Lost that loving feeling
June 23, 2013 9:01 PM   Subscribe

I used to quite often feel love and warmth in my heart and body, in a natural way. Lately I do not feel this. I still act loving but I have been feeling somewhat cold; my "loving" comes from my head, not my heart. I want to get my heart back.

I have been feeling lately a coldish feeling in my heart. I realise it is not because the people in my life are not worthy of love, but perhaps I have not been loving, empathetic enough; maybe I have been too selfish. I am trying to figure out what in my attitudes to my friends, my partner, my family, is keeping me from *feeling love* -- and I know that love is not just a feeling, but (I think) a feeling that results from actions -- loving actions.

I wonder if you have ever had a feeling of being blocked in love and the things you have done to come out of it, or how you are able to feel loving and warm in your heart -- what are the things you do for others, or the things you do in general? How do you unlock that natural warmth?
posted by Clotilde to Human Relations (11 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
Not to get all woo-woo, but it sounds like your heart (chakra) is closed up. Did something happen to hurt you? For me I found forgiving people and expressing my hurt/disappointed/frustrated feelings helped get it flowing again. Also meditating on the heart centre helped.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 9:22 PM on June 23, 2013 [7 favorites]

Would it make sense to ask others in your life for a few more hugs, smiles, "you time," etc.? This stuff doesn't come solely from within, and you don't sound selfish, but more like the opposite--someone giving plenty of themselves and not actually getting as much back as you need. Other folks can be worthy of your love and still not be meeting your needs.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 9:26 PM on June 23, 2013 [3 favorites]

I've felt that before, and it was because I was depressed. Depression doesn't necessarily make you sad- it can make you flat, take the life out of things, make it hard to feel anything at all.
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:38 PM on June 23, 2013 [21 favorites]

Generally speaking, the person who feels love is the one receiving the loving actions. A good relationship is symbiotic and both people feel love because both are loved. I agree with the suggestion that you probably need more care from other people rather than needing to do more for others.

I went through this in my marriage. Ultimately, we divorced. I was never able to get back the feeling of loving him. Long before the divorce, I got emotional support from other people that helped me stop feeling dead and cold inside.

(((((hugs, if you want them)))))
posted by Michele in California at 9:52 PM on June 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

Sometimes when feelings are confusing to me (what you're describing would definitely qualify), I find that there's some unfelt other feeling I'm avoiding or haven't given space for.

For me, this becomes clearest in meditation; sitting quietly and quieting the mind can allow things to get feel-able (which isn't always pleasant at the moment and sometimes lasts a while). Usually afterwards, things are pretty different.

My totally uninformed perspective agrees with St. Peepsburg; sounds like you have other things to feel, and you're in survival-mode lockdown.

I also suggest loving-kindness practice, for yourself first. It is for exactly what you are asking about.
posted by eyesontheroad at 11:38 PM on June 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

What helps for me when I seem to be disconnected from the feeling of love, or if I'm feeling a bit cold, flat or empty, is to spend a little time in nature. Even if it's just sitting in the garden and really paying attention to the flowers, the sounds of the birds, watching the sunset, etc. It restores that joyful, swelling feeling in my heart. I think it's about moving from the head to a sense of being, and a reminder that (for me personally) the joyful feeling is something Universal that I'm tapping into, rather than creating, if that makes sense. So I guess it's about replenishing my own inner stocks of joy, wonder and love so I'm able to carry that with me and send it out to others.
posted by billiebee at 1:44 AM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

I experienced the same but backwards. I thought I had just grown up to be a naturally distant, cold person, as I had lost that warm nice feeling I had in my childhood and teens.

I turned out to have endogenous depression. When I started taking antidepressants, a diffuse feeling of inner warmth is one of the first things I noticed. It has been delightful to rediscover that part of my very loving, cheerful inner child is still inside me.

So you could be depressed, though you might not necessarily need antidepressants. Take a look at your life. What are you feeling? Sometimes people feel numb to joy and love when they're suppressing other negative feelings. Frustration, exhaustion, anger, etc.

Good luck with that. I hope you feel better soon!
posted by in girum at 1:46 AM on June 24, 2013 [3 favorites]

Hmm. Let's see if any of my knowledge applies to you. Hopefully it does.

I do insight meditation, and we have this practice called "metta" where we practice wishing others well. Metta practice can be kind of imposing and difficult for many people, because wishing others well is often confused with having the very physical feelings you describe - feeling warm fuzzies in your heart, rather than just "thinking about it". Many people get upset with the metta practice because (among other difficulties) they think that they OUGHT to feel the warm fuzzies in their body, and when they don't, they think that their loving is puny and the practice isn't working. A lot of experienced meditators (certainly all the teachers, many of the more experienced students) are constantly reminding newer meditators that feeling those fuzzy feelings doesn't mean anything about the quality of your love, and FURTHERMORE, trying to make those feelings come back is a sure way not to have them. Trying to force yourself to have an open, warm emotional experience is just not possible, and the more desperate you get the farther away those warm fuzzies get on the horizon. Believe me... I've tried it. I think I tried for a year. You just have to trust that the actual bodily feeling shows up whenever it does, and in the meantime, your love is not feeble or deficient.

Your confusion about what that loving feeling is is... extremely natural. My meditation discussion group recently had an hour-long discussion about that very question. Is it the intention to wish well? The actual wishing? The flooding-of-the-heart feeling? The actions that result from those feelings? What is it? I don't think the answer is any of those things, and if you try to define it precisely, you will be chasing an experience that can't really be pinned down.

That said, it's not that you can't work with this. Feeling "locked up" is most often, in my very personal immediate experience, a signal that you need to love yourself more. I think you should try practicing loving yourself. If you balk at this suggestion - "oh my god, that's so self-centered, I should love OTHER people, not myself" - that would make me very certain that you do, in fact, need to practice loving yourself. If you are afraid of it, why is that? I was afraid it would make me self-centered and it would TAKE AWAY from my love for other people. This. Is. False.

So, whenever you feel upset that you can't feel that loving feeling, I strongly suggest that you take a moment and hold the image of your own self tenderly in your mind. Imagine your closest and most trusted friends/family around you. They love you, and they don't want you to feel bad about yourself or beat yourself up because you are not having the "correct" bodily feelings of love. Remember (not imagine, but remember) how much they care for you. See yourself through their eyes. Tell yourself, as if from them, that you wish yourself peace, joy, health and safety.

Another exercise that really changed things up for me was a particularly specific little thought experiment I came up with one day. Often, throughout the day, I imagined a double of myself next to me - sitting next to me on a lonely bus ride, walking with me to work, doing the dishes by my side. I would just picture a second me, right there, and she would put her arm around my shoulder and tell me that I was good enough, loving enough, caring enough, and that I was doing a good job in my life. There were times when I felt bad enough about myself that I found myself having a strange knee-jerk reaction to this little image - I didn't even want an *imaginary duplicate of myself* to see me and hear my thoughts because I felt so bad. You know what? Nobody deserves that. I didn't deserve that. And you don't deserve to feel guilty because you can't control your feelings. You are loving enough. Give this exercise a try if it's not too weird for you. It really illuminated a lot of things for me.
posted by Cygnet at 4:08 AM on June 24, 2013 [21 favorites]

It sounds like you need some nurturing. Remember that you're not an inexhaustable source; you need to replenish yourself in order to have anything to produce. Rather than trying to create feeling, I think you need to spend some time receiving, in whatever ways that happens for you.

Another thing though is to look at this as an opportunity to affirm your dedication to being a loving person. Sometimes you won't feel love emotionally, just like any other emotion. The ability to continue to behave lovingly even when you aren't feeling it is super important and the fact that you seem to have it is great!
posted by windykites at 8:24 AM on June 24, 2013 [3 favorites]

Oh also, may I suggest the book and practise of Focusing? It's written in very vague and woo language simply because we don't have a lot of terminology in English for these concepts, since they're all about the body's role in emotions and how to work with that, and we tend to disregard the body. But once you get past the language, it's a very helpful practise for this kind of thing. And I think you'll be able to understand it more quickly than I did based on the question itself; you're already somewhat in tune with the physical feelings of your emotions, and that's what focusing is about.
posted by windykites at 8:34 AM on June 24, 2013

I'd be curious to know if anything else has changed in your life besides your shift in feelings of love.
posted by bunderful at 6:59 PM on June 24, 2013

« Older Reading Catullus 85 out loud (in Latin)   |   Things to listen to with a minimum of futzing... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.