focus on developing healthy living skills instead of coping skills that would trick us to believe that we are effectively handling our daily stress.

It is only natural to implement coping skills to deal with stresses of daily life. Therefore, the development of coping skills is a valid venture that teaches us ways to handle those issues that cause us stress. However, in focusing on ways to deal with personal or external stress, we often forget to live in the moment, and fail to see the beauty that surrounds us during the journey we call life. By relying to heavily on our ability to cope, we forget to live life, and successfully engage the  beauty of our dreams.The Psycho/Legal Babble Blog explores topics of psychology, law, philosophy, and religion. It is an open forum for others to share, learn, and expand our personal knowledge into areas that affect our daily lives. Life is a journey, in which we learn from mutual interaction, respect, inclusion, and support, as we engage a path home in the dark recesses of the woods we may have been lost. Our blog is supported by The Stockton Therapy Network and The Law Office of Anna Y. Maples. 

Dr. Thomas C. Maples, Ph.D. is a licensed psychotherapist in private practice at The Stockton Therapy Network, Stockton, CA. He is a life coach, entrepreneur, business consultant, and educator, who helps others make sense of their life journey as it relates to realizing the fruits of their dreams. 

Sacred Wisdom

“The whole secret of existence is to have no fear. Never fear what will become of you, depend on no one. Only the moment you reject all help are you freed.” (The Buddha)

In life, it is common to be plagued by issues of doubt, uncertainty, and fear, as we learn ways to navigate the torrent waters of Self Understanding. In this quote, the Buddha offers sacred wisdom regarding the need to let go of the emotional restraints fear leaves on the soul, charging us to find freedom in the simple act of letting go.

In the cyclical nature of dependency comes full circle as we exit the tomb of the womb, learn interdependence first on others, then ourself, and then on others as we take part in the sacred life journey. The journey culminates in the act of letting go, and again returning to the Womb of the Tomb. It is in the act of letting go of our interdependence that we find peace to carry on in the sacred journey life affords us. Joseph Campbell once said:

“Full circle from the tomb of the womb to the womb of the tomb we come, an ambiguous, enigmatical incursion into a world of solid matter that is soon to melt from us like the substance of a dream.”

While fear accompanies the act of letting go, to undertake this daunting task, we find ourselves in uncharted territories, learning new ways to live freely from the burden of past traumas, present stresses, and future anxieties. The simple act of letting go allows us a new perspective by which we can successfully plan and realize our true potential. To fellow dreamers, life travelers, and spiritual seekers, the PsychoLegalBabble Blog is designed to explore areas of philosophy, comparative religion, psychology, law, and ways these fields inter relate. I look forward to blogging with you.

Dr. Tom
The Stockton Therapy Network

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑