Ability to love and be loved – the benefits


There are five strengths associated with higher levels of well-being:

  1. Gratitude
  2. Optimisim
  3. Zest and energy
  4. Curiosity
  5. The ability to love and be loved

Part one: Love-Ability

by Ann Smith on Feb 11, 2015 in Healthy Connections, http://bit.ly/1KdGp8a

Have you ever been told you are lovable? If you have, what did that mean to you? Did you believe it and take it seriously or discount it altogether? Your reaction might depend on who said it and the nature of your relationship with that person. If you have a pattern of doubting your lovability, it may be due to painful childhoodexperiences that left you with insecurities and self doubt. This pattern can lead to unhealthy relationships, jealousy, love addiction, possessiveness, even abuse, and victimization.

Through the years, I have encountered hundreds of clients who are frantically searching for a partner who will make them feel lovable. Those with a painful family history and inconsistent attachment in childhood may start this search very early in life in the belief that having a romantic partner is proof that they are worthy of love. When they are alone they feel defective and unwanted until they find love again.

Kate at age 33 was one example. She came to me for counseling when her most recent relationship ended. She was devastated and viewed the break up as proof that she was not lovable, even though she chose to end the relationship. This was not the first time, and she was tired of repeating this painful cycle. Kate was sure that her problem was her choice of partners, and she wanted to do better the next time. The flaw in her thinking was that in reality, her choices were a reflection of how she felt about herself.  She also would never be loved enough by another person to heal the wounds she had been carrying since childhood. Kate did not know that her lovability did not depend on anyone else. It was her birthright.

We are all lovable from the moment of our birth. In an ideal world, we would be in the arms of a loving parent who locks eyes with us when we are born and assumes full responsibility for our survival and well-being. He or she would be our “person” for life. Unfortunately, we all know that in the real world other factors can interfere with that bond. Human beings may have great intentions, but life stressors big and small sometimes distract a parent from their task.

When parents are distracted, all children have a degree of anxiety depending on the situation. Fortunately, children have the ability to develop creative ways to try to get the necessary comfort and attention from their “person.” When we are very young, we are dependent, physically and emotionally, and our tools are limited to our smallness and cute smiles and most of all, with our natural lovability. In some cases, parents are able to be consistent in their responses and provide secure attachment which helps us to know that we are lovable. If attachment bonds are insecure and inconsistent, we begin to develop doubts about our worth and lovability and inadolescence and adulthood begin to search for someone who will validate our worth. Ironically, we may not be able to trust or accept authentic love even when it is offered.

You Can Be Love-Able and Possess Love-Ability

Since we are born lovable, we can reclaim our love-ability with help and support, butromantic relationships are not the best place to start. Being lovable is inherent. It is not earned and it is not dependent on the approval of another person. Whether you are alone or in a secure relationship, you are still lovable. You are forever and always lovable. Even if a bad childhood led you to feel unloved and unworthy, you are still lovable. Even if you feel ashamed due to past failures and mistakes, you are still lovable. Even if you have been rejected or abandoned by someone, you are still lovable. You possess the capacity to attach to others and to receive love from others even when you feel that no one loves you.

Lovable adults are not necessarily love-able. Due to circumstances in your past, you may have lost awareness of the lovable creature you are and lack the experience and skills to be successful in a loving adult relationship. There are times when we forget who we truly are, especially in romance and develop the false belief that because someone withholds their love from me, I am not worthy or able to receive love. Kate held negative beliefs from her past—“I’m defective, imperfect, flawed, broken, hopeless, abandoned, inadequate, and unattractive.” Whenever she felt alone or unwanted, she struggled to manage the urge to jump into another relationship. Once she saw her pattern, she was able to use counseling to address her long held negative beliefs and 12-step meetings for support in her commitment to having only healthy relationships. Gradually, old beliefs were replaced with acceptance and love for herself. Her choice in partners became clearer and easier to identify.

In adulthood, love-ability comes from the practice of self love, experience, knowledge of oneself, and learning from mistakes. It does not simply rise up from the attention or approval of others. When you love yourself, you attract people who recognize your value and worth. When adults are in loving relationships they are participating in the experience of mutual love. In a loving relationship we make a conscious choice to risk vulnerability and allow ourselves to be seen by another person while knowing that we are not always going to be accepted as we are. The choice to experience of mutual love is worth the risk and effort, but it will never happen if we do not first believe we are lovable and actively love ourselves. Beinglove-able means that I am able to be loved, able to make a conscious choice about who I want to love, and accept love when it is offered.

Part two: How to Love

by Susan Heitler Ph.D. on May 17, 2013 in Resolution, Not Conflict,  http://bit.ly/1d972O8

Do you know how to love(link is external)?  Do you make it a point to convey loving feelings through loving actions to those who are most important to you? Loving actions are anything that gives good feelings to others.  Unloving, by contrast, means either that you refrain from giving affection, appreciation, warm smiles, help and other words and actions that convey good vides, or that you actively say or do words and actions that hurt people.

Sadly, all to often the ones to whom many people give the fewest appreciative words and kindly actions are a) themselves and b) their loved ones.

A client in my therapy practice frequently says to himself and to me, “I don’t lovemyself. I don’t love anyone. I don’t know how to love,” That’s a sad set of thoughts, so I have been thinking a lot of late about the important question of how to love.

Receiving the following email then led me to write these thoughts into a blog post.

Hi, Dr. Heitler:

I hope this is not too “basic” of a question, but in your experience, do you think that love is a necessary condition for a successful marriage? I am worried that I no longer have the capacity to “fall,” yet want to make a long-term relationship work, even with my terrible trust issues. Your wisdom is greatly appreciated. 
K. from OH

One falls in love with romatic sexualized feelings.  People stay in love by acting lovingly.

Acting lovingly entails habits like appreciating, caring, helping and sharing, habits thatmake a love relationship last(link is external).  These loving habits, habits that spread positive energy make bonding feel safe and gratifying. Listening in an appreciative way furthers the spread of love as well.

Eliminating hurtful habits is necessary but not sufficient for cultivating love.  Loving also requires positive actions.  Frequent repetitions of the five kinds of habits described below convey louder than words alone the respect, caring and affection of love.

If you do not spontaneious give forth these signs of love, odds are that you grew up in a family where these habits were not modeled.  One of my clients, for instance, grew up in a family in which Dad, while not overtly hostile, seldom said anything positive to him, even showing no joy when the son received an acceptance letter to the college of his dreams.  That’s not loving behavior, from a parent or anyone.

The versatility of love actions

The four love habits below apply to loving yourself and apply equally to loving others.  That’s because people tend to talk to themselves in the same ways that they talk to others. Criticize and blame yourself?  Appreciative toward yourself?  Probably you do these actions to others as well.

The How to Love Action Plan

As you read through the action plan below, it can be helpful to assess how you are doing on each factor.  On a scale from 0 to 5, rate yourself first on how you interact with your targeted loved one (spouse, lover, teenager, child, relative, friend, etc).

Then do a second run-through scoring how you interact with yourself.

You might then add a 3rd run-through to check how loving your actions are with children in your life.

After each run-through, total your numbers. A score of 20 or higher is good, with higher clearly better and 25 top-of-the-line.

1. Hands on.  Take physical care of yourself and others.  

After my father died, I told my sister how much, to my surprise, I was missing him.  After all, caring for him by taking him out for rides and errands, seeing to his medical needs, eating dinner with him and bringing him to my house to enjoy time with his kids, grandkids, and great-grandkids took a lot of time.  Why wasn’t I relieved to have more discretionary time now for myself?

My sister answered wisely, “We grow to love, to care the most, for those we take care of.  Caring-for is an act of love; the more you take care of, the more love you feel.”

One aspect of caring is responsivity.  If you feel tired, do you listen responsively to yourself and therefore figure out how to get some rest?  If others express a vulnerable feeling, say, of sadness, worry, or fatigue, do you respond with kindness and thoughts of what you might do to help?

Another aspect of caring is making time for those you love.

How well do you take care of yourself?  Who do you help out and care for other than yourself?  How could you do more caring for yourself? And for others?

2. Eyes and Mouth.  Use your good eye. Use your mouth to verbalize what you see.

The good eye looks to understand, accept and to appreciate what you see in yourself and/or in others.  Sentences expressing what the good eye sees typically start with phrases like “I agree that …” or “I am glad that…” or “I like your ….”

Enjoyment, appreciation and gratitude are particularly strong indicators that the good eye is in the lead, leading you toward a loving place.  Maybe that is why prayer tends to focus on expression of what we appreciate.

The bad eye, by contrast, looks at yourself and at others to criticize, judge, and/or demean with negative labels what you see. Saying phrases like “You shouldn’t have….” Or “Why did you have to …?” or “That was dumb…” indicates that the bad eye is in control.

The bad eye does have it’s place.  Some things are genuinely wrong.  Stealing is wrong.  So is murder, hatred, brutality, corruption, and even small acts of meanness.  The key is to save the bad eye for recognizing genuinely hurtful actions. A too-frequent focus on negatives breeds dislike, distrust, sarcasm and other negative attitudes, all of which are the opposites of loving attitudes.

The good eye focuses on positives like beauty, kindness, effort and anything that has been well done. See what is good, and then say what you like and you wil be solidly on the road to loving. At the same time, the good eye sees foiblles, your own and others, with acceptance and humor.  No one is perfect.  We all have plenty of room to grow, which brings us to the next step in the action plan.

3. When things go wrong, breathe deeply.  Then remind yourself: Mistakes are for learning.

After you make a mistake, what do you say to yourself?  Or to others after they have made a mistake?  Taking a deep breath before you react can help to calm you down and to give yourself time to let thinking catch up with the impulse to react.  If your tone sounds harsh or your words are critical, step back again, breathe deeply to relax a bit more, and then start over.

Mistakes are not for punishing.  Mistakes are not for pounding yourself or others into soft heaps of regret.  Mistakes are for learning.

Mistakes also are not for revenge.  As PT blogger Stephen Diamond has written, revenge leads to bitterness and then on to hatred.  Those feelings are the opposites of love.

Mistakes are for learning: figure out what you, or others, did that turned out to be problematic and then figure out how to do things differently next time.  Mistakes are for learning.

4. Ears.  Listening is loving.

When your shoulder hurts, do you ignore it?  Or do you pause to figure out what might be causing the pain and how you might repair the difficulty?

When you feel lonely, do you deprecate yourself for feeling that way, or do you aim to figure out what you might do to alleviate the loneliness?

When others share their concerns, distresses and vulnerable feelings with you, do you listen to understand?  Or do you brush their words aside as burdensome inconveniences, dismissively label their concerns ‘foolish’ or ‘stupid,’ or negate what you heard with “But…” and explain what is wrong with those thoughts?  That would be listening with the bad ear, just like looking at yourself  or others with an eye for what’s wrong is looking through the bad eye.

Listen with genuine interest to your own quiet inner voice and to others’ in order to understand.  Listen to share others’ sorrows and to celebrate their joys.  LIsten to learn from others when their viewpoints differ from yours . Listening is loving..

Opening your deeper self to feelings of love.

Some people are afraid to love, afraid to trust themselves or others.  The good news is that anxiety is not a stop sign; it’s just a blinking yellow proceed-with-caution light.

How to proceed from here.

Practice taking loving actions at least once every day toward yourself, and at least once a day toward the fortunate person or people whom you would like to be more able to love. Then add more…the more actions of love you do, the more loving you will feel.



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