November 20, 2016

How To Open Yourself To Love

How To Open Yourself To Love

“Keep love in your heart. A life without it is like a sunless garden when the flowers are dead."

~ Oscar Wilde

# 1. Follow the 4 tips below

Receiving love may be harder for some people than others. We may bring old wounds into our current situations, making it difficult to give or receive love. I want to encourage you to be open, be uncomfortable and embrace the vulnerability of giving and receiving love. A powerful gift.

1. Love Yourself FIRST!

a. Before you can truly start to receive love, you must first give yourself the love you truly need. Work on creating an intimate, trusting, lasting and loving relationship with yourself, and before you know it, the relationships around you will start to manifest in a similar fashion, and if they don’t, then you know they weren’t right to begin with.

2. Be Open, and Give Love.

a. Share with those who you appreciate and care for, that you care and appreciate them! Why not?

3. Push Yourself.

a. Vulnerability is rough stuff, but truly transformative. Push yourself out of your comfort zone, and work on whatever it is about vulnerability that makes you uncomfortable. For some, it may be genuinely receiving compliments and praise, for others it may be allowing yourself to get close to someone in fear of getting hurt. Push yourself!

4. Notice and Redirect Bad Habits

a. Majority of us go around with a negative tap on repeat in our heads. Let’s stop the tape, and recreate one with positive loving messages, encouraging us to love others, and ourselves. When we truly believe we are worthy, then, and only then we will receive the love we believe we are worthy of.

Jessica Hopkins, MA, NCC –

# 2. Follow the 4 tips below

It always feels easier to love someone else than to love yourself. Are you finding that you are harder on yourself than anyone else? Do withhold love from yourself? Believe it or not, you deserve love!

Follow the tips below to help you open up to the beauty of receiving love!

1. Stop asking for reasons. Do you ask people why they love you? Do they really need a reason? Do you ask people why they love chocolate, or trashy romance novels? Maybe they just do and that’s wonderful. You are amazing and they see it. Let them give you the gift of unconditional love. That is love without boundaries or conditions. Remind yourself, that you are worthy and you deserve to feel unconditional love because you are awesome!

2. Love others. Fill your heart with compassion towards others and the world. Give a smile. A helping hand. When you love, you will find it easier to receive love. Find a charity and donate time or money. You will feel your heart expanding. As your heart expands it’s easier for you to give and receive love.

3. Find the beauty, each and every day. Find it. Relish in it. Sit with it. Marvel at it. Breathe it in. Sunsets, flowers, animals playing, art. True beauty reminds you of how precious and wonderful life is. It also brings peace to your soul. All of this helps you open your heart more and more to receiving love.

4. Surrender. Easier said than done but so rewarding if you can stop your ego from convincing you why you don’t deserve love. Allow yourself to receive love. Give yourself permission.

Bonus activities: write yourself a permission slip to receive love. Create a collage of all the things that make your heart melt and bring a smile to your face. Find a poem or quotes that you love, that remind you about how awesome love is and place them where you can see them daily. , do something that makes you feel good about yourself, whatever that may be; walking in nature, watching your favorite show. Do something nice for yourself every day. Give a smile. Give a compliment. Do something nice for someone else, just because. Lastly, donate time or money to a favorite charity.

Margaret Bell, MA, NCC –

# 3. Follow the 4 tips below

Those who say they give a lot of love but have trouble receiving it, have successfully built a wall around themselves to keep pain away—or at least they think they have.

As someone who identifies as a Third Culture Kid or TCK, I understand how hard it is to receive love. TCK’s move frequently between cultures, and over time it can become increasingly difficult to receive love. It is a self-protective way to numb the pain of the numerous losses of friendships. At some point a decision is usually made: “I won’t receive love because it is easier to leave when the time comes.”

In order to overcome this, there are a few simple steps:

1. Begin by taking small risks in relationships. Reach out in some manner: send a thank you card, a note of appreciation or an email expressing gratitude.

2. When someone gives a compliment, take a few seconds to take it in, smile and say “thank you”.

3. Begin to value yourself. Give yourself some care, love, and respect. Also value your self-expression through creativity.

4. Establish good boundaries. Those who are always saying “yes” and are continuously giving believe they will eventually get the love they crave. Not only is this an exhausting way to live, it does not really have the desired result. Saying “no” to others’ unhealthy demands will have two results: losing friends who do not respect a “no” and gaining valuable friends who do—and can teach good ways to receive love.

Receiving love is risky for those who have experienced pain and loss in relationships. However, there is a greater risk to overall health and happiness by remaining self-protective. It is worth the risk.

Judy Hansen, MA, LPCC –

# 4. Learn to be loved and give love in an unconditional way with no expectation of anything in return

There is a beautiful saying that giving and receiving are the same. Most of us have so much love inside that we want to give to others, yet we seem to have more difficulty receiving. If we stop and think about it, love is all around and comes to us in many ways. It may be through spreading and receiving daily acts of kindness, such as giving someone directions, bringing others flowers, taking someone you care about to a show or concert, donating to those in need, rescuing an animal, or being a listening ear.

Thirteenth Century poet Rumi writes: “Your task is not to seek love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” ~ Rumi

Once we can learn to receive all forms of love that come to us from all walks of life in small ways, there lies an incredible awakening. It is not just about looking for a romantic kind of love, although that can be an expansion in one’s life, it’s also about the ability to give and receive love on all levels and truly mean it from the depths of your soul.

In our culture, we get so caught up in rejection that we forget to see that beautiful love that surrounds us if we just open our eyes. If rejection occurs, send that person love and an act of love and kindness will come to you and you can feel worthy of receiving. Remember that if someone is rejecting you, they are rejecting a part of themselves and they are needing love.

If we can learn to be loved and give love in an unconditional way with no expectation of anything in return, then we are letting go of all the conditions on how we receive love and can learn to accept love into our lives, there is a natural order and love and life happens in our highest good for all.

Connie Clancy Fisher, ED.D. –

# 5. Begin by examining your boundaries

Wanting love in our lives is innate; feeling loved helps us to feel safe and secure. Yet many of us question what to do with that love once we get it, or we fit the bill of “looking for love in all the wrong places”. We are a culture that values volunteerism, philanthropy and giving of ourselves which are beautiful and generous ideals; and we also need to learn how to receive love into our lives and be our own ambassador of good will.

One way to begin this work is by examining your boundaries. Because many of us are taught how to give love purely by taking care of people, we assume that everyone learns the same way, and will return the favor. Not true! We need to learn to ask for what we need, and sometimes that may involve asking for help, or saying “no” when you know the other party will be disappointed.

Learning about your boundaries and what you need asks you to invite vulnerability into your life. This may seem like the dreaded “V” word to those of us who have difficulty with communication or boundaries, but I invite you to reconsider that mindset. Opening up to another person about fears you have of being in a relationship with them, or losing them, or disappointing them – whatever it may be, can be liberating as well as open up the discussion and potentially allow the other party to do the same. Openness in communication takes away the space where assumptions and anxiety can live.

Consider the family, friend, and intimate relationships in your life and explore your attachment style. Read about or find a therapist who can talk with you about John Bowlby’s Attachment Theory and how it relates to you. This theory suggests our early childhood experiences influence how we engage with others as adults. Are you stubbornly self-reliant or find it hard to trust people? Are you too busy for or inattentive to others and their needs? Do you break up with people before they can break up with you? These behaviors could indicate some attachment wounds, and those CAN be healed.

Accepting love is at least a two-person interaction. You are the receiver, and someone has to offer you their love. So stop and think about how you may be pushing love away the next time you refuse an offer for help, or tell yourself it’s inconvenient to have a relationship right now. After all, the seesaw is no fun with just one!

Aimee Aron-Reno, MA, NCC, LPC –

# 6. Follow the 7 tips below

Learning how to receive love with grace is more challenging that it may seem. Neuroscience has shown that there is often a biological component to being unable to feel the love that another offers. Children who grow up in neglectful or abusive environments often have less active receptors for the neurotransmitters that communicate love. Expecting someone without love receptors to feel loved can be like telling someone to taste chocolate without being able to use their taste buds; they may be able to smell the chocolate and get some sense of how delightful it is but they would not really be able to taste the chocolate. Fortunately, new receptors can grow! With vigilance and patience an individual who lacks the receptors to feel loved can gain the capability that they were deprived of in childhood.

On another level, neglectful and abusive childhoods can cause us to believe that we are unlovable. Being unable to obtain love from our caregivers and in previous romantic relationships may make us terrified to believe that anyone could love us and therefore we shut down the ability to accept love from others.

Here are some strategies for increasing your ability to accept love:

1. Therapy- Finding a good therapist is essential in working through the self-defeating beliefs you may have. Also, the unconditional positive regard that a client-centered therapist will give you will help you to gain practice in accepting love.

2. Affirmations- Find a safe and quite space where you can get in tune with yourself. Repeat out loud “I am worth loving, I am lovable exactly as I am, I receive love with gratitude”; Repeat this at least ten times a day.

3. Audio or video guided meditations- You can find a variety of guided mediations on self-love and self-esteem online that will increase your ability to accept love from others.

4. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy- CBT is a technique that a trained therapist can help you use to change your self-defeating thought patterns into self-affirming thoughts.

5. Emotional Freedom Technique- EFT is a tool that a therapist can help you use to further enhance affirmations and also to decrease anxiety and fear around love.

6. Reiki- Reiki is a hands on, gentle touch, healing technique that can open you up to enormous feelings of love.

7. Love Yourself!- Show yourself how much you love yourself! Give yourself flowers, get a massage, do something you love… learning to receive love from yourself (and give love to yourself) will increase your ability to receive love from others.

Jeannie Herman, MS, NCC –

# 7. Follow the 6 tips below

In order to receive love, we must make ourselves vulnerable to another person. We must be able to accept the love they give us, which is not always the love we want. We make a connection and allow another person to touch our hearts, and we can never predict what they will do with that trust we have given them. Sometimes it feels easier to close others off because we’ve been hurt too many times and simply can’t take being hurt again. In other situations, we have been taught that we aren’t deserving of love, so we don’t trust that anyone could possibly love us if they didn’t have ulterior motives. Or we become fearful that if we start to feel love it will go away, and we will be worse off than we were to begin with. And all of that is possible, but it is also easy to forget how good it is to be loved and to truly feel that from another.

Some ideas:

1. Practice opening your heart to others in small ways. Allow yourself to really feel a genuine smile or greeting from another, and respond in kind. Sit with that feeling for a little while. Do this again and again until it starts to feel comfortable. (If you’ve been out of practice, it might take a while.)

2. Choose to accept love from people whom you trust. If you know someone has hurt you, you might have a hard time trusting them again, so start with easier targets.

3. Take time to reflect on how you learned to stop accepting love from others. You may have had very good reasons to do what you are doing, and they may not be necessary anymore. A counselor or coach can help you with this.

4. Examine the relationships in your life so you can decide where to cultivate love you want to receive. If your relationships aren’t where you want them to be or aren’t with supportive and loving people, it may be time to have some conversations about how you are relating – or to find some new friends.

5. Keep a gratitude journal of all the ways people show love to you each day. Over time you will begin to notice it more frequently and really begin to take it in.

6. Learn to receive love from yourself. I think this is one of the hardest things for many of us to do, but it’s so worth it. There are difficult but powerful practices in Buddhism called Metta and Maitri that teach us to feel loving-kindness towards others and, in the process, to love ourselves.

Becky Bringewatt, MA, LPC, NCC –

# 8. Stop, breathe, reflect and ask questions

You find yourself easily giving others your time, your love and your best but when the table is turned you find it very difficult to accept the same from others. You may think this is very noble of you but in fact it’s a sign of a destructive crack. To only give and not receive creates an imbalance in the relational system. We were designed to be on both sides of the equation and reality dictates that at times we will have needs. If you are not receiving, then you are perilously imbalanced. Your relationships are perilously imbalanced. You are likely not being honest with yourself and others.

What do you do if you are a non-receiver? Start by noticing it. Be aware of compliments you receive and your reaction to them. Notice when people try to offer help to you or show their love in a tangible way. What do you feel physically and emotionally? Next notice your thoughts connected to your emotions. Why do you respond the way you do? Did you grow up believing it was selfish to need or arrogant to receive a compliment? A lot of us did so you are not alone. There is likely an undercurrent of an inaccurate belief feeding this unhealthy behavior so do a little digging and find out what it is.

Next, challenge this inaccurate belief. Can you really give, give and give but never receive? No! At some point in your life your needs will come rearing their held-down heads and they just might be voracious. Better to deal with them early before they try to tank your life! Remind yourself that it is not selfish to receive from others. In fact, you are giving them an opportunity to do something for you, which is a gift in itself. We like to show our love and gratitude, if the receiver won’t receive, then the giver doesn’t get to share in the lovely exchange of giving and receiving. By not receiving you are robbing others of the joy of giving. That is where the selfishness lies. You are being selfish by not receiving from others and you are showing arrogance by communicating you are too good to need.

When someone gives you a compliment, practice saying “Thank you”. That’s it. No follow up with, “It was nothing” or “I don’t really deserve that”. Just a simple “Thank you” will do. When someone wants to show their love, let them by challenging the inaccurate belief with truth. Neither the “Thank you” nor the acceptance of being given to will be easy for you. That’s ok. Anything worth changing involves work and some discomfort. Work through it by reminding yourself of the truth.

Karen Thacker, LPC –

# 9. Learn to love yourself first

People have difficulty receiving love – in myriad forms ranging from compliments to sex – because they don’t love themselves. Woody Allen’s classic quote, “I wouldn’t want to belong to any club that would want me as a member” is the spirit of the issue here.

When you don’t love yourself, it’s impossible to understand why anyone would treat you in a loving way. And so the solution is to dismiss or demean those who, in your mind, demonstrate obvious desperation, stupidity or both by directing love to you.

When you feel so unworthy that you push away those who reach out to you, what you are essentially doing is rejecting the very nourishment that could help you to start loving yourself. And you are also insulting the givers of loving gestures, which is never a nice thing to do.

To learn how to love yourself is a life-long process, and it begins with entertaining the idea that maybe those people who see value in you aren’t so crazy. As an old boyfriend said to me, “Life got a lot easier when I stopped arguing with everyone who told me I was good-looking.”

So here’s a suggestion for you: imagine that loving comments or gestures are beautifully wrapped gifts extended to you. Accept each gift graciously and say thank you in return, even if it’s not something you want or feel comfortable with, just as you would do with an actual birthday or holiday present. You will soon see that when you embrace rather than fight love, you become more loving with yourself and everyone else.

Just one final word here, and that is this: pushing yourself to accept compliments and casual loving gestures is one thing, but it’s quite another to force yourself into sexual contact. If you’re finding it challenging to enjoy intimate gestures, your best course of action is to address your hesitancy with an experienced therapist.

Dr. Amy Wood –