The Gift Beneath the FearBy Mike Moran
July 15, 2013
Do you have trouble speaking your truth in your relationship? Relinquishing control to outcome or to how our partner perceives us can be challenging but oh so worth it...there are wonderful gifts to be gleaned from being vulnerable.
The Gift Beneath the Fear by Mike Moran, LCSW
When I became a psychotherapist 10 years ago, perhaps because I was practicing Inner Bonding before entering the field and so curiosity around feelings was something I was actively cultivating, I quickly became fascinated with how we’ll pretty much do everything we can not to have to feel vulnerable. Of course, I saw this in myself as well. And yet, I am always sweetly surprised how when I risk from the heart in my relationship and speak my truth in a loving way, regardless of how my partner receives it in the moment, I always feel better, and good eventually always comes of it. As a couples therapist, I see this happen all the time in my practice as well. So why is this so difficult to do? And why don’t we just do it naturally, especially when we know that it’s exactly what is needed and will be healing for all involved?
Speaking our truth is tricky stuff for the ego/wounded self…always attached to outcome, our wounded self constantly surveys the landscape for any threat of danger. Built to protect against pain and get what it thinks we want and need, our wounded self tells us not to speak our truth…rather, it says things like, “if you do that, then you are vulnerable…no, better to keep your cards close to the vest, have as much control in this very precarious situation as possible…you can always speak your truth later, when it is safer…I’ll let you know if/when that time comes.”
Unfortunately however, for our wounded selves, that time never comes…there is always justification to control; there are always more reasons to play it safe. And so, layer upon layer we build our walls of protection…hoping against hope that this latest wall will truly ensure the safety of the fortress (the relationship), and then we can go about doing this thing called speaking our truth in a loving way, whatever that is. Sound familiar? Margaret and Erika’s wonderful book Healing Your Aloneness is very helpful in understanding how the wounded self develops and then permeates our experience.
But let’s not make an enemy of our wounded selves…that never works. We heal through compassion and understanding, not through judgment and condemnation. We must understand the very good reasons why our wounded self was created in the first place…to hold unbearable fear/pain in childhood...in the child mind, that fear/pain threatened our very survival. We had to protect against it; to not would equate annihilation. And to a greater or lesser extent, no one gets through childhood unscathed. In Carl Rogers’ perspective of how and when psychotherapy is most helpful, On Becoming a Person, he very eloquently articulates the myriad of reasons we live behind our masks/defenses, thus not allowing ourselves to fully experience our real self; the threat of danger is simply too great. And if pulling in the physiology and anatomy of how we’re organized would help underscore what we’re up against, the primitive part of our brain that registers fear/pain cannot differentiate physical pain from emotional pain…it’s all the same, and those patterns of experience get wired into the nervous system. Thus, our wounded self is born. We all have a wounded self and we all have to open to learning about what it holds and how it perceives, organizes and impacts our experience and behavior. This is where Inner Bonding and our other personal growth and spiritual pursuits that we are each drawn toward come in. We get quiet and with great curiosity, we go within. Step by step, sometimes painfully, sometimes joyfully, we take responsibility for ourselves and begin to embrace our true self.
However, in our relationships with others, that is not enough…even when we’ve more-or-less made friends with our wounded self, we must still actively cultivate the courage required to begin risking from the heart. And while I’m specifically referring here to intimate relationships, the same could be true for all our relationships (but it’s in our primary attachments that the greatest risk is perceived). So how can we do this? This is where I believe we take our practice of Inner Bonding and spiritual growth to a whole other level. As we grow in our capacity to connect with ourselves more deeply, this eventually transcends into the capacity to connect with others more deeply. More securely bonded intra-personally, we naturally wish to connect more deeply interpersonally. And at some point, we begin to let go. We begin to trust that all is well, that what is meant is meant, and we can relax into what is, no longer needing things to line up with the agenda of our wounded self. In the consciousness of the Loving Adult, we dialogue with our wounded self, our inner child, and our Spiritual Guidance, and we learn what IS our truth. And then, the loving action…our Loving Adult, connected to our child (our feelings) and our Guidance, speaks our truth in a loving way. In that moment, we are surrendered, no longer attached to outcome because we know we’ll be just fine regardless of how our truth is received. And ahhhh, here comes that lovely/lively wonder-full feeling of expansion and freedom! We are flowing in our truth…and more often than not, our partner responds. Authentic expression from the heart is hard to resist…indeed, it is the DNA of human connection.
Like most things worth doing, the process is simple, but not always easy. And we never do it perfectly, nor do we need to….perfectionism is just another form of control to be relinquished. These feelings of closeness are the very real gems we unearth when we have the capacity to dig deep beneath our fears and share from our authentic self. And even when they don’t lead to deeper feelings of connection because our partner’s heart is not open/available to connect, it still ultimately leads to deeper feelings of connection within because we have validated and respected our child’s feelings…we have spoken up for him/her. We may still have to manage the painful feelings of loneliness that emerge when our heart is open and another’s is not, but remember, that would be true regardless, and there is valuable learning there. Now that our child is feeling loved/appreciated/seen/validated, the emptiness/aloneness feelings that are the result of disconnection-of-self loosens its grip and we can continue to be open to learning and be truly present for ourselves…again, a true gift gleaned from beneath the fear.
So begin (or continue :) to cultivate the beautiful, inspiring courage of letting go…it’s a wonder-full feeling and truly a win-win regardless of outcome....
Mike Moran is a Certified Inner Bonding Facilitator and psychotherapist in private practice with offices in New York, NY (Chelsea) and Jersey City, NJ and can be reached at 646.298.5227 or MGMoranLCSW@gmail.com. For more on his work, see his listing in the Certified Facilitator’s section of the website.
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By Dr. Margaret Paul