This article is an amalgam of some insights I have received based on my own personal experience with relational psychotherapy, somatic psychology, and dating. It presents a psychosomatic and spiritual inquiry about relationships for anyone wishing to form a healthier relationship with themselves and others. My intention is for all you amazing women (and men) out there seeking love to learn one of the most valuable dating lessons of all, to love and respect yourself.
While traveling alone overseas one year ago, I was meditating on relationships and the concept of, “attracting the right partner”. As I settled into my body, the first word that came into my mind regarding relationships was, trust or trusting. I began to think about those words as they pertained to me trusting myself, rather than it being about trusting another. Trusting my: Motivations, strength, intuition, inner calling, life path and creative power. Often when we are looking to find someone to complete us, we are really not in completion with a part of ourselves that still needs to be actualized or realized. There is a sense deep down that this ideal person or their qualities are known to us, but given our solitude, we create a dualistic way of perceiving relationship, within which other fulfills this part for us.
“When I get into that relationship, then I will be seen and understood”
“If he or she really understood me, then I wouldn’t feel this frustration, nor have these unmet needs”
“If he or she was the right one, it would all just work out and I would not feel alone”
When you read it out loud, it is actually quite comical. As if a golden plated, super-nova of a human being is going to waltz right in and rid us of our pain and psychosomatic programming in one fell swoop of the heart. No wonder it’s so hard for some of us to commit. How could any one human compete with such an illustrious, sexy apparition? This “other” fantasy becomes the direct object of our attention rather than the self, and in our fantasy-drafting process, we often abandon ourselves. We ignore the possibility that through avoidance of what we truly need and want (self-understanding, self-love, strength, or vulnerability), we ironically push away what we need and want from others. Ultimately, understanding this dynamic is exciting, because when we actually embody a place of self-love and understanding (and it takes practice), the desire for love does not become extinguished, but rather galvanized by a force of authenticity that actually draws the right person to us.
I am a mystic and have been in love with many things spiritual and woo-woo for some time now. I grew up burying crystals, doing yoga, eating lentils, and going to healers and curanderos with my parents. But as someone who has also studied relational and somatic psychology, I have first-hand experience with how many New Age ideologies can be somewhat limiting. Online antidotes such as, “Ten Steps to Attract Your Perfect Mate”, “Find Your Inner Goddess” or, “How to Be the Best Partner Possible” consistently pervade social media and even world-news home pages. Life would be so much easier if these magical steps worked for people seeking to connect more deeply with themselves yet somehow, they come up short.
There are no ten steps…
Don’t get me wrong, thinking positive, stating affirmations, and giving yourself all kinds of cerebral candy is helpful and supportive to your quality of life. Myriad double-blind studies have proven the power of positive thinking and prayer. The point here is to suggest that simply thinking positive, or recruiting mentally-driven faculties to find love is not the whole truth. We have to go beyond those methodologies and explore ourselves in order to truly understand the blockages that prevent us from attracting the right mate in the first place. So how do you do that? That is a big question and no one, especially me, can give you the perfect answer. Is it slightly hypocritical that a single, thirty five year old woman is writing an article on attracting the right relationship? Probably, yet as many of you know, being single in one’s 30’s lends itself to a voluminous range of dating experience. Each time we enter the dance, we gain new insights and learn a little bit more about ourselves, especially if we care to look within and not cast blame on the men or women we used to share our time with.
The first step is to explore. Explore yourself, your anxieties, and your fears around love and neediness. When you feel needy or alone, do you really think “Joe” (or Jill) is going to give you the kind of support you need? Especially when deep down you know he or she is kind of an ass, or is a bad communicator, or does not really make you feel good about who you are? The next time Joe texts you (because it has become evident to me through trial and error that phone call-making is a lost art), consider the possibility that the exchange will not truly give you what you are looking for. Consider that Joe is still the same Joe, and although he is most likely fantasizing about being with you, he has not miraculously manifested the emotional or spiritual attributes that broke you up, or led you to avoid him in the first place. When you feel rejected, ignored, or unseen, is it really because Joe needs to be the one to tell you how amazing you are? Or is it that you have been neglecting yourself and expecting him to make you feel more whole?
What can you do for yourself each day that makes you feel more beautiful/handsome, smart, and creative? The options are endless.
So what to do when you experience a period of stark loneliness, and it is difficult to evoke your dynamic, creative spark? The trick is to meet the sad place with your breath, with your awareness, and with a sense of self-compassion. Even it it feels as though nothing will shift whatever poor mood is present, mindfulness of your body-state will make all the difference, as will spiritual practice, movement (exercise), fresh air and other endorphin-boosting activities.
Self-inquiry supports us to know ourselves, and therefore clear the self-deprecating dynamics that attract the wrong relationships to us in the first place. Understanding such dynamics not only supports us to cast away the situations and people that do not serve the highest good, it allows us to align with the vibration that our hearts truly seek. And those good vibrations like to co-exist in the field of self-love and compassion.
During my “attracting love” meditation one year ago, I sat with the word trust and began to think about the ways I had not been trusting myself. What came to mind was my previous long-term relationship, and by long term I mean less than two years. I knew this individual was not aligned with my path, my body, and my intellect, yet I still attempted to force the situation into working by looking through a sepia-themed lens of attachment and fear. I abandoned the part of me that whispered, “he is not the right one for you” in order to maintain a false sense of security that other would help complete me and other would prevent me from feeling alone. Well you can imagine how that turned out, and the outcome? More loneliness, because I was abandoning a part of myself.
Get curious about the part of yourself that believes a partner is going to be the source of your happiness and ease, and that only when you are with that partner, you will feel whole. This dualistic belief may end up causing a lot of grief when things don’t work out. Now if you have a partner that is your everything or makes you happier than life itself, I am delighted that your heart has found its counterpart. I believe in love and relish the feeling of someone rocking my world. The point here is to say, we can have all the love coming at us in the world, but if we are not giving ourselves similar self-care and compassion, the nurturing from others cannot be completely embodied or received. Herein exists the quandary of single women (and men) today.
We need to learn to love ourselves. Better. Period.
Not in a narcissistic, “All hail me the glorious goddess, I have no faults” kind of way, but in a conscious way. Look at your stuck places and learn how to feel into them. Next, ride them out without persistently being dependent on the approval of others. On the road to our ideal partnership, it is especially helpful when we realize we can receive much of what we are looking for from friends and family. Spending time with people that raise your vibration and remind you of who you are, puts you in better alignment with yourself, therefore internally restructuring you relationally.
As I meditated on the word trust, I also thought about the meaning of safety. Often initially when we think about relationship we think, “I want a relationship that feels safe, with someone who loves me and who can ultimately be trusted.” Neurobiologically speaking, the problem with this belief is that regardless of the individual, there may always be some aspect of another person that leads us to feel unsafe and unloved. When we get defensive or “triggered” by our partners or other people, most of us are operating from a younger, more vulnerable or hurt place, and this is deeply rooted in our brain chemistry (Daniel J. Siegel M.D. offers some great talks and books on this neurobiological phenomena by the way). When we operate from a reactive or defensive place, our most safe person in the world can seem like a distant stranger. In those moments, our lovers feel as unsafe as the sketchy-looking guy or girl on the street corner. When defenses are up, we operate from a place of survival and defense (fight/flight/freeze), regardless of who we are interacting with. Moreover, that person you were just lovingly snuggling on the couch has become your nervous system’s psychosomatic arch-nemesis. The next ineffective step many of us take when operating from this defensive space is believing things like,
“When I’m with the next partner, he or she will understand me, he or she will get it…”
And therein subsists the cycle of destructive interpersonal reasoning. Sigh.
That feeling of safety you seek needs to be recognized from within and it takes practice. Practice with self and with loving partners or friends.
Please note: recognizing your own issues with safety and defensiveness does not mean you should stay with someone who treats you poorly, is not right for you, or threatens you emotionally or physically.
When we acknowledge our own lack of safety, within our own bodies and surroundings, we can become better informed of what we need to work on within ourselves, as well as what we need to walk away from. Over time, this kind of self/body awareness can support us to differentiate between what does and does not constitute a healthy relationship.
By listening to the body, sensing into the lack of safety, and loving the hurt places like an old friend, we actually re-wire some of the neuropathways associated with love, and learn to trust better. Part of creating a self-safety practice is creating a somatic awareness practice in moments where safety feels far away. Pausing in the moment, noticing your body, and breathing into whatever areas feel tense or triggered, can be a helpful tool to understand discomfort and understand its root. Get curious about various somatic qualities in your body such as: temperature, tension, space, softness, hardness, tightness, etc.
We have the power to promote positive changes just by noticing what is happening in the body.
Sharing somatic awareness practices with friends or loved ones is especially powerful and ideally, they are also willing to explore their own reactivity (or lack of reactivity, also known as avoidance). It is curiosity, namely body/mind-centered curiosity, that changes limiting patterns, and we all got to help a brother and sister out if we want to grow. And if you want to better understand your trust or safety issues, or your inability, or twisted ability to attract love, start spending more time with people who are open to being vulnerable with you, and less time with those who aren’t. Keep in mind that the process of somatic awareness can often be unpleasant or awkward for people. Some might even ridicule this kind of practice and say it’s “weird” or “out there”. In my experience, what they are really saying is, “This is scary. I am looking at myself and my reactivity more deeply than I ever have before, and it’s really uncomfortable”.
An Example of Utilizing Somatic Awareness
As I sat with the word trust I noticed where trust and distrust existed in my body. I sensed that my solar plexus area (where the ribs meet) seemed to be the most active. As I continued to observe, I noticed tension along my right side, which is the side healers often associated with the “masculine” or “doer” side of the body. I sensed into the muscles on the right side of my back and shoulder and noticed tension and a feeling of being “held up” in those areas. As I continued to examine myself somatically, I thought about how the masculine part of myself is often working much harder than the feminine aspect in order to be in control and feel safe. This kind of asymmetrical body structure is often connected to people who feel unsafe, or overcompensate in order to feel secure. When I manifest this kind of tense body posture, I give myself the illusion of safety displayed through my “strength”, however in that process, I am actually pushing away much-needed support. Just by breathing and noticing my body and the way it carries itself, I am able to understand my patterns and nurture myself emotionally and intellectually.
A pause is needed when the fear of being alone gets in the way of our true process of being and in those moments, body-centered practices help us see ourselves. What we see is not always pretty or feel-good, but it is powerful, and moves us in the right direction and on the path to greater love and understanding. When we embrace the essence of life and where we are in the moment, we become less attached to the process. That lack of attachment to outcome is what assists us to align with ourselves, and move away from that which is not authentically aligned with us. This process is not easy. Close attention is needed, as not to become distracted by proverbial love-bait, offered to us by attractive and persuasive people reflecting the less present aspects of ourselves.
Speak or write to yourself and others about what you long for, what drives you, and what you need. When you are in touch with practices that feed your soul, an entire field opens up, within which you are capable of seeing what the Universe wants to provide for you.
- Exploring yourself, your anxieties, your reactivity, and your neediness will help you see the the walls you have up against love.
- Tuning into where the feeling of tension exists in your body will assist you to recognize stagnant or stuck patterns, and enable the stuck energy and people to move out of your field.
- By noticing what you want to attract in your relationship or future partnership, you are able to attune to what is needed for yourself. Eg: Desiring a trusting, safe relationship can lead to the awareness that you need to trust and acknowledge yourself. Practicing somatic awareness with yourself, a friend, or lover is very powerful.
- Spending time with people who are attentive listeners, and who are open to vulnerability, can assist you to feel more safe and attract the right parters. Participate in activities that make you feel happy, creative, and alive so you can spark the self-love fire.
- When you listen and observe the signs the Universe and Creation, things start to fall into place, self-love is more easily nurtured, and the older parts of your self will begin to fall away
For those of you in Southern California, I will be teaching two workshops connected to this topic this spring.
Workshop: Somatic & Relational Psychology, Tools for Empowerment and Growth.
Santa Barbara Yoga Center: March 22nd, 2pm ($45 but no one will be turned down for lack of funds)
Lucidity Festival: Friday April 11th, Location TBA
Image Credit Jupiterimages/Goodshoot/Getty Images
About the Writer:
Romi Cumes MA, MFTI, CMT is deeply committed to facilitating somatic and spiritual transformation by way of body-mind education and joyful, creative shenanigans. She is the founder of Transformative Healing Arts, which offers yoga instruction, bodywork, performance art, counseling, workshops, and international retreats to Peru. Shamanic studies, travel, and academia have guided Romi to explore the sacred connections between healing, art, ecology, spirituality, and culture. Romi received her masters degree in clinical psychology, with an emphasis in Somatic (body-centered) Psychotherapy, Marriage and Family Therapy, and Mindfulness. She currently has a private practice in Santa Barbara, California. To learn more, visit http://www.RomiCumes.com or like her Facebook page Transformative Healing Arts