Giving up our emotional begging bowls

Do you ever notice yourself shape-shifting; twisting yourself into a pretzel in order to gain someone’s love or approval? It’s often not conscious, may be fairly subtle (perhaps a slight monitoring of speech or presentation) but has the familiar feeling of anxiety and instability. We lose our centre and our power and we don’t feel good.

Most of us learnt at an early age to give our power away like this to others. Messages of unlovability, defectiveness and unworthiness are so endemic in the families, schools and systems we grew up in. We forget our power, our light, the inherent worth of our beings and in our pain, pick up emotional begging bowls, waiting for the worth-assessments of other flawed humans. Having limited access to the truth of ourselves, it’s of course adaptive to go out into the world and find it from others. It feels better to eat these crumbs of worth than have to face the ‘reality’ of our unworthiness and rejection, we unconsciously tell ourselves. Better to eat something than starve, right? As children, yes, but often in adulthood that risk comes at a high price.

It’s no wonder we can make ourselves crazy in the game of trying to get others to like and approve of us. In trying to heal our supposed brokenness we end up so much poorer. It is a dangerous game to play Russian roulette with our worth like this. No one outside ourselves has more power or authority over our lovability than us!

That’s not to say that safe others can’t be a big part in showing us our true worth, mirroring back to us the light we have forgotten. Bring those people close. But, in the process of healing, we humans do have a psychological tendency to attach ourselves to those others who we hope will hold the answer to taking away our pain. We often unconsciously seek out those with similar traits and coping styles to those involved in our original wounds, in the hope that this time we’ll get what we need – it’s called Schema Chemistry, it’s adaptive and it’s powerful!

Often, and definitely for me, we get caught like this with those with, what we call in Schema Therapy, ‘over-compensated’ coping strategies. You’ll know the ones; those who seem to have it all together, confident, intelligent, often in positions of authority, slightly out of reach, even those doing good things out in the world. It is easy to assume that they hold the answers, that if they loved you then you really would be worthy. These people are often not the same as those guides who have walked a little (or a lot!) further down the path of love and wholeness, who see things we might not yet see, can hold the door open. We will know those people because they do it with compassion, humility and an understanding of our shared humanity with all its edges and flaws. These people know that true love and transformation is to be found in loving ALL the parts.

But let’s be wary of those who you feel less than or anxious around. Those who you want to please, those who demand perfection but who don’t own the imperfections in themselves. It’s happening in the spiritual / psychological fields right now. Guru’s being brought back down to earth. But it happens too in our daily interactions with others.

Let’s rescue our inner Little Ones from the hold others have over whether we are worthy or not. Let’s go through the painful but liberating process of unhooking from people who seem to withhold approval or give their love very conditionally, even if we REALLY want to get it from them (the inconsistent partner, the emotionally unavailable, those unwilling to be vulnerable with us). They just aren’t our people. It was always a false hope.

There was never anything wrong with you, my friend. Nothing you have done, no mistakes you have made (because we all make them, more than we’d like to admit!), which mean that you are not enough, not worthy of love, not beautifully and imperfectly human.

Let’s get free.

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