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Self-Love: The Key to Breaking the Fear Barrier to Feel Safe Enough Love


Have you considered that, the biggest obstacle to realizing the loving connection you desire with the special person in your life may be: a part or parts of yourself you do not fully or really love?

Often disowned since childhood, knowingly or unknowingly, these parts hold the power to cause a lifelong disturbance in the neurochemistry of your brain and body. So much so, in fact, that this block your ability to form, and maintain, a healthy — mutually enriching — couple relationship. From the first to last breath, as a human being, you are wired to yearn to secure a meaningful connection with another, to such a degree, that this forms the underlying reason you disowned certain parts in childhood; for example, to avoid angering or upsetting a parent(s).

In most cases, your parents likely “taught” you to reject certain parts of yourself, wittingly or unwittingly, by responding to you with shame or rejection in certain situations. After all, they too came into adulthood with disowned certain parts of themselves, and thus wittingly or unwittingly, this

(Remember, most of our parents were raised in a family environment that valued shaming, intimidating, punitive treatment in the rearing of children. This is an important consideration, particularly if you’re a parent yourself now; learning to love yourself and integrate all parts of you is a gift to give to your children.)

These hidden aspects of yourself powerfully shape life, even more so when they operate subconsciously, outside your awareness. This means that, even if a miracle occurred overnight, and you woke up one day to find that your partner was “exactly” how you “need” him or her to be, for example, more loving, responsive, accepting, and so on, you’d likely feel so uncomfortable with the unfamiliar feelings this would produce inside you, that you’d “do things” to ensure you both return the relationship dynamics back to what was familiar as quickly as possible.

Notably, this doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you, or that you’re sabotaging yourself, however. It just means these unloved parts prefer familiar territory to unfamiliar.

Self-sabotage? Not!

Though many refer to such patterns as evidence of “self-sabotage,” in many ways, this label really doesn’t fit. That’s because, once you understand how dedicated your subconscious mind is to your happiness and health, and yours alone, you realize the extent to which it’s there to support you 100%, and to serve as a dedicated servant, 24/7.

If you learn how to turn on your magic lamp inside, you’d discover you have your very own dream-come-true genie.

These hidden parts of you are controlled by part of your mind known as the “subconscious” or body-mind. It is responsible for managing all the processes that keep you alive and thriving, without you having to think about it, such as cardiovascular or memory, and so on.

Your subconscious mind monitors all systems 24/7. It never rests. The main directives of this operating system are always set on restoring balance, health and ensuring your survival, both physical and psychological.

Unlike the conscious mind, which engages in conscious decisions, plans, etc., your subconscious little original “thinking” of its own. Similar to a computer, it does what you’ve told it to do. In cases where you send mixed signals, such as you want to drop weight but also want to avoid exercise, it follows your topmost wish (in this case, to avoid exercise).

And, since it doesn’t know the difference between physical and psychological threats to your survival, it activates “proven” (pre-programmed) defense strategies, and handles an “emotional threat” of rejection in nearly exact way it handles a “physical threat,” such as a lion or bear.

It relies on information from you, at any given moment, to interpret life around you, especially in terms of threats to your emotional survival, which your body-mind guards and treats as critical as your physical survival.

In truth, it makes no distinction between the two.

Thus, if you hold limiting beliefs about your self, your life or your relationship, and so on, these beliefs are likely active your body’s survival system in certain situations, and unnecessarily cause your brain to automatically activate “comfortable” defense strategies that, in effect, further erode the love connection you once felt, and now feel desperate to restore.

The greatest fear?

It’s safe to say that: our greatest fear is intimacy. Intimacy is an art, and art is about balance. In this case, it’s the art of balancing your relationship with your self as an agent of your life, with your drive for securing a lasting and meaningful connection with your partner, on the one hand, with our drive for self-agency, on the other.

These drives activate core human fears, such as rejection, inadequacy,  which are natural and healthy levels of anxiety we feel  our ability to handle closeness (feeling controlled or limited can trigger core fears of rejection or inadequacy) or distance (feeling alone, emotionally detached activate our cores fears of abandonment or separation).

And thus, we may take actions that are in effect “harmful” to our relationship, however, they are not “self-sabotage” or “self-destructive” per se; they are rather misguided ways that our subconscious mind “thinks” it “has to” protect us in situations that trigger our deepest intimacy fears, and thus, our emotional survival response. If you do not feel safe enough to connect emotionally to your partner, for example, you do not feel safe enough inside to love, period. That because our body’s fear response shuts us off or overrides our drives to matter, and gives primacy to what “seems” urgent in the moment: your survival, defense, protection.

In these moments, when we are totally disconnected from our inner sources of love, acceptance, compassion, understanding, wisdom, etc., we need to know how to restore our own sense of love and safe connection to our self. Instead, we tend to take desperate actions to either distance or get close to our partner, and then feel surprised and hurt that, like us, they get scared or thrown off balance by our defensive strategies, protective reactions.

Love is all about safety.

Since the primary directive of your subconscious mind is your safety, and in the case of relationship-building — emotional safety — your body-mind will automatically act to keep anything that resembles a close intimate relationship at bay until it feels you (not your partner) are “capable” of handling your inner emotional response to what triggers your fears, and maintaining your connection to your self (ditto).

This explains why, as you’ve likely heard before, that it is “impossible” to fully love another person unless you really and genuinely love your self, and that means, first and foremost, knowing how to handle upsetting emotions (yours and your partner’s)  in certain triggering situations so that your body does not unnecessarily activate your survival response (in which case you get shut off from the inner resources you need to your own inner ever-present source of unconditional self-love and self-acceptance).

As an infant or small child you were totally dependent on your parents as sources of love and thus safety; as adults, you and your partner own 100% responsibility for not unnecessarily activating one another’s survival systems. You absolutely must grow out of, rewire, let go of your early survival-love maps.

Letting go …

Your early survival-love map is a set of beliefs that automatically activate your defenses to protect you from what you (mistakenly…) believe you just cannot handle without these “proven and reliable” protective strategies. In a sense, you cannot –at least not until you believe you can, that even though you yearn for (and prefer to have) your partner’s love, recognition, understanding, etc., that you are not only worthy of your own unconditional love and acceptance — you only need, require, and must-have your own to restore a sense of balance, health and peace of mind within.

Let go of limiting beliefs. It is these limiting beliefs that are blocking you from the love and connection you need. For example, you may have learned to believe that, in order to feel loved and accepted, others in your world “should” appreciate what you do or treat you in specific ways, otherwise, it means you have no value. These limiting beliefs, and the toxic thinking patterns they produce, can leave you with a sense of feeling unloved, unappreciated, undeserving, and so on, which then keep you spinning your wheels in life, continuously looking for someone or something out there to do what only you can do by deepening your connection to life from within.

It’s the way you and the world of relationships are designed to work. Let go of limiting beliefs to create your life anew.

Self-love is the solution.

Learning to fully love yourself is your job, one that nature assigns every human being from birth. If you wish to live happy and healthy, and you’re wired to do so, deep down inside..

Your happiness is rooted in a human drive that is arguably more powerful than the drive for physical survival. This overarching drive, prewired in every human being, propels you to feel good about yourself and life. In other words, you’re wired with an unstoppable yearning to matter. Like it or love it, it shouts loud and clear at times, and is only a muffled sound at others. Regardless, it’s your lifelong companion. Whether you tune in or not, it’s always there, and this part of you relentlessly yearns for your love … like no other.

It cannot be replaced by the love of another, no matter how special or perfect the lover (or the parent or child or friend…).

Learning to love and fully accept your self, all parts of you, reveals vital knowledge and grows your wisdom, based on understanding how your self-love is intricately connected to the quality of life and relationships you have, and always had, the power to create.

It’s the way nature works. It’s no coincidence that you keep attracting a certain “type” of person, and though the details are different, you keep repeating the same pattern, right?

As long as you do not love and accept all parts of yourself fully, chances are, you will bring persons into your life that also do not love parts of themselves, albeit in different ways.

  • Some people seek to matter by hiding or minimizing their voice, needs and dreams; and others seek to matter by feeling entitled to dismiss the needs of others, and treat them as mere extensions of themselves.
  • Some persons seek to matter by making others feel more valued and loved than them; and others seek to matter by feeling entitled to advantage of “giving” people, and exploit them like servants.
  • Some people seek to matter by measuring their worth based on what others think or believe about them; and others use tactics that make another feel their feelings, needs, wants are relatively invisible.
  • Some people seek to matter by assuming most all responsibility for the success of a relationship; and others play all-or-nothing games to prove they’re entitled, as heartless predators and skilled con artists, to treat kind persons like servants who do all the work.
  • Some people seek to matter by feeling liked and regarded as “nice” persons who avoid hurting others’ feelings at all cost; and others use con artistry skills, such as gaslighting, to get out of all responsibility for both wrongful actions and lack of participation.
  • Some people seek to matter by making others happy; and others by making sure they stay miserable so they can feel they hold power over the other by feeling scorn, blaming and condemning them for life.

All cases are indicative of a need for self-love and self-acceptance as a starting place for healing and transformation. Traumatic experiences, especially in formative years, can derail us from our inner connection to love for ourself and life. Happiness is an inside job. It does not depend on anything outside you.

Unhappiness is more often rooted in thought patterns, based on fear-activating limiting beliefs, which cause you to look for love where it cannot be found, such as a dependency on another person to say words and do such-and-suce before you can feel free to feel loved and accepted, valued and deserving of love and happiness — inside, where it matters!

This dependency on a source external to you is a trap. Consider the following: If you do not love yourself for all you are (and are not), is it reasonable that another can do so? Or can do this for you?

Nature wants to break you free of addictive-love patterns. All addictions, for that matter.

In truth, the intense focus on what the other should or should not do before you can feel loved is a mere distraction, a way to avoid dealing with the pain you feel in relation to yourself and those closest to you. It distracts you from doing the work you need to do inside, to mature your capacity to love and accept yourself unconditionally, even as you also simultaneously create the life and relationships you desire. When you truly love yourself, you also bring out the same qualities in those around you.

Self-Love: The Key to Breaking the Fear Barrier to Feel Safe Enough Love

Athena Staik, Ph.D.

Relationship consultant, author, licensed marriage and family therapist, Dr. Athena Staik motivates clients to break free of anxiety, emotion reactivity, and other addictive patterns, to awaken wholehearted relating to self and other. She is currently in private practice in Northern VA, and writing her book, What a Narcissist Means When He Says 'I Love You'": Breaking Free of Addictive Love in Couple Relationships. To contact Dr. Staik for information, an appointment or workshop, visit, or visit on her two Facebook fan pages DrAthenaStaik and DrStaik

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APA Reference
Staik, A. (2017). Self-Love: The Key to Breaking the Fear Barrier to Feel Safe Enough Love. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 27, 2020, from


Last updated: 12 Apr 2017
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