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Allowing Yourself to Relax or Standing in the Way of Your Relaxation?

When listening to a recording of guided relaxation, have you ever felt annoyed by the following prescription: “Allow yourself to relax…”

“Allow?!!! If I could allow myself to relax, if it was that simple, then why in the world would I allow myself to be stressed in the first place?!”

Allowing yourself to relax – strange notion, indeed… It certainly presumes a degree of responsibility over stress that many of us are hesitant to admit! What a skillfully inoffensive pointing of the fingers!

“Allow yourself to relax” – if stripped of its velvet-glove new-age sleaziness – means nothing other than this: “Relax!”

“Relax?!!! If I could relax, if it was really up to me, then why in the world would I stress myself out in the first place?!”

Relaxing yourself – strange notion, indeed… To relax yourself, there would have to be two Selves – the one that is stressed out and the one that relaxes the stressed out one. “So, what are you driving it, Relaxation Guru? That there are two of me or, worse yet, that I am split in half?” What a skillful contraband of Duality! What a schizophrenic notion of split-minded Self-care!!

“So, how do I allow me? How do I get me out of my own way?”

By allowing yourself… to be stressed!

“Allowing yourself to relax” is a form of making yourself, a form of forcing yourself, a form of doing, however tactfully presented, it is a form changing yourself (from “what is” into “what is not”). That’s how “we” stand in our own way. This notion of “allowing ourselves to relax” – in my self-searching opinion – is the misguided duality of relaxation.

Relaxation – once again in nothing more than just my opinion – is about reducing the duality of our experience, about reducing the split-mindedness of our moment-to-moment being. Yet the language of “allowing ourselves to relax” seems to only reinforce this split as it creates an unfortunate juxtaposition between the state of mind that is allowed (relaxation) and the state of mind that is to be banned (stress).

“Are we one or are we two?” I don’t know. But what does seem to be the case – once again, on the basis of my own relaxation experiences and readings – is that we function “split” but to heal (to relax) we have to become one with our own experience.

With this in mind, I recognize that the alternative suggestion that you “allow yourself to be stressed” is too a duality – but its vector is aimed at Authenticity of Being (in which nothing is disowned, not stress, not even pain).

Allow yourself to allow – to see if you can get out of your own way!

Aim your “I-me” Duality at Oneness!

Allowing Yourself to Relax or Standing in the Way of Your Relaxation?

Pavel G. Somov, Ph.D.

Pavel Somov, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in private practice and the author of 7 mindfulness-based self-help books. Several of his books have been translated into Chinese, Dutch & Portuguese. Somov is on the Advisory Board for the Mindfulness Project (London, UK). Somov has conducted numerous workshops on mindfulness-related topics and appeared on a number of radio programs. Somov's book website is and his practice website is

Marla Somova, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in private practice in Pittsburgh, PA. She is the co-author of "Smoke Free Smoke Break" (2011).



APA Reference
Somov, P. (2011). Allowing Yourself to Relax or Standing in the Way of Your Relaxation?. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 18, 2020, from


Last updated: 9 Jul 2011
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