December 27, 2020

Why we Look for Love in all the Wrong Places (& How to Stop).


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I sat on the leather couch in my therapist’s gorgeously remodeled office. 

My eyes were closed; my palms were sweating. I was attending my second EMDR session in nearly a year. In the meditative state, I recall memories and allow myself to feel them. My mind does the dirty work for me—opening files that I’m unconsciously unaware of. Memories and insights flood my brain and body. Every few seconds, I take a deep breath and notice them.

Today, I saw a hermit crab moving from shell to shell on a path representing my life. In the beginning, the shells fit. But, as the crab grew, it scrambled around in search of safety and security, trying to find a shell to protect it from the ugly vulnerability of its nakedness. The shells didn’t fit, but my hermit crab desperately dove into them anyway.

Looking back at my life’s path, I recalled the shells I’ve crawled into. I noticed something interesting: I felt disconnected from my experiences and betrayed. I’ve lived a life that’s robbed years from me and filled them with PTSD and regret.

But today, I didn’t blame anyone for it. I just noticed. I noticed the party shell, getting abused shell, slut shell, and the trauma bond shell. I didn’t quite fit into any of them. Every single one had an emptiness that I couldn’t fill—jagged edges that cut me.

I noticed that in these shells, I was looking for the feeling that love provides: the security, the safety, and the wholeness. The problem is, what I was looking for wasn’t going to be found by choosing the closest shell. The closest shell doesn’t always house the acceptance and love of just being. Being without the outside influences. Being one, with love and light from within my vulnerable and naked self.

I noticed that I haven’t been able to do that, and within every shell that I’d made a “home,” I disconnected from the naked and vulnerable crab. We do that sometimes, don’t we? We disconnect from ourselves, trying to grow in spaces we don’t fit in. And then we wonder how we got there and how that story became ours to tell.

There’s beauty in healing, though. In facing our truth and brushing through the accumulated dirt, we are able to reflect back to ourselves a story we had buried. This allows us to see our patterns, connect the dots, notice the once unseen and unheard. This is how we replenish the connection that we had once lost. We grow closer to ourselves and adjust our paths, making it easier to find the shell that really fits and supports our growth.

When we find understanding and healing of our pasts, we can reach a point of being. And instead of continuing to hide from the ugly nakedness that came with such vulnerability, we are able to reach freedom from regret and resentment.

We can live in a shell that doesn’t hurt us.

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