Is Your Inner Child Running Your Love Life?

is childhood trauma running your love life?

We all yearn for love, because we all need love. However, most of us are also confused about love. We often don't know what healthy love is or what it's not. This confusion leads to all sorts of irrational behaviors and reactions in our relationships. It can impact our ability to make or keep commitments. It can result in withdrawal or anxiety, or lead to infidelity and feelings of betrayal. If real love creates bliss, confusion about love just creates a mess. What's often missing in relationships, and what's needed at our core, is a simple human feeling: "I feel safe. I trust you. I feel secure being with you."

Here is some good news for those troubled by the confusion of love: there is a simple science to experiencing dependable and passionate love—both in and out of the bedroom. You can learn the basic building blocks of love, which are essential steps to creating a thriving relationship. It all begins by uncovering childhood patterns, and healing the wounds of your inner child in a very direct and practical way. 

We are both in recovery from love's confusion. Like you, we've had glorious ideas about what love should be, and terrible disappointments in what love turned out to be. We dedicated ourselves to cracking the code so we could have an extraordinary relationship. One key was discovering that secure love is created by openly sharing our deepest insecurities with each other. We learned to build a safe container of trust and compassion, caring for each other's needs and truth. We re-wired our old patterns into a solid foundation of being best friends, as well as rich lovers with passion and delight. You can do this, too. (Learn more in the upcoming free telesummit, Love on Purpose Revolution.) Here's what you need to know:

Deep inside, you have an intuitive sense of how love ought to feel. It's not just a fairy-tale fantasy. Every infant knows innately what love feels like. We are all born with an instinct and neurological need, to be loved in this way. We never outgrow this need to be deeply connected to someone we trust. As infants, children and adults, we all want our core needs to be a priority for someone.

Research suggests that our brains are neurologically wired to give and receive love.* Babies are happy when their needs are met consistently and they're held in a safe and dependable way. The optimal mother-child bond feels tender and warm, safe and secure. As the infant grows, he or she feels seen, recognized and cherished. This vital connection greatly enhances intelligence, health and self-worth. This type of bond is called "secure attachment." Here's the problem: as infants, few of us received this kind of love. Our parents were not secure in themselves. They didn't know how to offer healthy love. They had their own difficulties to deal with, along with a household, other children and an imperfect marriage. They weren't able to offer a safe and consistent harbor. Consequently, most of us got the other kind of bond: insecure attachment.

Before you could talk, your brain got wired for a certain kind of love. This type of love is your particular attachment style or "love operating system." If your love operating system was badly programmed by repeated experiences of abandonment, rejection or criticism, the resulting stress can cause a wide range of problems in your adult relationships, including emotional insecurity or difficulties forming secure partnerships. Physical symptoms such as illnesses, sexual dysfunction or even addictions can result. 

The essential nature of healthy love is simple. Love is generous, reliable and caring. It feels like a nourishing connection we can rest in. We feel comfortable revealing our deepest needs and our highest aspirations. We know we can expose our true selves, including our greatest fears and our genuine magnificence. 

What's confusing about love is that it's often mixed with a host of other feelings, such as anxiety, shame or anger. If that's the type of love you experienced during the first years of your life, you've probably felt insecure about love in the past, and you may still feel this way. If so, you may be afraid of being hurt and wary about letting anyone into your heart. You might have difficulties developing a positive, dependable bond with someone.

Our parents were our original teachers about love. For most of us, they were not ideal mentors. What we learned from them wasn't secure, healthy love. It was an unhealthy substitute: a mixture of their desire to love with their insecurities and need for control. Their feelings of love for you were probably influenced by their own childhood conditioning. They didn't know how to love you, because their parents didn't know what healthy love was. And if one or both parents were absent, you learned that love is mired in avoidance and rejection. In the worst cases, their love may have included emotional or physical neglect, abandonment, or abuse. Some adults unconsciously recreate these traumatic dynamics with their partners, resulting in vicious processing cycles that never resolve. We call this "traumatic attachment," which usually requires professional support to heal from. 

If you combine the factors we've listed above, you have a perfect formula for the chaos that most of us experience in our primary relationship. No wonder most of us are so confused about love!

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The great news is that all of your past conditioning can be healed and re-wired with a little bit of effort. To do so, return to the basic building blocks you missed when you were younger. Change the programming your inner child received, and relearn what secure attachment or healthy love, feels like. After all, learning to love with confidence is no different than learning any other skill. All it requires is some study and practice. Regardless of your natural talent or previous experience, you can nurture your ability to love, starting with understanding the basics. The results include more mutual security, passion and joy (and—for those who want it—hotter sex)!  

Having worked with hundreds of couples and singles, we have seen swift and radical improvements when people commit to learning secure attachment. When you bring these skills back to your family or workplace, love flourishes. It's never too late! If your inner child has been running your love life, learn the simple steps that allow you to take over control of your relationship with your partner. If you're single, develop the skills you need to create an extraordinary relationship. Encourage your inner child to go outdoors and play while you and your partner heat up some healthy adult passion!

Hear Lion and Carista discuss this topic during their upcoming free telesummit, Love on Purpose Revolution.

*You can read more about this research in The Developing Mind: How Relationships and the Brain Interact to Shape Who We Are, by Dr. Dan Siegel (Guilford Press, 2012). 

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