Traditional therapy approaches to self-image often center around a person’s personality and family of origin issues. Others view self-image through the lens of “self-improvement” and within that view challenges are addressed with lifestyle choices (such as exercise habits, positive self-talk, addressing distorted perceptions, and so forth). I think that these ways of helping a person with her self-image—among others–are both beneficial tools. But I would also like to offer another idea, gleaned from the Buddhist tradition. The concept is known as maitri. The term means loving-kindness and in a sense is a radical departure from Western views of self-perception and behavior, which often ultimately lead us to believe that our love for ourselves needs to be conditional. That is, “if I do A and B very well and follow up about C then I have the right to feel satisfied and happy”. On the other hand if A, B, and C weren’t up to par or worse weren’t done at all, then all is lost and we should feel saddened and depressed by our failures. This is what we have been trained to believe about ourselves. Crazy but true right?! With maitri the person is asked to mindfully examine herself with compassionate awareness and to treat herself and her life with equal compassion and respect. Most of us already practice elements of maitri on a regular, sometimes daily, basis. Whether it is taking a hot shower in the morning, making and eating a tasty and healthy meal, napping if we’ve had a long week, walking the dog in a pretty park, or just making a cup of tea for oneself and a friend, all of these “practices” develop our sense of kindness towards ourselves and give us the experience of self-respect, dignity, and gentleness. These practices in turn, lead us to feel more emotionally spacious and grounded, which in turn creates greater contentment, satisfaction, and self-acceptance. In making maitri practice a mindful everyday experience we become more appreciative of ourselves and our lives. And the amazing news is that these practices are always accessible, in one form or another, to all of us! So, for this week, why not find two or three things to do each day to consciously take care of ourselves and our world and do so in a mindful and gentle way?
Good luck! Nik
Nikolas H. Maslow, M.A., LPC, CGP My background is in Contemplative Psychotherapy, having received my master’s degree from Naropa University in the spring of ’05. I have worked with several different populations and age groups, including adolescents , people in retirement and everyone between. I specialize in individual work, groups, and family therapy for young adults and their families. I am passionate about my work and dedicated to offering a warm and engaging environment to my clients that is safe for exploring their lives in my presence.