Shelley J Whitehead

Nothing ever goes away until it teaches us what we need to know

21 February, 2017

The title to this video is from Pema Chodron, the American Tibetan buddhist and teacher. Someone I admire and who teachings inspire me always

I have experienced this to be so true – that nothing goes away until we get the lesson. It just keeps showing up time and time again in our lives.

I work with clients who keep bumping into the same obstacles in relationships, from falling for emotionally unavailable partners to continually getting involved in emotional rescue operations. It leaves them feeling disempowered, empty and longing for love. 

It used to be the same for me.

Repeating the pattern of being drawn to emotionally unavailable partners

In my early years, I repeated the pattern of getting into relationships with men who weren’t in any way emotionally available. It happened over and over again. I kept asking myself the question of how I could be so ‘unlucky’. 

It was only when the devastation of a cheating partner took me to my ‘rock bottom’ that I realised that I needed to dig deeper and look inside to work out what was happening, to break out of the repetitive patterns I had developed.

With the support of a relationship coach, I started to look at the choices I had made in my life. And then at the beliefs that were driving these choices. It wasn’t a pretty sight. I discovered that my feelings of self-worth were so low that, subconsciously, I didn’t feel that I deserved a committed and emotionally available man. 

Digging deeper still, I learnt that my acceptance of ‘crumbs’ of love (rather than the overflowing feast of connection that I craved) came from the way in which I had experienced and observed love and relationships in my early years. 

As soon as I lifted the lid, looked inside, and started doing the work to shift my habits and patterns, everything started to change. 

A conscious decision to reclaim my sense of self

My journey out of the rigid ruts of my old thought patterns started with me putting time into getting to know myself. I wasn’t getting to know the version of ‘me’ that I had been ‘trained’ into believing was the real ‘me’, but the fully embodied, fully feeling, fully alive version that I had repressed for so long. The real me was buried beneath habits that I had developed that had helped me ‘survive’ my affection-hungry early years. 

As I got to know myself – and got full clarity on my values, my needs, my desires, my boundaries – things really started to click into place. It was like an inner re-set: I had higher expectations out of life and I felt that I deserved love….and, as a result, those emotionally unavailable men were suddenly no longer interesting to me. They just didn’t register any more on my radar. Through the conscious work of addressing the source of my old patterns, those old patterns lost their power over me. 

Embracing ‘challenges’ as the key to great relationships

I’ve learnt that my emotions are powerful messengers. I’m no longer afraid of the emotions I used to label as ‘negative’. Anger, fear, boredom, confusion… they are all now fully welcome in my vocabulary and in my daily experience, as I use them as guiding signals to help me interpret my way around the world. 

In relationships, when I feel the little nagging feeling of irritation, I no longer try to fix the ‘outside’ problem (by trying to change the other person or to get them to understand my point of view) – 

Instead, I look inwards. I interpret irritation as a sign of a minor boundary-break and a signal that something is amiss and I embrace the challenge of sitting a little bit in the discomfort and looking inward to ask myself: what is going on here? What do I need? What can I change to address this irritation? 

The pearly wisdom built up around the habit of embracing an irritating challenge tells me exactly what I need to do. Rather than being buried and suppressed, the challenge teaches me what it needs me to know and then I no longer battle with the same challenge again. 

I learnt what healthy love looked like….so the unhealthy, emotionally-restrictive, crumb-like love went away. 

Shelley J Whitehead
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