I recently discovered something about myself that shocked me to the core.
I had always believed I was open to love, that I was emotionally available on all levels, and that my heart was vulnerable, wide open, and fearless. I thought that if love wasn’t flowing, the blame fell on the other person—because my heart was capable of giving.
I was wrong.
I wasn’t open to love at all. I realized that what I was able to do was beam out immeasurable rays of love without terms, conditions, or expectations, however I was entirely unable to receive the same level of love in return.
I was afraid.
It took a great deal of soul searching, and initially a tremendous amount of denial, to fully understand the reason for this, and to be able to remove the one-way valve I had subconsciously placed on my heart.
When I started to dig beneath the surface, I uncovered that I wasn’t just afraid—I was terrified.
Something, somewhere, from some time, had made me feel so unworthy of receiving unconditional love that it had caused me to question and mistrust anyone who attempted to love me.
I knew that the love I was giving was pure—I felt it and trusted it. Yet I had no faith in the love that anyone tried to give me.
To truly embody love, we can’t just give love, we also have to be able to receive it.
I looked back at my past and considered the pain I had endured. On all accounts, I had suffered, however, I had never had my heart truly and irreparably broken.
I had lived through turmoil and dysfunction and toxic entanglements, but I had never fully given myself in the name of love, as there was always a warning cautioning me to armor up and hold back.
I eventually realized that it wasn’t love that I didn’t trust—I didn’t trust people. I had heard those three words whispered so many times, but the actions never resonated with the person’s voice.
I began to see how I had valued myself through the reflection of other people. I had chosen relationships with people who, at the time, were not capable of loving me unconditionally, and because of this, I believed I was not deserving of love.
I put up walls and kept myself emotionally distant so that I was not disappointed or at risk of being hurt due to other people’s inability to freely give and receive love.
I discovered that my past relationships had been based on conditions. I would be shown affection, but only on the condition that I was meeting their emotional, mental, or physical needs. If anything within my behavior disappointed them, their loving actions were withdrawn and replaced with hurtful, destructive ones.
This left me not only confused about what it feels like to receive love, but also extremely wary of it. How could someone say they love me, express it with one hand, and cruelly snatch it away with the other?
When I delved into the past further, I found that this had replayed throughout my intimate relationships. I had been badly burned in my first serious relationship, and since then it seemed as though the Law of Attraction had kicked in strong. I continued attracting people based on the thoughts and beliefs of unworthiness that I didn’t realize I held.
I had to admit I was emotionally unavailable. And I had been for many years.
The hard bit then was working out why, and how to get out of it.
It wasn’t easy to accept, but after crawling into the dark corners of my subconscious mind and dusty heart, I realized that the real reason I was blocking love was because I hadn’t let go of the past.
I was over my past in the sense that I didn’t have an emotional attachment to it, however, I hadn’t forgiven myself or the people who hurt me.
The reason love wasn’t flowing was because I was judging every person who tried to love me. I assumed they were the same as those who had hurt me in the past. And because of this, I became a vibrational match for those who reminded me of my past.
It also felt comfortable and familiar to entangle with someone who was emotionally unavailable; there is something oddly safe in replaying what we already know. There wouldn’t be any shocks or nasty surprises in store, as I was already expecting their love wasn’t going to be trustworthy, so there was no risk—I thought I had absolutely nothing to lose.
It wasn’t pleasant to admit to myself that everyone I had ever been attracted to was emotionally unavailable on some level, and the reason I was drawn to them was because I was emotionally unavailable too.
I spent years in dynamics with people who were happy to receive love but not give it out, and I was happy to give out love but not receive it. It sounds like the perfect match, but living it isn’t perfect at all. Especially when you aren’t aware that this lack of giving and receiving actually creates deep unhappiness.
To repair this, and open myself to receiving love, wasn’t as simple as just saying, “I forgive you for hurting me. I forgive me for allowing you to hurt me. And I forgive me for hurting you.” I had to find a way to believe these words—and the only way to do this was with repetition.
I spent many hours meditating and gently revisiting memories from my past; and I replaced any pain, fear, or misunderstandings with empathy, compassion, and love. Rather than seeing the person who treated me badly as callous and heartless, I started to see them through the eyes of love and remind myself that the person they were and the way they expressed themselves was not a reflection of who I am.
I am now aware that if someone cheats, is violent, is abusive, is controlling, is untrustworthy, or any other harmful trait, it is not because of the person they are in a relationship with—it is their own issues that cause these behaviors.
So I asked myself why I had spent my entire adult life believing that the reason I had gone through my experiences was because I didn’t deserve to be loved.
It was imperative to my heart that I start over, replay and make peace with the past, and then look to the future with faith and hope, rather than fear.
It took some time for all of this to sink in, and I am still learning how to fully receive love today. However, I refuse to let the scars from my past determine how much love I receive today.
The most effective way to break down walls surrounding the heart is to accept that they exist. As soon as I became consciously aware that I was resisting and deflecting love, I paid attention to my words, actions, and energy, and instead of closing down my heart and doubting my worth, I opened myself up to receive and appreciate love—even if it only lasts momentarily.
Now I let go of foolish pride and make sure the person I am with knows that receiving love still scares me at times. And I ask for their understanding while I learn to love again.
It takes bravery and vulnerability, but the ones who genuinely love us will accept our fears and offer their patience and tender care.
“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” ~ Rumi
Writing: Alex Myles
Main Image unsplash Arleen wiese