have now worked through the key stages of the first module which
focused on recovery and so now we are going to clearly focus on
the stage of adjustment.
again you can either read this first module here on line or
can easily download or open as a portable document (PDF)
for those who prefer to listen you can access each stage as an
audio recording by following these list of links:
STAGE - REBUILDING SEVEN
From Feeling Bad to Knowing I am Worthy
is OK to feel good about yourself. You can learn to feel better
about yourself and gain strength to help you adjust better to
a crisis in your life. As you successfully adjust to this crisis,
you will feel even better about yourself. For some people it as
if they are experiencing a personal identify crisis, you may be
seriously creating strains on your current relationship now with
friends and also in the future.
When I was a child, my father continually warned me about getting
a 'big head' and becoming 'stuck on myself.' Then I went to church
and learned that I had been born sinful. At school it was big
boys and those with all the brains who got all the attention.
Finally I married so there would be someone who thought I was
worthwhile. It made me feel good that someone cared. But then
she started to point out my faults to me. I finally reached a
point where I began to believe I was truly worthless. It was then
that I decided to leave the marriage. Carl
Your self concept is the skeleton which support your personality.
Here we can see that when the self-concept becomes fractured,
the whole personality begins to fragment.
Apparently we learn much of how we feel about ourselves at an
early age from the significant people around us including our
parents as well as siblings, relatives and teachers. This basic
level of self-concept is later influenced by our peers especially
during our impressionable teenage years. You can read more about
this process in the articles section of my main website. As an
adult your partner becomes a primary source of validation and
feedback and greatly affects your feelings of self-worth.
Many relationships that end in separation developed a pattern
of interaction which was destructive to the self-concept of both
parties. In fact some become so destructive that the people may
not be able to end the relationship due to feelings of worthlessness
(I shall be covering this later in terms of dependent relationship
For example the battered wife thinks that she deserves the emotional
and physical abuse. She is unable to leave the relationship because
she does not believe she would make it on her own. Many people
have suffered the erosion of their self-concept in bad relationships
before and may consequently seek relief in separation and ending
the current relationship but only when they realise, on reflection,
how this was a positive step to take.
However for many, until they realise this all important fact,
the paradox is that when the physical separation comes and the
relationship ends, self-concept hits an all-time low. When the
relationship 'fails the identity suffers.
Studies have shown that people with a good self-concept were better
able to adjust to end of a relationship and this research endorses
what common sense tells us: a good self-concept makes adjustment
to a crisis in our life easier. During this period it is reassuring
to know that your concepts about self can be enhanced because
we can see this as period where we can relearn, grow and change.
Step One seems obvious but
often understated. You must make the decision to change and to
find that inner source of emotional energy which can be called
a soul, a psychological ego or a life force connection to do this.
Everything in our life is often affected: our work, relationships
with other people; the way you parent your children; your choices
about a future partner and most of all the way we feel about ourselves.
Enormous changes may occur in your personality as you improve
your concept of self. The decision is the first and perhaps the
most difficult step but if your commitment is firm then the steps
that you follow become easier to explore and integrate into your
day to day life.
Step Two is to the change
the way we look at ourselves. For example most people can easily
list say twenty things they do not like about themselves so now
we need to list twenty things we do like about ourselves. Easy?
Go ahead and spend five minutes with pen and paper. During the
seminars I have run over the last twenty years many said 'how
about two things I like about myself instead of twenty?'
I once received a phone call late at night from one of the seminar
members and there were groans and comments such as 'Steve, when
I came home from teaching at the school earlier this evening and
started the list of things I like about myself it took me an hour
to come up with the first one. It took almost that long for the
second one and now it is 10.30pm and I only have five things on
my list!' Clearly this was the most important homework in the
ten week seminar for this person and given this is such an important
task so take time to do it so you can complete the list and move
which is to say positive things about yourself aloud to
others. Good things may be easier to write to ourselves privately
than to say out loud. All the old messages inside our head start
with 'Don't act stuck up and conceited!' Work hard at ignoring
such messages and take your list and share with a good friend.
Get the courage in place to break this negative pattern and realise
that it is normal to make good comments about yourself. However
it does take courage to say them out load.
Often the reason for this anxiety is that the voice, what I term
the internal critical parent, links to statements directly or
indirectly made to you during your formative stages of childhood
and teenage years. In one seminar Charlie said that he could not
do step two because his parents had told him 'not to get a big
head'. He was a good athlete in school and the exercises could
have helped him build confidence in himself but the parent voices
were louder and he had learned to be 'humble'.
As an adult he could not say good things about himself because
he still felt his parent's voice in his mind. The statement may
sound ridiculous to your but it certainly was not to Charlie
is a tough one for many: re-examine your relationships
with others, and make changes which will help you break destructive
patterns and develop a new you.
Much of your self concept is validated by feedback from others.
Which of your relationships, be they friendships, family relationships,
work relationships are constructive and which are negative? (Take
a look at the articles I have written on Life Transitions to learn
more about the key dynamics.) Changing your relationships may
be very difficult due to our tendency to follow old patterns and
find relationships that reinforce your present level of self-concept.
But I believe that if you sincerely want to feel better about
yourself, you will need to invest in positive relationships and
those are the ones where they help you feel good about being you.
Step Five get rid of the
negative self-thoughts in your head. We all hear messages in our
head - nurturing and critical parent to use terms I work with
from Transactional Analysis and these voices can be from our parents,
significant adults during our formative years such as grandparents,
aunts and uncles, teachers, such as 'be careful and don't let
success go to your head. Remember it is wrong to be conceited
and selfish. You think you're so clever, don't you?'
Such messages are destructive and prevent you from improving your
concept of self. They were originally designed to discipline and
control but unfortunately for many they turn out be neither helpful
nor productive in our adult life. As adults we can make the decision
to choose whether we want to continue to listen to such messages.
In transactional analysis we take these messages from your parent
or child and analyse them with your adult to see if they are rational
and appropriate messages at this time in your ADULT life. Then
we hold on to accurate valued statements and dispel inappropriate
messages and beliefs.
We will work on these feelings so write or record some of these
messages so you can work with me on preventing them controlling
your current and future life.
may sound like a stupid activity but it worked well for
Jane in a seminar. I suggest that you write positive notes to
yourself and pin them up around a private space in your home.
Notes that compliment or reflect positive things about you. A
week later at the seminar discussion she reported how this exercise
grew to 100 notes to herself, even placing one on the toilet!
She became a different person, herself concept improved one hundred
fold and so writing notes to herself appeared to make the difference.
Such a dramatic change is rare but shows the power of active effect.
Step Seven is to open yourself
up to hearing positive comments from others. People tend to hear
only what they want to hear. If you have a low self-concept, you
will hear only negative comments that people make. When someone
praises you, you deny it; you ignore it, or rationalise it by
saying 'Oh, they're just saying that but they don't really mean
Some people protect themselves from positive comments because
their basic self-concept says that positive comments don't fit
with their view of themselves. So the next time someone praises
you or compliments you then try to let the compliment soak in
rather than defending yourself against hearing it. When you can
hear positive comments then you will feel better about yourself.
Step Eight Make a specific
change in your behaviour. Determine a part of your personality
which you want to change. Maybe you would like to say 'hello'
to more people or to be on time for work or to stop putting off
small jobs. Decide to change the chosen behaviour every day for
Make the change easy so that you can accomplish it and feel a
measure of regular success. In essence do not set yourself up
for failure by deciding to make an impossibly big change in the
first week. Perhaps you will want to write out your progress on
a calendar to reward yourself each day and then at the end of
the week you can look back and realise what you have practically
accomplished. The first week is step one the second week is step
two which focuses on another small change and so after a few weeks
you will notice significant changes in improving your self concept.
Step Nine is great fun and
I practice it all the time. Give and get more hugs! Break through
the isolation which has grown around you and a warm, meaningful
hug from a friend reinforces far than spoken words can. A hug
heals us and improves our self-concept more rapidly and it frees
us, makes us warm inside and immediately improves feelings of
you work hard at meaningful communication with another person.
Some of the most significant growth people were able to experience
after the ending of a relationship was whilst communicating with
friends. So ask for and give honest feedback about each other
and say things that you have never said to anyone before.
has to do with therapy. As we work together we create a
safe space and guidance from someone like me who has over thirty
five years professional experience shortens the time it takes
to change your self concept. Thankfully now, in 2014 as I write,
therapy does not have the stigma that it once did when I started
out at the beginning of 1980 because most therapy now is personal
growth whereas in the past therapy usually meant mental illness.
As we work at these exercises we are focusing on losing the poor
view you have at present of yourself as this rebuilding block
will probably affect more aspects of your life than any of the
others in the rebuilding programme.
Please give yourself adequate time to deal with this important
area. When you are comfortable with most of these items you have
moved through to the next stage of rebuilding.
for our next session we will focus on the following to discuss
1. I am willing to work hard to improve myself concept.
2. I want to improve myself concept even though I understand
that it will change many aspects of life.
3. I like being the person I am
4. I feel I am an attractive person.
5. I like my body.
6. I feel attractive and sexually desirable.
7. I feel confident most of the time.
8. I know and understand myself.
9. I no longer feel like a failure because my relationship
10. I feel capable of building deep and meaningful relationships.
11. I am the type of person I would like to have for a
12. I am attempting to improve myself concept by using
the 11 steps listed in this section of the rebuilding programme.
13. I feel what I have to say is important to others.
14. I feel I have an identity of my own.
15. I have hope and faith that I can improve myself concept.
16. I'm confident that I can solve the problems facing
17. I am confident that I can adjust to this crisis in
18. I can listen to criticism without becoming angry and
Concept 17 minutes
STAGE - REBUILDING EIGHT
: Where Has Everyone Gone?
support you receive from friends is very important and can shorten
the time it takes to adjust to life transitions. Friends are more
valuable than your former partner at this point in the rebuilding
process. You can develop friends of both sexes without becoming
romantically or sexually involved with them however ending a relationship
is threatening to many who are in a relationship so some may slip
away from you at this point in time.
Maria and I had lots of friends and family around all the time.
Most weekends we'd have dinner parties or go over to her sister's
place, or meet locally with two or three other couples. Since
we split up, none of those people ever call me or drop by. How
come married people don't seem to want us around when we are single?
When we go through the process of separation some people insist
on being on their own. They tend to withdraw and feel uncomfortable
being around people. Then you will notice others who are continually
clinging to other people as though they cannot be alone for a
single minute. Always walking arm in arm they plan ahead so that
they have do not have part of the journey to walk by themselves.
There are four common reasons why we separate from those friends
we had when we were in a relationship:
Number one is that when we are ending
a relationship you suddenly become more eligible as a future partner
and may be viewed as a possible partner for one of the people
in another relationship. So whereas you were formerly invited
to all the parties as a couple because you were safe, now you
are single you can be seen as a threat. Suddenly people are looking
at you as eligible and invitations to certain friend's parties
The second reason we tend to loose friends
is for some people those who have ended their relationship
create a very polarising situation for others. Friends tend to
support one or other partners thus we tend to lose the friends
who have sided with our former partner.
The third reason is probably the
most important: the fear that 'If it can happen to you, it can
happen to me' so the ending of your relationship is very threatening
to many relationships around you and the basis why many such 'friends'
appear to slip away. Although you may be feeling rejected quite
honestly it is their problem and a reflection on them rather than
on you. So, instead of feeling rejected understand that the ending
of your relationship has caused them to feel very insecure.
The fourth aspect of friendship which
is important to understand while you are going through ending
your relationship and rebuilding is that people in committed loving
relationships are considered to be part of mainstream, accepted
couple orientated society and separated people become part of
the single subculture, a part of society which is less acceptable
to many. So to be pushed out of the acceptable mainstream culture
into the 'questionable' singles subculture is a difficult adjustment.
As you begin the rebuilding work on friendships you will find
that there is a three stage process involved.
The first stage when you are hurt,
lonely and depressed is that you avoid friends unless it is very
safe to be with them.
The second stage begins when you
can at last take the risk of reaching out to people even though
the fear or rejection is still hanging around.
The third stage is becoming comfortable
with people finding out that you are single and beginning to enjoy
people without the fear of being rejected.
Experience shows that it is important not to become involved in
another long term, committed relationship until you have emotionally
worked through the ending of the previous relationship. Becoming
involved too soon results in carrying the unresolved emotional
issues for the past to the current relationship. A healthy process
might be described as 'learning to be a single person because
many people never learned to be independent of individuals before
they entered a committed relationship'. So if you haven't learned
to be a single person it is quite easy to hide in another relationship.
Why, because your emotional needs are great when you end a relationship
and so the comfort of another relationship is appealing. Nevertheless
there is the truth in the paradox that when you are ready to face
life alone then you are ready to enter a relationship.
Sometimes it is hard to tell whether your current relationship
situation is limiting personal growth. The best criterion might
be to ask 'Am I learning to be a single person?' If you feel you
are losing your identity because of your friendship then you probably
need to back off from it.
It is possible to develop a close, nonsexual, non-romantic friendship
with another person male or female. This may be the way it happens
for you: you tentatively make friends, but you are very cautious
because of your fears of closeness and intimacy. The friendship
becomes important, and you suddenly realise that you want very
badly to maintain this friendship because it feels so good.
You have a feeling down inside somewhere that if the quality of
this friendship changes to a romantic, sexual one, it will be
less meaningful, and it will become not so special anymore. Then
you realise that you want to invest emotionally so that it will
continue to grow. Such a friendship brings a free and exhilarating
feeling. It also destroys the myth about never becoming a friend
with someone be they of the opposite or same sex.
While you are working to develop new friendships you may also
be hearing a barrage of negative comments about committed relationships
in the singles subculture. There are people who rant and rave
and shout from the hilltops that they will never get trapped into
being a partner again. They compile long lists of all the painful
and negative aspects of committed relationships. And if there
is someone who decides to enter a new relationship, they even
send cards of sympathy to the couple!!! You need to realise people
are threatened by relationships as some people are threatened
by ending them. Perhaps a bad relationship led to feelings that
they could never have a happy future relationship, so they project
their unhappy biases about committed relationships on to others.
I admit that there are a lot of unhappy people in relationships
as there are a lot of unhappy single people but I think that this
is due to the individual personalities. Some people will be unhappy
wherever they are and the nature of the relationship situation
has little to do with it.
Building a support system of close friends will shorten the time
it takes you to adjust the ending of your relationship. We all
need friends who can throw us a life line when we feel like we
are downing. A friend who we can talk with is a real 'life saver'
during a crisis. If you have not developed such a support system,
then you need to start doing so.
to assess your progress with friendships
in order to prepare for our session. Remember that friendships
do not just happen - like anything worthwhile, it takes continuous
I am relating with friends in many new ways since the ending of
2. I have at least one close friend.
3. I am satisfied with my present social relationships.
4. I have close friend who know and understand me.
5. People seem to enjoy being with me.
6. I have both single and married friends.
7. I have discussed ideas explored in our sessions with
an important friend.
8. I communicate frequently about important concerns with
a close friend.
STAGE REBUILDING NINE
HAVE TO BE CLEARED
experiences are extremely influential in our life and the attitudes
and feelings we develop in relationships with parents, family,
friends and partners are bound to carry over into new relationships.
Some of these attitudes and feelings are helpful in new relationships
and others are not.
As we have explored earlier common leftover problem, even for
adults, is an unresolved need to rebel against constraints such
as parental rules. Recognise the valuable leftovers so you can
keep and nourish them and then work at changing those which simply
get in the way.
Thelma was talking about how hard it was with her former partner.
he sounds like his father when he criticises me and I just can't
help but fly off the handle at him. It's not fair for me to do
that, but I can't stop it.'
reported that he grew up with a father who was always criticising
him to his face but then would tell others how proud he was of
his son. He decided that he wanted to be praised to his face so
in choosing a partner he found a woman who he thought would give
him lots of praise. After a period of time in their relationship,
he realised that he had chosen a critical woman even though he
had tried not to.
'I don't understand what happened- I never thought I'd choose
someone like my father.'
Rick and Paul had a very respectable committed relationship, with
a lifestyle very much like that of their parents. Suddenly Paul's
behaviour changed. He began to associate with a younger crowd,
started all kinds of activities which he had never tried before,
and took more time for himself, apart from the relationship. One
day he reported back to Rick that he felt too confined in the
relationship and that he was going to have to go off and 'get
his head on straight.'
So how much are you carrying in terms of leftovers from earlier
days? You may have learned to carry extra weight in your past
relationship or perhaps in your relationships with parents, school
chums, friends or others while you grew up. Time to unload those
unneeded burdens. You may have thought that you left all those
hang-ups behind in your former relationship. So maybe you didn't
realise they existed until a new relationship came along and then
you were forced to look into your back pack to see what you were
Our relationships with others are partially an attempt to fill
up the deficiencies within ourselves. We develop a pattern of
interaction based upon such feelings of rejection, loneliness,
a need to feel guilty, or on a more positive note, feelings of
happiness. We accept our feelings in relationships with others.
One example from an early series of seminars was Carolyn which
she and I called the stray cat syndrome. Carolyn had learned to
bring home stray cats probably since childhood and she told me
how good she would feel when she could play 'Florence Nightingale.'
Then the stray cat starts drinking too much alcohol and Carolyn
tries hard to rescue them from the perils of alcohol. Peter her
partner drinks more (after all he is getting a lot of attention
Finally Carolyn would reach her martyr's tolerance limit and either
she leaves the relationship or he leaves. Then she proclaims loudly
to everyone how good it feels not to be taking care of that drunken
bum. She starts going out with a friend and finds a man she is
sure 'will never be an alcoholic' and they finally decide to enter
a committed relationship. The pattern starts repeating and be
begins drinking too much. Carolyn again provides care, giving
him his 'milk in a saucer' every evening when he comes home until
one day it suddenly strikes her
decided to commit myself to another alcoholic!'
Carolyn seems to have a need within her to take of stray cats.
It makes her, at one powerful level, feel good. She will continue,
either consciously or unconsciously to need to care for another.
Here it is easy to see the critical need to examine leftover patterns
and to discard those which are really hurting us and our relationships.
Often a new relationship will provide a method of working on the
leftovers. They may arise and you may become angry at that person
and expression your irritation. He or she reacts, 'Those comments
don't fit me, and I don't know what you are talking about. I am
listening to what you say but it doesn't seem to apply to me so
where is it coming from?'
If you are now becoming more aware of your feelings and the voices
talking inside your head you may be able to express your irritation
and then tie it in with an earlier relationship. Sometimes people
even use the old person's name in their anger, and that is a real
clue to where the problem is coming from. Listen to the voices,
do some reflecting, and when the new friend says that does not
fit with them, try to discover who it does fit with. When you
begin to recognise who it is you are actually angry with analyse
your feelings for insight into what makes you behave this way.
Communication with another person is helpful at this time because
it provides a sounding board to bounce your feelings off just
as the wall at school bounces back the ball and demands you handle
In the shell stage one does what one should do; in the rebel stage
what one should not do and in the love stage what one wants to
do. OK many times the behaviour in the love stage will be similar
to behaviours in the shell stage but the motivation behind it
is entirely different because instead of trying to please someone
else you are trying to please yourself.
So what does this have to do with rebuilding? Well as it happens
many marriages are built on the foundation of immaturity with
one partner stuck in the shell stage spending their whole life
trying to please and do what others want. Eventually they get
fed up with this shell existence as the inevitable pressures of
personal growth become present creating a tremendous strain on
their partner in the relationship.
should I do?"
"I'll do whatever you want"
"Take care of me"
"You're everything to me"
"I only want you to be happy"
it weren't for you..."
"I don't need your help!"
"Leave me alone!"
"I'll do it anyway."
"If it feels good, do it!"
considered the alternatives."
"I'll take responsibility for my choice."
"It may not work, but I want to try."
"You and I can both enjoy ourselves."
Obligations, not choices
Irresponsible, blames others.
Erratic, unpredictable, careless.
Childish, "plays" with young folk.
Sports cars, flashy clothes, sex.
Responsible, flexible, open.
Willing to risk, learns from mistakes.
Makes choices based on facts.
to trust self.
Being to take risks.
Begin to communicate openly.
Begin to accept responsibility.
Begin to try new behaviour.
Encourage partner's growth.
Lessen dependence on partner.
Cooperate in therapy if needed.
Prepare for turbulence when 'rebellion' starts!
positive growth activities; classes, recreation, exercise,
friendships, hobbies, community.
Enter personal development/transformation work (with spouse?)
Talk to spouse, friend, therapist.
Maintain moral, ethical balance
Maintain stability, patience.
Allow partner to grow up.
Be available to talk with partner
Encourage joint therapy.
Recognise rebellion is against shell, not you!
Work at self-acceptance.
Work at open, honest communication.
Develop close, non-romantic friends.
Express anger assertively.
Maintain balance of independence and interdependence in
preparation for our session please complete the following checklist.
1. I am aware of the leftovers I am carrying from the past
2. I am working on my leftovers rather than blaming others
3. I am building relationships that will help eliminate
my left overs.
4. I understand that I will have to change attitudes and
awareness within me in order to rid myself of leftovers.
5. I am avoiding becoming emotionally involved with stray
6. I have identified whether I am in the shell, rebel,
or love stage in my growth and development
7. I have thought about my partner growth and development
in terms of shell, rebel and love stages.
8. I have thought about my parent's development in terms
of the shell, rebel, and love stages.
9. I have identified positive ways of rebelling in contrast
to more negative, destructive forms of rebelling.
10. I can understand and accept those elements of my partner's
behaviours which were related to the rebel stage.
11. I realise the shell, rebel and love stages are something
that may happen several times in my life.
12. I am attempting to do the self-care needed to remain
strong and stable
13. I will attempt to get rid of as many leftovers as possible
before I get into another long- term, committed
STAGE REBUILDING TEN
. . . . . . . . . .
people need to relearn how to love in order to love more maturely.
Your capacity to love others is based on your capacity to love
yourself as I explore in The Power of Caring series. Learning
to love yourself is not selfish and conceited in fact it is
the most mentally healthy thing you can do. There are a number
of specific steps you can take to increase your self love and
connection with your true self.
Love is like sitting with my back to the fireplace I can
feel the warmth without every seeing the fire.
Love is the greatest gift you can receive but you have to give
it to yourself. Peter
Over the past thirty years I have asked thousands of people
to do this exercise in the adjustment seminars and it normally
proves a very difficult assignment for most people to do. A
typical separated person says 'I thought I knew what love is
but I guess I don't' In fact many people feel inadequate about
their definition of love. Love is like a diamond and you can
view it from many different directions and there is no right
or wrong way of defining it. There is only the way you feel
In our society many people have stereotyped love to be something
you do for somebody or to somebody. Very few people realise
that love is something that should be centred within you and
that the basis of loving others it he love you have for yourself.
To begin this section let me present a somewhat cynical definition
upon which many relationships are based 'Love is the warm feeling
that you get toward somebody who meets your neurotic needs.'
This is a definition of neediness rather than love. Because
we are not whole and complete people but have emotional deficiencies
we try to fill those emotional deficits by 'loving' another
person. What we lack in ourselves we hope to find in the other
person in other words many of us are half people trying to love
someone in order to become whole. My experience working with
people has given me the following idea about love coming from
a whole person who is more mature in their life.
Perhaps you have heard the expression 'warm and fuzzy with a
fish hook in them'. A warm fuzzy is a nice gesture that you
give someone such as saying I love you. Unfortunately many of
us are still struggling to fulfill ourselves. So if a life is
empty then when a person says 'I love you' it probably means
'Please, please love me.' The other person finds the warm fuzzy
statement attractive so swallows it, and is hooked. Saying 'I
love you' from an empty heart of emotional connections tends
to be manipulative, while love from a heart of connections and
embracing who we are as a unique individual allows others to
be themselves and to be free to share in our lives.
A common problem in society is that falling in love is the most
acceptable reason for entering a committed relationship however
falling in love may have more to do with loneliness than with
warmth towards another person. Falling in love to overcome loneliness
is not actually love. It is rather a feeling of warmth which
comes from breaking down the barriers that have kept us from
being intimate with other people.
Sometimes one does not love the other person, but loves instead
the idealised image of that person. When the difference is realised,
one becomes disillusioned, falls out of love, and the relationship
is dissolved. If a couple can grow past the stage of loving
their idealised image of each other, there is the possibility
that they will be able to love in a more mature manner. For
some, this growth will occur in the relationship and their love
for each other will mature. For others, maturity comes only
after the dissolution of an immature relationship.
I have seen many people loving with an immature love: Love equals
doing something to somebody or for somebody; Love equals taking
care of someone; Love equals 'never having to say you're sorry';
Love equals always being strong; Love equals being nice.
Shirley had believed that love equals being nice and she was
trying to improve an unhealthy relationship. Ken asked her in
the seminar why it was not working for her to be nice. Shirley
replied, 'I guess I just wasn't nice enough.'!
Many (most?) of us, while growing up, have not received enough
unconditional love - love that was given by parents or others
just because we were, not because we earned it by being 'good'.
We adopt immature forms of love toward others because we have
not been loved unconditionally. Nevertheless we can come to
realise that mature love equals loving yourself for being what
you are, and likewise loving another person for who he or she
is. When we can feel such "unconditional no-matter-how-you-act-love"
we have learned what I call mature love. Mature love allows
you fully to be yourself with the person you love.
In my experience it difficult for many people to give up the
immature forms of love because that is the way they have always
received their strokes, attention, and good feelings. Yet eventually
they recognise that they had to keep striving harder in order
to earn the love they were seeking It is like settling for second
best taking whatever strokes we can rather than going all the
way to get really good strokes by learning to love ourselves.
Building on my experience I have found that many people write
that love is caring and giving and making the other person happy
and that very few people include in their definition of love
a mature idea of self-love. If the centre of your love is in
your partner and the relationship dissolves the centre is suddenly
remove and this makes ending of your relationship even more
painful. What might it be like if you have become a whole person
and learned to love yourself? If the ending of your relationship
does happen then there would still be pain and trauma but it
would not be so devastating for you and you would still be a
The ending of a relationship is very traumatic for those who
have not centred their love within themselves and learned to
love themselves. Many end up feeling unlovable or that they
are incapable of loving another person. So naturally many try
to prove to themselves that they are lovable and search for
another relationship immediately. In the section of sexuality
we explore how some become sexually promiscuous in developing
all kinds of relationships with anyone who comes along. Clearly
they have confused sex and love, feeling that if they go out
and find sex and with it will come the love they have been missing
and needing for so long.
The old Beatles line, 'All the lonely people - where do they
all come from?' expresses for me the vital needs so many people
have who have never learned to love and be loved. In our modern
society it has become increasingly easy to love other people
and not allow oneself to be loved so here, by wanting to love
another person you may really be hiding your own need to be
We can see how the need to be unconditionally loved is not met
in our lives for when we are a child love appears unconditional
by the basics of food clothing, shelter, care and physical affection
so the child has no question that this love is infinite and
omnipotent. Then what happens with age, maturity and awareness?
We become aware that another can stop loving another for any
reason or that the love may be ended by death so for adults
it is emotionally difficult to accept unconditional love. What
I am putting forward is to approach such an apparent problem
by learning to love yourself unconditionally with a simple acceptance
of yourself for what you are: a unique individual with no one
else in the world like you.
Naturally it is difficult to love yourself if you haven't been
loved as a child and this is where a spiritual relationships
become important because if you can develop faith in a Supreme
Being who gives unconditional love which has been difficult
for you to accept within yourself then you experience value
of being loved for who we are and not for what we do for someone
else. Here we experience unconditional love and once we have
such a connection then we can extend the same unconditional
love for others.
Back to science for a short while to define consciously so we
can build a bridge to our emotional self. Psychologists place
a great deal of emphasis on personalities. One way of looking
at such psychological diagnosis is that they are all trying
to define different ways that people are compensating for a
lack of love and if we could peel back these diagnoses down
to the heart and core we would find that the basic problem is
that people have not learned to love and be loved.
In my series 'The
Power of Caring' which I created in 1989 I continually return
to this simple and yet for many elusive connection where I am
emphasizing unconditional love so strongly because it is such
a vital quality for human growth. To know that I am valuable
enough just because I am me and to be loved regardless of how
I act. However in my work I continually find that the belief
that love is doing something to or for somebody and so rather
than love being centred within us it is clearly always centred
within someone else. This naturally leaves us feeling how our
energy is constantly being drained from us rather than experiencing
such energy expanding and filling our day to day lives.
Take a break
and then return and take a look at some
of the common ways of exchanging and thereby exploring different
forms of love.
is not as loaded with emotion and feeling
for as the relationships starts with liking each other, and
then this liking just grows into something more which might
be called love. It is cooler, lacking in the passion of romantic
love. Sex is not as important to the friendship lover, often
developing long after the relationship has begun. This is one
of the most stable styles of loving and it is not unusual for
people who develop this style of loving to remain good friends
even if the relationship ends because their love was based upon
mutual respect and friendship rather than strong emotional feelings.
Game Playing Love regards
the relationship as a game with certain rules to follow and
game players are not as interested in intimacy as romantic lovers
in fact they may have several simultaneous relationships in
order to avoid closeness and intimacy. Such lovers tend to make
up their own special rules and their relationships will follow
whatever rules are most convenient.
For example there is the needy style of loving that tends to
be full of possessiveness and dependency. This style of loving
is very emotional and such intensity makes the relationship
unstable. The people involved tend to have difficulty maintaining
the relationship because they feel intense emotions such as
jealousy, possessiveness which naturally results insecurity.
Some look for another relationship within a short time in order
to be happy based on an immature style of dependent and possessive
The Practical Lover takes
a realistic look at their partner and decides, on a rational
and intellectual basis, if this love is appropriate. This sort
of partner will make sure that there is a similarity in spiritual
or religious; political; financial views on handling money as
well as family life. Naturally they will include exploring any
failings in their partner's family, socioeconomic statues, characteristics
in the way that they look as well for some genetic makeup. The
practical lover will choose to someone with whom it 'makes good
sense' to love.
The Altruistic Lovers
may be somewhat 'other person' centred
in being very willing to meet the needs of the other person.
When this is carried to the extreme the altruistic lover may
become the martyr based on meeting other people's needs by giving
all of their energy, money and time to the other person.
Then there is the Authentic
Altruistic Lover who
is someone with a full heart and enough inner strength to be
able to love another person in a very unselfish manner and it
interesting to note from my experience and the experiences of
my colleagues how such a person has a powerful spiritual belief.
Each person is obviously a mixture of these styles and there
is no one style that fits us all at all times. Understanding
your own mixture of styles is very important when you enter
a committed relationship or partnership with another person.
One couple with whom I was doing marriage counselling had a
great deal of difficulty because he was a friendship lover and
she a romantic lover.
She felt that his cool love was not love at all and he felt
that her romantic love was unstable. His style of loving was
to take care of her, provide for her needs and stay with her
in the relationship as proof of his love for her. When she asked
him to say 'I love you' and to express other romantic thoughts
and feeling so that she felt loved he could not answer. They
had difficulty in communicating and understanding each other's
viewpoints because their basic beliefs about what love was and
was not were incompatible.
At this point and as a guide how about the question 'How
do we learn to love ourselves?' and as we have seen the
answer is not always easy so here are some specific exercises
that will help with learning to love yourself. However before
beginning think of a time in your life when you started to make
changes which may be been when you first had difficulties in
your relationship or when the two of you first separated or,
for that matter, when you decided to work with me in rebuilding.
Make a list of changes that you have made, the personal growth
that you have experienced since that time and the things you
have learned about yourself, others and of course life. Consider
the feeling of confidence you have gained from learning these
things and getting more in control of your own life. That confidence
is what provides you with good, positive feelings and then length
of your list may come as a pleasant surprise.
I am indebted to Virginia Satir who devised a method of helping
people learn to gain more self-love which I would like to introduce
you to. She asked people to make a list of five adjectives that
could describe them. After you have made this list of five adjectives
go through a put a plus or a minus sign after each word to indicate
whether you think this a positive or negative adjective. After
you have done this, look at the minus adjectives and see if
you can find anything positive about that particular word in
terms of a quality or aspect of your personality.
A woman in one of the seminars listed the adjective 'bitchy'.
When questioned about it she said how her husband constantly
referred to her in this way. As she began to talk about it to
the group she realised what he called bitchiness she called
assertiveness in the sense a positive way to stick up for herself.
So once she now understood that difference of labels she was
able to accept that as a part of herself and now feel good about
After all that is what self is: learning to accept
ourselves for what and who we are. As Carl Rogers stated, when
we learn to accept ourselves for who and what we are, then that
often gives us permission to grow, change, and become something
different. Where we can embrace the next unfolding stages of
our life. However for as long as you don't accept a part of
who you are you will naturally have trouble changing that part.
We all need to discover that 'it's okay not to be okay' in certain
areas of our life. We have all had traumatic experiences that
have left us wounded and times when we did not feel loved. But
those experiences are a part of our life and living such a life.
We are not perfect because we are human beings and when we learn
to accept some of the non-okay things about us then we are in
balance where such balance allows us to be authentic.
How does one learn to love another person? What causes
the feelings of love for another person to begin? Perhaps it
was a kind and thoughtful deed they did; maybe by doing something
that met your needs, or they made you feel good about yourself.
So, if you were to set aside a period of time tomorrow to do
something that really felt good and made you feel okay about
yourself then that could be a way of learning to love yourself
more fully and completely. After all, it would be you that was
capable of doing something kind and loveable for you.
In my work and in my own life the most important method of learning
to love yourself has been to give permission to love yourself
and if you can decide that it is okay, and not selfish or self-centred
to love yourself maybe you can allow yourself to move into a
place where you have feelings of self-love?
As we finish and prepare of our next one to one discussion the
growth that you have achieved is something that no one has done
for you and so no one can take it away from you. Your life is
in your control, through a real heartfelt knowledge about yourself
and others. To that extent you are not at the mercy of other
people anymore. Let the good feelings of your development at
this stage in your life become heartfelt. Let yourself just
feel love for yourself for a while because it is not just okay
to feel love for yourself, no it is more than okay, it is the
way life is meant to be.
our next one to one session.
1. I feel I am lovable
2. I am not afraid of being loved
3. I am not afraid of loving another
4. I have an understanding of what I believe love is
5. I am living a lifestyle that is in balance with my
definition of love
6. I feel comfortable with meeting my own needs rather
than feeling and labeling myself as selfish
7. I am able to accept love from others
8. I am able to express love to others in a way that
makes them feel loved
9. I am able to love myself
10. I have experienced a great deal of personal growth
since my crisis began
11. I am trying to develop my immature, needy, dependent
parts of love into a more mature style of loving