"As children we distort our true responses and needs in order to become the child our parents will recognise and appreciate" Judith Blackstone
The process Blackstone is referring to here, adaptation, is a natural and necessary response to our environment when we are young. We depend on our parents for our survival, and we want to fit in and to be loved. This results in us modifying who and how we are, how we behave, and how we see ourselves, to get the approval of our parents. This makes it easier to feel at home in the family, providing us with the opportunity to be praised and appreciated, and ensuring we are looked after. In extreme circumstances, this may be what we need to do to stay safe.
Longer term however, this adaptation comes with costs, particularly if we keep doing it. If you sacrifice parts of yourself you can become disconnected from what is really true for you, forming a self-image that is somehow false. It's like your centre of gravity has shifted from inside of you to outside of you, as if you're distorted by other people and their expectations. The natural consequence is that you are not then inside your own body and self.
Sometimes this lack of a true sense of ourselves can mean we hold others so close that we can no longer really work out what is us, and what is them, becoming entangled and merged. Any time this happens we stop experiencing ourselves directly and clearly, and life can be overwhelming and confusing.
Clients with these challenges sometimes describe an emptiness, a lack of purpose or not knowing what it is they want. They may talk a lot about the person or people they are merged with, not having space inside to really explore themselves.
The antidote to these issues is to regain your sense of self. To begin again to literally sense your bodies, your emotions, your thoughts and desires. This process of re-sensitising will bring new information to you that means you can work out what fulfils you and who you are. You can then begin to separate where you are merged, appreciating those you love in all their wonder and glory as individuals who stand beside you.
This is deep work, it takes time, and it takes courage. A phrase that speaks to me about it is The Courage to Love, first loving your true self, and from there genuinely loving others.
How can you begin to express your love for yourself?