I can’t seem to accept love from my husband, even when I know he’s sincere. He says it’s like I have a wall up or something. What is that, and how can I open up more? Sometimes I dwell on every stupid little thing he ever did or said, instead of seeing what is right in front of me.

Giving and receiving love, or allowing vulnerability and intimacy, is a complicated issue for those of us that (at some time in our early life) felt unprotected or powerless. When we are in a moment of true vulnerability, even though we are no longer powerless or small, emotional memories are triggered. Our primitive emotional responses kick in, and we put up walls, shut down, or even pick a fight. These responses are connected to early experiences in which, key care-givers were unable to meet our emotional needs. It is logical then, that we may now find it difficult to trust that, others truly want to be attuned to and understand our inner-most selves. These emotional memories also cause us to minimize or avoid our own feelings or experiences, because at some point, it may have felt like they didn’t matter.

The good news is that we CAN open up and grow into the loving people we want to be! Here are two “corrective” exercises that may help you heal from these unseen injuries.

First, can you recall and recognize emotional CONSISTENCY in some of your significant others? Who in your life now is reliable and consistent? Think of your spouse, family and/or friendships, and focus on your loved ones who ARE tuned into you, and are reliable and consistent MOST of the time. When you focus on these relationships, what happens in your body? Your emotions? Your thoughts? Your images? Your associated memories? Allow yourself to notice the feelings in your body and the thoughts in your mind. Thank about those experiences expanding and filling you up, in ways you may not have allowed in the past. Visualization is a powerful tool, as is writing about these experiences. Experiment with both.

Second, who was your protective figure as a child or young adult? Who “saw” the real you, who understood you, and communicated your importance? Who “lit up” when they were around you? If you had that person, visualize them close to you, and try to remember the feelings of wholeness or safety you felt when you were with them. Where in your body do you feel that kind of unconditional love and acceptance? Let that
expand and grow as you allow yourself to soak those interactions in even deeper. Let them nourish your truest sense of self. Slow down your breathing, and expand the space you have allowed others’ love to live and grow. Also visualize expanding the love and compassion you have for yourself.

If it is difficult for you to recall a protective figure, or you are overwhelmed by memories of a key person in your life falling short, then let’s try a different exercise. Maybe you were hurt— someone important failed to support you, to respond to your pain, or maybe even inflicted abuse toward you— take time now to write out what you needed to hear at that time. Picture yourself as the child or young adult that was verbally, emotionally or physically minimized and hurt— what exactly does he/she need to hear? What does he/she need in this moment, physically, emotionally, intellectually? Visualize your protective figure— either a real or imagined person/ entity— doing and saying everything YOU need to hear, experience and feel? Visualize this, and write this out, as you experience receiving the affirming words and/ or touch you crave. This can be profoundly healing— especially if you can avoid editing or minimizing this— and just allow the words to flow onto the page. What happens in your mind, body, and spirit?

Take some deep breaths, and allow the expansiveness of unconditional love to fill all the gaps we have long forgotten— yet need to be filled— so we can truly experience the strength and courage needed for vulnerability and intimacy.

Call or text if you need clarification or support.
You’ve got this!