7 Lessons from Walter Riso

· February 20, 2016

I was 17 years old when I met Walter Riso. I remember that I was going through a complicated time in my love life and the book The Limits of Love fell into my hands. It helped me open my eyes to many aspects of my personal life and notice the countless mistakes that I was making, both with my partner at the time and with myself.

I had completely absorbed the hyper-romantic ideas that they sell us and I learned that, in most cases, this causes more suffering than anything else in the world.

“If you can’t love me like I deserve, leave. Someone will come who can enjoy who I am.”

Walter Riso

Walter Riso, as well as being a writer, is a clinical psychologist, а specialist in cognitive psychology, an educator, and a therapist trainer.

After reading The Limits of Love, I became interested in reading his other works – some twenty published books – and even today, he remains one of the authors who has had the most influence on my life. In this article, I will try to condense some of the teachings that have added the most to my life, both on a personal and professional level, although I urge you to continue looking into his reflections as well.

The perils of attachment

Riso teaches us that attachment is an obsessive connection to someone or something. When we get attached, we have a tendency to believe that that person or object will make us totally happy, will give us security, and moreover, is going to bring a meaning to our lives.


In reality, this is a false idea, a product of hyper-romanticism, which can lead a person to suffer pathological jealousy, emotional dependence, a lack of identity, and more.

There are several ways to know if we are attached to someone or something:

  • Knowing how to see if your desire is insatiable or not: if you are never satisfied and need more, you are suffering from attachment.
  • If you have lost your self-control: if you are no longer in control of your own behavior, you are a slave to that attachment.
  • If being without that desired object makes you extremely uncomfortable.
  • If you remain attached to that something, knowing that it is causing you harm.

Being vs. having

One of the keys to personal growth is knowing how to appreciate ourselves for who we are, for our values, our principles, our essence, and not for what we own.

When we appreciate ourselves based on what we possess, we put our happiness outside ourselves, which is why we will always be dependent. We have to be aware of the fact that we are more than what we have and we have value for who we are.

The ideal me and the real me

Our insecurity is always born in the gap between the ideal me and the real me. The real me is what I am, while the ideal me is who I want to be some day.

The problem is that we often don’t see the real me clearly and we tend to punish ourselves, focusing only on our flaws without being able to see our virtues. On the other hand, we also tend to create unrealistic and exceedingly demanding goals for ourselves, which is why the distance between the real me and the ideal me becomes too much.

Silhouettes Holding Hands at Sundown

Love vs. obsession

Saying things like “I only think about you,” “everything reminds me of you,” or “I cannot live without you” are signs of an obsession and not love, and when there is an obsession, love stops working.

It becomes necessary for lovers to understand that they must enjoy one another, be excited about each other, but without depending on each other and of course without ending up losing their own identity. We are individuals who have decided to tie ourselves to another person and we must be able to untie ourselves tomorrow.

Being alike so that love may triumph

The saying that “opposites attract” is much more a myth than a reality. The truth is that similarities between the members in a relationship are essential for it to last. It is clearly a matter of similarities in the basic things, the way of thinking, values, convictions, and essence, and not in superficial things like personal preferences and hobbies.

Falling in love first with ourselves

Society teaches us that we have to make sacrifices and care for others before we take care of ourselves, and Riso teaches us that we are really our most important customer.

We have to learn to practice self-love and for this, we must have the four legs of the table: a healthy self-regard, without torturing ourselves, punishing ourselves excessively, or imposing unreachable goals; a positive self-image, according to your own criteria and not those that society imposes upon us; giving ourselves praise for our success and achievements; and a good dose of self-confidence.

Two Silhouettes about to Kiss

Becoming at ease with emotional solitude

They wanted to sell us the idea that being alone means being incomplete, and we have even come to take pity on people going to the movies or drinking coffee alone. But solitude is not bad: solitude allows us to be with ourselves, to have new ideas, and to have absolute freedom.

In reality, solitude can only hurt you if you think that your personal accomplishments depend on having a partner by your side, and this is nothing but a false idea perpetuated by society. Therefore, it is good to spend time alone when we can be our only company, practicing this even if we have a partner and thereby becoming friends with solitude, not fearing it.