To love and to be loved are in the words of Sebastian Faulks in his wonderful novel Birdsong, the most important things we can have in life. And I would agree.
The problem is that some people cannot believe that they are lovable and are so full of self hatred that they will do everything and anything in their power to prevent people loving them.
Why would this be?
The problem starts not just with the current relationship they might find themselves in, but much further back. It has to do with something that has gone wrong in the very early years. Possibly when even a baby. And what has happened is that there has been a failed bonding with the primary care giver, rendering the baby lost and alone. The baby grows and becomes a child and some things may reinforce what is a feeling and not yet able to be articulated or even thought about as the child is emotionally too young. It is as if the neural pathways have been damaged and something has been short circuited.
Research shows how we can now actually ‘see’ the emotions in the brain and how different aspects of the brain ‘fire up’ in response. Researchers can directly evidence the effect of relationships both good and bad on the brain.
So the child becomes an adult and somehow repeats a pattern. For that is what we do. It is called repetition compulsion and we do it to try in the vain hope that if we repeat something often enough it might change and the end result will be different. The problem is that just by repeating something we are doing just that, – repeating an experience and ironically reinforcing it, not changing it.
So the child then becomes an adult and so proves to themselves that by doomed relationships they are not lovable. So if by any chance they should meet someone who could love them they don’t actually believe it and so push them away. They may leave the relationship, become hostile or aggressive, they may create a rupture by having an affair so that their partner is ‘forced’ to leave them and thereby proving once again that they are not just lovable but actually hateful. It is called a self fulfilling prophecy, they believe the person will leave them as their previous experience has shown and actually push their current partner into behaving in the same way. Some of this may be conscious and some may not.
I was watching a programme on TV the other day and in it the man said do something you fear at least once a day. I am not sure if I actually agree with that, but the answer of course to the above problem is that we have to learn to face the fear of being rejected whilst believing that we are lovable.
We have to learn to risk that we can put ourselves out there and find someone with whom we can trust to be there for us. With whom we can connect and be ourselves. This is not easy, and I don’t pretend it is. But only by recognising our default setting and challenging it, can we give ourselves a chance of changing. The brain can change. As I have previously written the brain is plastic and can create new neural pathways under the right conditions. The effects of the past are not now irrevocably fixed; in effect the brain can re wire itself.
A big ask I know. But what is the alternative, a life on one’s own?