ASK ABDI: HOW CAN I ALLOW MYSELF TO BE LOVED?

QUESTION: It sounds so simple, but how can I allow myself to be loved? Growing up, I did not have models of clear intimacy and trust. When I am actually present, I am surprised at how much benevolence there is. Allowing this love and support to seep into my being feels very scary and can cause an abusive/addictive reaction. There’s a voice in my head that even goes, “Aw, hell no! I’ll be damned if I let that love in.”

Do you have any further insight?

ANSWER: Thank you for this important question that affects many of us. You clarity is wonderful and half the battle. It might sound simple but, in fact, it is a difficult thing to do - to let love in. Do realize that most of us are not as conscious about our terror. We will blame circumstance, partners, or bad luck as to why love has not come into our life, when, in fact, we have both hands up pushing it away. Your understanding of how utterly terrifying this act can be is crucial. It might be counterintuitive to feel this truth in our bones, since who would not want to be loved? The problem is the vulnerability that has to be present in order to let love in as well as what comes up when we are actually receiving love.

You put it correctly, that the issues stem from feeling a lack of trust and safety as a child. Whether these feelings were perceived or real, our unconscious stance then becomes one of a defensive pushing away of love. The conscious mind is rarely present to this process. The fact that you are conscious of this makes the work ahead easier. Most of us do not realize the push-pull that is going on between our unconscious and conscious mind: the unconscious terror and the conscious yearning. Even people that are in relationships, many times will compartmentalize aspects of themselves as a way of keeping distance between themselves and their partner. 

So what to do? Keep practicing being present. Feel your feelings. See if you need to dig deeper into your past with the help of a trusted other, like a therapist. Start practicing shedding some of your emotional armor. Examine your life with the knowingness that you have been pushing love away because of terror. Start revealing yourself more to others that are safe. It does not have to be sharing of intense dark secrets, just start revealing that you actually have needs, that you have preferences and aversions. Now that you are aware of your inability to take full gulps of love, sip it slowly and work on increasing your tolerance to it. By consciously honoring our fears, we can start a relationship with ourselves and move into integrating them.

Right you are about the presence of benevolence in life when one is present. The fact is that we are rarely here in the moment, but rather in our thoughts reviewing the past, projecting into the future or some mental construct. Incessant thinking is our defense mechanism against our ever-present existential anxiety. Amidst all the horrors and pain that are evident on this realm, there also is present that energy you speak of. And it is not related to an external event, object, or person. These external energies merely open us up to what is already there. This is the reason why activities that force us into the moment are so delicious. This applies to any endeavor that helps us to be deeply engaged in the here and now. Being present is a magic prescription for many ills. We are rarely fully present in the moment. When present, we remember that what we are looking for is what we are looking with. We are that we seek.