In February, on Valentine’s Day, we celebrate love and relationship.
Humans Need Relationships
We are biologically wired to love and bond. This is one of the reasons why the loss of a loved-one can be so challenging. A significant bond is broken and its replacement is not so easily achieved.
Connecting and bonding begin from the moment we take our first breaths. Mother nature helps by giving a good dose of oxytocin to those who nurture us. However, because most of us grow up in imperfect homes where love and support are conditional, the bonding patterns we develop are often flawed. Some of us learn to please, others learn avoidance, while others may exert control. At the basis of these patterns is a longing for a love that our parents were never completely able to provide.
We do the best we can and as long as things are ok. When bonds break through death, divorce or other life changes, there is an opportunity to review our pattern of bonding and question how well it is working.
One woman I worked with discovered that she had a lot of fair weather friends. As long as she was giving they gladly received. After the loss of her husband, her priorities shifted to herself. That is one of the gifts of grief, it teaches us self care because we don’t have a lot of choice. Although the loss of these fair weather friends was disconcerting at first, over time she saw her old pattern and began to created more satisfying relationships.
Changing Old Patterns
To replace ineffective love patterns and attract what we desire, we must begin with ourselves. When we learn to love ourselves, the longing and desperation lessen. When we love ourselves, we feel loved and full. Others will feel this love and be attracted to us.
Loving ourselves can be challenging since many of us have been filled with beliefs about our unworthiness and lack of value.
The Brain is Neuroplastic
The good news is that we can change the way we think and behave. What we practice and repeat will create new neural networks in the brain. The more we repeat the new pattern the stronger the new pathway. Like a muscle, it grows stronger.
Changing a pattern takes awareness as well as practice. We need to become aware of when we are in our old pattern so that we can stop and replace it with the new pattern. Eventually, whatever stimulated the old pattern will begin to trigger the new one. For example, when we are feeling lonely, we might take a walk, or call a close friend instead of chasing after an elusive acquaintance or eating chocolate.
A Two Pronged Approach To Change
Changing the brain requires a two-pronged approach: 1) We must actively love ourselves and 2) We must countermand the thoughts that tell us we don’t deserve it.
When we change both, we change ourselves.
1. One simple exercise is to look into the mirror every morning and say, “I love you” to yourself. Notice what comes up.
2. If negative thoughts surface, flip them into a positive statement. E.g. You are fat and unlovable . . . becomes You are perfect as you are and worthy of love.
3. If the negative thoughts prove resistant and powerful, say them out loud with a silly, squeaky voice. When you say the words outside like this, with a funny voice, the words lose their command.
4. Make a list of things you enjoy doing and do 5 of them everyday. Watch for resistance and excuses and thoughts of unworthiness.
Let Love Lead Action
Each time you do something you might ask yourself this questions: Does my action come from love or fear? Are you doing this because it uplifts you or because you don’t want something awful to happen?
How can you tell? Feel inside. Notice how the heart feels. Love is expansive. The heart feels stretched, almost achy, like it’s about to burst. You might need to sing a song. The throat may choke a little; there may even be tears. They are tears of joy. Love makes us feel good. When we feel good, we attract others because they feel the positive energy. We become magnetic.
Switch Fear to Love
When our actions come from fear, there is tension in the body, a clenching and distrust. It does not feel good. The inner impulse is to run, hide or strike out.
How can you change fear actions into love actions? When you act from fear, ask whether this is an alternative. What other options do you have? Do you need to change your action or your mind set?
Years ago I was working in a temp job in which my boss was unjustly accusing me of his own mistakes. I thought about recording and documenting his every instruction to defend myself. This kind of action arises from fear. I considered my alternatives. I could leave the job. It was just a temp job. Or I could use this situation as an opportunity to learn to be less defensive around criticism. I decided to do the latter. I realized that I could learn something valuable from the experience. An amazing thing happened –two weeks later my boss was promoted and moved to an office in another state. I continued to have contact with him, however, our whole relationship shifted to mutual respect.
When you love yourself, you come from a place of abundance. There is no lack. You want to share with others because you are overflowing with love. In this state you will attract the love and community you need.
Get Support For Your Change
My last tip for changing the pattern of bonding is to get support. We are social animals. It is much easier to change when others are cheering us on. If we have people in our lives who undermine us, discourage or sabotage us with their words and actions, it will be much harder to change. It is also difficult to do it alone. If you could use some support, I would like to help. I am offering a complementary 45 minute breakthrough session to look at where you are struggling, where you want to be and what’s stopping you. You’ll leave with some resources you can use right away. To schedule your session go to Michelle’s Scheduler. I look forward to you call.
WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR EZINE OR WEB SITE? You can, as long as you include this complete blurb with it: Grief, Loss and Death Expert Dr. Michelle Peticolas, empowers professional women struggling with grief and loss to find peace-of-mind, closure and a life worth living. If you’re ready to shift into a whole new way of being with death and loss, a new way of living your life, get Michelle’s complimentary illustrated guide, Essentials for Grieving Well at www.secretsoflifeanddeath.com