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Taking Love In
Posted By SusanneMDillmann On January 31, 2012 @ 12:41 PM In Abuse / Survivors of Abuse,Art & Practice of Psychotherapy,Fear,Posttraumatic Stress / Trauma,Psychotherapy: Issues Treated,Relationships and Marriage,Self-Care,Self-Love,The Human Being of Therapy,Trust Issues | 4 Comments
Love is one of the most elemental of emotions—it is a building block to some of our deepest relationships and a component in many of our happiest days. Yet the ability to freely give and receive love is a fragile skill, which traumatic experiences can all too easily dent or damage. Learning how to be loved is a vital part of your healing, and here are a few tips on how to regain your ability to accept someone’s care, concern, and nurture.
The first set of tips have to do with the person who is expressing kindness, care, concern, nurture, attention, aka love to you. Because you have experienced a traumatic experience, you have learned that people are capable of great cruelty. None of us desires to experience cruelty, and so following a trauma, a part of your mind decides to ensure that you will never be hurt again. One of the ways that your mind tries to protect you from future cruelty is to assume that people are dangerous. This assumption in turn results in you leaning towards mistrust, avoiding vulnerability, and shying away from emotional intimacy.
So, one way to practice opening yourself up to love is to practice opening yourself up to trust, vulnerability, and intimacy. But, you have to make sure that you are practicing this with a safe person—someone who will not be cruel, let alone abusive, to you.
The first tip is to assess the level of vulnerability you open yourself up to if you take in the token of love. For example, a compliment from a coworker is a token of kindness that carries with it a low level of vulnerability, while accepting a birthday present from a friend is an expression of care that has a bit more risk but is still far less than taking in a statement of love from a nonabusive romantic partner. But taking in a statement of love from a nonabusive romantic partner may have a far lower level of vulnerability than accepting a dinner invitation from a friend who has been cruel. Once you assess the level of vulnerability, take a moment and decide if this is a level of vulnerability you are safe with. If the vulnerability exceeds your level of healing, then claim your right to do what is wisest for you and back off of or decline the token of love.
If the level of vulnerability falls within a safe range, then consider the giver’s genuineness and accuracy. Is this someone who you have enough history with to know his/her usual level of genuineness and accuracy? If you do not, then maybe only accept an expression of love that is low on your level of vulnerability. If you do have enough history with this person, then let his or her history of genuineness and accuracy help you decide whether to take in the expression of care, concern, or love. Someone who has proven him- or herself to be genuine, truthful, and accurate is most likely extending an expression of love that is worthy of trust.
A final tip with regards to the giver of the love/care/kindness is whether there could be an ulterior motive. Consider whether the giver of the love would benefit from you accepting his or her token of love. Then consider whether this benefit could be damaging to you. Many times we give tokens of love, be it a compliment, hug, gift, or commitment, and receive something in return; but usually what we receive in return is a feeling of appreciation, reciprocal love, or something nondamaging. When accepting an expression of love that makes you beholden or indebted to someone, think long and hard if there could be an ulterior motive that could damage you.
If the expression of care is within your range of vulnerability and is from a genuine and accurate person who does not have a damaging ulterior motive, then take in the love. Practice taking a deep breath while reminding yourself that you are actively healing one of the most fundamental of skills. Recognize that this is a moment in which you are being cared for, loved, and nurtured. Try not to miss the moments of kindness and care. If you can believe the giver’s statements of friendship, respect, or love, then rejoice in the fact that someone believes these positive things about you. If believing the love is just out of your reach, then simply practice listening, and avoid disagreeing—don’t rebut the person’s opinions of you. Finally, give voice to your gratitude, and express your thankfulness for this token of love.
If you are working on your healing with a therapist, then by all means practice these tips with your therapist. I hope you have experienced your therapist to be genuine, accurate, and without damaging ulterior motives, so practice accepting your therapist’s statements of care. Those questions about how you are, how your week was, and so on, are not just the standard questions of therapy but are also tiny moments when therapeutic care and concern are being expressed. I encourage you to take in the warmth of your therapist, if nothing else practice listening without disagreeing.
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URL to article: http://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/taking-love-in-0113125/
URLs in this post:
 Now that I’m Safe, What Do I Do? Healing from Trauma: Part II: http://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/healing-from-trauma/
 The Externalization of Trauma: A View of PTSD Symptoms as Healthy: http://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/externalization-trauma-ptsd-symptoms-healthy/
 Trust in Yourself: http://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/self-trust/
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