[Stream of consiousness] Safe relationships = secure attachment = trauma healing = healthy nervous system = capacity to create, to feel joy & calm = ability to give & receive abundance = living on a new timeline [end]
I’ve been working on my past trauma directly for several years. It’s hard to dig in and go deep. I’d rather just skate along on top of the surface and try ignoring the dragons swirling just below the melting ice surface of my heart. I know that healing comes by going through the trauma memories and processing the pain and releasing the pain-body energy from our physical and emotional beings. I don’t want to do it, but I have to do it.
Moving Forward Into the Trauma
Several years ago I found myself alone again, after a relationship that had become traumatic and toxic for both of us. I began looking for a new therapist, a different kind of therapist, an emotional release-work therapist. I tried a few, but didn’t find the gestalt I was looking for. I found myself trying to dig into my past trauma events on my own. I was alone in my journey and I didn’t make too much progress. Sure, I was recovering from a hard breakup, but I was also aware of the bigger dragons of my early childhood that would raise their heads up from time to time and snap my peace and sanity into splinters.
I explored some of my old guidebooks from Alice Miller and Peter Levine. And I found a new therapist who began helping me understand about the effects the old trauma was having on my present life. Of course, being alone, I was able to work on myself to a degree, but there were parts of my healing that needed to happen while IN A RELATIONSHIP.
But I could only get so far as a single man. I needed to be in the arena getting bloody again, putting my heart out there, and learning what it takes to get my needs met while also attending to the needs of a partner. At least, that was my desire. My therapist at the time would say, “Yes, I understand you want a relationship. But you can work on getting past the loneliness and some of the trauma while you are still single.” She was right. And there was more to the story.
Opening Your Empathetic Heart to Someone
In some ways, the therapeutic relationship mirrors the connections I was wanting in a romantic relationship. You have an empathetic listener. You get to tell your story (trauma, needs, wants, etc.) to another person. And have them offer their compassionate ear and possibly (in the case of a therapist) come advice about how to process what you are experiencing. And my therapist did a great job at helping me within the limits of the therapeutic relationship. She could not hold me. She could tell me I was loved, but she could not love me. I could not get my needs met in a therapeutic relationship. At least not all of them.
Getting back in the arena with a new partner is a delicate and frequently difficult process. If we are open to healing ourselves while showing up authentically for another person, we’ve got some boundaries to understand, some boundaries to set for ourselves, and some boundaries to set with our partner. I love Brené Brown’s BRAVING as a solid framework for navigating a romantic relationship. (It’s good for all kinds of relationships but very important for romantic heart-centered agreements.) SEE: One Man’s Courage to Stand Alone: Brené Brown’s BRAVING
As you begin to lean into the relationship and the vulnerability with a romantic partner all kinds of feelings are likely to come to the surface. Warm and loving feelings emerge as a result of being held, being kissed, and being told that we are loved and special. At the same time, fear and anger can arise as a result of misses between you and your partner. How you process them, or avoid them, can define the ultimate trajectory of a relationship. If you can deal with issues as they come up in your relationship you have an opportunity to heal and be released from some of the old pains and fears of your past. In my experience, the only way to progress and evolve in a loving relationship is to GO FOR IT.
Sweeping even the little issues under the carpet can cause problems over time. It’s best if you work out a process for dealing with both misses, disagreements, and triggers. It’s good to know the difference.
- Misses – when our actions or words are taken in the wrong way or misunderstood
- Disagreements – when we can’t agree to some behavior or need, or when we want a change and the other person is not willing or does not agree to our request
- Triggers – when present-day activities or misses cause us to feel a HUGE wave of emotion (anger, sadness, loneliness, bliss) we need to pay attention to the dragon that has shown up in our hearts
What We Love Can Transform Us
Only in giving my heart completely to another person can I begin to feel the terror that comes from being 100% vulnerable to someone else’s actions and reactions. I can open to the fear and tell my partner when I’m feeling afraid. I can check things out, rather than imagine or mindread what I think it going on for them. And I can stand my ground when things feel hurtful or out of balance. It is up to me to hold my own heart and happiness in any relationship. AND it’s also up to me to open and be vulnerable to my partner to give them the gift of expressing my fears and sorrows as well as my hopes and dreams. Together we can heal. Together, if we’re both committed to working on ourselves and our issues, we can co-create the loving relationship we want.
Love is not about the feeling you have when you look at your beautiful partner. Love is the action and intention you put into your agreements with a partner that says, “I’m in. I commit to turning into your even in the hard places. And I agree to hold our relationship sacred and never violate your trust and confidentiality.” There is a lot more to building a relationship than saying, “I love you,” and having your partner respond, reflexively, “I love you too.” We’ve got to go deeper. We’ve got to give more. We’ve got to risk more.
What we risk is the possibility of loss. If we really love someone, if we really let them in, if we really trust them with our dark and hard places, we are more vulnerable should things go sideways and end in a breakup. To trust someone with your trauma is to open at the deepest level.
The Vulnerability Prayer
I’m feeling hurt
and with you I’m feeling safe
I will share my sadness with you
and I will accept your loving presence
and I will let your love and healing embrace
heal what scares me
Lead with Vulnerability to Heal and Thrive
My therapist was fantastic, but she could only take me so far. She could not BE in a romantic relationship with me. She brought me to the gate and wished me good luck as our work was completed last May. And the two tools she gave me were:
- Asking for what you want
- Accepting the possibility that the other person may not, or cannot grant your request
In my case, a relationship that opened with more fire and promise than I had experienced before also burned out with our inability to meet in the BRAVING arena and do the work together of being IN A WORKING RELATIONSHIP. She opted-out. And several months after the breakup when I asked her about what happened, she admitted to running. “It was the six-month mark, and that’s about when I feel too vulnerable and bolt.” At the time of our conversation I as still single and I asked her, “Don’t you think it would be helpful to work through that pattern with someone who’s willing to get in there with you?” “Not really,” she said. We parted as friends.
When you show up in the arena of a romantic relationship always do your best. (SEE: Relationship Building Skills & Wisdom: BRAVING & The Four Agreements) And lead with your vulnerable heart if things get difficult. Only by burning away the hurt in the fire of a loving relationship can we move beyond what hurt us in the past. And by doing the work we can open to a greater, more prosperous and loving future with our partner. Let’s commit to working on ourselves and our relationship to each other for the rest of our lives.
Love for Win
There is no DAY OFF in a loving relationship. There may be easy days and hard days, but every day is an opportunity to turn towards your lover and say, “I love you,” as well as “I need you.” It is in that place of vulnerability and honesty that we will find the true gift of a loving relationship. Together, we can commit to wake up every day together and do it again. Let’s go!
My life coaching process is outlined here.
I believe the quest for love is a spiritual journey. Either your deliberate and intentional about it, or you are just screwing around.
John McElhenney – life coach austin texas
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Get the complete single dad story with John’s new book: Single Dad Seeks (available in all formats)
And here are a few more posts about deep relationships:
- Single Parents Finding Each Other: 4 Relationship Requirements
- The Spiritual Quest for Love
- From Dating to Love: Either Show Up 100% of the Time, Or You’re Gone
- Relationship Building Skills & Wisdom: BRAVING & The Four Agreements
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