Through working with clients who grew up in fairly healthy environments, it’s become increasingly clear to me that the blueprints of beliefs and experiences we absorb about love are not only connected to how we were directly treated by our parents, but also by how they treated each other and, perhaps even more importantly, how they treated themselves. For example, if we witnessed a mother who suffered from worry and anxiety and never addressed it directly, it’s quite likely that the worry and anxiety would have been passed down to one or more of her children. We often live the unlived lives of our parents, so if there’s shadow work to be done in another generation, you may find yourself the recipient of that work. And while it may not appear to be a gift, when you understand anxiety, worry, panic, or any other debilitating manifestation of fear as a portal into wholeness, the burden is transformed into a blessing.
A secondary and common cause of relationship anxiety is childhood bullying. I used to be surprised by the number of clients who would share stories about the ways in which grade school peers (including siblings) would taunt, tease, and torture them, but now it’s one of the first questions I ask when a client presents with the fear of intimacy. If your own peers, which will one day constitute the age group from which you will choose a marriage partner, tell you repeatedly that you’re ugly, stupid, worthless and any other number of ruthless cruelties, doesn’t it make sense that your self-esteem would plummet and you would develop a belief that says, “I’m not worthy of love”?
And then there are the ways in which we may never understand where the resistance to real love originates. I have clients who say, “I grew up a loving family and have had good relationships in my life. This just doesn’t make any sense,” to which I respond, “It doesn’t really matter where this came from. The fact is that it’s here now and either you move toward the resistance or you run and end up alone. No matter where this came from, it’s an opportunity to grow in your ability to love. Do you want to accept this challenge?”
In the end, fear is fear, and we either accept the task of working with it consciously and diligently or we walk away from loving, solid relationships with the erroneous belief that, “It just didn’t feel right. If it was right, I wouldn’t have to work so hard.” But if you have a love blueprint that says, “Love isn’t safe” or “This will only end in heartbreak and I can’t handle the grief” or “I’m not worthy of love,” massive amounts of compassionate attention are needed to break down these beliefs and replace them with the truth. And one of the most effective ways of creating a new love script is to take the risk, slowly and carefully if needed, of loving the one you’re with.
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