Does enjoying and sharing deep intimacy and love ever seem just out of reach? Have you ever been someone who has been “looking for love in all the wrong places”?
That used to be the story of my life.
I see clients regularly who come to me disheartened and disillusioned because they deeply desire to experience loving and being loved but they are told “you have to love yourself first”. And they DON’T KNOW HOW.
Can you imagine saying to a baby “sorry you don’t get to experience love until you love yourself first”. Um, hello – completely unrealistic AND cruel!
I would like to suggest that love, in the sense we are talking about here, is in fact better described as nervous system regulation.
Self-regulation is the ability to soothe and settle ourselves so we feel safe. Co-regulation is when we help each other settle and feel safe. Just as a mother might settle an upset baby by soothing him or her.
We are responsible for our own nervous system regulation as adults (think self-soothing/self-love), but here’s the catch:
- As a little one you could not regulate yourself – you were dependent on your primary attachment figures to regulate your system.
- The only way you could learn to regulate your system was by co-regulation – their regulated system regulates your system and you learn by modelling.
If your primary attachment figures (probably Mum and Dad), were not able to give you this in order to develop a healthy nervous system, you instead have to manage a dysregulated system instead. Which leads to the seeking and searching described earlier. This seeking could be constructive or destructive but it is basically the search for the relief from pain resulting from a lack of adequate nurture as a young one.
So you can see that in order to love ourselves and share love freely, we first have to have been loved. And herein is the core dilemma of adult relationships. It is also how cycles of neglect and abuse pass down over generations.
But there is a solution.
You can learn how to regulate your own system. You can learn how to love yourself, soothe yourself and settle yourself or protect yourself when feeling upset or unsafe.
You do this via co-regulation. By being in relationship with someone with a regulated nervous system. This relationship may be a therapist client relationship, with a trusted mentor or coach, or an intimate partner with a secure attachment style.
This is basically the work I do with clients, in a nutshell.
- I teach clients how to regulate their own system by putting them in touch with their own resources and mirroring a regulated nervous system to them.
- I help them discharge any residual fear (fight/flight/freeze), so their system can come back into a regulated state. (Anxiety, depression, physical disease and ailments; these are all symptoms of undischarged fear trapped in the system).
As a result, clients learn how to love themselves and remove any blocks to sharing that love with others.
If you want to see how this works for yourself, then please book a complimentary initial session with me.