As we take some time this month to think about and acknowledge love, we can challenge ourselves to consider ways to be loving, even when the situations and people we are loving are outside of our comfort zone. In Valarie Kaur’s powerful book See No Stranger: A Memoir and Manifesto of Revolutionary Love, Kaur provides a guidebook for these more difficult situations: loving others (those whose backgrounds and perspectives are completely different from ours), loving our opponents (those who are actively working against us and our best interests), and loving ourselves. Kaur’s own journey involves exploration of the hate towards her Sikh community that developed after 9/11. A mantra that Kaur shares as fundamental to her own personal and professional process is “you are a part of me I do not yet know,” and she talks about wonder being the foundation of developing love.
The process of therapy also uses and teaches wonder and curiosity as a foundation. As we learn to love ourselves and form better connections with others, we have to first suspend, work through, or acknowledge our initial judgments and feelings. We often conflate unfamiliarity with fear, and this stops us from wanting to connect with the other person or understand the unfamiliar part of ourselves. If we can experience the stress of meeting an unfamiliar person or part of ourselves through a lens of surprise and wonder, we become more inclusive and more loving, and we can grow as individuals and communities.
-Stacey Patterson, LCPC, MT-BC