Do you believe that, because you may have already done a lot of healing work, your relationship should be easier?
I can’t tell you how often I hear from my clients that “I should be further along in my healing process,” especially when it comes to relationships.
Sophia is struggling with this:
“I’m finding my new relationship extremely challenging. After three years of being single, I thought I’d be further along with self-esteem challenges, but no! I can so easily find myself feeling needy with my partner AND abandoning myself — behavior that feels frightening and shameful. Suggestions on how to soothe myself in the moment? I do EFT and Heartmath exercises that help, but am still really struggling. Thanks!”
Sophia may have done much inner work during the three years she was single, but being in a relationship triggers old fears of rejection that likely never got triggered in the three single years. You can do a ton of work on yourself — learning how to take loving care of yourself in many different ways, but taking care of yourself in a relationship is a whole other thing.
Unhealed Issues Emerge in Relationships
When someone becomes important to you, any unhealed issues from your early relationships with your family of origin will become apparent.
This isn’t so much about self-esteem as it is about Sophia’s beliefs regarding what she needs in order to feel loved. The fact that she so easily finds herself feeling needy — which comes from abandoning herself — indicates that she believes it is her partner’s love that will give her a sense of self-worth. While she might feel worthy in many ways when she is not in a relationship, her self-abandonment within a relationship makes her self-esteem plummet and scares her little girl.
On top of this, she is judging herself for being needy, which is what is causing the shame. Then, she tries to take away the fear and shame with various techniques, which only causes her little girl to feel more abandoned. She is creating layers of pain.
It’s Not About Getting Rid of Feelings
There is nothing wrong with using EFT and Heartmath exercises to self-soothe, but if she uses these instead of doing her Inner Bonding process, then she is using them to try to get rid of her feelings rather than learn from them.
What she needs to be doing each time she feels needy is to open to learning about how she is abandoning herself and why. In her question, I can see that she is abandoning herself by judging herself, making her partner responsible for her feelings, and then trying to get rid of the feelings. Her wounded self has some good reasons for rejecting herself in these ways, and this is what she can explore in her Inner Bonding process.
I hope she lets go of the judgment, “I thought I’d be further along with self-esteem challenges.” Relationships are challenging for the very reason that they unearth all of our unhealed issues, giving us the opportunity to heal, learn and grow into more loving human beings. Take a deep breath and welcome the challenges as opportunities to learn about our beliefs that are limiting us — particularly beliefs about what creates self-worth.
Self-Worth Comes From Self-Love
The truth is that high or low self-worth is the result of how we treat ourselves. When you judge yourself, and then ignore your feelings or try to get rid of them, you create feelings of unworthiness. The feelings of emptiness and neediness then result in expecting your partner to be responsible for your self-worth — to fill the emptiness that you’ve created with your self-abandonment/self-rejection.
All this changes when you devote yourself to practicing Inner Bonding every time you feel empty, needy, frightened and/or shamed. Through your practice, you can discover the false beliefs that lead to your self-abandonment, and you can shift out of self-judgment/self-rejection into self-compassion and self-love. This is what creates self-worth, and enables you to share love with your partner rather than keep on trying to get love.