The Secret to Experiencing Love: Creating A Sense of Safety and Learning to Receive
If you want to feel the love, experience all of the sweetness possible for you and have real partnerships and friendships, you have to learn to create safety. You have to feel safe enough to be vulnerable and then safe enough to open to receive. It’s not enough just to give. Real love, deep caring, involves authentic receiving.
This is the best-kept secret of having love. It’s the single greatest gateway to feeling alive and happy in your life. So exactly how do you do that?
You begin by being aware of your internal experience. Notice what your body is telling you. Try it right now for a moment. Notice where your seat touches the surface you are sitting on. Allow your breath to flow for a moment and just follow it. As you scan your body, do you notice places that are more comfortable than others? What is your body needing just now? Would you be more comfortable if you shifted positions? Are you thirsty and need a drink of water? Do you need a break? What do you need just now?
It is helpful if you can devise some safe ways for you to receive. I mean small ways. In order to feel safe receiving we have to start small, in ways that you are totally in charge. It might be that you allow yourself to be helped in a store, or you have eye contact with the clerk at the post office or you really receive a warm greeting from someone who holds the door open for you. Whatever it is, start small, monitor your body and really receive it, take it in. Notice how that one small gesture feels.
A number of years ago, I was in the same place. I knew I needed to feel safe enough to receive. But how? Because of the abuse I had experienced, I’d shut down. I never felt like I had parents who protected me. One day shortly after this realization, I was sitting in my dentist’s chair and noticed how present and caring he was. He knew when I needed to swallow before I did and would pause. I thought to myself, “This is what a good parent does – watches for cues and meets the child’s needs in a caring way.” Since I was in the midst of a lot of dental work, I decided I would pretend that Dr. Prince was my father. He never knew, of course, and I never told anyone. It was safe for me to receive his caring, a tiny bit at a time. I allowed real eye contact. I noticed how safe I felt. And, I knew I was in charge, it was my experience and I didn’t have to take care of him or give back to him. Over time I think he knew he was special to me and we would briefly hug at the end of the visit. I would breathe deeply and just take it in. With this I learned to receive caring from people closer to me, to open to their love and not run away.
Now, all the negative self-talk had been replaced by a strange, open curiosity. A part of me was experiencing and a part of me was watching. Little by little, I began to trust. I began to relax into the moment, into whatever was happening.
In order to truly begin opening to more love, we must be aware of our felt experience of safety and we need to open to receive. Ask yourself, “Just how good am I at receiving?” It would be helpful to take a moment and make some notes about that.
What’s a Real Hug?
Are you able to give and receive real hugs? A real hug is not just patting the other person on the back as though you are burping a baby. It is also not a brief, breathless squeeze.
A real hug is where you are relaxed, present and not rushed. You have some eye contact with the person first. This tells you that they are open to and available for a hug. Then you take a breath. Your arms are appropriately around your hugging partner. If appropriate, your bellies may be touching. In fact, the whole fronts of your bodies may be touching. You breathe. You pay attention to what you need and are also aware of when the other is complete with the hug. You then release the embrace, have some eye contact and step away.
This type of hug is a long shot for many people. Just imagining this may make you feel vulnerable and outside your comfort zone.
Are you just going through the motions because you are expected to hug but you really don’t want to?
You can do this, too. Let’s look at how.
Exercises in Feeling Safe and Learning to Receive
The first step is awareness, creating a part of yourself that objectively watches. This observer self is not the critic, the one who judges or tells you to back up. This is the more neutral part that we cultivate. This is a more loving voice that most often just watches, notices and says, “Interesting.” Having this non-judgmental observer takes intention and practice.
This practice of self-awareness includes not only monitoring your conscious thoughts but also noticing your physical state, the reactions of your body and your impulses. Small signs of tension, discomfort or breath-holding will be clues that you need to pause and see what is needed.
This is a place where our Mental Models, our Program, show up, big time. Your Critic may become active. Watch for internal comments that question your worth, your abilities and/or your motivation. Your Critic may be unnecessarily trying to protect you from getting hurt. After all, if your early Mental Model was some version of, “I’m not okay, I can’t do it right, I’m not lovable, etc.,” your Critic will want to protect you from venturing out and getting hurt.
This is the time to bring in your Wise, Loving Adult to care for and protect your Little One. As you imagine this happening, the belief structures, the old Mental Model will weaken and won’t be needed so much anymore. Explore what is True about your Little One. Is she precious? Is he lovable? Smart? Good? Discover at least a couple of Truths and make a note of them.
Look at your resources. Remember times when you were resilient. Imagine yourself there now. And, as you do, declare your Truth. “I deserve love; I am smart, etc.” Make a note. Repeating this will help shift the old belief structures that protected you and kept you safe.
Creating safety and learning to receive are the foundation of reaching our goals. Bit by bit you can become more aware of what you are experiencing in the moment. And, without judging, simply take a breath and begin to shift your thinking. “Right now, I’m okay.” Remember and re-experience your Truth: Statements like, “I am lovable and capable.”
Close each day with thoughts of things you feel good about. What went well? What am I grateful for?
As you continue to practice self-awareness, self-care and take some risks, you will begin to discover more safety. As your perception of safety expands you will be able to receive. As you work with your early Mental Models and shift them to your Truth, you will feel less guarded and more open to connection. You will experience more of who you truly are: Present, open and loving. And, you will be able to feel the love and caring from others.
This article was written by Marti Glenn, Ph.D., Ryzio Clinical Director