"I Want to Love but I Can't Give Up Control"By Dr. Margaret Paul
June 21, 2010
Are there fears in the way of keeping your heart open to loving? You CAN learn how to feel safe enough to open your heart and share your love.
Peter had been working with me on the phone for a number of months. He had sought my help because of problems in his relationship with his wife, Anika.
Peter grew up with an extremely empty, invasive, controlling mother and an extremely empty emotionally withdrawn father. His mother constantly pulled on Peter to fill her up with his praise and attention.
Peter learned very early to close his heart, just as his father had done, in order to not be invaded and smothered by his mother. Now, he was struggling to open his heart, which he realized he needed to do to begin healing his troubled relationship with Anika. She was threatening to leave the relationship with their 3 young children. Having given herself up to Peter for the last 12 years, she was no longer willing to continue losing herself, nor was she willing to continue to feel so lonely with Peter.
"Peter," I said to him, "until it is more important to you to love yourself and Anika, instead of consistently protecting against pain with your controlling and resistance behavior, nothing is going to change."
When Loving is Important, but not Important Enough
"It is important to me."
"Yes, I understand that it is important to you, but not more important than protecting against your fears of rejection and engulfment with your closed heart and other controlling behavior."
Peter had learned to stay in his head rather than being present in his body. He was rarely present in the moment. In addition, he had learned to use his anger and blame to avoid responsibility for his own feelings.
"I want to love but I can't seem to give up trying to control."
"What are you so afraid of in giving up controlling?"
"I’m going to be hurt and taken advantage of."
Strength Through an Open Heart
Peter's role model of not being controlled was his father, who had taught him to shut down. Peter believed that if he didn't try to have control and resist being controlled, he would be weak. While he liked his father, he saw him as a very weak man. Not wanting to appear weak like his father, yet knowing no other way of not being controlled, he nevertheless unconsciously adopted some of his father's protections against being controlled, as many of us do. He learned to shut down or get angry to feel safe. To him, these were signs of strength, while being open-hearted felt too vulnerable.
What Peter had a hard time grasping is that when we open our heart to loving, the first person we need to learn to love is ourselves. As we practice Inner Bonding and learn to connect with a source of spiritual guidance which helps us learn to love ourselves, we become far more empowered to take loving care of ourselves, which includes being able to keep our hearts open while not allowing ourselves to be invaded and manipulated.
As Peter practiced connecting with his spiritual guidance and taking responsibility for his own feelings, he slowly healed his fears of rejection and engulfment, which led to opening his heart. He learned to tune into his own feelings and take loving action for himself rather than get angry, blaming, closed and withdrawn.
The more he learned to be loving to himself, the more Anika felt his loving presence and her loneliness gradually diminished.
Peter no longer feared being rejected or taken advantage of because he had learned to not take other's behavior personally and to stand up for himself in the face of others controlling behavior. He was even able to keep his heart open around his mother!
Join Dr. Margaret Paul for her 30-Day at-home Course: "Love Yourself: An Inner Bonding Experience to Heal Anxiety, Depression, Shame, Addictions and Relationships."
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Today, focus on your physical health. Are you conscious of what you eat? Are you getting enough exercise and sleep? Are you noticing the thoughts that cause stress? Today, practice becoming conscious of your physical wellbeing.
By Dr. Margaret Paul