Saturday, March 6, 2010

Dismantling Defensive Scaffolding

Yesterday, I blogged about Having the Guts to Allow Someone to Love You. And I promised an article on how to dismantle the defenses you erected in order to keep yourself safe. Of course, these steps are much easier said than done. So be patient with yourself.

Although these remarks are in the context of having the courage to accept love, the process I am outlining here can be applied to dismantling defenses in general.

Let’s suppose that you have finally seen that you are in your own way when it comes to receiving love. Then what? How do you change that?

Step 1: Realize that you react defensively, knee-jerk style when a spouse or partner shows their love toward you.

Step 2: Develop an observing ego. Do this by metaphorically learning to sit on your own shoulder and watch yourself interact.

Step 3: Initially, you probably will realize you have reacted defensively sometime after the fact. That’s okay. This realization will be a major building block to your ability to stop the pattern.

Step 4: Even when you notice yourself reacting defensively, it is unlikely that you will be able to stop yourself at first. But it is important that you notice your patterned response. Don’t beat yourself up about it. You’ll get better.

Step 5: Finally, you will be able to see yourself reacting defensively when you are in the middle of it. This allows you to back up and start again. Now you can choose a better, more functional reaction.

Here’s a caveat. If you are emotionally invested in a relationship with someone who fits this description, ask yourself an important question. What’s in it for me that I choose to love someone who is emotionally unavailable?

Remember this: It’s a lot easier to want than to have.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Having the Guts To Let Someone Love You

Have you ever tried to love someone who was bound and determined not to allow it? I have. It sure is frustrating, even infuriating, isn’t it?

Since to love and be loved is a universal human need, it surely isn’t reasonable and logical for anyone to reject love. But on a whole other level, it makes perfect sense. This concept is counterintuitive. Let me explain.

People who are afraid to be loved suffer from a very deep intimacy fear. But they don’t know they are afraid. This is because the reasons they got this way have long since passed into their unconscious mind. This is especially true if the situation that created this logjam happened in their childhood.

Keeping themselves at arm’s length from anyone who offers love serves to insulate them so effectively that they don’t even recognize that they are afraid. They just “know” they are easily irritated about this, or feel self-righteous about that because they believe they can’t trust anyone.

Perhaps the most precarious part about trying to relate to these people is that the more you attempt to give them love, the more they will fight you, rejecting your attempts. This often becomes a crazy-making pattern. This allows them to build the wall brick by brick that they hope will keep them “safe.” Never mind it’s a lonely, empty, frightening existence. But at least they can’t get hurt this way, they often reason however unconsciously.

It takes courage to allow yourself to be loved, because it tends to stir up childlike feelings of dependency. Along with this are powerful feelings of fear, which is the reason people develop this counter dependent response in the first place. The unconscious rationale for their defensiveness is, if you just don’t allow someone to really love you, you’ll never become dependent and can never be let down.

The bottom line is that when these defenses were constructed, they were an early decision designed for survival. However, these defensive strategies no longer serve them in adulthood. Therefore, these self-protective barriers need to be dismantled. Check back on my blog tomorrow to see how to go about doing that. Clearly, it is easier said than done.

A baby step to get you started is to follow the advice of Martha Beck in a recent issue of O The Oprah Magazine. She wrote, “Every time life brings you to a crossroads, from the tiniest to the most immense, go toward love, not away from fear.”

More tomorrow.