This was originally posted on the Living Inquiries web site as “Clearing Out the Basement; Decluttering Our Subconscious Interpretations of Love and Connection”
Synopsis: Exploring our psyches reveals our unconscious meaning making with regards to love, greatly impacting our life and our relationships.
Photo By Caity Johnstone
There are many different ways in which we interpret love and connection.
As kids, because our survival depends on being attended to, we basically interpret love according to whatever brings us attention- regardless of the actual quality of the attention. Furthermore, we attach the experience and meaning of love/connection (and thus safety) to people, places, things and behaviors (actions) that come from “out there” (ie our careproviders) during those formative years. How this translates isn’t often very linear because of the amount of variables, and as such doesn’t always make much sense to an adult mind on the surface. In fact, it can be quite nonsensical and convoluted!
For example, let’s take the subject of coddling. One child might interpret coddling behavior from a caregiver as love and connection, whilst another might interpret coddling as a threat/suffocating. As those children grow into adults, they might come to have a push-pull (attraction-revulsion) reaction to people who coddle them. For reasons unbeknownst to them, they may both crave and resist attention that has a coddling vibration to it. Moreover, they will probably not understand this tendency until they explore their personal meaning-making with regard to what they perceive and interpret as love (as well as what they associate with coddling itself).
The hidden layers of what we have attached to love and connection are deeply rooted in our psyches. These layers can easily go unnoticed and unnamed as we humans are often complacent, resting in the thought that “this is just the way things are.” Whilst that may be true, unless we can unpack “how things are” we will continue to live through our subconscious meaning-making, which often results in a very unsatisfying life.
How many of us have a basement (or room/corner/closet/drawer/garage) where we pile things… and even though we know it would be useful to do so, we resist cleaning it out? (It is possible, too, that we don’t even realize how much stuff we’re accumulating down there.) Because cleaning out a dark basement is neither comfortable nor easy, we often just leave things there and, instead of dealing with what’s already down there, we avoid it and shift our attention elsewhere. We busy ourselves with everything BUT that basement (or room/corner/closet/drawer/ garage).
This is what we often do with our own patterning- which, whether we know it or not, is largely in our subconscious.
Instead of going inward into our own conditioning we keep focusing outward, and with regard to the topic of love this can get particularly tricky. Trying to get love from “out there” will always bring about a somewhat complicated and often twisted relationship to it. And when the voice or narrative inside mimics the voices from outside (often the critical voices of our caregivers), it gets even more complicated and we can begin to feel trapped.
Depending on how convoluted our relationship with love has become, the more dramatic and chaotic our narratives will get. This can lead to a dramatic or chaotic life as we make harmful choices or numb ourselves in order to escape from such narratives.
Opening the Door to the Basement
Escaping the trap happens in different ways for different people.
A loved one might say something to us that makes us question our choices and habits. We might be experiencing such pain or loneliness that we reach out to a professional to help us make changes. Or a “wake up” moment might appear out of nowhere, coming from a total stranger who just happens to say something at “the right time.” Suffering and dissatisfaction can be good motivators, but questioning our lives is seldom easy and may not even seem possible. It may take us nearly our whole life before we finally take action, stop doing what we’ve always done, and embark upon a new course.
You might be lucky enough to have already opened that “basement door.” Maybe you were ready, or maybe the door was opened for you and life shoved you through the doorway kicking and screaming. Or maybe you’re apprehensively staring at that door, still closed, considering what might happen if you open it.
Personally, life has opened many doors in many ways to my many levels of basement. (Yes, apparently one basement level wasn’t deep enough for all my “stuff!”)
Sometimes I have willingly stepped through the door. Sometimes pain and suffering have nudged me through. And sometimes I have avoided the door altogether until life forced me through… despite my clinging to the doorframe, holding on for dear life.
Thank goodness it doesn’t always have to be like that.
Sometimes grace seems to gently open the door for us. And sometimes, after we’ve decided to get comfortable and “make friends” with the basement, the door stays somewhat open and no longer avoided. This “open door policy” has been my own personal path for the last many years, which brings me back to the topic of love.
It’s been my passion the last few years to explore what seems to separate me from Love. In doing so I’ve explored deep terrain and, while it was certainly not comfortable or easy, it has resulted in a more spacious “basement,” a more spacious narrative, and a very different relationship with love.
The Space to Notice More
On my own journey of wading through my false perceptions of love, I have come to know a much deeper and wider Love (which will be the topic of a later post). Suffice it to say that there is less drama and chaos in both my narrative and my life… in all ways. My relationships with people are more clean, clear, and genuine. My relationship with money is healthier. And my relationship with my career continues to become more and more filled with ease. Overall, there is an increased spaciousness with life.
This spaciousness itself is amazing.
Here I find true, sustainable connection and Love.
To reside in this spaciousness itself is in opposition to my learned conditioning because I come from a lineage of do-ers. And so, the spaciousness itself… the silence itself… can sometimes be uncomfortable. Even though I know there is beauty here (and love and connection), I sometimes resist.
I noticed this recently, so back into my basement I went.
Exploring the Discomfort of Spaciousness
The discomfort was a cue that something was up.
I took it as an invitation to pay more attention to what was going on. As I noticed the discomfort connected to spaciousness, I noticed visceral responses I was having to the silence and that increased spaciousness over all.
I noticed a subtle resistance and so began to study how it was manifesting in my life, noting where it was happening most often and under what circumstances. This is what I found: it was mainly arising in my bed, with regards to my phone/Facebook. And with it came a gut level push-pull within my body.
Giving Space to the Push-Pull
You see, a recent change I’d made in my life was to not engage on Facebook (or on my phone much at all) while I was in bed. This was a big shift for me as I often do social media at the beginning and end of my days… from bed. But I was inspired one day, from an internal whisper, to not bring the phone into bed as much anymore—and to stop Facebooking there—and I have learned to trust these whispers.
It was unexpectedly marvelous.
Until it wasn’t.
For the most part it was easier than I had imagined, maybe because the experience of spaciousness is so rewarding in and of itself. However… at times, existing in that gap of space and silence, I found a part of me that wanted to fill it.
Recently I was talking to a friend of mine about it. “I notice that at times I want to fill the space with ‘busy hands,’” I told her. This simple act of naming allowed me to see that some part of me still resists the silence and the space, habitually wanting to fill it with “doing” and “going out there.”
It’s as if some part of me still thinks that love and connection are to be found “out there,” even though experientially I find it sustainably here.
(Side note: This is not to say that love and connection are never experienced “out there.” We are not solipsistic creatures; we are tribal and community-based creatures. And yet, for me in this current aspect of my journey, there is very little sustainable and fulfilling connection that comes from my busy hands scrolling through my newsfeed, especially when compared to the richness and depth of what has been waiting for my attention “in the gap” lately.)
I kept exploring, and found more
Upon this realization, I decided to bring the topic to inquiry and consciously explore what was going on.
After settling in and sitting still for a while I connected with the sensations of the push-pull. There was a subtle visceral sensation in my chest area that accompanied the desire to “be busy” (distracted) on my phone as opposed to being in the gap (without distractions).
I was quickly brought back to memories of my childhood when my mom was in “taking care of” mode. For her, “taking care of” meant practical actions, not being present with what was going on. Staying busy, doing things, figuring things out… this was the world in which I grew up. There was no “being present,” resting in spaciousness, or truly connecting to my feelings or experience. Presence and spaciousness got zero recognition for me as a child, so of course I’d not have attributed any value to them back then.
As I mentioned at the beginning, we attach the experience and meaning of love and connection to people, places, things, and behaviors that come from “out there.” In my case, I had equated love with “taking care of” actions as opposed to presence or spaciousness with regards to my actual experience.
This was not new information. But the awareness of this information was coming from deep within my being, which created the space for new hidden fragments to come to the surface.
Particularly profound was the clarity that those practical displays of “being taken care of” by my mother happened at the expense of what was really going on for me: the ignoring of my emotion was actually seen as loving. In other words, ignoring or bypassing my inner terrain was seen as the loving thing to do, and even as love itself.
How can that be?
I make a living tending to others’ well-being through presence and compassion. I don’t ignore or bypass others’ emotions or others’ inner terrains, so how could I possibly think it was loving to ignore my own emotions and experience?
The fascinating thing about the depth of our subconscious beliefs is that they often don’t make sense to the logical or linear mind. And they often don’t make sense when considering the adult context of a person. I.e., it doesn’t make sense to my adult self that I would be with people who are unable to hold space for my humanity. But the pieces start to come together once I journey into the subconscious unprocessed belief that my child self developed: that ignoring my feelings is love, and going outward into action is love.
It’s no wonder that, until recently, I have attracted people who were good at practical aspects but have not been able to be present or compassionate for my actual experience. I’d been equating love with the former, while not including the latter!
The Freedom to Feel
The surfacing of this awareness brought grief and anger, and I allowed myself to deeply connect to all that was arising within my body. Tears rolled down my cheeks as I connected to my child self who wanted presence and compassion, and instead got action. Specific memories arose, and I took my time honoring all that was coming with them. My entire body became hot and constricted as the sadness and grief morphed into anger. Images of being “Hulk mad!” flashed through my mind’s eye and my breath became forceful as energies moved through me, from my head all the way down to my toes.
As those emotions and the energies attached to them made their way through my body, eventually settling, I was brought back again to the push-pull with my phone in bed. There seemed to be something at stake with regard to giving up the “busy hands.”
I discovered that there was a hidden fear that if I consciously allowed myself to go deeper into the gap—into quiet, into spaciousness—then I wouldn’t be taken care of. I honored that this was a pain body echo from my childhood, and allowed it the attention it needed. As I felt that a deeper truth eventually whispered itself: I will absolutely be taken care of fully in the gap, in ways I can’t even imagine.
I deeply experienced love entwined with presence, and experienced directly how that took care of everything, without a doubt, and without a doing. A knowing was received that love and connection in their purest representations (Love) reside in that gap, waiting for me, always.
A sat awhile longer, breathing and letting my system integrate what had just graciously flowed through. Deep gratitude washed over me.
I have discovered that this internal decluttering has opened doors to an increased simplicity and ease in my life. Mysteriously, it has brought forth whispers that I had previously been unable to hear. Many of these whispers are insightful, creative, and full of aliveness. Some of them are echos of familiar deficiency stories that I’ve been exploring for a while and are reminders of old pain body.
They are all welcome. They all hold wisdom.
Taking the plunge and courageously exploring the basements of our psyches brings all sorts of things to the surface, which allows for a more satisfying and genuine connection to life as a whole.
When the basement door is kept open, and when we make ourselves more available to the whispers of the subconscious, profound revelations and healings can rise up effortlessly- for our evolution.
In my own life, as someone who guides others through their dysfunctional attachments to love, I’ve been able to do the same with regard to myself… and the revelations continue to come! The more I “clean up the basement,” so to speak, the more spacious and fulfilling my life gets.
Just as cleaning the basement in our home creates a more functional living space, when we clean up the basements in our psyches we too become more functional—and consequently more connected and loving human beings.
Thank you for reading! For more information on self-inquiry, exploring belief systems, and unwinding trauma, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.