After a childhood of relational trauma, finding love can feel like an impossible feat. As our patterns of rejection, abandonment and abuse repeat, we can reach a level of hopelessness that feels insurmountable. We can resolve ourselves to the impossibility of love. We give up. But when we can allow ourselves to consider how we are holding ourselves back from love, how we are perpetuating our traumatic patterns, we can empower ourselves to make change happen. We can slowly turn the tides on our relational life. But we must be open and flexible to how we are contributing to our patterns. And this is not easy. It requires an honest look at the survival skills we developed in childhood. Those survival skills are based in our childhood reality. And while they got us through some horrific experiences, they aren’t serving us now. To change these survival skills, we have to look deep into our unconscious to find out why they exist. Here are some common beliefs and patterns we might find.
- We want resolution to the past. When we grow up with an abuser, we do everything within our power to make them love us. It never occurs to us that they can’t love us. It never dawns on us that they are the problem. We blame ourselves and work hard to fix whatever is wrong with us in the hopes that love will finally become available. But we never figure it out. We never discover the problem is unsolvable. As we grow to adulthood, the love seeker within us still searches for resolution, any answer to the inconsolable grief they feel. They seek out people with the same behaviors and energy as our abusers, and they attempt to resolve the problem one more time. And each time, they are left without answers.
- We don’t believe the love that shows up. While we all have that part who resiliently seeks out love, our traumatic childhoods create another part who knows love is not possible for us. We are sure that love will not be made available to us under any circumstances. This may be caused by our own deficiencies or a general lack of love in the world, but either way, love will never be real for us. So when something resembling love appears on the horizon, this part rejects it. They will assume this person must be lying. There cannot be love for us so this person must be fooling us. And we reject it.
- We don’t prioritize love. We are too busy surviving. Love is a distraction. Love means we aren’t focusing on the things that could go wrong. We might miss something important. We have to put love on the back burner so we can get things done. We have to check off the items on the list. We have to prepare for the bad things. We have to maintain order. And love is not going to help us do any of these things. It keeps us from our ultimate goal: survival. And survival matters much more than connecting with others.
- We hate ourselves. A childhood of trauma can bring a lifetime of self hate. It can impact everything we do in life. It can sit in our unconscious mind and nag us with doubts at every turn. It is a brutal self critic. With these beliefs, it will be almost impossible to bring real love into our lives. We cannot find love when we hate ourselves. The external world mirrors our internal world. So to find real love, we must express and release the self hate.
- We stereotype others. In a childhood of chaos, we created rules to survive. While some of those rules made perfect sense, some did not. Some rules made sense in childhood, but don’t anymore. But some of our rules can stop the love in our lives. These rules can make us stereotype others and reject them before they have a chance to show us real love. What do these rules look like? Here are some examples of rules that might stop love: All abusers look like my father. All women are out to manipulate me. All men are interested in one thing.
- We want someone to save us. As children, we spent so much time trying to find someone who would save us. We weren’t able to save ourselves. We needed an adult to help us. But for most of us, nobody showed up. We were left to navigate our trauma on our own. And when we reach adulthood, that unconscious desire is still there. But real love doesn’t look like being saved. Real love doesn’t come from a desperate place of need. We often end up in relationships that are controlling because they feel more like saving.
- We run from commitment. We have been searching for freedom our entire lives. While we may have parts who are very interested in finding someone to save us, we also have parts who want to stay far away from the control of others. We can see interest from others as dangerous, as a sign they are trying to have some power or control over us. And the more a relationship asks of us, even if it is healthy, the more likely we are to look for a way out. We refuse to be trapped again.
These unconscious beliefs can lead to so much frustration and pain. We desperately want to feel loved by others, but we cannot make it happen. It seems we are destined to a life of rejection, abandonment and isolation. But we can have more love in our lives. We do have the capacity to change our unconscious obstacles and get more of what we want. It takes awareness and knowledge to make that happen. This is why I am devoting the month of July to making that happen. Come join me on the Survivor’s Guide for Life as we explore our unconscious obstacles to love. Click on this link so you can find out How to Get More Love in Your Life.