Do you think that love is easy, or do you think love is hard, maybe even impossible?
Many of us struggle with love, mainly because we were never taught how. Some of us learned that love has conditions – you do X, Y and Z for me and I’ll give you some scraps of my attention or affection, which sets us up for serious problems down the road in our romantic relationships. Other’s were taught that love is pain and as adults, we go seeking pain and calling it love. While others still, were taught that they weren’t good enough or worthy of love and they’ll always find partners who will make them feel that way.
The crazy thing about love is that it usually meets us where we are. If we have trust issues or self-esteem issues or any other unresolved traumas and we jump into a relationship without fixing our side of the street, our partners will reflect back to us how we really feel about ourselves.
The childhood trauma we experienced is always going to be with us. We’re always going to have triggers and various shock waves as we ride a relationships ups and downs. The difference between healthy and not healthy and ready or not ready, is how mindful we are of them, how we react to them and how we allow them to affect us.
Acknowledge the Trauma
Do your work means, first and foremost, that we get really honest about our childhoods, our parents and everyone who had a hand in shaping our earliest perceptions about ourselves. We need to know that we were perfect balls of love energy when we got here and unfortunately, the environment we were raised in made us emotionally sick. We look to our parents, siblings, teachers and school mates to show us who we are because we aren’t mature enough to figure that out on our own yet. If these people were also victims of a toxic childhood environment, they will mirror that back on us, so we become victims of other people’s brokenness. It’s often unintentional, but our unsophisticated brains don’t process it that way. There’s a great quote by Ingrid Roekke, “A child that’s being abused by it’s parents doesn’t stop loving it’s parents. It stops loving itself.” It takes their cue – I’m not lovable, so I’ll treat myself that way too.
You have to get real about what abuse is because many of us live in denial. Abuse is not just about a physical beating, sexual assault, neglect or abandonment. Abuse encompasses things like, excessive criticism, emotional incest, toxic shame, threats of abandonment, not meeting emotional needs, emotional unavailability, age-inappropriate behavior or exposure, amongst many others.
When we can look back at our childhood and look at the events that still affect us as adults and say, “That was not okay. That was abusive. That scared me and I didn’t deserve that,” then you’re on your way to healing the trauma. It doesn’t mean we have to hate our parents, in some cases if the abuse is still on going or there is no acknowledgement of it, you may want to limit your exposure to them. But it is important to understand that in most cases they are just behaving in the same way that they were taught and treated.
Be mindful of the abuse you suffered. Understand how it affects you now in adulthood. Learn what words or actions trigger those unresolved issues. Pay attention and connect the dots.
Once You Find the Worm – Kill It.
When we know what to look out for – what triggers us, we’ve got to go toe to toe with the trauma and overpower it. We are bigger than our fear, bigger than our hurt and bigger than our pain. We are no longer that scared, powerless little girl or boy.
Acknowledge that you are empowered, that you are in charge of your feelings and behaviors. That you get to decide how something affects you. When unempowering thoughts threaten, you cannot follow them down that rabbit hole no matter how tempting.
See and accept that you are a person of value and live in that truth every day, even when old thought patterns try to convince you otherwise. Remind yourself that you get to choose how you feel about you. Every day that you wake up you get to choose. Keep choosing you. Keep choosing your empowering thoughts…repeat, repeat, repeat.
You have to raise your standards of acceptable and unacceptable treatment and be fearless and unwavering in defending those parameters. Not just with your romantic partners, but with everyone. Let your voice be heard, know that your needs and wants are important and expect that they will be fulfilled.
Start acknowledging what a healthy relationship looks like (love, kindness, respect, reciprocity, sincerity, dependability..) and by contrast know what unhealthy looks like (lying, manipulating, cheating, selfishness, user-mentality, gas-lighting, anger, projection, deflection, jealousy, substance abuse…). Choose healthy and be fearless and confident when action is required.
Unhealthy people are always going to go for your triggers. They’re really good at figuring out what they are and how you react. When you’re in a healthy relationship your triggers will appear less frequently. People that really love you aren’t out to hurt you.
Killing the worm means to take away your trigger’s power. Make no mistake whether you’re in a healthy or unhealthy relationship you will be triggered. When the worm is writhing and twisting on the ground you’ve shown it who’s boss and who’s in control.
Let the Love In
Love is not a destination, it’s always changing, growing and evolving. The biggest barriers to love are a lack of trust and fear. When you’ve suffered childhood trauma your ability to trust others has been greatly impaired and this will skewer how you look at people’s behavior and motives. In your relationships it’s part choosing more trustworthy people and a bigger part of learning how to trust yourself. It also means that you will act when what you want isn’t on offer, that you will act when you’re being mistreated, that you will act if the relationship isn’t meeting your needs or standards. The fear that stands in your way is a fear that you won’t act, that if you open up, if you trust, that you’ll return back down that dark rabbit hole of pain and helplessness and that is a place where you never ever want to go again.
When you’re letting someone in remember you can’t go from 0-60 in a few days. It takes time to get to know someone. If you find yourself rushing to move your new beau in, in a week or two then you’re not ready to date and you should step back and continue the self-work. If you can see your relationship as a series of gates, which when passed, allows for a little bit more trust and a little bit more intimacy. Some people will never get passed certain gates and that is where your relationship will always stay.
Love is easy when you learn how to care for yourself. When you have made peace with your childhood trauma and learned how it affected you and how it manifests in your adult triggers, when you realize that you get to choose your worth and that your value is a constant regardless of whether someone sees it or not, that you get to choose your expectations and boundaries and when you know that you have nothing to fear because you will always act in your best interest, you are ready to open up and let love in, because you will know that you will always have your own back and that your well-being is your top priority.
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