Have you been hurt in love? Are you ready for healthy love? Getting ready for love requires the ability to use your internal signals to help you know what is right for you and what isn’t. Today I’m sharing a story that illustrates this point. It comes from the very first day I met my adopted daughter and what happened after that.
I met her the week before my 30th birthday. On July 5, 1996, I was escorted to the “toddler room” in the orphanage, and my new 27-month-old daughter was introduced to me with the words “there she is.” She was all chubby and dimply, and she had a dollop of blonde ringlets on the top of her head. It was clear by how she was commanding the orphanage worker’s attention that she had a strong, independent spirit.
However, I witnessed the shackling of her brilliant, independent spirit when the orphanage worker invited me to feed her lunch. The worker handed me a spoon and a small bowl with bits of potatoes and ground beef in a slightly thickened, broth-like liquid. The worker tied a large towel around my daughter’s neck, and left the room. The amazing thing was that with the towel tied around her neck, it was as though my child forgot she had hands!
My brand new daughter opened her mouth and leaned forward, in anticipation, just like a helpless baby bird. I patiently spooned the first mouthful of food to her. To my surprise, she immediately swallowed without chewing once. Instead, she swallowed with a gulp and opened her mouth in a split-second, leaning forward for more, as if to tell me that she was starving for the next bite.
I paused, a bit puzzled by her behavior, but did not change my pace of feeding. The next moment, the orphanage worker came to check on us and saw that I was feeding this little bird too slowly and took it upon herself to correct my feeding procedure.
She took the bowl from my hands and began to feed my child at stunning speed that required the child to gulp each spoonful without chewing and re-open her mouth for the next within a half-second from the last. Suddenly, she was transformed from a hungry little bird into a garbage disposal! The pace was so fast that I was astounded that my new daughter could even breathe during the process! The entire bowl of food was gone in less than one minute!
And there sat my new baby, uncomfortably full and belching the air that she had swallowed during her rapid-fire meal. The orphanage workers had found an efficient way to get as many children fed as quickly as possible, but this method was hardly beneficial to the children in the long run. Right there in that little room in the orphanage in Yugoslavia, I made my first parenting decision: to teach her to eat slowly.
What does this story have to do with being ready to accept healthy love in your life? Just like my child because extremely uncomfortable based on her cooperation with a feeding method that didn’t take her best interest into consideration, you may have been “force fed” ideas and beliefs about yourself and about love that don’t serve you well.
Think of this: What do you accept as “truth” about yourself, about others and about love that may not be good for you? Right now is a good time to get out a paper and pen and jot down a list of the force feedings you’ve experienced that don’t serve you well.
Just like some of us feel anxiety about leaving food on our plates when we’re already full because we were taught not to waste food as kids, so we have similar lessons about love that aren’t so useful.
Slow down. Pay attention to yourself in your love relationships to recognize what those non-useful lessons are. Accept your right to refuse to be force fed in a way that’s harmful to you (whether it’s current messages or those messages in your head deposited there by a painful past).
© Tamara Bess, LMFT 2016 All Rights Reserved. Any use of this article without Tamara’s express written permission is prohibited.