"Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it." (Rumi)
When it comes to clients seeking love in relationships, the biggest barrier I see is shame. It often shows up in defense mechanisms such as drugs, alcohol or eating disorders. It can show up in picking fights or retreating from intimacy. It could be staying busy with work, hiding from others or lying to ourselves. But at the heart of all these things (and more) is shame.
"What about this theory. The fear of not being enough. The fear of being too much. Are the same fear. The fear of being you." (Nayyirah Waheed)
Here are a couple ways to challenge that shame:
1. Talk about it
Tell a trusted person how you really feel or what you really need. Shame grows in darkness and withers in the light day. Bring light by talking about it with a safe person. Usually they won't respond in the way you fear. And often they might even feel closer to you and thank you for your bravery.
2. Be nice to yourself
Sometimes we have shame and we continue to shame, punish or be mean to ourselves. It's as if we think that will help or that it is justice. But I have never seen it help. Shocker! It only makes it worse and keeps us stuck and small and closed off from love. Instead, practice self-care, even if you don’t think you deserve it. How will you let others be nice to you if you won't be nice to you!?! Do a hobby. Eat good food and get movement in your life. Hang out with friends. Let yourself have fun. Breathe deeply and find gratitude.
3. Practice opposite action
Usually shame tells us to do stuff. Stay small. Stay away from people. Don’t tell people how you feel or what you want. Don’t let people get too close. Keep people on a tight leash so they don’t leave you. Whatever it is, try to do the opposite. Play big. Move toward people. Tell trusted people what you want and how you feel. Trust others and trust yourself.
This is a practice that sets the stage to do what Brene Brown calls "wholehearted living".
"Wholehearted living is about engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness. It means cultivating the courage, compassion, and connection to wake up in the morning and think, no matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough. It’s going to bed at night thinking, Yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid, but that doesn’t change the truth that I am also brave and worthy of love and belonging." (Brene Brown)