Shadow has a way of sabotaging our relationships without us knowing it – that’s why it’s called shadow, we sometimes can’t see it. In particular, we want to look at our personal shadows around giving and receiving love. If you have blocks to giving and receiving love, you may be blaming or criticizing your partner instead of looking at your own blocks. As Gottman points out, criticism is one of the indicators of relationship difficulties. Following are some ways to look at your own part in this dynamic to get back on track.
In Shadow Work®, we look at two archetypes that form part of our relationship patterns, the Lover and the Sovereign. The Lover is the aspect of ourselves that receives love. The Lover is the one who says, I want to bond or connect with you. I want to be loved for who I am. I want to surrender to love, I want to be taken by Love. I want to express love in a unique way in the world. People who have a lot of Lover energy in our society tend to be healers, artists, and therapists. On the other side, the Lover is also the one that may have a wounding message around love. In essence, the wounding message is “I don’t love right.” We may have issues around rejection or abandonment if we think we don’t love right. We may even have proof that someone has left us in the past or rejected part of who we are. If any of this sounds familiar, there is usually inner child work that needs to be done to help our little one feel safe.
As we are diving into studying adult attachment style work, we are finding that safety is at the core of being able to connect. If we don’t feel safe, we simply can’t connect. Because safety begins with ourselves, it is important to do the work of connecting with and making sure our inner child feels safe and loved by ourselves. When I first started doing this work 20 years ago, my inner little one, Boo, didn’t even feel safe WITH ME! She felt like I had abandoned her and didn’t care what she had to say. We all have a certain level of relationship with our inner child, and doing more of this work can help us heal the “I don’t love right” wound, because we will be loving ourselves “right.” After all, we are the only ones who really know what we need! We can certainly ask others in our lives to meet our needs for love and connection, and there are also ways we can meet our own needs. For example, as I have listened over the years, I know when Boo is asking for something. Often it is a treat – like ice cream or chocolate. So, I indulge her sometimes. Or, it might be that she tugs at my shirt when I have been working too much and she wants to go for a walk, or play croquet! Homework: Listen to your inner little one and do one thing this week to have him/her feel heard, held and loved. Start to reprogram that message of “I don’t love right” into, “I am loving”. Start with yourself.
The Sovereign on the other hand, is the one who likes to give love. There is a loop between the Sovereign and the Lover that is giving and receiving. The Sovereign says, I love you, I bless you, I can hold space for you. I can take care of you. Sovereigns often have a vision for how to make the world a better place. People who have a lot of this energy tend to be entrepreneurs, leaders, and visionaries. However, Sovereigns may also have a wounding message around having to “perform” in order to be lovable. The wounding message for Sovereigns is, “I’m not lovable.”Basically, no matter how much I do, it’s not going to be good enough. So, sometimes sovereigns try to outshine themselves (and others) in order to gain the appreciation, love and attention they really want.
So, what to do with the patterns of “I have to do more and be more to be loved”? One answer is acceptance for who you are, right now, as enough. While the above mentioned inner child work is also very helpful for this, another thing that is helpful is to explore that critical voice that is telling you “I’m not enough.”
I’ll use myself as an example. I have a constant voice that is telling me that I’m not doing enough with this work. Transformative Loving isn’t growing fast enough, I’m not writing enough, speaking enough, learning enough about marketing, I don’t have a big enough goal or vision, etc. etc. And if I had all of this in place, I would get more love, more acknowledgement (which feels like love to the Sovereign) and then I would be enough. If you have some of that going on someplace in your life, then you probably have a Sovereign in there who needs some of the unconditional blessing and love that you most likely give to others.
Of course, the irony is that the more you do, the more it doesn’t feel like enough.That’s because the “not enough” is coming from a primary wound that can’t be healed by doing! The healing of that wound is actually through receiving the message, you are enough exactly as you are. You don’t have to do anything to earn my love.
So, there is a whole process we can do with this in Shadow Work, but for the purposes of something you can work with on your own, here are a few steps.
1. Catch yourself when you hear your inner critic saying something like, “that’s not enough,” or “you’re not enough.”
2. Take a step back and observe that that is happening, instead of just hearing it as if it were truth.
3. Ask that inner critic part of yourself what it wants for you.
4. Record the answer. When I ask mine this right now, it is saying, I want you to feel good about yourself and what you are doing in the world. When I ask again it says, acknowledgement, I want acknowledgement for you. When I ask a third time, what do you want for me? it says, freedom – I want you to be able to express yourself freely. Now, I could keep asking this, and at some point the response would drop into – love. I want you to be loved. It’s easy to see that although it wants for me to feel good, have acknowledgement, freedom and love, what it is doing is criticizing me for not doing enough. Can you see how this is not making me feel good, not making me feel acknowledged, not giving me freedom and not having me feel loved? Isn’t that amazing?
5. Acknowledge the inner critic. This sounds something like: I know you want what is best for me and you have been working hard for me for a long time. Then ask, Is there something else you could be doing to help me feel good, feel acknowledged and have more freedom and love? Listen for the answer. Mine says, Yes, I could be praising you for what you are doing.
6. Continue with this dialogue until you reach a place where the inner critic is willing to change his/her strategy to support you in giving you what both you and the critic wants. I do this by getting quiet and just listening. You can also do this by writing it down, or doing a Shadow Work Coaching session.
So, to summarize, the loop between the Lover and the Sovereign is called the Connection loop, and this is where our gifts and wounds in love lie. When you can work this loop around giving more love to yourself and allowing yourself to receiving that love, you start to change your core blueprint and wounding around love to be able to come back to more secure attachment, and deeper love in your relationship. This is a life-long process, but so worthwhile to expand our capacity to love and be loved.