This is the model that I will be writing about in my upcoming book, The Codependency Cure: Recovering from Self-Love Deficit Disorder.
By Ross Rosenberg, M.Ed., LCPC, CADC, CSAT
“And the day came
when the risk to remain tight in a bud
was more painful
than the risk it took to blossom.”
~ Anaïs Nin
in a metaphorically dilapidated and dangerous home that fools us into believing it protects us from the risk of harm and danger. As much as we may want to blame another person for building the house, making us stay inside it, or inoculating us with fear for wanting to move out of it, we must face the fact that we are also responsible. Since we are not chained inside of the house, the captor needs the captured to believe they belong in such a house. Believe it or not, the locks on the outside doors were installed by both partners. The challenge is to realize that you always carry the keys for the deadbolt locks and the password for the security alarms.
In reality, this “safe house” of ours has always constricted our growth potential by not allowing us to believe it’s safe to go “outside”; to realize we can, in actuality, weather being soaked by spring’s torrential rainfalls, buried by winter’s knee-deep snow, or burnt by summer’s scalding heat. We have been manipulated into believing the locked doors and security systems of our dysfunctional dwelling protect us from all of these things. The fortified steel bolt locks that we agreed to, or were talked into installing, never actually protected us. On the contrary, they trapped us in a home imbued with the absence of self-love, where every wall, floor, and ceiling is stained with fear, negativity, and pessimism.
It is time to ask ourselves about the truth and validity of the frightening and dangerous nature of the world that lies one step beyond the entrance of our home. Have we been force-fed a version of reality that was meant to keep us frightened and cocooned in our home? Or did we concoct our own scary story of the outside world to protect our wounded, sensitive and vulnerable hearts? The truth be told: the walls we believe protected us also entrapped us…stopped us from healing the wounds responsible for our beliefs of being permanently homebound and an emotional invalid.
Do we mistakenly believe the risk to venture out into the seemingly unsafe community of unknowns and potential perpetrators is far less risky than staying put in our slowly shrinking and suffocating home? Similarly, have we lulled ourselves into believing the dangers of being vulnerable and hurt on the outside are worse than the inescapable ongoing trauma of being imprisoned within the seemingly protective confines of our own home? If so, we may have been tricked into believing the value of supposed protection and safety, over the potential for personal, relational and emotional freedom and self-love.
It is time to take an honest inventory of what is missing in your life and what you are longing for and have spent a lifetime dreaming of. Honestly and courageously calculate the real differences between what would be both lost and gained by living in your home, or venturing outside of it. You will be surprised at how you were manipulated into believing your small and increasingly dangerous home was never safe.
Now is the time to imagine a home that is big enough for you to move freely and without restriction; one that speaks to your bright future, not the lurid and frightening memories of your past. You can have that dream house, the one you always wanted, but mistakenly believed you never deserved. But before you start thinking about a new home, it is crucial that you realize the home you need to build and then move into is already inside of you.
Wrap your arms around the idea of knowing you deserve such a home. Sit with this new-found knowledge and marinate in the idea that your future dream home can actually be acquired. Also, if possible, come to terms with the restricting and freezing nature of your fears and doubts, which have been instilled inside of you since you were a child. Life will open up so many possibilities once you understand and accept your insecure and fear-based beliefs about the past, present and future were purposely forced upon you in order for you to believe in your dependency, weakness and lack of personal power and control over your own life.
Deciding to move and then actually making plans might be exciting at first, but you will get scared and doubt yourself. Be prepared to feel scared and insecure. Take your time, don’t panic and stay present. And whatever you do, DO NOT waver in your commitment to build your inner foundation of self-love, self-respect, and self-caring. Moving into a home before your own personal foundation is solid is a dangerous proposition! If there are cracks, then your “house” will be reduced to “rubble” if bad weather should come your way. Building your home (self-love) inside of yourself before rushing (escaping) into another dwelling, will ensure a long-term and safe home, fit to carry you brightly and self-lovingly into the future.
When you get to the point where you know deep in your heart that you are ready to move, don’t rush to pack up and hire movers! In addition, before throwing away or donating any of your old and dingy material possessions, work first on fortifying your new foundation of courage and resiliency, while establishing mutually loving, respectful and caring relationships outside of your current, soon-to-be former home. Then, you will be ready to start looking for your dream house!
When you do find your new home, make sure its foundation matches your own. A home that has both a solid infrastructure and rock-solid foundation will bring you joy and happiness that you once could not have imagined and, once experienced, will protect you with every bit of the self-love you so courageously have built up over time. Despite the rainstorms, blizzards and heatwaves, you will be safe from harm and live in an environment of peace, happiness and potential.
Now is the time to imagine, build, move into, maintain and cherish your future home, in which the foundation and every brick are made from self-love!
Ross Rosenberg, M.Ed., LCPC, CADC, CSAT © 2016
Clinical Care Consultants Owner
Advanced Clinical Trainers Owner
Psychotherapist, Author & Professional Trainer
Author of The Human Magnet Syndrome: Why We Love People Who Hurt Us
Chicago Tribune by Jen Weigel: Are You A Magnet for Disaster, Helper, Don’t Forget to Help Yourself Too. Letting Go Of Toxic Relationships, Online Infidelity: Identifying, and Dealing with, Cyber Affairs
Rewireme.com: Seasonal Survival Skills (Holiday Blues Survival Kit)
Everup.com: Self Love Deficit Disorder: Where Do You Fall on the Continuum of Self? How the gray area between codependency and narcissism is defining your relationships.
I created this for our upcoming April 25 training with Joyce Marter, LCPC Psychotherapist, Author & Speaker and Michele Lowrance. The Trauma of Divorce: Healing and Empowering Strategies. My portion of the training is entitled: “Reversing the Human Magnet Syndrome: Breaking Free From a Toxic Marriage”
More info about the training: http://goo.gl/dasxRp
By Ross Rosenberg, M.Ed., LCPC, CADC, CSAT Candidate
All too often in my psychotherapy practice, I have heard gut-wrenching stories of profound and deep loneliness. My personal and professional experiences with loneliness have moved me to better understand and treat this multi-dimensional problem.
Simply defined, loneliness is a condition of relational disconnection, social awkwardness and prolonged bouts of solitude. Lonely people often struggle with anxiety and depression, which renders them insecure and pessimistic about finding desirable and compatible friendships. Poor self-esteem and an underdeveloped sense of one’s worthiness, likeability and attractiveness prevent the lonely person from taking risks and venturing out into new relationships. Hence, they typically lack confidence and emotional energy to pursue new relationships or nurture existing ones. As a chronic condition, it can be emotionally and psychologically debilitating.
Contrary to what many people believe, loneliness isn’t just a result of being alone or an absence of friends. It is a deeper problem that is caused by thoughts and feelings of inadequacy, imperfection and shame. Chronically lonely people are often holding onto pessimistic and bleak predictions about the prospects of finding companionship, social connections and supportive relationships.
The lonely often suffer in silence. For many, it is hidden behind a facade of normalcy. While smiling and having fun, many hide their core feelings of loneliness. For these people, loneliness is not a reflection of what is happening in their lives at any given moment, but what occurs secretively and silently within them. When around people they know, they pretend to be upbeat, positive and happy, while at the same time feeling unworthy and insecure. Since it is a shame-based experience, it is typically kept a secret.
Lonely people inadvertently put themselves in a catch-22 situation: Social opportunities seem like a heavy burden fraught with the potential of rejection or abandonment. The more you feel lonely, the more you feel inept and unworthy, the more you quit believing anyone will ever like or love you, the more you isolate. With a belief of potential rejection or abandonment, the lonely person is unable to put their best foot forward in any given social situation. Hence, loneliness feeds on itself.
Paradoxically, lonely people believe they are essentially unworthy of healthy and mutually respectful relationships with loving, affirming and mutually giving individuals. They imagine that if they were to tell someone they are lonely, it would scare them away. Therefore, they are attracted to people who, like themselves, are similarly lonely, needy and insecure. As a result, the self-fulfilling prophecy is actualized. This sad but dysfunctional dynamic is the thesis of my book, The Human Magnet Syndrome: Why We Love People Who Hurt Us.
The causes of loneliness are varied and multi-dimensional, including social, psychological and physiological factors. The major cause of chronic loneliness is often attributed to early developmental factors such as a child’s lack of attachment to their adult caregivers who only conditionally love (love with strings attached) their children. Similarly, childhood neglect, abuse and abandonment are early childhood factors that eventually manifest into adult loneliness.
Since loneliness is a deeply embedded psychological experience (condition), having enough friends can never result in feeling secure and lovable. Building up one’s self-esteem and ability to love, respect and care for oneself is fundamental in solving and healing the deeper psychological conditions that create chronic loneliness.
Considering loneliness can be traced back to childhood deprivation, abuse and/or neglect, solving the problem requires professional mental health services, which will help heal and resolve these deeply embedded, and often hidden, psychological wounds. With the help of a trained therapist, treatment can serve to “re-parent” a person who spent their vulnerable youth feeling bad about themselves. Such reparative and healing work is well worth the time, effort and cost as it can help to release the vice-like grip that perpetual and fundamental loneliness has on a person.
Life is too short to waste on suffering from core loneliness. Please heed to my suggestion: Open up, take a chance and access the hidden part of you that deserves true and loving companions. Heal your childhood wounds. Learn to love yourself and eliminate loneliness from your life!
The following are 10 tips to battle and conquer loneliness:
1. Catch your inner critic’s attempts to sabotage yourself. Pay attention to self-degrading thoughts like “I am too fat for anybody to want to date,” “I wish I were funnier and had interesting things to say,” or “People never seem to get me.”
2. Replace negative self-talk with affirming messages, such as, “I am perfectly lovable just as I am,” and “I welcome love, friendship and support into my life.”
3. Fight the urge to isolate. Isolation validates your fears that you are not worthy of the love and support you absolutely deserve. Sometimes you have to force yourself to do exactly that which you are dreading — like putting yourself out there.
4. Weed out the toxic relationships and create space in your life for relationships that fuel your spirit. You can’t grow lovely succulent vegetables with a large patchwork of weeds.
5. Nurture your support network. Even if there is only one person to start with, you can build on it. Don’t underestimate the importance of what you have to offer.
6. Expand your social network. Online social sites such as MeetUp.com are an ideal place to meet people and to explore hobbies, interests and social groups.
7. Open you self-up, take risks, and allow yourself to be vulnerable. Since loneliness results in isolation, experiment by sharing aspects of yourself, including experiences, feelings, memories, dreams, desires, etc. This will help you feel more known and understood.
8. Ask for what you need. Find your voice. Tell people what you need from them to alleviate the loneliness. Friends respond to direct messages for help and support. Give it a try, you might be surprised!
9. Take action. Don’t wait for an invitation. Be willing to take a risk, be proactive and invite people to share in your life, whether it is for coffee, lunch, a walk, an event or a gathering in your home.
10. Recognize the importance of being alone and enjoying solitude. Being alone is not the same as being lonely. Peace, quiet, freedom, space and the opportunity to connect with your deeper self.
11. Consider therapy. Counseling is something that is healthy and proactive that can help you overcome the self-defeating behaviors that exacerbate loneliness. With the support of a therapist, you can change your thinking and relationship patterns and achieve the life you want!
By MARGARITA TARTAKOVSKY, M.S.
Pysch Central.com Associate Editor
Loneliness is common during the holidays.
Empty nesters, the elderly and individuals who are grieving — the loss of a loved one or a relationship — may be particularly vulnerable to feelings of loneliness, according to psychotherapist Joyce Marter, LCPC.
Expectations are high, and comparisons run rampant. “Many people feel tremendous pressure to be happy and socially connected.” There’s a prevailing sense that everyone is living a Hallmark movie with the ideal family and perfect celebrations, she said.
That is, everyone but you. And this can trigger feelings of isolation.
Loneliness also can cut deep. Rather than a response to the current environment, individuals who experience chronic loneliness may carry profound scars from past emotional experiences and traumas, according to Ross Rosenberg, M.Ed., LCPC, CADC, a national seminar trainer and psychotherapist who specializes in relationships.
In short, your sense of loneliness may be a reflexive reaction that has roots in an unhealthy childhood, he said. People who experience chronic loneliness tend to have a shaky sense of self-worth andself-esteem. They may misinterpret feelings of loneliness as confirmation of their inadequacies.
Loneliness lies on a continuum, Rosenberg said. And it can be painful. It may lead you to turn to unhealthy habits and toxic people. Below, Rosenberg and Marter share their suggestions for coping healthfully with loneliness.
The best way to deal with loneliness, Rosenberg said, is to override your instinct to isolate. “Loneliness feeds on itself.” Instead, attend a holiday celebration. Call a close friend. Go out for coffee or to shop for gifts.
Visit a place of worship. Find a local group that matches your interests, using sites like Meetup.com, a favorite of Rosenberg’s.
When you’re out and about engaging in enjoyable and interesting activities, you’re less hyper-focused on your negative thoughts, and you’re able to break out of the self-defeating spiral that loneliness may ignite, he said.
Share your feelings.
Be honest with the people you trust, and tell them you’re feeling lonely, Rosenberg said. Divulging these feelings is a vulnerable and daring act – which most people will appreciate. They’ll want to help, he said.
Ask for what you need.
“Sometimes we hope others are clairvoyant and become disappointed and feel disconnected and lonely when our needs are not met,” said Marter, founder of the private counseling practiceUrban Balance. It’s important to clearly communicate your needs to others. For instance, you might ask your spouse to give you a hug or your mom to make your favorite dessert.
Avoid social media.
“People compare their insides to other people’s outsides and feel their lives pale in comparison,” said Marter, who pens the Psych Central blog The Psychology of Success. And it’s people’s perfect outsides that are often splashed on sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. If you find yourself getting upset by these sites, limit or stop your use during the holidays.
Honor your feelings.
According to Marter, “Your feelings are normal responses to everything you have been through in your life.” Give yourself permission to feel those feelings, and then separate yourself from them, she said.
“Imagine you are unplugging or ‘zooming out’ and seeing your feelings from a neutral and objective place. Allow yourself to ‘surf’ your feelings of loneliness rather than be engulfed by them.”
“Breathe in what you need – such as serenity, peace, strength — and out what you don’t – such as sadness, pain, loneliness,” Marter said. And create structure in your days, she said.
Have realistic expectations.
You may be feeling lonely because you have unrealistic expectations about the holidays. As Marter said, “If your mom is incapable of being empathic, don’t expect her to be so … Maybe she is better suited to make you your favorite pie and your sister is better to turn to for empathic support.”
In other words, Marter suggested requesting the type of support each person is capable of giving. Avoid expecting things to be good or bad, she added. “[A]ccept things as they come.”
Question your social group.
You may still feel lonely when you’re with others. But this isn’t necessarily a negative thing. In fact, according to Rosenberg, it may give you important information for moving forward: You might be hanging out with the wrong people. For instance, maybe the people you’re surrounding yourself with don’t appreciate you or put you down.
Marter suggesting volunteering your time. For instance, serve in a soup kitchen or help organizations such as Toys for Tots, she said.
When you’re experiencing profound loneliness, therapy can help, said Rosenberg, also author of the book The Human Magnet Syndrome: Why We Love People Who Hurt Us. Work with a therapist to explore your loneliness and feel better.
Remember that loneliness is not the same as being alone. “[S]olitude can be a beautiful experience,” Marter said. “Solitude is the ability to really be with oneself without the ‘noise’ of outside influence and expectations.”
It’s an opportunity to get to know ourselves and love ourselves on a deeper level, she said. (Here’s more on savoring solitude.)
However, if you’re experiencing feelings of loneliness, reach out. Seek support from others, whether loved ones, a therapist or both.