“There is a secret about human love that is commonly overlooked: Receiving it is much more scary and threatening than giving it. How many times in your life have you been unable to let in someone’s love or even pushed it away? Much as we proclaim the wish to be truly loved, we are often afraid of that, and so find it difficult to open to love or let it all the way in.”
~ John Welwood
Most of us are not talented receivers when it comes to love. Whether or not we are able to give love has surprisingly little to do with its polar opposite of being able to open to the love coming towards us. We refuse the love we say we want when we complain about the packaging it arrives in. We refuse the lover we say we want when we blame them for what they are not. We refuse the love and the lover we say we want when we justify our refusal in the storylines of anger, guilt and inadequacy. In fact, most people when pushed to the edge of their refusal to receive love will admit to what may be the most painful universal wound of all – the belief that underneath it all we don’t deserve the love we say we want.
Learning how to let in the love that is constantly around us, coming towards us, yielding to our asking hearts is perhaps the only lesson worth mastering. It begins with establishing your own worth as the center of your existence. Imagining yourself as a worthy container of love and patching the cracks that leak out the essence of our lovability is an inside job. The repairs are worth the effort, as our willingness to witness and experience the painful recognition of our own beliefs fall away. We are in fact innately capable of receiving and transmuting the love that comes towards us.
In intimate relationships this inability to receive love is most acutely witnessed in the significant incidence of sexual dysfunction and its collateral damage to the experience of orgasm. Millions of people, both men and women, suffer from conditions that impact their ability to receive and experience pleasure. There is a lot of forgiving that needs to happen around most people’s sexuality. Whether from unhelpful messaging about what our sexuality means about us or the bad choices most of us make on the way to figuring our sexuality out, we live within a wounded culture of sex that publicly swings widely between the prudish “just say no” and the endless hookup. Forgiving ourselves and loving the wounded places in us is perhaps the most essential leap we can commit to in opening up a path to permitting ourselves sexual pleasure.
Exploring our sexuality from this perspective offers one of the most tender and gratifying practices available to us. This idea occurred to me not long ago when I was in the midst of experiencing my own passion. I understood in a visceral way just how deeply our capacity for arousal is actually the most profoundly embodied experience of receiving love available to us. What keeps most of us from sliding down this fast moving chute into a pleasure delirium is our inability to receive and feel worthy of the pleasure that lives within us.
So, take a risk with your heart and begin in the bedroom. Abandon your need to control the outcome, allow yourself moments of naked vulnerability and experience how unpredictable and healing human touch can be. Receiving physical love from your partner is a true investment, which not only changes the cycle of giving and receiving in your relationship but allows pleasure to move through us and transform us.