These four stages lead both to healthy love and profound inner healing; to self-discovery, authentic empowerment and a life much more filled with love. In this episode I’ll guide you through the basics of each of these steps and help you apply them to your own life and journey to healthy love.
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Table of Contents
- First Stage: Discovering Your Core Gifts
- Second Stage: Working with Your Attractions
- Third Stage: Leading with Your Gifts
- Last Stage: Rewiring Your Defense Mechanism
The 4 Stages of The Journey to Healthy Love
There are four stages of the wiser journey to healthy love. Every one of those stages builds on the last. Everyone heals our lives and helps us move much more directly to the kind of healthy love that we’re dreaming of. Stay tuned to the Deeper Dating Podcast to learn about these four stages, and see where you are within those stages.
Hello and welcome to the Deeper Dating podcast. I’m Ken Page. I’m a psychotherapist and coach and author of the bestselling book Deeper Dating. And today I’m going to talk about the four stages of the wiser path to love. This week and every week I’m going to share with you the best tools that I know to help you find healthy, sustainable, beautiful love, and to help it continue to flourish and grow and heal your life in the presence because the real skills of dating are nothing more than the skills of love. And we know that the skills of love are the greatest skills of all for a happy and rich life.
And if you want to learn more about this material and this work, my upcoming intensive and courses, just go to deeperdatingpodcast.com. There you’ll find a transcript of this episode and you could also sign up for my mailing list and learn about my free events, my ongoing courses and other resources that I think are really valuable. I also want to say that everything I share in this podcast is educational in nature. It is not medical advice or psychiatric advice. And if you feel that you’re experiencing any serious psychological conditions, please seek professional help.
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In thinking so much about the search for love and in my own journey and in my work with many, many, many people, I’ve come to think of this journey as having four stages. And of course we go back and forth between the stages, but there’s a progression in these stages that I really believe in and I want to talk about each one of them. And I’d like you to think about where you are in this journey based on the concept of these stages.
First Stage: Discovering Your Core Gifts
The first stage is what I call the discovery of your core gifts. And if you’ve been listening to my podcasts, you know a bit, a good bit, about how to discover our core gifts and what our core gifts are. But I’m going to kind of start from the beginning here and just describe them in general terms.
And the image that I always use is to picture a target. And that target is kind of the zones of your authenticity and the Latin word that the word intimate comes from, or intimacy is the word intimus and it means in most. The closer you get to the inside of this target, the closer you’re getting to the in most authentic self that you are. Your feelings of deepest vulnerability, of greatest passion, the times you feel most touched by life in pain, in joy, in depth, in meaning, in creativity.
And the further out you get from the center, the more you’re numbed, the more you’re defended, the more you’re far away from the heat of that inner core. And that inner core is heated because we are all instruments of deep, deep feeling. As you get close to the core, there’s vulnerability, there’s sensitivity, there’s joy, there’s hurt.
Identifying Your Core Gifts
And often all of those feelings can be hard to bear so we protect ourselves. And then in this world, which can be quite a cold world and a complicated world, when those parts of us, those intimate parts of ourselves are revealed and they’re stepped on or even neglected or ignored, the pain is greater because those parts of us are so close to the very core of our authentic self. And when they’re dishonored, it’s like our being is dishonored. And especially when we’re younger, the way we interpret that is that our being is not worth honor. There’s a lot of wounding there and we create defensive selves.
In my work, in my classes, in my courses, the first stage of what we always do is a lot of deep and in my book, a lot of deep, rich work around what are our core gifts. And the way we can identify our core gifts, and this is something that you can think about right now is, in your life, what are the things that quicken your heart? That inspire you? That touch you? That feed you? And this is kind of like fingerprints. All of us are inspired by love, by honesty, by bravery, by these basic kind of things. But like fingerprints as well as being universal, they’re completely unique.
The things that spark your heart the most are yours. They’re the language of your inner being and that’s where your core gifts live.
What Quickens Your Heart?
And the same is true with the things that hurt you. We could have a room of people and there could be a whole bunch of different interactions and different ones of us will be hurt and inspired by different portions of the experiences that we all have together. Because we’re all different and it’s part of this richer understanding of self to know what quickens my heart. What speeds my heart? What hurts my heart? And when we begin to look at this, it’s kind of a new understanding of who we are. Then, because what we usually do when things hurt us is to tell ourselves, “Well, I’m probably being too sensitive.”
Instead, we learn to dignify those hurts. Not to wallow in them, but to honor and dignify them and say, “All right, what hurt me here? How does that connect with my deepest parts? How is that something I need to treasure?” Now most of us don’t do that. We might fight back, we might get defensive, we might hide these parts, we might suppress them, we might shame ourselves, we might shame the other person. But the act of honoring, the act of honoring what hurt you and why, is very, very powerful. And I’ll just share an example of that.
I was recently with a group of people and there was an artist and this artist shared some of her work and I was so incredibly excited by what she did. It was just mind blowing to me. And I was just bursting with desire to talk about it, but she didn’t feel comfortable talking about it and so kind of everything I said was dismissed.
Dignifying Your Core Gift
And other people weren’t as interested or excited as I was so the conversation continued. I ended up being kind of hurt. And it was a hurt that I told myself was silly to have, because what? We didn’t talk about the art and my heart was bursting with excitement about it, but that wasn’t such an important thing and no one else seemed bothered.
But because of the work that I am learning and have learned to do, I instead dignified that part of me. And I thought, this is a core gift of mine. The way that art hits me and touches me is intense. It’s intense and I need space to honor that. And no one else was really giving the space so it makes sense that I was hurt. Now that didn’t take the pain away immediately. But man, it relieved my heart and I knew who I was in a richer way and I was celebrating and honoring myself. There was nothing I did externally about this except later talked to my husband about kind of how difficult that was for me. But there was nothing externally I did. The process was honoring that part of me.
What are the things like that for you in your day to day life that hurt you in particular ways that you might think, “oh, I’m just being too sensitive here.” Or that you were trained to think that. See if anything comes to mind. And if so, follow that process. How could I dignify that? How does it make sense given my innate gifts that that hurt me and bothered me in a particular way? And what might be the gift there?
Honoring the Origin of Your Being
Because we get the most wounded around the places where our deepest gifts lie.
That’s just one tiny example, but here is how this connects to the search for love and it speaks of a deeper physics in the search for love. And this is what it is, the degree to which we honor those deep, deep, deep, innate, intimate parts of ourselves, the most authentic core of who we are, to that degree, as we learn to dignify those parts of ourselves which have roots in a place so profound that it’s kind of wordless. They’re the essence and the origin of our being. They’re the center of our being. They’re the source of self in a way. The more we honor and dignify those parts, the more we will be sexually and romantically attracted to people who are good for us and to situations that are good for us.
The more we denigrate those parts or the more we’re ambivalent or we suppress those parts or we think, well I can’t really honor those parts unless the world proves to me that they’re worth honoring. The more we feel that way, the more we will be drawn into masochistic situations and the more we’ll be sexually and romantically attracted to people who are not available or not good for us.
That’s why the true journey to intimacy has to begin with a deep self honoring and that’s the first stage.
Second Stage: Working with Your Attractions
And in my book, Deeper Dating and again in my courses and my upcoming intensive, you can learn how to identify and articulate your own core gifts. It’s a beautiful and important process.
As we learn to do that, things shift, really things begin to shift. There is a reorganization of self based on these beautiful core parts of ourselves and our worlds begin to shift. And often in my intensives, people say, “All right, I’m not going to date for a little bit because this is kind of so powerful that I just want to sit with me for a while.”
Then the second stage is the stage of working with our attractions. Everybody tells us that the kind of the heart of finding love is you have to make yourself more attractive. But really obsessing over that is the path to personal hell as well as bad relationships. It is great to make ourselves look good. It is great to look good. It’s great to be in shape. It’s great to do all those things. It’s great to have natural confidence, but when we think that that’s going to be what leads us to love, we go afield because you can’t be yourself and this airbrushed version of yourself at the same time.
As wonderful as it is to become more attractive and to work on our attractiveness, obsession with that or thinking that’s going to lead you to love is really, it’s what it is, is it looks like self improvement but it’s self hate in a really sexy outfit.
Observe The Patterns
Around the subject of attractions, what gives us the hugest bang for our buck is to become a student of who we are attracted to. And if you make a list of all the people – in my book in chapter five, I have people do this. If you make a list of all, let’s just say the negative attractions, the relationships that didn’t work and you note the kind of negative difficult qualities. No, I’m not saying that you weren’t a part of that, we’re always a part of those things.
But just for the purpose of this exploration, if you notice and you write down the negative qualities that appeared in your partners, maybe in somewhat different forms, but basically similar, you will see patterns and those patterns are hugely important for two main reasons.
One, because it teaches you what you need to look out for so that you can learn from your history and get more and more sensitive to those attributes. Two, and this is a profound thing, there’s the question of why were you drawn to someone like this again and again? And there’s a lot of rich exploration there, but what I want to say in the broadest way is,
“When we become a student of our attractions, we make much better choices in our dating life.”
Educate Your Attractions
And now another piece that is really important in this subject of understanding our attractions, because we cannot force our sexual attractions, we can’t do it. We can’t force our romantic attractions. Either it’s there or it’s not. However, we can educate those attractions. And when we do, we find that we start to make really different choices.
This understanding of old patterns is a really rich and important thing. The other piece of that is understanding the positive patterns. Who were the people you were with who made you feel safe? Who inspired you by who they were? Who inspired you by their decency, their availability and their care? Those are what I call your attractions of inspiration and those are gold and you also have that circuitry within you. And when we make this kind of existential choice to say we are only going to pursue our attractions of inspiration. In other words, people with whom our hearts in an essential and basic and pretty much consistent way feel safe.
People who inspire us by who they are, how they treat others and how they treat us. Those are attractions of inspiration and as much as we could be turned on to the bad boys, the bad girls, the unavailable people, and we all can, we also have a circuitry where we can be attracted to people who inspire us for all the ways I mentioned. And there comes a point in our journey where we say, “I’m done. I’m done with those other sexy, spicy turn on relationships that lead to heartbreak. And I’m just going to choose inspiration. Yes, I have to be sexually attracted, but I’m only going to choose people who I’m sexually attracted to who are also attractions of inspiration.”
Third Stage: Leading with Your Gifts
When we make those choices, when we discover our core gifts and decide to dignify them, when we learn these lessons around our attraction, our field, our kind of magnetic field somehow begins to shift. And this is something else that I’ve seen again and again in my work. That when we make those choices we find, when we get out there, we meet people who are different. We’re attracted to people who are different, and there’s mutual attraction to different people because we’ve kind of changed our atomic structure in a way where we’re organized from the inside out in a healthier way. This really happens, and I would say it’s the closest thing to a miracle that I see in this work, is watching how beautifully this happens and how it does happen when you take these steps.
The third step is getting out there in different ways, leading with your gifts, leading with your soul. And there’s so much here, so much rich material that I won’t be able to get into here. But I will just say a few things. There are ways to do your online dating in a way that you’re leading with your gifts and you only look for attractions of inspiration.
Your profile needs to show who you are. Your photos need to show you glowing, not just you sexy and attractive, but you glowing because the right people will pick up on that. Your profile needs to show who you are and you want to look for profiles that seem like they could be attractions of inspiration. In your online interactions, show your best self, show your generosity, your kindness, your decency. And look for others who seem to be the same.
Last Stage: Rewiring Your Defense Mechanism
And this is the one single sentence that I ask people to hold as the leader of their process. As kind of their cutting edge place. And that is, “does my soul feel safe with this person?” That’s the big question. Of course there’s so many other questions, but when you lead with that question, you instantly dignify your core gifts.
I’ll just say another piece about this too. One of the best ways to meet people is through events, actual in person events with people who share your values. That’s just something I want to say that I think is incredibly important. And if you’re really serious, add that into your repertoire. It’ll make a big difference.
And finally, I just want to speak briefly about that last phase. And the last phase is a phase of rewiring because when we meet someone who is an attraction of inspiration, we need to unwire the ways we’ve learned to defend ourselves in the presence and the fear and the risk of real intimacy. We have to unwire those ways and we have to learn to empower and protect ourselves based on our authenticity instead of based on our old defense mechanisms. We need to learn to be able to have sex in a way that it is hot and exciting, but safe spiritually and connected intimately.
We need to learn how to be able to talk about the things that hurt us. We need to be able to learn how to treasure our partners and offer them that same safety.
And we need to bring that kind of deeper authenticity into the journey as well as entire skill sets that teach us how to build attraction. And I talk about this in other podcasts as well.
I talk about all these different things in different podcasts, but we need to learn those skills because in the presence of a healthy relationship, the tasks that we need to do, the skills that we need to do are different. But what is so beautiful about that is that they are generative tasks. They’re tasks that lead to more love instead of empty frustration. The more we do these acts of wisdom and love, the richer the love becomes in our lives. And we can’t do that if we don’t know how to dignify our core. And if we haven’t chosen someone who is safe and inspiring in a basic way.
These are the four stages that I think you can see, not only help lead to love, but heal our entire lives and our journeys. I hope this information was helpful to you, I want to encourage you again to go to deeperdatingpodcast.com, join my mailing list, learn more about this work, go to Ask Ken on that website, and you can leave me messages that’ll be recorded and I’ll do my best to answer them on the podcast. And also please, if you could, subscribe and leave a review. Thank you so much and I hope this was a helpful episode for you. See you in the next episode.