“You are imperfect, you are wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging.”
~ Brené Brown
In the framework that I use as a Professional Counselor and Holistic (Inner) Life Coach, we talk about Conditioned Self (CS) versus Authentic Self (AS).
Anytime we feel bad about ourselves, we can be sure that our Conditioned Self (CS) has been activated and that a conditioned belief has been triggered. These beliefs hold us back, are fear-based, and result in repeated patterns, negative self-talk, self-sabotage and feelings of anxiety, guilt, sadness, judgment, shame, anger, and, of course, fear.
They are conditioned from past childhood and younger adult experiences.
Because we spend a lot of time in CS, these beliefs and accompanying feelings actually feel normal to us and, not only that, they feel like the truth. What does that have to do with accepting love? EVERYTHING.
Our conditioned truth has us believing we are unworthy of true love; that we will mess a new relationship up; that, in essence, we suck at connection.
Our Authentic Self (AS), on the other hand, is where our joy, passion, and love reside. AS moves to the back burner when CS is activated. Not only that but these authentic feelings, because they don’t feel normal, freak us out.
When we move into AS, however, we move into our personal truth and we move into vulnerability. It’s in vulnerability that we allow ourselves to be seen, experience connection and to accept love.
So how do we move from fear-based CS into love-based AS?
The first step is to recognize when you are in CS.
Simply put, conditioned feelings don’t feel good. Think tightness in your chest, pit in your stomach, tension in your shoulders. Pay attention to this mind-body connection.
Recognizing this connection takes practice but once you start paying attention you’ll have a hard time un-seeing how your CS manifests in your body. The pit in your stomach will be your cue that your CS has been activated and that you have become triggered by a belief that will hold you back from love.
Next, Remember that CS beliefs are fear-based and ask yourself what it is that you are afraid of.
Once you’ve identified your fear, gently remind yourself that this fear is not the truth. In my work, I teach clients to then connect with their Higher Power to discover what is true.
Their Higher Power recognizes their Authentic Self and encourages this part of themselves to courageously shine, to stand strong in their badassery, and to leave the protective armor behind.
While fear is part of the human experience, moving into love is a spiritual one.
It isn’t always graceful so do be gentle on yourself. In accepting love many conditioned beliefs can become triggered.
What the Higher Power knows to be true though is this – You are worthy of being seen. You are lovable.
You can trust yourself. When you respond from these truths – from your AS – you shift out of the CS anxiety and fear, stay in vulnerability, and step into wholehearted love.
Sue Bruckner Engstrom, MA, LPC-IT – www.suebecounseling.com
Opening your heart can be scary.
Especially if you have been hurt in love . . . and who has not been hurt in love?
If I love you, will you love me back?
This is our question. This is our fear. But this is also our deepest wish!
The fear of heartbreak is primal.
The more we lean over the edge of the cliff of love, the more precipitous it can feel. There we are, with our heart way out there, on the very edge of our sleeves, hanging on by the tips of our toes to the edge of the crumbling cliff side, straining over the chasm in the hopes of true love. Love can be truly terrifying!
And so we protect ourselves, making sure we won’t get hurt again.
Our hearts can harden. We can make ourselves invulnerable. Our hearts feel like an open wound that never really healed right. Over time, this wound can cover over and become a veritable scar, and impenetrable to new love.
The gnarled scar tissue of old love wounds can become pretty grizzly over the years, to the point that when real love is offered we might not let ourselves be open enough to receive it. “I’m not going to get hurt again!” we declare.
If we do get brave enough to let ourselves open our hearts again, we can enter into a relationship literally half-heartedly with our hearts hidden and protected under lock and key.
The problem is, when we don’t bring our whole hearts to it, that love is likely doomed to fail.
Worse, the deeper we go in our relationship, the more there is to lose, and it becomes more and more difficult to take the risk of letting our hearts be vulnerable. We become uneasy and nervous, jumpy and touchy, loosing our perspective, taking everything personally, and quick to bolt.
But remember, a good relationship is built on give and take. And as much as we might be taking a risk in love, so is our partner.
From a spiritual perspective, it is always right to love. But there is a hard but beautiful truth inherent to this: Love is vulnerable.
And you can’t take that part out of it. For the state of vulnerability requires actually feeling vulnerable.
The more vulnerable we are with each other, the deeper our love can grow. But conversely, the greater the depth of our pain if it doesn’t work.
To trust each other means to give over to each other, even in the face of our fear, that we could be left, walked out on, or be used.
Think of relationship like breathing. You breathe in, you breathe out. In this model, you receive love; you give love. It goes both ways.
It’s like inhaling and exhaling. We need to trust the natural process of life. Just giving love can deplete us. The same as only taking love will back us up. Just like the breath, we must let it in and let it out. It must be both. Spiritual principle and nature say so.
There is so much risk in taking the chance to love again. We might think it’s easier to just not risk it at all. We worry, what if we’re wrong?
But I would counter, what if we’re right?
You can’t find a real love if you are not willing to really love.
So, take the risk to let love in. Let it in. Let it out. Let it flow. You might get some bumps and bruises along the way, and a little callous over here and a scar over there, but love is inherently brave. Take a risk. Practice vulnerability. Open your heart and see how love finds you!
Diana Lang, Counselor and Spiritual Teacher – www.dianalang.com
“Trust is the key to unlocking a future full of romantic prosperity.”
In life, as human beings, we want stability; to know that things will work out.
When that stability is shaken, so is our trust in the process. There is that fear and anxiety that nothing good will happen or when it does, we are waiting for as people say, the other shoe to drop; for it to end.
There is another saying, all good things must come to an end, which can be scary, especially if you have suffered a lot of loss in your life.
The fear and anxiety can be harmful because it does not allow a person to enjoy the present, but rather causes them to expect the unexpected.
The fear and anxiety evoke questions such as, when is he going to leave me? Why is he with me?
When people feel threatened that they will lose someone or something they love, there are two responses they can have, hold on tight or distance themselves; there is no median. Neither one is healthy, and can run a partner away.
So, how do you gain trust in a relationship?
The answer is easy but the process is not, it takes hard work. But, you must see the relationship for what it is, instead of what you fear it to be.
- If things happened in the past to shake your trust, ask yourself, are those same things happening now?
- What evidence do I have to think that he will leave?
- How has he shown you that he is committed?
- Do you trust him?
- Most importantly, do you trust yourself?
- Do you trust that you have picked a good partner, who will not intentionally hurt you?
It all starts with yourself, and you do not have trust inside, then it is reflected in your relationship.
The fact is that not all relationships last forever, some run it’s course. Having fear and anxiety of it not working out doesn’t make it last longer, but can shorten the prospect of it.
As women, we often feel that we can make men stay, but we can’t. The only actions we control are our own. Therefore, start with yourself; trust, trust, trust!
Robin Ennis, LCSW, CPC – www.linkedin.com/in/robinennis
You may be great at expressing your love to your partner, with warm embraces and gentle, soft gestures.
But if you receive some of that love, do you question how sincere it is? Whether he really loves you or just wants to have sex with you? Why he’s nice and sweet sometimes and other times, inconsiderate or even rude?
This can all stem from your insecurities and low self-esteem. Sometimes past experiences with other partners may trigger the pain, anxiety and mistrust you’re feeling now, causing you to sabotage your new relationship and potential new partner.
So, how can you receive love without feeling anxious or afraid that if you give of yourself, you will be disappointed or hurt?
1. When you go into a relationship as an autonomous, independent woman, you do not depend on any man to fill you up.
You are comfortable with yourself and are looking for someone to enhance who you already are. Therefore, you feel secure about giving your love to someone who is reciprocating, sincere and also a confident, healthy individual.
Be strong and courageous, knowing that love is a precious and powerful gift you give to someone else.
2. Intimate relationships can be scary because you feel vulnerable.
Your partner knows you better than anyone else and can use that information to upset or offend you, if the relationship is unhealthy and abusive. Be sure you know the person with whom you are being physically intimate. Take your time getting to know him by establishing an emotional bond before you dive into the physical one.
3. Enjoy the relationship you have by not worrying, anticipating or projecting what could be.
The worst thing you can do is make up scenarios that never happened because you “fear” the worst. Suspicions, jealousies and accusations are a good way to ruin a relationship that ordinarily would be great.
4. Work on your self-esteem.
How do you do that? By being grateful of all the positive things in your life, by acknowledging what you do have, by realizing you have received a great deal more than you have given and by learning that there is more to life than complaining about what’s missing.
Make it your new habit to express your appreciation, sincerely and without expectation of anything in return because it enriches your life and makes it more meaningful.
Amy Sherman, M.A., LMHC – www.yourbabyboomersnetwork.com
Many of my patients ask me this question in different ways.
- “I don’t want my new partner to think I’m more in love than he is because it will scare him off.”
- “Women seem to like men better who are a little out of reach. If I tell her she’s important too early, she might see me as too needy, or take advantage.”
- “It’s easy for me to care for him when he’s nervous, but I don’t want to expect him to be that concerned about me. Guys just don’t seem to like me when I ask for too much.”
- “I pretty much don’t show women that I care too much. Being a little distant seems sexier to them.”
- “When you open up too much to a guy too early in a relationship, he usually sees you as ‘too emotional,’ as if those kinds of feelings are too scary.”
- “If I open my heart, I take the chance of it getting broken. It’s happened too often in the past, so I just wait until I’m pretty sure she isn’t just a user.”
- “Guys don’t like women who are too emotional. I’m just used to it. I’m pretty careful not to overload them with my romantic hopes. It has to be their idea or it goes over like a lead balloon.”
It’s pretty evident that most relationship seekers of both genders enter new relationships with their own past-defined risk/benefit ratios that are both time and intimacy related.
How much time before I’m authentic and really express how I feel, and how do I rate the potential commitment of a relationship before I risk my true feelings for someone?
Here’s the problem.
If you look back at your life, with all of its sorrows and joys, and ask yourself the following questions
When I’ve had the chance in the past to choose risk over security, what have I usually done?
After I made that choice, have I ever wished I’d taken more risks, or am I happy with what I chose to do at the time?
Most of the people I know deeply will confess that they wished they’d taken more risks most of the time.
So, let’s apply that to many new intimate relationships. Most people, especially after some past failures, are more likely to seek comfort and security and to limit any risk-taking behaviors.
They would rather wait to make sure they are safe before they open their hearts, take in love, or openly declare vulnerable feelings to their new partners.
And they do so in almost every category including sexual preferences, political biases, spiritual commitments, past traumas, desires for the future, and anything they have felt damaged their prior relationships.
They are reluctant to risk any behaviors that might bias that new person against them, or want to make sure that the relationship has enough good in it, that sharing more potentially threatening thoughts would be balanced by what the relationship has to offer.
I agree that there has to be some sensitive diplomacy and intuitive understanding of what another person can handle or how he or she might respond before authentic feelings and thoughts are shared.
Just deciding to be open without those important pieces of the puzzle can border on egocentricity and will usually backfire.
It’s also important to know as much of the background and prior experiences of anyone you would consider getting closer to or depending upon.
That said as a given, I believe that the sooner any person opts for authenticity, transparency, heroic openness, and honest expressions of vulnerability, the sooner that person will know if he or she is in a relationship that has any true potential.
Simultaneously, the longer any new intimate partner withholds the core of who he or she truly is, can give, and wants, from that partner, the harder it will be to share it later, and the more dubious that person’s trustworthiness becomes.
Though most people know there will be more to know as layers fall away, negative surprises are not usually viewed as helpful. (See my Psychology Today Blog, “When Should I Have Told You?”)
There are some important ways to approach being real that can help soften the initial responses.
Telling a new partner that you want him or her to know who you are, what you believe in, what your best qualities are, and what you’re working on as soon into the relationship as possible, will not fit into the categories of personally responding to a specific situation with that partner that he or she does not expect or isn’t ready for.
Withholding is misleading.
It is avoiding the possibility of rejection by omission of truths that must eventually come out. It is a sign of insecurity, the fear that, if that new person really knew who you were, they would not stay to know you more deeply. If you think deeply about that mind-set, you’ll realize that it is so much better to know that early in any relationship.
One important caveat: Communication in relationships is comprised of touch, facial expressions, voice intonations, body language, and rhythms both physical and emotional.
Rhythm is crucially important at the beginning of any new relationship. That means that openness, the sharing of vulnerability, the risking of sexual desires, the sharing of resources, and the authenticity of past and present behaviors must happen at the same level.
But very few people are willing to be the initiator or the first opening. As a result, many new relationship partners wait for the other to make the first move, and the relationship often stagnates as a result. Courage is taking a risk in the presence of fear of loss. It is one of the most valuable assets a person can master.
The following articles I’ve published on Psychology Today Blogs may help:
“The Myth of Romantic Expectations”
“Are you Withholding Love?”
“Is This True Love?”
“Why Can’t I Let Love In?”
Dr. Randi Gunther – www.randigunther.com
Stay in the moment and stay in the present.
Everyone has suffered some sort of hurt or betrayal. The question is whether we let that define us and dictate how we perceive everyone else. We cannot control others or the outcome of our relationships. We can create patterns that repeat in our lives if we are not aware of our own behavior.
Be mindful that you do not become codependent and worry constantly about what he is doing.
There may always be a risk that he may leave you, but you cannot live in fear of this. The more you feed this fear, the more likely you will manifest it by creating patterns that will contribute to that outcome.
We cannot control if someone cheats on us. It is easy to internalize and blame ourselves even for other people’s behavior. If he cheats on you; it may not be about you. He made the decision to stray and that was his choice.
If he is toxic and unable to hold himself accountable, that is on him, not on you.
Recognize the patterns that you fall into and work on your own self-esteem so that you are less willing to tolerate this kind of behavior. Work on developing your confidence so you pick someone who values you and recognizes your worth.
Be present when you are receiving attention and love.
Enjoy it and savor it, instead of focusing on the negative. Re-frame your thoughts and focus on the positive. Disappointment is a part life for everyone, but if you dwell on the possibility of it happening constantly you will never enjoy the good times.
Work on your trauma from previous relationships. Work on letting go of core beliefs that do not serve you. Be mindful of how you might be sabotaging yourself. Work with therapist to address and process your anxieties and fears.
Be honest with yourself about your own behavior and do not fall into the pattern of being the victim.
You are more powerful than you know and you always have a choice. Learn to be still and accept what brings you joy and fills your heart.
Nothing is permanent.
The one thing that we can always count on is change. You can accept his love unconditionally or create constant chaos for yourself by living in a state of anxiety and worry. Learn to let go and be right here, right now.
Ileana Hinojosa, MLA, LMFT – www.themindfullife.net
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