Left to it’s own devices, the mind will gravitate toward its most well-worn thought-groove, which, for many people, is fear and anxiety. The heart, following suit, will gravitate toward its basic defensive posture of fear: it hardens off to protect against the possibility of hurt and loss. While it’s important to understand the root causes of anxiety, fear, and why we defend (because we’ve all been hurt so we all know how vulnerable love renders us), what’s equally if not more important is to create new habits that allow the mind and heart to create new thought-and-action patterns that will result in opening and softening.
In this sense, feeling love and attraction for our partners is a habit that we can consciously cultivate and create. Left to the familiar habit, we will surrender to the fear-walls that want to jut up and create a comfortable chasm between us and our partners. The most confusing element of fear-walls is that they don’t always manifest as a clear and direct experience of fear, but more often as thoughts like, I don’t love him; She irritates me constantly; I’m not attracted; We don’t have enough spark, and feelings like repulsion, resistance, tightening in the body, numbness, ambivalence, doubt, anxiety and indifference.
We fall into these familiar thought-and-feeling patterns because they’re familiar. Even if relationship anxiety or ambivalence didn’t manifest until later in life, we learned a long time ago how to protect ourselves from fear. When people find me and they’re struggling with anxiety, one of the first questions I ask is, “Have you felt anxious before in your life?” and “When have you been hurt?” For we’ve all been hurt, and my clients and course members, because they fall on the anxious-sensitive spectrum, tend to experience the hurt in a more tender and raw way. We hurt, we shut down, and we’re formed a new habit or thought-pattern that can close us off from giving and receiving love.
Let’s take a small but poignant example of how this shut-down can happen early in life from a seemingly benign experience:
A young boy stops saying “I love you” to his parents. At first they don’t think much of it, but as the months roll on they begin to wonder about this curious behavior, especially since their other children have no trouble saying “I love you” freely. One night the mother asks the boy why he doesn’t say I love you anymore. The boys doesn’t answer. She gently asks again, and then the boy says, “One time Daddy laughed at me when I said I love you.” The mother is surprised at this, as her husband is a kind, sensitive man. She asks her husband about it later and he says, “I don’t remember that, but I was probably laughing from joy and tenderness because he’s so sweet.” He felt terrible and talked to his son about it immediately.
Oh, the sensitive heart! How many hundreds or thousands of times are children laughed at for expressing their true feelings? How often does a small interaction cause us to shut down even before we know what’s happening? The young heart simply cannot tolerate being poked or prodded in any way. The smallest criticism is received as a blow. A good-natured laugh is registered as being made fun of. One petal of the heart-flower closes with each perceived slight. Fear takes over to protect. Fear says, “It’s not safe to feel deeply. It’s not safe to be vulnerable. The only safety lies behind the wall of protection.”
The good news is that the heart is pliable, resilient and healable. With the proper tools and right attention, the heart can shed its encrusted layers and learn to give and receive fluidly again. It’s not easy work and it’s not fast work. And it’s work that definitely will not happen without practice. But just as we can shut down, so we can open again. And when we open our heart, the natural feelings of love and attraction that hibernate beneath the frozen layers are thawed into warm flow.
The first and essential step to de-fusing from protective fear-habits – both thoughts and feelings – is to name them for that they are. When we fall into the trap of believing fear as truth, we’ve taken the first step toward tumbling down the rabbit hole of anxiety. On the other hand, when we name fear for what it is, we gain a choice-point for how to respond. It’s this choice-point – this critical moment when our witness or adult self steps into the picture – that changes everything. When we can slow down our response, we then give ourselves the opportunity to create a new, healthy habit, a habit that will help you feel true intimacy with your partner that will then result in feeling more love and attraction.
Learning to name your fear-walls is one of the essential tools you will learn in the Open Your Heart program. We spend an entire week learning to identify all of the subtle and sometimes sneaky ways that fear manifests in mind and body. From there, we dive into the daily actions that will, over time, help you thaw the frozen places and allow real love and attraction to flow more frequently and freely.
As I witness people aging and chart my own trajectory, I notice that we have the opportunity at every stage of life – indeed, every day – to soften our defenses or allow them to calcify. Left to their own devices and the inertia of habit (there seems to be a fundamental laziness inherent to being human that we must actively counteract through practice and action), these walls and protective defense systems will harden and entrench over the years. If we want to develop the compassionate heart that allows us to love and be loved, the heart that lets others enter the innermost realms of self, we must learn to be vulnerable. But to say, “Be vulnerable”, isn’t enough. We need guidance. We need support. We need to know the actions to take that we will help us soften the encrusted heart. We need to learn the Laws and Actions.
Are you ready to learn these Love Laws and Loving Actions? Are you ready to take the steps that will help you to break down your fear-walls, change your entrenched habits and feel true love and attraction for your partner? It takes about sixty days to change a habit (sometimes less, sometimes more), and habits are more easily changed when you have the support of others who are traveling the same road. One of the benefits of my 30-day courses is that not only will you receive the support of a compassionate group of learners, but you will also be able to receive my guidance through the forum and the weekly group coaching calls. This is the last week to sign up, and I look forward to meeting you there.
Open Your Heart: A 30-day program to feel more love and attraction for your partner, begins on October 24th, 2015. I will not be offering this course again until early spring.