Category: Shifting Perspectives Written by Nimue Brown
We humans come with some innate urges – to learn and explore, to express and communicate, and to feel.
Pretty much everything beyond that, is what we develop from those basic starting points. One of the things that startled me as a parent was watching my child learn how to be comforted. At the first few goes, touch wasn’t comforting, but the association grew with safety, problems being solved, physical warmth and so forth which caused that to change.
Most of us crave love. Many of us have no idea how to love ourselves, and it struck me recently that this also is learned. Or not. Whether we manage to learn it depends, I think, on whether we are loved in the way that we need to be loved, for long enough to get that properly into our brains.
We don’t all love in the same way and we don’t all have the same needs. I had one grandmother who (I think, but I’m not certain) expressed love primarily through making food for people. I’ve always been a words-oriented person, so without verbal affirmations in the mix, which didn’t work for me. Some people are much more touch-orientated. Some people hate being touched. If your formative experiences didn’t match your innate needs – through no fault of anyone’s – you’re going to be adrift when it comes to knowing what you need. It’s very hard to know what you need without having had some experience of it.
All too often, the messages offered to people who don’t know how to love themselves are demoralizing. How can you love someone else if you don’t know how to love yourself? I’m not sure why anyone would imagine this makes sense. We’re all capable of having and expressing feelings, after all. It’s often helpful to understand yourself and your own needs, but that isn’t the defining factor in whether you have anything to offer anyone else.
I think sometimes the things we are most moved to do for other people are good indicators of the things we also crave. I also think this sort of thing is easier if you learn it as a child and don’t have to think about it. However, for all kinds of reasons, many of us are not perfect matches for the families we start out in. The larger and more sprawling our families are, the more people we are cared for as we grow up, the better a chance we have of encountering people who can show us what we need and whose care will teach us about the ways in which we need to be cared for.
I’m finding the reframing helpful at the moment – I have not known how to be ok with myself because I’ve needed someone else to show me how that works. Sometimes all it takes is the right support to be able to see what you need and how to go after it. Alongside that, we all have the potential to be the exact right thing for someone else and to do or say the perfect thing that allows someone else to make sense of themselves – which is a rather lovely thought!
About Nimue Brownp; Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings.
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