Emotions are a fleeting part of our existence, they ebb and flow like waves- some taking us higher than we could imagine and others bringing us to depths we aren’t sure we can survive. But as the eloquent Alice Walker says, we have to learn not to worry about the coming and going. So often in our lives, we cling desperately to the predominant emotion and fight to hold on to it when what need most is to open ourselves to the next moment.
When was the last time that you thought,” if only I could bottle this moment and hold on to it forever” or “I’ll never allow myself to be hurt like that again”?
Both in moments of joy and connection and in moments of frustration or sadness, our goal should be to experience, appreciate, and in time… let go. Life is a series of moments and in order to truly enjoy and experience them we must strive to let go of the past and honor the next moments arrival every day.
Unfortunately human nature doesn’t push us in that direction. Rather we get stuck trying to hold on to what feels good and protect ourselves from what hurts. It’s a smart survival strategy but one that gets in the way of real love and connection.
Our fear of being hurt keeps us closed off to the next opportunity for love. For singles and couples, the fear of being vulnerable is one of the greatest obstacles to finding the love you crave. But it doesn’t have to be that way. You can open your heart and I have some tips to help…
Acknowledge your relationship fears.
Do you worry that your partner will lose interest in you? Are you scared that your history of bad choices means that you can’t have a good relationship? Are you afraid that your partner won’t be attracted to you if they knew the “real” you? Whatever fears you uncover, own them as part of your story and you can begin to take control of your responses instead of letting those fears control you.
Find the meaning.
Your fears aren’t shortcomings or things to fix; they are important insights about your emotional needs and vulnerabilities. Listen carefully to what fear tells you about what you need most in a relationship. They will also push you to figure out why this relationship is worth the effort of facing your fears. Maybe you want a deeper level of intimacy, maybe you want to communicate better or repair trust; whatever the reasons are it’s important to tie your decision to embrace fear to a meaningful end goal with a partner who is equally committed to doing the same thing.
Courage isn’t about conquering fear or pretending it doesn’t exist. Courage is acting in the face of our fears. Accept that telling your partner about a failure at work is scary or that having sex with the lights on when he can see those extra 15lbs will bring up some apprehension… and then decide to do it anyway. If you’re dating someone new and worried about how they’ll judge your Scandal obsession or quirky habits, share those things anyway. Remember that when you hide who you are you eliminate the possibility of that person getting to love the real you.
Shine a light on your fear.
Share your fears and your commitment to doing it anyway with your partner or a friend. When you say, “Talking to you about my mistakes at work is scary but I know that I really need your support if we are going to stay connected,” you give your partner an opportunity to connect with you on a deeper level by offering their support and reassurance. And if you’re dating, a friend or other support person can help remind you when you feel discouraged or overwhelmed that you have committed to being vulnerable in order to find a meaningful connection.
Create a safety net.
When you begin to embrace fear you need to plan for disappointment and hurt feelings. The more we open ourselves up to peoples, the more opportunity there is for them to accidentally let us down. When this happens, most of us seek refuge in some kind of self-protection. We lash out in anger, we get mean and sarcastic, or retreat into silence and disconnection. A safety net is a plan with your partner on how to avoid these self-protective measures and instead stay courageous and rely on each other. Maybe it’s letter writing or a code word to let each other know you’ve been hurt. My favorite safety net is a simple hug- it’s easy and powerful in changing the energy of a conversation without having to find the “right” words.
And if you’re single, you can still create a safety net when dates disappoint. Build your social support so that you have a friend, family member, or even dating coach who can be there to hear your pain, offer comfort, and most of all offer encouragement to keep your heart open.