Monday, June 29, 2015


This is the most insidious love block. This underlying pattern - often unconscious - contaminates all the possibilities of feeling loved. Whenever someone offers love in any one of its myriad forms - praise, affection, help, commitment … - our client is unable to receive it. On the surface they may appear to be receptive, but they are psychologically unable to take the love in at a deep level. Because at some level of consciousness they feel unworthy of what is being offered to them.
The deeply engrained belief that they don't deserve to be loved, that they are unworthy of a good rich life undermines and sabotages all relationships, any positive feelings about work success and all the gifts of love.
The initial task of psychotherapy with my clients is to help them become more consciously aware of this pervasive pattern of being unable to simply take in love in all its myriad forms. I say to them,"Of course it doesn't make any rational sense that you would block love, but at some level of consciousness it makes emotional sense. There must be some reasons why that happens. From my experience these patterns start in childhood. What about growing up in your family may have contributed to this inner belief that you are unloveable?" This begins the process of exploring the historical roots of the love block.
Jim, a dynamic 48 year old successful businessman had been experiencing episodes of sadness about what's missing in his life - primarily a loving relationship with a woman. Whenever a potentially good relationship starts to become more intimate Jim either ends it or sabotages it so that the woman decides to break it off. Through our exploratory work it became clear to Jim that the physically and psychologically abusive relationship with his mother, who was depressed and addicted to pain killers, had made him feel unlovable. In her addicted state she would scream at him that he was "evil, a devil child". These frequent tirades occurred for years and had a devastating effect on Jim's feelings about himself. Because these feelings of unlovability are usually so deeply engrained for everyone with this love block a lot of work between sessions was essential.
I gave Jim two index cards. On one was written "YOU ARE LOVABLE" and the other,"YOU DESERVE A GOOD LIFE". I suggested to Jim that between sessions he periodically look at these cards, say the words and then notice what happened. Of course this was hard and painful. He would complain to me "those damn cards" reporting the painful memories they evoked and his ever deepening awareness of how hard it was for him to believe those simple phrases. Gradually, as Jim understood the roots of this inner belief - including the epiphany that he was the target for his mother's own self-hatred because of her history of abuse and shame about her addiction - he was able to be more receptive to love. It was particularly meaningful - since Jim was in recovery for his own alcoholism - for him to think that the source of the voice that was saying "You" in the phrase "YOU ARE LOVABLE" was his own personal Higher Power. He liked thinking that his own Higher Power was doing the work of helping him to feel lovable that his parents were unable to do.
One of the benefits of a heart-centered approach to psychotherapy, wherein our genuine caring is more overtly expressed, is that their love blocks get more quickly exposed. Clients with the "I don't deserve love" block have a lot of trouble simply receiving our praise and other acts of caring for them. They react with disbelief,"You're just doing your job which is to make me feel better." Or like Sara said,"When you get to know what I'M really like you won't think that I'm such a good person. Whereas my parents really knew me." Her parents were members of a very conservative Christian sect. They responded to her free-spirited nature and acts of disobedience as her being a "black sheep" a "sinner" and "damned to hell."
My approach to Sara was three-pronged. The first prong was to discredit the sources of her deeply rooted belief that she was unlovable by repeatedly raising the question whether her parents really knew her. It became increasingly clear to Sara that they were absorbed in their own lives. Sara was a target for their anger about their own unhappiness and their projections of very low self-worth.
The second and most important prong was to deliberately not be in the role of the neutral professional , but to make it clear that I really valued and appreciated her as a person. Over a period of time my genuine praise, warmth, consistent encouragement, welcoming attitude, celebrations of her moments of growth and laughter at her jokes made Sara feel that she was a lovable human being.
The third prong was self-forgiveness. Because of the parental implant of this inner belief that she was a "sinner"Sara made a number of bad choices and done things for which she was ashamed. She was relieved to hear that the techniques that I was using to help her forgive herself grew out of my own experience of needing to forgive myself. I will not describe the process in this blog entry because I've written about it extensively In my book "Working From the Heart" and described it in a youtube video.
With Sara and Jim, as with most clients with this love block, the work was intensive and only gradually impactful. And very meaningful for myself as well as my clients.