By Eric Bowers
There is a story most of us are told from a very early age, a story that is compelling and seductive but tragic if we come to believe it. The story is that we will live happily ever after once we find the woman or man of our dreams, our soul mate, our one true love. Throughout our lives we are inundated with this story through fairy tales, movies, television, music, and magazines, which is unfortunate because it keeps us searching instead of developing a better relationship with ourselves.
What if we learn a different story? What if we learn stories about lovers coming together, not to be made happy and whole by the other, but to uncover and heal old wounds so that they can freely love each other and follow their dreams and aspirations?
The research done in Attachment Theory and Interpersonal Neurobiology is laying the groundwork for this kind of story. The research shows that the way a caregiver bonds with a child in the first three years of life profoundly influences how the child will behave in relationships throughout our lives. From the moment we are born we begin creating implicit beliefs about relationships. Implicit beliefs are beliefs that are formed unconsciously based on repeated experiences. If a parent knows how to form a healthy, integrated bond in which there is nurturing closeness and clear differentiation, then the child will have implicit beliefs such as: It’s ok to be open with others and it’s ok to take space for myself; it’s ok to need others and be needed by others and it’s ok to trust myself; it’s ok to care about others and it’s ok to follow my own dreams and do what feels good to me.
Many of us did not have a healthy balance of nurturing closeness and clear differentiation mainly because our parent didn’t have it with their parents and so on for generations past (there is no blame in this story; all parents are doing their best given all they’ve lived through). This leaves us with some implicit beliefs and corresponding behaviours that don’t serve us. If we are not aware of these implicit beliefs and behaviours, they will continue to impact relationships we have throughout our lives. (1) If we are aware of the implicit aspects we bring to relationships, then we can work through them and co-create relationships that help us heal and come alive.
What does the healing part of the story look like? One answer is… Empathy, Empathy, Empathy. Empathy is like yoga for the brain and nervous system. As yoga postures bring greater alignment between the muscles, tendons, and different parts of the body, empathy brings greater alignment between the limbic system, the prefrontal cortex and the autonomic nervous system, especially skillfully done somatic-based, resonant empathy that focuses on sensations, feelings, emotions, and needs. I believe it takes a community to raise a relationship, so finding many sources of empathy, from empathy buddies, from ourselves, and from those with training in depth empathy processes, is one of the best ways to support a relationship to flourish.
Whether in relationship, in our daily lives, or on our mats, practicing empathy helps us heal our implicit beliefs and fall more deeply in love with ourselves, which is the only sure way of falling more deeply in love with another. Instead of a focus on happily ever after, this story goes back in time and helps us bring compassion and love to the beginning or to the ever before.
Eric Bowers is a CNVC Certified Nonviolent Communication Trainer with extensive training in Interpersonal Neurobiology and Attachment Theory. Eric has a passion for supporting single people to learn and heal from past relationships and prepare for thriving relationships. Contact Eric to register for his upcoming free evening presentation in Vancouver, BC: 3 Life-Changing Choices Single Women Can Make to Avoid Heartbreaking Relationships.