Some of the basic needs of childhood are love and emotional connection. When we receive these, we learn to feel worthy and lovable. Many of us grow up without these needs being adequately met. This lack of connection can have far-reaching physical and psychological consequences for us. (For extensive research on these consequences, see Why Love Matters by Sue Gerhardt.)
Not experiencing loving connection as a child can lead to feeling a deep yearning in adulthood. Unfortunately, trying to get this connection from others, rather than learning to connect with ourselves and others, can lead to many personal and relationship problems.
In my work with clients, I focus on helping them, first and foremost, connect with themselves -- with their feelings and their higher self/personal source of spiritual guidance. Here's why:
1. An Inner Black Hole vs. Inner Fulfillment
When we are disconnected from ourselves -- from who we really are and from our feelings -- and when we are not filling ourselves with love through our spiritual connection, we create a black hole within. The black hole we've created through our self-abandonment becomes like a vacuum, trying to pull love from others. This neediness tends to push people away, so we end up feeling even more unloved.
When we want responsibility for our own well-being and we open to learning about loving ourselves, we open the door to connecting with an infinite source of love. Learning to bring this love within and share it with others creates deep inner fulfillment.
2. Failed Relationships vs. Sharing Love
Since we come together at our common level of self-abandonment and our common level of self-love, if we are abandoning ourselves by disconnecting from ourselves and avoiding responsibility for our feelings, we will likely attract someone who is doing the same thing. Each partner hopes that the other will fill the black hole within. While they might seem to do this for each other for a short time, eventually each feels unloved and resentful, leading to relationship failure. We cannot fill up another person. We each need to do this for ourselves, and then share our love with each other. We cannot connect on a deep level of love with each other when we are not connected with ourselves.
In my experience, sharing love with another who is also filled up with love and sharing it, is the most fulfilling and joyful experience in life. Do not confuse getting love with sharing love -- they are light years apart!
3. Depression and Loneliness vs. Happiness and Joy
Depression is a huge problem in our society. While there are many causes for feelings of depression, one of the causes is disconnection from self -- self-abandonment. Just as a child gets depressed when the parent is disconnected and unavailable, so our inner child -- our feeling self -- gets depressed when we are disconnected from our feelings and not taking loving responsibility for them.
Another cause of depressed feelings is social isolation and the resulting loneliness, which is often one of the results of disconnecting from ourselves and then being unable to connect with others.
The film Happy takes us on a trip around the world to the happiest people on the planet. Invariably, these are people who live in communities where they feel connected with each other. They feel safe because they watch out for each other. They are not lonely.
However, many people who have tried to establish connected or intentional communities end up leaving them for the same reason they leave marriages: They don't work unless people are connected with themselves and taking responsibility for their own feelings.
4. Physical Illness vs. Physical Health
Stress is a major cause of illness (see The Biology of Belief by Dr. Bruce Lipton). When we live our lives disconnected from ourselves -- not listening to and taking loving care of our feelings -- and disconnected from our personal source of guidance, love and comfort, we cannot manage stress well. Self-abandonment itself causes much anxiety and stress, which activates the fight-or-flight response and negatively affects our immune system.
There is some indication, according to Malcolm Gladwell in Outliers, that people who live in connected communities are far healthier than those who live in a more isolated way. Connection with self and others is vital for good health.
5. Addictions vs. Self-Regulation
When we have not learned how to connect with our feelings and with the love and comfort of our spiritual guidance, we often turn to addictions as a way of managing painful feelings. In order to be able to manage and regulate our feelings in healthy ways, we need to connect with them with a desire to take loving responsibility for them. Turning to addictive behavior is a form of self-abandonment -- a way of avoiding responsibility for our feelings -- and can lead to many negative consequences.
6. Violence vs. Compassion
When we have not learned how to fully feel our painful feelings, compassionately managing them, learning from them and then releasing them, we may lose touch with our humanity. It is the inability to manage pain that can lead to destructive and self-destructive behavior. When we cannot connect with and feel compassion for our own feelings, we may lose our ability to feel compassion for others. When this occurs, we can act out in violently harmful ways.
7. Boredom vs. Passion and Creativity
Our passion and creativity thrive through our connection with our feelings and with our spiritual guidance. When we disconnect from our feelings to protect against pain, we also shut out joy, creativity and passion. Life becomes flat, pointless and boring. Love and joy live in the same place in the heart as loneliness and heartbreak. When we shut down, trying to not feel our loneliness and heartbreak, we also shut down our ability to feel love and joy. This is a very sad way to live.
You don't have to live this way. You can learn to connect within. You can learn to move your focus from outer -- trying to get love and connection from others -- to inner, truly loving yourself and others. You can learn to shift from avoiding feeling your painful feelings to compassionately embracing them with a desire to learn about what they are telling you. You can learn to take loving care of yourself and experience the deep joy of sharing your love with others.
Margaret Paul, Ph.D. is a relationship expert, best-selling author, and co-creator of the powerful Inner Bonding® self-healing process, recommended by actress Lindsay Wagner and singer Alanis Morissette, and featured on Oprah. To begin learning how to love and connect with yourself so that you can connect with others, take advantage of our free Inner Bonding eCourse, receive Free Help, and take our 12-Week eCourse, "The Intimate Relationship Toolbox" - the first two weeks are free! Discover SelfQuest®, a transformational self-healing/conflict resolution computer program. Phone or Skype sessions with Dr. Margaret Paul.
For more by Margaret Paul, Ph.D., click here.
For more on emotional wellness, click here.