Photo by Nicole Garcia
“Healing is an ongoing process. Some days are more difficult than others but understanding that self-love is a crucial component will keep you on your healing path.” – Nicole Garcia
In last week’s article we explored reasons why some well-intended people find themselves trapped in difficult, one-sided relationships. To think that many enter into relationships only to have their sincerity and love twisted, belittled, and used against them for completely selfish means is appalling. These stories are heartbreaking. But hearing the brave accounts of those who were able to overcome them are exceedingly heartwarming.
Love is complex and multifaceted; and since self-love is part of the healing process, it’s an issue I deal with in a slightly different manner for every single client. What has been helpful in my own practice is to discover the various ways in which people become entrapped by a sincere and visceral need to show and express love.
Having experienced my own version of love’s impasse allows me to be empathetic and understanding with my clients. It’s often a relief to them when they’ve heard I’ve undergone a similar experience. Thankfully, I was not a victim of an overbearing or completely selfish partner; mine centered more on never seeing the importance of self-love and how that truly strengthens relationships rather than damages them. My thinking was only to please; and often found myself second guessing what the “right” thing to do was in order to seemingly express my love.
The remedy is never as straightforward as “just start loving yourself.” If it were that easy, this column wouldn’t exist. The intricacies and peculiarities of each situation are continually shifting, making it more difficult to understand how and why they become ensnared and almost hypnotized into what they believe is true love’s expression.
What frequently occurs in these kinds of love-twisted relationships is the compassionate person, imprisoned by a narcissistic partner, cannot even begin to reason how any person would use someone’s own love against them. The slightest thought that anyone could remotely consider doing that is nauseating and repulsive. Conversely, those with inflated egos can’t imagine how any person would consider sacrificing so much for another person.
Herein lies the problem. Transformation occurs when a person understands something needs to be changed.
The caring ones, rightfully so, don’t want to change their already kind and loving spirit. And the self-consumed don’t want anything to strip them of their power and control. Ironically, the caring person does see the need for the other person to change and wants it to happen so desperately they’ll hang on to the slightest thread of hope, which their self-centered partner has learned to strategically and periodically tease them with throughout the relationship.
The first step is to help them realize what changes need to occur. They don’t need to be less loving and caring while at the same time becoming more self-centered. They don’t need to score more points in the relationship to prove their worth. Those traits should be lauded. The realization is that they deserve to be reciprocated with the same kind of love which they give.
The most difficult personalities, who always require the biggest changes, also have the least ability to recognize what changes need to occur because their primary focus is on themselves. They’ve developed a need and in a sense, have become addicted to continually being right. And when you are always right, how will you ever consider the notion that you may be wrong?
The “giver” frequently identifies what changes need to be made. Their struggle happens with learning to love themselves. The self-righteous, on the other hand, rarely see any need to change and when they do, it typically occurs after their world falls apart and they are left with nothing but desolation and destruction. Even then some still have difficulty understanding everything around them wasn’t provided for their comfort, pleasure, and luxury.
Each person in this relationship needs a healing journey to begin. The dilemma on this road is understanding this is typically a long process. Many desire these changes to manifest quickly. Why can’t we simply decide, “I’m going to love myself beginning this moment” and our lives pivot forever on that moment? Again, if there were a predictable answer, there would be no purpose in writing these articles.
For many, the way we learn to perceive and practice love has taken years to develop. Our actions become more of a ritual or a “default reaction.” Several decades of erroneous behavior isn’t undone by one confident decree. It takes work and determination to undo this kind of flawed thinking. While some might be fortunate to make such a miraculous turnaround, most face a challenging and exasperating journey. Please know that the rewards for this effort far outweigh the difficulties experienced during the process.
Another obstacle is when one questions the progress made because of some mistake or backsliding. Depending on the gravity of the emotional wounds, it can be extremely difficult to see any progress whatsoever. Discouragement is often the biggest denier; especially for those at the beginning of their journeys.
The best medicine for this situation is to remind them of the positive changes they’ve already made. Point out those successes and always leave with encouraging words. There were several times early in my journey when I questioned or even downplayed my transformations. What helped me most was realizing these negative thoughts were precisely how my own shame (and what I refer to in my book as the shame filter) wanted me to reason. If I continued in that vein, I would once again succumb to what I believe is the biggest yet least discussed issue that most will face throughout their lifetimes.
If you or someone you know is stuck in a similar difficulty, let them know there’s hope. Share this article or reach out to me directly. No one should ever have to be at an impasse with their own love.
My thanks to Nicole Garcia for both the beautiful picture and enlightening quote. She is a rising star and one who is an incredible example. I look forward to your comments.