\u00a0 \u201cMainstream psychology views disturbing feelings, behaviors, or experiences as an indication that something is wrong with us\u2014an attitude that often shames people.\u201d\u00a0\u2014 David Bedrick Ruby had been described as a fearful child, one who shied away from pets, playground equipment, other children\u2014even her teachers. Twenty-four years old, she sat on her hands in her therapist, Debbi\u2019s, office with a tense expression. She was there because her fearfulness was affecting her new relationship and she was terrified this one would end like the others\u2014that her anxious behavior would turn him off and push him away. Right now he considered her \u201cenigmatic\u201d which she found hilarious; there was nothing mysterious about her. She wasn\u2019t keeping any secrets! She just couldn\u2019t bring herself to say much. What if he thought she was an idiot? What if she said something ignorant or unfunny? These were the questions she poured out to Debbi, who as, usual remained the picture of calm. \u201cYou can\u2019t possibly understand! You never get like this!\u201d \u201cRuby,\u201d her therapist said, \u201cthat isn\u2019t true. I get fearful and anxious quite often. But this is about you. Tell me exactly what it feels like when you are most afraid.\u201d Ruby was caught off guard. No one had ever asked her to describe it. She\u2019d been coming to Debbi for weeks now and she kept being surprised. Her therapist didn\u2019t want to know more about what she was afraid of but what her anxiety actually felt like to her\u2014how it rose up first in her body starting in her stomach with an unsteadiness and the sense that she might need to eliminate. Then, it extended down her legs with shakiness and the feeling that her feet might bolt without her. Her hands sweated. Her throat went dry. Her thoughts began to race and she had trouble focusing on what another person was saying, just like the time when she was still very little and she\u2019d been unable to pronounce her father\u2019s Hebrew words and he had left her and her mother. She sobbed. Debbi\u2019s face seemed to glow with compassion and she wanted to know more. One thing Debbi didn\u2019t do was tell Ruby there was nothing to be frightened of\u2014that no one could ever reject her quite that way again. She didn\u2019t tell her that her anxiety was irrational or outsized. Debbi didn\u2019t offer tips on how to calm herself\u2014all things that Ruby knew by now but which had failed to work for her. Her therapist simply invited Ruby to share her experiences so that they could sit in them together. Strangely, this seemed to offer comfort. After a while, Ruby began to tell her story differently. She no longer saw herself as \u201cbroken\u201d but simply as a woman who experienced anxiety. She could choose to mask it with anti-anxiety medicines, something that had never worked well for her, or she could attack it with \u201ctips and tricks.\u201d Or she could choose to more deeply accept this part of herself; it simply was. As this occurred, and it did, as she embraced what she\u2019d formerly believed was \u201cwrong\u201d with her, Ruby began to feel less anxious. Her fear began to abate, not as a result of her chasing it away, but as a result of her acceptance of it. It did not leave her entirely, and never completely, but enough. David Bedrick\u2019s Love-Based Approach David Bedrick, psychologist, professor, attorney and author, practices and teaches a psychotherapeutic approach, which might seem strange to many therapists as well as to those familiar with the other side of conventional psychological practices. When his patients come to see him, usually about distressing psychological symptoms they see as \u201cproblems\u201d and wish to change, he is interested in discovering along with his patients what their symptoms\u2014and the sources from which those symptoms tend to emerge\u2014may have to reveal. If a patient complains of depression, for example, Bedrick\u2019s response is not initially to attempt to \u201canti-depress\u201d them, as he says, but to ask what their depression feels like to them, in an effort to learn more about the experience itself, as much as to learn about his patient. This is one step in what he refers to as a love-based approach to psychotherapy. In the introduction to his book, Talking Back to Dr. Phil: Alternatives to Mainstream Psychology, Bedrick writes: Psychological thinking is so woven into our day-to-day lives that we attribute almost everything disturbing to us about ourselves or others to a psychological problem in need of diagnosis and treatment. When we experience disturbing feelings, we say we are depressed, hot tempered, overly sensitive, insecure, or have low self-esteem. When we become aware of disturbing patterns of behavior, we say we are lazy, undisciplined, out of control, self-medicating, or judgmental. We also show this predilection for diagnosing when we are disturbed by other peoples\u2019 emotions or behaviors, assuming that they have anger issues, lack self-control, are egotistical, narcissistic, out of touch, depressed, irresponsible, or lazy. We even diagnose whole groups of people who disturb us, concluding that they are immoral, oversexed, greedy, menacing, manipulative, untrustworthy, irresponsible, or criminal. Love and a Cheeseburger In the first chapters, Bedrick tells the story of a woman who has come to see him for help with over-eating; her weakness is cheeseburgers. She has tried removing the bun and the cheese and replacing the mayonnaise with a low-fat version in order to reduce calories, but whenever she\u2019s had an especially stressful day, she complains to Bedrick that she ends up eating the lower-calorie version at lunch and a regular cheeseburger for dinner\u2014and she feels terribly ashamed of herself. Bedrick asks her to say more about what it\u2019s like to eat cheeseburgers, but his patient prefers to discuss ways to stop eating them (what she sees as her problem), so he gets clever and tells her he is going to have a low-calorie cheeseburger without the bread and asks her to tell him why he shouldn\u2019t do it that way. She explains that the bread is what makes it a sandwich! He tells her he\u2019s going to eat it without the cheese and she exclaims this is no good either. They go on this way until she shouts something to the effect of: \u201cI EAT MY CHEESEBURGER THE WAY I LIKE IT BECAUSE IT\u2019S THE ONLY THING I GET TO HAVE MY WAY!\u201d Epiphany. Diagnoses versus Diversity \u00a0\u201cA love-based psychology views social prejudice as impacting people's well-being, and the promotion of social justice as an important psychological intervention.\u201d Bedrick might say that this over-eater\u2019s insight belongs to the beautiful dynamic behind seeing our \u201cproblems\u201d as teachers. In simply trusting the darker parts of ourselves and digging deeper in exploration rather than turning away from them too quickly with diagnoses and quick fixes, we can discover meaning and beauty. When we approach what we perceive as problems with this kind of curiosity, gentleness and acceptance, they may not only teach us, but change on their own without forceful intervention. When we are hurting, we may certainly sometimes need the conventional approach and the resources it offers such as medications and other therapeutic techniques, but a love-based approach in conjunction with these methods can never steer us wrong. As Bedrick\u2019s quote above so well illustrates, humans are quick to label other races and cultures as problematic just as quickly as we are to turn against ourselves. This race or that group is prone to behave criminally, that one is lazy; I am shameful, bad, worthless. But if we look more deeply, underneath the symptoms, behind what we too-quickly believe are the problems, and if we approach with openness, love and curiosity, we might just discover profound and illuminating meaning that clarifies our diversity as much as it unifies our idiosyncrasies into something far too rich and whole to be dismissed. You can\u2019t treat the human heart with anti-depressants, after all. It requires kindness, acceptance, empathy, poetry, love.