Self-love is a hot topic nowadays—along with her cousins self-compassion, self-forgiveness, and self-acceptance—and understandably so.
There’s a gargantuan lack of love, compassion and acceptance in our lives, including (but not limited to) our relationships with ourselves.
Self-love is a genuine need that isn’t being met. As a result, a whole industry has sprung up around self-love and the concrete consequences of loving oneself (or not). A quick book search reveals that self-love is being taught as the key to falling in love, eliminating negative body image issues, clearing up financial difficulties, building self-esteem, healing old wounds, achieving one’s life purpose and finding true happiness.
Courses, programs, workshops and seminars all exist on self-love. Some are well conceived and offered, others less so (in my opinion). But more to the point, when exploring the better offerings, I find something interesting takes place.
Put bluntly, sometimes these teachings work and sometimes they don’t. Why is that exactly?
The typical response is that you are entirely in charge of your own reality and therefore if you follow the ten point (or however many points it is) system, you’ll be loving yourself in no time. The flip side is that if you don’t get the results you’re after, it must be because you didn’t try hard enough.
The system didn’t fail, you did.
I’m going to suggest an alternative explanation, one that doesn’t require labeling people failures.
Here’s my alternative. This idea comes out of my experience in my practice with clients. In my view, when a person is struggling with an issue like self-love, they fall into one of two camps (energetically speaking):
1. Those who have the capacity to love themselves but don’t do it.
2. Those who, try as they might, don’t yet have the capacity for self-love in their being.
What exactly do I mean by “the capacity for self-love?” At base, some people have the energy, the fundamental potential to love themselves while others do not (at least not yet).
Those in the first group have a memory, a feeling, an experience that resonates with self-love. Of course, the term self-love is just two words strung together. But what those two words point to is an actual experience, an actual energy, a real thing (namely, loving oneself).
People in the first group can link up their experiential understanding with the phrase self-love and make a match. They know what self-love feels like. Even if that feeling or memory is locked way down there somewhere and is covered over by a whole lot of blocks, false beliefs, and unprocessed emotion, it’s in there. It’s just a matter of getting past the blocks, releasing the false beliefs, and processing the unhealed emotions in order to connect to the memory or the feeling of self-love and bring it back to the surface (this, by the way, is what the courses are typically designed to do).
For the second group there is no feeling, no memory, no energy called self-love.
For this group it’s not about getting over the blocks or releasing the false beliefs that are interfering with their feeling of self-love. The feeling isn’t there. They could get rid of all the blocks, release all the false beliefs, and process all the emotions, only to find there’s nothing down there. There’s a more fundamental emptiness, in this case, that must be dealt with first.
Simply put, the second group doesn’t actually know what self-love feels like. It’s not for lack of intelligence on their part. They aren’t stupid; they mentally understand the meaning of the words self-love. What they don’t have is any energetic, experiential grasp of what the term self-love points to. Not because there is something wrong with them or because they didn’t try hard enough, but because it is altogether missing at the core of their being. They don’t have a memory or a feeling of self-love that they can link up with the words self-love.
Hence, they don’t have the capacity for self-love (at least not yet).
This situation, I believe, presents a serious issue for the whole industry building up around self-love. I see the vast majority of the books, courses and programs only created for the people with the capacity for self-love (group one).
Worse still, they are marketed as if they are speaking to everyone struggling with self-love. They do not explicitly distinguish between the two groups, and therefore promote their work as if it was the one and only solution for anyone challenged by the call to self-love.
So, yes, many in the first group can and do respond well to the treatment programs offered in those courses, but that is because they already have the capacity, the energy and the experience necessary to achieve the result. Individuals in this group may have substantial challenges activating the energy of self-love that is already in their being, but the energy is nevertheless present.
Individuals in the second group, however, have difficulty with self-love for an entirely different reason: they lack capacity to do it altogether. These individuals require a very different regimen to develop self-love, one they are not getting from the current slate of offerings (in my view). Worst of all, they are very often being shamed and blamed when they apply the techniques meant for those in the first group that won’t work in their case, no matter how perfectly they may or may not apply them.
I can’t stress this point enough—if a person does not have the capacity for self-love, no amount of sincere effort to practically implement tools and techniques to love themselves will make a difference.
So, can anything be done for the second group?
Yes, it can. The process involves building up the energetic and experiential capacity for self-love in a person .
Perhaps the simplest way to describe it is that an individual currently lacking the capacity for self-love meets with a skilled energetic practitioner who introduces them to the state and energy of Love, capital “L” Love, Great Big Love. The practitioner guides the individual to learn how to allow their little “s” self to be embraced by and enfolded into that Love.
A real energetic and spiritual transformation ensues.
As a result, the person experientially knows what self-love feels like. They can link up the phrase self-love with a feeling, a memory, even a bodily sensation. Capital “L” Love “installs” the feeling of self-love in their being, giving them the capacity for self-love. At this point, they may still find it hard to benefit from the practices described in the books and courses, as this nascent self-love energy still needs to be nurtured and cultivated.
Working in this way, I believe we can offer the best possible chance to reach individuals in both groups, particularly the second group.
The process to cultivate self-love should, if nothing else, be a loving one.
Author: Chris Dierkes
Editor: Emily Bartran
Photo: Gavriil Papadiotis/Flickr