Esther Perel

“We try and diminish the anxiety that comes with so much choice by wanting a certainty. There is no certainty.”

Belgian psychotherapist Esther Perel is a New York Times bestselling author of The State of Affairs and Mating in Captivity. Her celebrated TED talks have garnered more than 20 million views and she is also host of the popular podcast ‘Where Should We Begin?’ which gives the listener a baring exploration into her therapy sessions with real couples and their real life situations.

Today on Luminosity were decoding Esther Perel when she says: “We try and diminish the anxiety that comes with so much choice by wanting a certainty. There is no certainty.” As Esther also goes on to say: “Certainty, and the need for it, is a plague these days.” Here, Esther is ruminating on what it means, and how, to find ‘The One’.

In Esther’s own terms, ‘The One’ is the person with whom you can imagine building your life with and growing with. It is the person with who you want to write a story, and then edit, cut, and re-write that story time and time over. Yet the idea of finding ‘The One’ can be problematic for those both in, and out, of relationships.

For those who aren’t in a relationship it can stall them in the blocks before they even dip their toe into the world of dating, or it can hazard them from committing time and energy into another when they feel they don’t have this assurance. Ultimately blocking ‘The One’ from ever even happening.

For those in relationships it can also prove problematic as an attachment to certainty can cause a person to withhold themselves and therefore breeding inauthenticity in the relationship. It can stop a person from sharing both their positive and negative aspects, their glory and their shadow, and in turn creating a dishonesty that wears away trust between two lovers. Show and bravado can only last so long. A need for certainty may also halt someone’s commitment; someone may say they want to be with their lover and yet unwittingly exclude or neglect their partner, creating singularity and distance in the relationship. All because they believe in the concept of certainty.

Yet certainty is exactly that; a concept. There is no such thing as the ideal partner, but, thankfully not! Where would be the growth and excitement if our partners were perfect? Growth fosters fulfillment, trust and cherish. It brings gratitude for the presence of love, and as explored earlier on Luminosity; gratitude for something exponentiates the experience of that something, ie. even more love.

It is by exchanging, discovering, communicating and exploring with another that we can cultivate a certainty – which is actually trust. As we go through experiences with another we develop deeper understandings and illumination around matters, and these experiences strengthen our assurance that there is a net below us to catch us if we so fall. And that net is called love. The paradox is that trust is exactly what we need when entering into a relationship when things are the least certain and leaning into trust is the scariest thing to do. It’s just that we’re not used to flexing that muscle yet.

Our lives operate from our bandwidth of trust. The liberation of our need for certainty is a process of laying ourselves bare and being caught by the arms of love. This is the life that the soul came to experience. Our need for certainty, is essentially our need for love. Our need to be sure that someone is ‘The One’ before we invest our energy and affection in them, is our need to be sure that they will love us in return, and they will love us for who we really are; the glorious and the ugly.

As Esther rightfully says; “The expectations of one person to satisfy all of our many emotional, physical, and spiritual needs is a tall order for one individual.” There is no one person who can make us whole. The sooner we let go of the idea that another can make us whole and ‘fix us’ by filling all our holes and blind spots, the sooner we are to receiving real, palpable, honest love. We are to be the open arms – the open arms for love – not the fortress waging a war against the other. We need to have the allowance and belief that another can come in and gift us with love in ways beyond our expectations, not the withholding of oneself because of a need for certainty that this is the ‘right’ person.

We can never know for sure if someone is the right person for us from the outset, yet we can follow some markers and clues so that we are not unabashedly laying ourselves bare and vulnerable to anyone who comes into our path. It comes again to following the bodies wisdom. If someone sparks your interest, makes you sit up straighter in your seat, makes you smile, howl with laughter and brings a sparkle back to your eyes – go with that. Don’t get your head involved! Once the mind kicks in: you’re off track. The mind is never our authority.

Ultimately this reduces down to the popular adage of “enjoy the moment.” Stay in the moment and notice what your body is telling you. Notice how your body is speaking to you. How do you feel after you’ve spent time with that person? Don’t burden yourself down with the mind’s musings, and its projections onto the future. Nobody knows what the future holds. It could hold a spectacular fireworks display of love.