Learning what love is

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When you grow up with abuse, love is unsafe. Love is a foreign concept that doesn’t feel safe to feel. It’s dangerous because it can get taken away. It’s dangerous because it’s conditional. It’s dangerous because it’s not yours, it’s theirs, and theirs can change. Yours can’t, but you haven’t discovered that in yourself yet. You’re only a child. The only love you know is theirs. And theirs is fucked, and twisted, and tied so deep into their self hatred that it comes out wrapped in bitterness, not truth. The love that you’re being modelled is the love of abuse. The love on which you’re supposed to build the love for yourself, is that of abuse.

As a kid, we’re modelled love from our parents or close adult others. When the love comes mixed with abuse, or is abuse, our definition of love becomes the opposite to what it actually is. And as an adult (until we heal), it stays the same. Our definition of what love is, is messy and conditional – different to that of an adult who as a child received unconditional, unabusive love (the real kind…what I get a feeling love actually is). So then, when we reach an age we need to form loving relationships – with others, but most importantly with ourselves, abuse is all we know. The way we parent ourselves is based on abuse because that’s all we knew. The way we allow others to support us is conditional and based on the risk of it being taken away at any moment, and the deep belief that it probably will. The way we allow ourselves to parent ourselves, is based on abuse, destruction and neglect. The way we see ourselves, is based on hatred and disgust.

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Part of my journey is so learning what love really is. Learning the true, healthy, definition of love. Not the twisted, messed up, abusive and conditional kind I grew up with. I’m learning, slowly, that love is safe. Love is okay to feel and to receive. Very slowly, very slowly, I see that my inner child’s wounds are surfacing to then heal. I thought I knew what love was, and this last year I’ve discovered I really don’t. I knew, and know, the definition of what love was in relation to the love I was given. I thought love was giving things and receiving it in return. I thought love was doing things and receiving it in return. I thought love was being something or someone, and getting it in return. Turns out, that’s a load of trash. I remember my therapist said to me once, “isn’t your love enough” when I was talking about feeling like i wasn’t doing enough for friends. I thought it was a joke and burst out laughing. She stayed deadly serious… Oh. It wasn’t a joke. And it turns out it really isn’t…I think.

I really am enough.

This is what getting older and leaving the nest – metaphorically and literally – must be. It’s learning all the things you learnt or were modelled or told as a kid and a teen, aren’t necessarily true. Part of growing up, and healing, is filtering what is yours and what is theirs. What you want to keep and what you don’t. Because, after all, you’re becoming you – I’m becoming the me that I want to be, not the me that was drummed into me, or modelled to me, by my parents. Motherfuckers.

I’m just distilling – the old from the new. And I keep getting these moments, beneath or amongst the crazy shit buckets of shame and judgement and hatred that fly around, where I really like – and love – what I find. And I’m slowly learning that I think I like this new version of love I’ve found and discovered is actually true. It’s not a joke. It still feels like a fucking foreign concept, but it’s feeling more and more true. As my inner child continues to learn it’s safe to trust and love, I think my grown up self knows that too. It’s motherfucking scary, because it means you can get hurt and potentially abused and just the idea of that being a possibility with anyone – friends, therapists, colleagues (not that i’ve got any of them right now) is beyond triggering. But as I remind myself it’s trauma and it’s safe to have this, no matter how ‘irrational’ it is, it’s beginning to shift. Love is beginning to feel safe to give and receive. I mean proper love, not the kind I knew before. And that’s pretty effing beautiful to see. Scary and mega confusing, but mega beautiful too.

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2 thoughts on “Learning what love is

  1. I love your description of healing as a process of filtering out what is yours and what is theirs. So much truth in that. So many of our emotional and cognitive responses to life are a result of someone else’s truths. That filtering process can take a long time, but it’s so empowering. Best of luck on your journey.

    • Ah, thank you. I really liked it when I wrote that metaphor too. Glad to hear the journey is empowering – I feel like the more I am on it, and discover it’s happening, the more I get the boosts of empowerment I need. It’s in the times of feeling like I’m stuck that it is hard, and/or hurts and makes me feel lost. But then I get these mega dumps of filtering, or composting, that happens shortly afterwards and so that weird inbetween stage is worth it. Thanks for reading. xx

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