If you didn’t have a predictable, loving, nurturing, protective adult presence in your life as an infant or child you are likely to search for it the rest of your days. Luckily, the answer lies within. The more you rely on yourself to give you what you didn’t get the more you can reliably get it.
We carry unconscious expectations to all our adult relationships, the kernel of which is usually a cellular desire, for what we didn’t get growing up.
Unconsciously, we bring that fervent wish into every close relationship we have until the day we realize everyone is bound to disappoint us. It’s not their fault, they don’t do it on purpose, it’s simply that we cannot get as adults what we missed as infants and children. Why? Because when we get that feeling of secure attachment as an infant and child we learn how to self soothe. We learn it unconsciously. It becomes part of our DNA. (Yes, according to epigenetic theory, environmental conditions can shape the way DNA gets expressed after we are born.)
Here is a story that illustrates the very human search to seek what we feel is missing, but looking in the wrong place:
A policeman sees a drunk looking for something under a streetlight and asks what the man has lost. He says he lost his keys and they both look under the streetlight together. After a few minutes the policeman asks if he is sure he lost them here, and the drunk replies, no, he lost them in the park. The policeman asks why he is searching here, and the drunk replies, “This is where the light is.”
As long as you look outside yourself for the reliable support, comfort and love you didn’t get you will be disappointed. Why? Because no one can understand what you really want better than you. Ultimately, you will feel frustrated, possibly grief-stricken, with your relationships since your conscious and unconscious desires can’t be met 24/7 by anyone else. Of course, you can find loving supportive people who will comfort you along the way, but they may not always be there when you need them.
I know it’s daunting to think of giving yourself love, consideration, and respect, but over time, with enough practice, it’s possible.
When you’re lonely, suffering, angry, even despairing, ask yourself: What do I really want right now? Then do your best to provide it. Since you will be with yourself every second of your life from birth to death, doesn’t make sense to create the most nurturing, loving and dependable relationship with yourself you can possibly have?
In the midst of anxiety, grief, and loneliness you can reassure yourself that things will be OK. This takes a lot of practice. You will not get good at it quickly. But what could be a more worthwhile enterprise than creating the very best, most loving relationship with yourself?
While there are all sorts of wonderful techniques for supporting yourself through trying times on this site, self compassion is what they all have in common.
Every time you hear that inner voice being harsh, critical or perfectionistic towards you counter it with loving thoughts that prove you cherish yourself. If the last thing on earth you feel is self-love just fake it ‘till you make it. In time, with practice, you will begin to believe it.
What better refuge is there than what you carry with you every minute of every day? You truly know what you want if you just ask yourself in any given moment. Here are a few questions to get you started. It can be helpful to either meditate on the answers or write them down.
What do I wish someone would say to me right now?
What would soothe me now: body, mind or spirit?
How can I show kindness towards myself in this moment?
How can I remind myself how resilient I really am? Perhaps, a list of all the challenges I managed to survive will help. (Kicking and screaming through them doesn’t diminish the end result of living to see another day.)
What if I make an audio recording of what I wish someone would say to me right now and play it to myself?
Can I get in touch with that inner child and say what he or she wants to hear?
Let me explore this feeling somatically, in my body, by really paying attention to and naming what’s going on physically.
What can I do to help myself feel safer right this minute?
Is there a guided meditation on the Insight Timer (free app) I can listen to that will help me re-frame this experience and re-ground me?
No matter how painful this is, I am bearing it. I know it will pass. Everything else has, even when I thought I couldn’t stand it. Sometimes, I just have to take the next breath.
Copyright Nicole S. Urdang