Love is such a powerful word that has a huge broad spectrum in our lives, even with all the advancements of medicine, science we seem to still not realize that love is more than a feeling is the truest expression and expansion of our inner self, is our broader connection with God/Universe, with an infinite source that heals every wound not only inside of us but all around us.
Therefore without seeming narcissistic or confusing, the love we can have for ourselves is completely different with the self-esteem based on external people, many of our societies don’t invest effort into helping us as children to learn more about this powerful “emotion” which is so much more than that, and if we could be more curious about how love transforms every form of life we would invest more time and effort into helping children love themselves as a first step towards their development.
We hardly ever listened as children messages of self-love (unless our parents where conscious enough to practice them on themselves), we many times didn’t see the best examples of how to practice that kind of love. As children the best and more powerful association we can have with anything is the example of practicing a behaviour, seeing the actions and the facts is and will be always the stone of reference for us during childhood.
Therefore we must understand that love is a life force that lives inside us and aids every single cell in our body to nurture a healthy homeostatic equilibrium, exchanging chemicals that promote growth and literally expand connections and communication inside every organ and every cell we possess.
Imagine if the hugs, lullabies and smiles from parents could inoculate babies against heartbreak, adolescent angst and even help them pass their exams decades later. Well, evidence from the new branch of science called epigenetics is reporting that this long-term emotional inoculation might be possible (1).
The human brain is an amazing organ made up of over 100 billion brain cells that each connect to over 7000 other brain cells. The most important stage for brain development is the beginning of life, starting in the womb and then the first year of life. By the age of three, a child’s brain has reached almost 90% of its adult size (1).
This rapid brain growth and circuitry have been estimated at an astounding rate of 700–1000 synapse connections per second in this period. The experiences a baby has with her caregivers are crucial to this early wiring and pruning and enable millions and millions of new connections in the brain to be made. Repeated interactions and communication lead to path- ways being laid down that help memories and relationships form and learning and logic to develop (1).
Scientific Research has reach a point where all spiritual and sometimes called mystical experiences including the love we received through the womb just by listening or perceiving the emotions of our mother can have an amazing impact in the development of many neural pathways connections, epigenetic imprint which will give as a result a predispose child either to have a healthier growth or to complicate the different stages of development.
Many difficulties that we will experience throughout our lives will depend on this solid ground created in childhood, therefore it is overriding to start raising more awareness on the interactions we have as parents with our children mostly during the first seven years of life where plenty of this neural connections, patterns and even the character is being shaped and built.
Rutter et al studied the development of children adopted from Romanian orphanages who were adopted into loving families at different ages. When each child was 6 years old, the researchers assessed what proportion of these adopted children was functioning ‘normally’. They found that 69% of the children adopted before the age of 6 months; 43% of the children adopted between the ages of 7 months and 2 years and only 22% of the children adopted between the ages of 2 years and 3 1⁄2 years were functioning normally (2).
The speed of life in modern societies has made us immune, careless and reckless towards the importance of so many “simple” and yet essential basic needs that we need to fulfill has parents, caregivers or even when interacting with children, each interaction we have with them, each example we set for them will be taken to their most difficult years of teenager and probably even to adulthood. This means that all the “strange” behaviors we’re witnessing now in many societies where values or essential components of development are missing are just a consequence of oblivious or uncompromised parents or caregivers that were immersed surviving in their own lives, sometimes with a “justified” lack of attention due to the amount of time demanded by their job but in my particular point of view many times carrying also their own pain and just being agents of inoculation for the next generation.
How impactful and powerful can this behaviour be for any person? What kind of consequences can it have in their life and in the love they have for themselves?
Well it turns out that the love we received or we didn’t received in our early childhood will have a very profound, yet not permanent mark in our behavior towards any kind of interpersonal relationship we could encounter in our future, as mentioned in our earlier article “How Do You Treat Yourself?”, self-compassion and of course self-love are very important assets that will allow us to interact with others in an easier way by simply being able to acknowledge our own value and taking care of our needs with responsibility and attention more than criticism, guilt or blame. Additionally they will allow us to avoid demanding others to fill voids that we have been carrying around probably since before we were born and we were perceiving the interactions of the emotions of our parents (3).
Champagne et al. showed that (related and unrelated) mice put in the care of loving mothers (who are attentive and lick them caringly) grow up to be better mothers themselves when they have pups. This effect is so strong that it can even stretch over two generations, with granddaughter mice being better mothers and be able to cope with stress better too, all because their grandmother took good care of their mother. These long-lasting benefits of good parenting in mice are depend- ent on chemical changes in the DNA of the mice. These same staggering effects (called ‘methylation changes’) on the brains of mice have also now been found in humans (4).
This evidence makes total sense when we take it out of the scientific context and we make an analogy with life events. Let’s make it simpler so we can all see the impact, would you prefer to go to a school where the value of your own talents and abilities would be highlighted, where they appreciate you as you are? Or would you be more comfortable in a school where everyone pointed out your “differences”, your “weaknesses” and they would be always making you feel less due to the fact that you don’t “adjust” to the system and rules?
I believe the answer is pretty obvious any of us would be much more comfortable and confident in a school where we could be accepted as we are and our talents and abilities would be highlighted, encouraged and enhanced.
Well pretty much the same happens inside you, in your molecular world, cells, organs, tissues, systems, are stimulated in a positive chemical environment where growth factors are abundant, where healthy nutrients such as minerals and vitamins are flooded, were every member of the team appreciates the work performed by the other, in contrast cells in a toxic environment are stimulated to protect, to fear, to avoid and suppress the production of healthy substances, giving as a result a toxic environment that quickly spreads and infects other cells, producing a disease in an organ, tissue and eventually in a whole system inside of your body.
All of this discussion on how important is receiving love during your childhood and also hopefully encouraging you to have more conscious interactions with your children even if they are not yours will help in the end to make room to the key element to sustain healthy relationships in our adulthood stage.
Wheel theory of love was one of the first developmental stage models to conceptualize courtship, relationship development, and mate selection as an ongoing progression. The circular and sequential process consists of four interrelated phases (5):
Mutual dependency, and
Intimacy needs fulfillment.
The first phase, rapport, potential partners quickly evaluate the extent to which they feel understood by and comfortable with each other. If the initial assessment is positive, sometimes described as a feeling of having known each other before, rapport facilitates richer communication (5).
Self-revelation, individuals share varying degrees of intimate thoughts and feelings about their lives, beliefs, and attitudes. It should be noted that the manner in which an individual has been socialized (i.e., gender roles, religious values, etc.) appears to influence the quantity and content of self-disclosure. Self-revelation is more likely with some people than with others and to occur when respect and trust are present. At this point, existing feelings of trust, commitment, and mutual attraction deepen and become more apparent (5).
Satisfaction with self-disclosure, now becoming more intimate, leads to the third stage which is a developing feeling of mutual dependency. This interdependence necessitates the presence of the other as the relationship becomes more exclusive. Each partner is now dependent on the other to fulfill habitual expectations that cannot now be fulfilled alone. When a committed relationship exists, loneliness and frustration are experienced when these habitual expectations are missing. This acknowledged and growing dependency begins to address the need for support and a sympathetic, compassionate understanding from a trusted, intimate other. At this point, both individuals appraise their relationship to see whether it satisfies their needs of love, understanding, and mutual support, compared to the degree of intimacy needs fulfillment expressed in the closeness and vigor of the relationship (5).
If we analyze this paragraph, we could clearly see how the beginning of every relationship is the feeling of being understood and comfortable with each other, which if we relate that to the concept of self-compassion, I don’t think any individual can be comfortable with a person that has a strong sense of being needed, therefore if you practice self-acceptance and compassion that will clearly open up doors to enhance your first encounter with the opposite sex and move to the next phases of the relationship. Additionally having confidence and love for yourself will allow you to have richer conversations than if you’re only good at enlisting your qualities or achievements.
In the second stage where you should start revealing and letting the other person see more about you will be profoundly influenced by the relationship you had with your parents or caregivers, the lack of care or the possible conflicts that you witnessed in your early stages of life, therefore it was of paramount importance to point out the deep work that each of us has to invest and be willing to heal those past experiences as well as investing time and effort into knowing ourselves, which was deeply discussed in the previous article, but we can bring now to the table the concept of self-kindness instead of self-judgement, the more you’re able to be kind with yourself when making a mistake, when not achieving something, when having any kind of difficulties, the more kind you will be able to succeed with your empathic component with others.
Moving on to the third stage of mutual dependency, which is a stage that if we are mature enough and we have invested in ourselves can be eased a lot from my point of view, it is primordial for everyone of us to develop confidence, independency and trust in ourselves if we ever want to pursue or achieve successful relationships and if we want our relationship to grow into a more mature and long lasting relationship. When you trust yourself, when you value the time you have with yourself, when you reach a point where you can enjoy your own company is when you’re also able to be understanding, more empathic and relaxed when it comes to sharing, and allow the other person to rely on you more than depend on you.
Finally the fourth stage which is the peak of every relationship is highlighted by the characteristic of feeling at peace, enjoying each other’s trust, even finding attractive the small habitual “defects” that probably at the beginning of the relationship gave you a hard time to be more comfortable with, it is also a stage where both individuals grow together, develop into a “dream team” that more than complementing each other, supports each other to the extent of being able to visualize yourself into the future and of course make more meaningful commitments with each other to create a life together!! It is also stage where you know, trust and have the complete confidence with your partner to share almost every aspect and detail in your life because you feel understood, you feel encouragement, you find compassion and a lot of love from the other side.
As you can see now, the beginning of this refection had to begin with our childhood, had to begin with the way we were raised, with the values we have, with the kind of love we received during those early stages that have marked our lives but that are not permanent, and that you should be taken are of before we try or we embark in a serious relationship where we are looking to grow, to share and to coincide with another person, but respecting each other’s journey, upbringing , values and of course possible wounds that the other might have, needless to say without comprising your dignity and self-respect and self-worth !!
#love #relationships #couple #wheel #understanding #compassion #self #respect #independence #share #life #cells #epigenetics #childhood #adolescence #care #attention #conscious #unconscious #reckless #winston #rutter #ortega #neff #anderson
Winston, Robert, and Rebecca Chicot. "The importance of early bonding on the long-term mental health and resilience of children." London journal of primary care 8, no. 1 (2016): 12-14.
Rutter m. Resilience in the face of adversity. Protective factors and resistance to psychiatric disorder. The British Journal of Psychiatry. 1985;147: 598–611.
Ortega D. “How Do You Treat Yourself?”. https://www.gen-es.mx/bloggenesmx. July 19th, 2019.
Neff, K. D., & Beretvas, S. N. (2013). The Role of Self-compassion in Romantic Relationships. Self and Identity, 12(1), 78–98.
Anderson, Julius W. "Wheel Theory of Love." Encyclopedia of Family Studies (2016): 1-3.