Becoming conscious of choosing love as your highest priority takes a devotion to staying in Step One of Inner Bonding – staying present in your body, becoming aware of your feelings, and wanting responsibility for them.
Dr. Margaret Paul
Dr. Margaret Paul’s work has been a huge personal catalyst for me in the last couple of years. She’s one of my favorite writers and therapists. I found out about her work in 2018, and I have listened to her book Inner Bonding: Becoming a Loving Adult to Your Inner Child countless times, whenever I’m in a queue or waiting for sleep to come. It has helped me more than I can say and each time I listen to her book it’s like I learn something new, something I didn’t catch the previous time.
What is inner bonding though? Inner bonding is a process that helps you connect with your emotions and needs. In other words, it helps you get out of your own head and move more into your heart space. Margaret says we suffer when we abandon ourselves and choose to adopt controlling behaviors in the face of fear or pain. Instead of holding a love-based attitude, we react and engage with reality from a place of insecurity. This kind of attitude leads to negative outcomes such as self-hurt and unhealthy relationships.
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We often unconsciously assume that if we’re hurting, then others must notice it and shower us with the love and attention we need to stop feeling so negatively. This is, of course, a very unhealthy way to lead a life, and I tell you this because I used to be in that place of pure self-abandonment. I was not holding myself accountable for my feelings and reactions. In fact, if it wasn’t for the countless nights listening to Dr. Margaret Paul I would still be writing about the “poor me” and how this or that person is being so insensitive for not providing me with the love and attention I crave. I was always complaining and blaming others when I was the only one who could do something about my needs.
It took me some time to shift my mindset and learn that I needed to become the loving adult my inner child needed. It was unfair to hold other people accountable for my emotional unmet needs. There are many lessons I haven’t mastered yet, but I’m happy with the fact that I no longer sit here and write relentlessly about what my mother or father did, or didn’t do, according to my fantasies and ideas about parenting. Over time, I internalized that people can only give you what they have and the only aspect you can change is your own response and attitude toward what happens.
Slowly but steadily, I have been learning to become the loving parent my inner child needed and a more responsible adult too. Understanding more about what inner bonding entails and how to become a source of parental love for myself has allowed me to deal with less positive experiences and cater to my own emotional needs. The more I practice and expand my awareness, the more I can soothe and settle the intense emotions and thoughts that are often associated with being highly sensitive. To achieve this, I have paid more conscious attention to these four sources of self-abandonment:
Living Exclusively in Your Head
Although I used to be very impulsive, I was also very mind-oriented. I still am, to be honest. I live in my head most of the time and there was a time in which I was totally disembodied. I was not present in my body and I had no clue about what was going on with it. I slowly learned to be more mindful and raised my body awareness. Instead of avoiding my body sensations, I approach them today with curiosity. This allows me to learn and listen to what my body is trying to tell me.
I was always very good at this. Oh, extremely good. I still am, sadly. If I cook something, I’m the first person to address the problems and limitations of what I did. It doesn’t matter if it’s the best thing someone ever ate. I will find and say what is wrong with it. Thankfully, this tendency to punish me through criticism mine is not as bad as it used to be. I used to have mean thoughts about myself and I would secretly compare my body to other women’s bodies all the time, only to feel worse afterward. It was pure self-torture, so I’m glad I no longer mistreat myself that way anymore.
For most of my life, I’ve dealt with food addiction. I lost count of the number of times I told myself this very same lie: just this time, tomorrow I’ll be good. That was my excuse and permission to indulge and eat even without being hungry. I just wanted to eat to numb my discomfort and stop feeling or thinking so much. As you can guess though, relief would never last and then shame would come to make it worse. Any type of addiction is an escape, an attempt to run away from ourselves and from what hurts. It’s likely the most life-threatening form of self-abandonment.
Abandonment of the Inner Child
I honestly didn’t know how to handle myself. I was always looking forward to being in a relationship or wanting my parents to comfort me and help me ease the intensity of my feelings and thoughts. In romantic relationships, I would unconsciously delegate my emotional needs to my partners. I’d then feel hurt when they were not emotionally available. What I never stopped to consider was whether I had the emotional maturity I sought in another toward my own self. If I hadn’t, how could I demand that from someone else?
There are different ways we can abandon ourselves. From entertaining addiction to engaging in self-harsh criticism, all these are routes through which we increase self-disconnection and generate disempowering states of mind. Some of these are even unhealthy attempts to find love, which we should be seeking and nurturing by doing what can positively impact our health and well-being. Some examples of healthier strategies include journaling, exercise, or taking up a new hobby.
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