Gerard sat opposite me at one of my intensives.
“My body hurts and I feel irritated,” he complained, in a way that felt like he was handing his hurting inner child to me to soothe and fix.
“Gerard, do you want to know what you are doing and how you are treating yourself that is causing this pain?”
“Yes, of course. I know he wants me to love him, but I don’t know how.”
I cannot begin to tell you how often I hear this: “I don’t know how. I don’t know how to love myself.” And the underlying question being asked of me is, “Tell me how to love myself. Tell me what to do to take this pain away.”
Gerard is clear that the irritation in his body is coming from his self-abandonment, and he wants a formula for how to love himself. He believes that I have the answer for him and is angry with me for not telling him how. I patiently explain the six steps of inner work to him again, but I can see that his eyes glaze over and he doesn’t get what I’m talking about.
One of the other participants brilliantly says, “Gerard, it’s not about “how”, it’s about “what” you do that makes the difference.
Another participant states, “I know you are fiercely devoted to your daughters. It’s your relentless devotion that makes them feel loved – not whether or not you do it perfectly.”
Gerard blinks and a light bulb turns on. His whole being comes alive.
“Are you saying that it’s not whether or not I do it right or even know what I’m doing, but that it’s about being relentless in wanting to be loving to myself?”
“Yes!!” I state, delighted with his dawning understanding. “You are one of the most relentless people I know when it comes to your physical health. You’re deeply devoted to eating well, exercising and reading about health and nutrition. But when it comes to emotional responsibility for your own feelings, you blame others, pull on them, and expect them to love you instead of learning to love yourself. You don’t make anyone else, including your doctor, an authority over your physical health, nor do you expect anyone else to feed you well, yet you consistently expect others to take responsibility for your feelings and you are angry at them when they don’t.”
“So I need to be as relentless with my feelings as I am with my physical health! I can see that my children feel safe, even when my wife and I don’t always do it ‘right,’ because they can feel that we are deeply devoted to their wellbeing. I didn’t get this kind of devotion when I was growing up, so I’ve expected others to do it for me, but it’s only when I’m fierce and relentless about WANTING to love myself that my inner child will feel loved.”
Yes, yes, yes!
The first step of inner work is getting present with our feelings and fiercely and relentlessly WANTING responsibility for them, rather than wanting to just get rid of pain. It’s the fierce and relentless WANTING that makes all the difference.
“Gerard, because your whole being WANTS to be a good daddy, your children feel safe and loved, and your inner little boy will stop feeling angry and irritated when you truly WANT responsibility for your feelings.”
Gerard was smiling and so was everyone else.
“How does your body feel now Gerard?” I asked.
Gerard could clearly feel that, even though he hadn’t taken any overt loving actions, the inner action of finding the place within him that relentlessly WANTS to love his inner child took away his anger and irritation.
He was ready to be fierce and relentless in learning to love himself, and in treating himself lovingly – just as fierce and relentless as he is in creating excellent physical health.