When’s the last time you sorted through your beliefs about relationships, love and intimacy?
Creating Space for Love
I’m currently in the process of creating a new home for myself. It includes sorting through boxes of old stuff and asking myself, "Is this something I truly value? Do I want to continue to give this a place in my life? Does this make me smile or weigh me down?"
In this process of sifting and sorting, reflecting and reminiscing, tossing and claiming I am creating a space that feels more and more like me-- the current and evolving me that I truly want to be and share with the world.
It strikes me that periodically we would all be served if we did the same thing with our beliefs. And if relationships are important to you. It would be great to sort through your beliefs about relationships, love and intimacy.
Beliefs are in many ways old thoughts that didn’t get tossed out. They are thoughts that got created in the context of something that happened in the past, but may not actually be true or helpful.
The Origins of Beliefs about Love
The concept of implicit memory may be useful in this discussion. I’ve written about implicit memory before, but it’s such a useful concept that I think it bears repeating.
Implicit memory is the only form of memory that gets laid down in the first 18 months of our lives. It is also gets created through repetition (like learning to ride a bicycle) and during traumatic events.
Implicit memory has a number of interesting characteristics: 1) When you call up an implicit memory it feels like it’s happening here and now (unlike explicit memory where it feels like it happened in the past.) 2) It’s associated with body sensations and emotions (a song comes up and suddenly you are remember the feeling of being in love for the first time and the heartache that came with it.) And 3) it gets anchored down with generalizations (aka beliefs.)
How does this relate to sorting through beliefs about love?
Imagine that when you were an infant and for some reason or another your primary caregiver was gripped by fear and anxiety. Maybe your parents’ relationship was tenuous, maybe money was tight, maybe your parents weren’t planning for a baby. Whatever the circumstances, your caregiver’s capacity to be there, responsive to your needs and completely accepting was challenged.
If the very person you depended on for your survival was anything other than present, loving and well supported then naturally your beliefs about deeply bonded relationships will bear the mark of that first intimate relationship.
A belief laid down in an unplanned pregnancy may be: “I’m unwanted.” Or if money was tight your belief maybe “I’m a burden.” Or if your dad wanted a boy instead of a girl it might be “I’m not good enough.”
There are also good and wonderful beliefs. “I am loved.” “People are there for me.” “My joy is a source of joy for others.”
While many beliefs got their start in the first 18 months of our live, some got laid down through repetition and some through traumatic events.
Some beliefs are invaluable keepers. Some need to get tossed.
That “my needs are too much” belief that made sense to your 1 year old self is making a mess in your current love life. That “I’m a source of love and delight” belief needs to be dusted off and put on the altar.
A Good time to Refresh your Beliefs
It's always great time to do a little belief reevaluation. By intentionally sorting through your beliefs about intimate relationships you will create a home in your heart that truly reflects where you want to live and how you want to love.
Here’s a process to help you sort through your relationship beliefs:
Write down the following sentence stems on one page each:
1. Complete each sentence stem at least 15 times if not more. Go with your first impulse, this is not a time to censor yourself or think about what you are going to write. Just let it flow.
a. Relationships are……
b. In relationships I am...
c. Love is....
2. Look at each belief and see which ones have the most energy to them.
3. Ask yourself where the charged beliefs may have come from.
4. Evaluate if you still want to hold onto each of those belief. Does it make you happy or does it weigh you down?
5. If a belief weighs you down but have a hard time believing otherwise, look for evidence in your life that it’s not true. (For example, If you hold the belief “I’m not lovable”, look for people, animals and angels in your life that would hold otherwise. Focus on the evidence of your lovability and feel into the sensations and feelings that come with that better belief. Make this a practice.)
6. Affirm the beliefs you want in your life by writing them down and put them where you will see them often (eg. refrigerator, bathroom mirror, altar.)
In this process of sorting though our beliefs about ourselves and relationships we create a home in our hearts where beautiful love can flourish and take root.