We all need love to thrive. When we abandon ourselves in various ways — such as judging ourselves, numbing out with addictions, or making others responsible for our self-worth — rather than learning to love ourselves, this leaves a big empty hole within that wants to get filled with love. We try to fill this hole in various ways, such as with food, alcohol, drugs, sex, porn, overwork, TV, Internet, and social media. We become focused on getting love and approval from others to fill our emptiness, and we develop many ways to try to have control over getting love. Most people enter relationships to get love rather than to share love, believing that getting love will fill them up and make them whole. When we do this, we are unable to sustain love, because when we are not loving ourselves, we have no love to share with others. Instead, we try to control others into giving us what we need to be giving to ourselves — attention, acceptance, compassion, validation. We try to control with compliance and caretaking, as I did, or with anger, blame, or withdrawal. Self-abandonment, and the resulting controlling behavior, is the one major cause of relationship failure. When we are not loving ourselves, our wounded ego is in charge and can wreak untold harm on others. It’s only in learning to love ourselves that we learn to value all of life and experience our oneness with all living beings, including Mother Earth. When we operate from self-loathing, this gets projected out onto others and the planet. People who love themselves do not harm or kill themselves or others, nor do they trash our planet. Loving ourselves is vital for us and our planet to survive.
As a part of my series about “Connecting With Yourself To Live With Better Relationships” I had the pleasure to interview Dr. Margaret Paul. Dr. Paul is a bestselling author, popular MindBodyGreen writer and co-creator of the powerful Inner Bonding® self-healing process — to learn to love yourself and create loving relationships — and the related SelfQuest® self-healing online program, recommended by actress Lindsay Wagner and singer Alanis Morissette. Dr. Paul has appeared on numerous radio and television shows (including Oprah). Her book titles include Do I Have to Give Up Me to Be Loved by You? (and subsequent titles Do I Have to Give Up Me to Be Loved by God?, and …By My Kids?), Healing Your Aloneness, Inner Bonding, and the recently published, Diet For Divine Connection: Beyond Junk Foods and Junk Thoughts to At-Will Spiritual Connection. The Inner Bonding Workbook: Six Steps to Healing Yourself and Connecting with Your Divine Guidance will be released March 1, 2019. Margaret holds a PhD in psychology, and is a relationship expert, public speaker, consultant and artist. She has successfully worked with thousands of people and has taught classes and seminars for over 50 years. Margaret lives in Colorado on a 35-acre ranch — a dream come true! She has three children and three grandchildren. In her spare time, she loves to paint, ride her horse, cook delicious healthy food, play with her grandchildren, play with her dogs and cat, read, make pottery, kayak, and joyously live her life as a Golden Girl with her best friend.
Thank you so much for joining us! Let’s Get Intimate! I’d love to begin by asking you to give us the backstory as to what brought you to this specific career path.
I grew up as an only child in a dysfunctional family. By the time I was five years old, I was so anxious that my mother took me to a psychiatrist. After speaking with both of us, he told me to tell my mother not to yell at me. I remember thinking, “I’m only five. She doesn’t listen to me. You tell her.” My next thought was, “I can do a better job than you.” That’s when I decided to become a psychologist!
I entered my conflicted marriage when I was 24; it ended after 30 years. As a child, I had learned to be a caretaker, which means that I gave myself up and took responsibility for others’ feelings while ignoring my own, to try to get love and approval. I continued this role in my marriage. When I began to realize that I needed things to change, my husband was not supportive of changing our taker-caretaker relationship system. When I finally learned to love myself and was no longer willing to give myself up; the marriage ended.
I had become a therapist and practiced traditional therapy for 17 years, but I was not happy with the results with my clients, nor with my own personal therapy. I had tried every form of therapy offered at that time, and I was still anxious and dealing with relationship problems. I began to seek a process that would work faster and go deeper than traditional therapy, and that’s when I met the co-creator of Inner Bonding, Dr. Erika Chopich. We each had half of the six-step Inner Bonding process, and our higher guidance put it together for us. That was 34 years ago. Inner Bonding has been evolving since then and has become an amazingly successful process for learning to love yourself, and for healing anxiety, depression, guilt, shame, anger, addictions, and relationship problems.
Looking back, I’m astounded that not one of the many therapists I worked with helped me learn to love myself. Nor did they tell me that I was responsible for my own feelings, or how to learn from my feelings and manage them with compassion. And they didn’t teach me how to create an at-will connection with my Divine guidance, which is essential for learning to love ourselves. Because most of have not had role models for truly loving ourselves, we need to be able to turn to a spiritual source for this role modeling, and for the comfort we need to be able to lovingly manage life’s challenges.
Needless to say, I no longer do traditional psychotherapy. I am thrilled with the results the many thousands of people around the world experience with Inner Bonding.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you hope that they might help people along their path to self-understanding or a better sense of wellbeing in their relationships?
I have been working for many years on an online program called SelfQuest®, which is now a patented program that teaches the six-steps of Inner Bonding in a very in-depth way. It’s currently being translated into numerous languages. We have a non-profit 501(c)(3) and we are devoted to placing this program in prisons and schools, as well as selling it to the general public. You can get a sense of SelfQuest here.
My 10th book is coming out March 1, published by New Harbinger: The Inner Bonding Workbook: Six Steps to Healing Yourself and Connecting with Your Divine Guidance. This book offers powerful exercises in learning to love yourself in all areas of life and relationships.
The foreword is by NY Times best-selling author, Katherine Woodward Thomas, and I have received many endorsements by well-known people, including Lindsay Wagner, Alanis Morrissette, Sandra Ingerman, Marci Shimoff, and Dr. Sue Morter.
Do you have a personal story that you can share with our readers about your struggles or successes along your journey of self-understanding and self-love? Was there ever a tipping point that triggered a change regarding your feelings of self acceptance?
The hardest time of my life was when I was headed toward a life-threatening illness, and I knew that if I didn’t learn to love myself and stop caretaking everyone — my parents, children, husband, friends and clients — I would die. But I was terrified that if I started to love myself rather than give myself up and take care of everyone else, I would discover that the people who said they loved me really didn’t — that they loved what I gave to them but they would leave if I stopped abandoning myself. In fact, that is what happened. My marriage ended, my parents disowned me, and my children were angry at me. No one in my family supported me in taking loving care of myself. But as hard as this was, I would do it again, because I got my health back and I got me back. Wonderfully, I did have the support of my best friend, and that made all the difference. Now my life is filled with so much joy!
According to a recent study cited in Cosmopolitan, in the US, only about 28 percent of men and 26 percent of women are “very satisfied with their appearance.” Could you talk about what some of the causes might be, as well as the consequences?
In our society, we have learned to place our happiness and worth on externals — on looks and money and achievements. Few of us grew up being valued for our essence — our true self. Unless we had parents or caregivers who had done their own inner work to discover their own intrinsic worth — the spark of the Divine that is within each of us — they couldn’t see and value our intrinsic worth. As a result, our society places way more value on looks and other externals than on intrinsic qualities such as kindness, caring, compassion, generosity, honesty and integrity. The result of this is that the majority of people feel insecure about their looks. One of the gifts I have is that I can see and feel the essence of others almost immediately, so in my work with my clients, I help them to see who they really are within, which is essential for learning to love themselves. They are far more motivated to love themselves when they value who they really are in their true self.
As cheesy as it might sound to truly understand and “love yourself,” can you share with our readers a few reasons why it’s so important?
We all need love to thrive. When we abandon ourselves in various ways — such as judging ourselves, numbing out with addictions, or making others responsible for our self-worth — rather than learning to love ourselves, this leaves a big empty hole within that wants to get filled with love. We try to fill this hole in various ways, such as with food, alcohol, drugs, sex, porn, overwork, TV, Internet, and social media. We become focused on getting love and approval from others to fill our emptiness, and we develop many ways to try to have control over getting love. Most people enter relationships to get love rather than to share love, believing that getting love will fill them up and make them whole. When we do this, we are unable to sustain love, because when we are not loving ourselves, we have no love to share with others. Instead, we try to control others into giving us what we need to be giving to ourselves — attention, acceptance, compassion, validation. We try to control with compliance and caretaking, as I did, or with anger, blame, or withdrawal. Self-abandonment, and the resulting controlling behavior, is the one major cause of relationship failure.
When we are not loving ourselves, our wounded ego is in charge and can wreak untold harm on others. It’s only in learning to love ourselves that we learn to value all of life and experience our oneness with all living beings, including Mother Earth. When we operate from self-loathing, this gets projected out onto others and the planet. People who love themselves do not harm or kill themselves or others, nor do they trash our planet. Loving ourselves is vital for us and our planet to survive.
Why do you think people stay in mediocre relationships? What advice would you give to our readers regarding this?
Because so many people abandon themselves — with their lack of presence with their feelings, with their self-judgments, avoidance of responsibility for their feelings through substance and process addictions, and through making others responsible for their feelings of worth, safety and happiness — they are afraid to be alone. In addition, because we attract others at our common level of self-abandonment or of self-love, people who are abandoning themselves have little hope of attracting a more loving partner.
It takes both people to create a mediocre relationship, so unless there is physical or emotional abuse, I encourage people to stay in the relationship and do their own inner work to learn to love themselves. Once they are taking loving care of themselves and making themselves happy, then, if their relationship hasn’t improved as a result of their changes to what I call their relationship system, they are confident enough to leave. But my experience is that even if just one of the partners does their own inner work and becomes loving to themselves and to their partner, more often than not the relationship improves, and their partner also makes changes. People tend to treat us the way we treat ourselves, so many people find that the more they learn to love and value themselves, the more loved and valued they are by others.
When I talk about self-love and understanding I don’t necessarily mean blindly loving and accepting ourselves the way we are. Many times self-understanding requires us to reflect and ask ourselves the tough questions, to realize perhaps where we need to make changes in ourselves to be better not only for ourselves but our relationships. What are some of those tough questions that will cut through the safe space of comfort we like to maintain, that our readers might want to ask themselves? Can you share an example of a time that you had to reflect and realize how you needed to make changes?
Loving ourselves requires that we take responsibility for all of our feelings, rather than continue to abandon ourselves. We all have two kinds of feelings: the painful wounded feelings we cause with our emotional, physical and spiritual self-abandonment, such as anxiety, depression, guilt, shame, anger, emptiness, aloneness, or jealousy — and the painful feelings of life caused by others and events, such as loneliness, grief, heartbreak, sorrow and helplessness over others and events. We need to learn how to compassionately manage the painful feelings of life, and we need to learn about what we are doing to cause our own painful wounded feelings.
We need to ask ourselves questions such as:
- What am I telling myself and how am I treating myself that is causing my anxiety, depression, guilt, shame, anger, emptiness, aloneness, or jealousy?
- Why am I treating myself in these unloving ways — what are the false beliefs causing me to abandon myself?
- We need to uncover false beliefs such as, “I’m unworthy of love,” “I’m not good enough,” “Others are responsible for my feelings,” “I can control how others feel about me and treat me by doing everything right.” We all absorbed many false beliefs as we were growing up, and by focusing on how we are currently treating ourselves, we can uncover these false beliefs.
- Where did I get these false beliefs? What past experiences led me to these false conclusions?
- What am I trying to control or avoid with my unloving behavior toward myself and my controlling behavior toward others?
- What actually occurs when I try to control or avoid responsibility for my feelings? Do I end up feeling better or worse? What happens in my relationships when I try to control getting love or approval, or try to avoid the pain of anger and disapproval with various controlling behaviors?
The evolution of the Inner Bonding process came about by me asking myself these questions. These are the questions I asked myself when I knew I had to change or die. I had to explore my caretaking — what I was trying to control or avoid feeling by giving myself up. I had prided myself on being so loving when I was giving to others while abandoning myself. What I learned was that caretaking wasn’t loving — it was a form of control to try to get love and avoid pain. It was a shock to me to discover that I was really being controlling rather than loving to myself and to others when I was caretaking. Even though my family liked my caretaking, it wasn’t loving to them because I was doing for them what they needed to learn to do for themselves. I was enabling them rather than loving them. All this learning required me to be uncomfortably honest with myself.
So many don’t really know how to be alone, or are afraid of it. How important is it for us to have, and practice, that capacity to truly be with ourselves and be alone (literally or metaphorically)?
It is vitally important to be able to be alone with yourself, because if you are afraid to be alone, you might stay in an unhealthy or abusive relationship out of this fear. Being able to be alone with yourself becomes easy when you learn how to connect with a higher source of love, wisdom, guidance and comfort. Once you learn to attain Divine connection, which we teach people to do as part of the six-steps of Inner Bonding, you never feel alone. Before Spirit downloaded Inner Bonding to us, I had no idea what it meant to love myself. Now I have only to open to learning with my higher source of wisdom and I immediately receive answers regarding taking loving action on my behalf and on behalf of others.
How does achieving a certain level of self-understanding and self-love then affect your ability to connect with and deepen your relationships with others?
When you learn to love yourself, including learning to connect with a higher source of love, you become filled up with love to share with others. When you are abandoning yourself rather than loving yourself, you create an inner emptiness, and from this empty place, you pull on others to get their love. We can’t connect with others when we are disconnected from ourselves. When we try to connect with others without first loving ourselves, we are giving to them from neediness, hoping to get their love and approval in return. This isn’t true giving — it’s giving with an agenda. To connect from heart to heart and soul to soul, we need to be fully present and connected with ourselves and truly loving ourselves.
What are 5 strategies that you implement to maintain your connection with and love for yourself, that our readers might learn from? Could you please give a story or example for each?
I use the six-steps of Inner Bonding:
1. Willingness: Breath deeply, following your breath to move yourself from mind focus to body focus, scanning your body for any physical feelings, because emotions show up as physical feelings. Get present with your feelings and make a decision that you are willing to take responsibility for your feelings.
I’ve learned to focused in my body, staying connected to my feelings — what I call having my inner baby monitor on. Just as a parent who wants to attend to her baby the moment the baby cries has a baby monitor on, I’m listening inside for anything less than peace and fullness. Then, rather than avoiding my feelings by staying in my mind rather than being present in my body, or judging myself, or turning to addictions, I move toward my feelings to learn about all the vital information they have for me regarding whether I’m loving myself or abandoning myself.
2. Intention: In the Inner Bonding process there are just two intentions possible in any given moment: the intent to protect against pain with some form of contnrolling or avoidant behavior, or the intent to learn about loving yourself and others. In Step Two of Inner Bonding, breathe into your heart and choose the intent to learn about loving yourself. Open to the love and compasson that is spirit and invite that love and compassion into your heart by simply saying, “I invite love and compassion into my heart.” This creates what we call in Inner Bonding the loving adult. We need to be a loving adult to understand how we are not loving ourselves and to learn what to do to love ourselves.
I’ve learned to access my higher guidance at-will and bring that love and compassion into my heart so that I can come from love when I attend to my feelings.
3: Dialogue: Dialogue with your feelings, which is our inner guidance system (our essence, core self, inner child — there are many names for our feeling self), asking about what you are telling yourself and how you are treating yourself that is causing painful wounded feelings (anxiety, depression, fear, anger, guilt, shame, aloneness, emptiness, jealousy, rage, stress and so on). Allow the answers to come from within, not from your mind. (We teach a somewhat different process for lovingly managing the naturally painful feelings that come from others and events).
Once you understand how you are abandoning yourself that is causing pain, go deeper, asking about the false beliefs underlying the unloving behavior toward yourself. What happened in the past that led to these false beliefs? This is a powerful way of becoming aware of how you learned to treat yourself badly.
Because I’ve been doing this process for so long, my feelings — my inner source of guidance — readily speaks with me, so I’m able to quickly understand what I’m doing that’s not loving to myself.
4. Dialogue with Your Higher Guidance — Accessing higher guidance occurs easily when you keep your body in a high vibrancy with clean, organic foods, and by being open to learning about loving yourself. We access our guidance when our frequency is high, and it’s both the intent to learn about loving yourself and keeping the frequency of your body high that allows at-will Divine connection. In this step, we ask our higher guidance two questions: 1) What is the truth about any of the false beliefs I’ve uncovered?, and 2) What is the loving action I need to take for myself? As we stay open, we will receive answers. Not surprisingly, this takes practice!
I’ve been eating only non-processed and organic foods for 57 years, so when I started to practice Inner Bonding 34 years ago, connection with my higher guidance was easy for me. It took time for me to understand that it takes both clean healthy eating and a sincere intent to learn about loving myself for my frequency to go high enough to access my higher guidance.
5. Take Loving Action — We take the action guided by spirit, putting love into action. Without loving action, the first four steps mean nothing. The actions might be internal, such as practicing not judging ourselves, or they could be external, such as getting more exercise or training to change jobs.
Since I had no role models for loving myself, as most people don’t, my spiritual guidance became the role model and now I turn to her for the loving actions throughout the day. At this point, I would not know how to live without her.
6. Evaluate — After taking the loving actions, we go back inside to see how we feel now. If we feel some relief from the pain, we know we have taken a loving action. If not, we go back to Step 4.
My relief, inner peace and joy let me know I’m back on track!
These steps take practice, but they always work when people do them. I have hundreds of testimonials on my website of the power of Inner Bonding to heal ourselves.
What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources for self-psychology, intimacy, or relationships? What do you love about each one and how does it resonate with you?
One of my favorite books is “Dying to Be Me,” by Anita Morjani. After a near-death experience which cured her of cancer, she said that if she could sum up her experience with God in two words, it would be “Love Yourself.”
I also love Larry Dossey’s book “One Mind.” I love reading about the research and experiences people have had that are about our oneness with each other and with all of life.
I’m always reading books on health and nutrition and my recent favorite is “Deep Nutrition,” by Catherine Shanahan, MD. The research she has done is amazing!
I love “Jesus: My Autobiography,” a channeled book by Tina Louise Spalding. This book validates everything I’ve learned about loving yourself and what we teach in Inner Bonding.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? Maybe we’ll inspire our readers to start it…
Since what I teach is about learning to love yourself, share your love with others, connect with a Divine source of love and wisdom, and experience oneness with all living beings and with Mother Earth, the movement I’m working on is bringing Inner Bonding®/SelfQuest® to as many people around the world as I can. Currently, my books are in many languages and I have people from around the world in my courses. Shortly, SelfQuest will be available in numerous languages.
I would love any help with this movement!
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote” that you use to guide yourself by? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life and how our readers might learn to live by it in theirs?
Years ago, I asked my guidance why I’m on the planet and she said, “You are here to evolve your soul in your ability to love and to manifest the gifts you’ve been given.” I immediately knew that this is why we all are here, and since that day, love has been my guiding light, and I turn to spirit each moment for what is loving to me and to others.
Thank you so much for your time and for your inspiring insights!
About the Author:
Sasza Lohrey is the Founder & CEO of BBXX, a digital platform for intimacy and wellbeing. She is also the host of the BBXX podcast, “Let’s Get Intimate!” which hosts provocative and entertaining conversations with experts in order to challenge the way our culture conditions us to talk about sex, intimacy, and healthy relationships. BBXX was created in order to help people better understand themselves, so that they then can form deeper and more fulfilling relationships with others. Sasza is a former D1 athlete with a background in psychology and digital media. She is a member of the Women of Sex Tech collective, the co-mentorship community Dreamers and Doers, and a regular columnist for several online publications. Originally from the Bay Area, Sasza founded BBXX during a Stanford entrepreneurship program in Santiago, Chile. Learn more on our website and listen to more interviews with experts on our top-rated podcast!