One of the fundamental sources of emotional pain, I have come to believe, is the inability to let yourself be loved. Or, as Tara Brach puts it, “the trance of unworthiness.” Our own conviction that we do not have value prevents us from recognizing the caring, nurturing, positive regard, and downright love that is directed at us all day, every day, from a variety of sources. Instead, we focus on our flaws, defects, errors, and limitations, and we need convincing, over and over, that we do, indeed, have a right to happiness in the world.
It is easier for many people to care for and love other people than to feel in a deep way the love that is being directed toward them. And this barrier to receiving can be destructive and distancing. It is one thing to say with our cognition, “I know my family loves me….” (In most cases, this is followed by “but….”) However, knowing and experiencing are not the same thing, and the meaning of being loved can be overwhelming. Who are we to deserve the unconflicted care of another person?
We have brief moments of being touched, but we cannot quite believe it, and we go back to feeling inadequate and incomplete. Then we need reassurance and convincing all over again. One of the intangible parts of the psychotherapy process is a slowly developing capacity for receiving the effects of another person’s motive to care for us. It opens the door to our becoming ourselves, accepted, appreciated, and celebrated, and that is the same door that allows us to freely offer those experiences to the other people in our lives. It is connecting in the most elegant, fluid, and resonant way. And this is an art, not a technique.