Home > abandonment, Outer Child > Trouble Letting Go of Your Ex?

Trouble Letting Go of Your Ex?

Several people wrote in about the painful dilemma of trying and failing to emotionally let go of their exes. They feel extremely intolerant toward themselves for being so stuck.
This continued torment and clinging to their exes is completely involuntary, not subject to conscious control of their cognitive minds: “I try to stop thinking about her, but I can’t seem to stop the feelings.”

This represents the mind/heart disconnect we all struggle with in so many areas of our lives: “I know I shouldn’t eat this cake, but I can’t resist it.” I like to call this impulse-ridden part of the personality Outer child.

Outer child has a will of its own and acts against an adult self’s best intentions. Outer child is different from Inner child in that whereas Inner is all about feelings, Outer is all about behavior – ACTING OUT behavior. You can think of Outer as your inner child’s annoying older brother.

The reason I introduce Outer child is to explain some of the unconscious motivation of “difficulty letting go” Outer is born of unconscious motivation). Underneath all of this pining way is Outer’s self-spite. There is a lot of self-spite in hanging on to someone who no longer wants you. Unconsciously, Outer is saying, “If I can’t have my way (can’t have her back), I’m going to cry, pout, and be miserable all day. So there!”

Outer can make you miserable and depressed and wish you were dead because it is acting out its anger at the only person it has at hand – namely YOU. It is angry at your ex for ending the relationship, but it’s taking it out on YOU. In fact, Outer is so mad, it refuses to let you be happy or let go.

Outer’s anger can seethe for a long time and send your life into a tailspin – all in a primitive, convoluted attempt to get even with your ex. In other words, Outer can behave like a spoiled, self-spiteful brat toward yourself to “punish” the other person (even though it winds up punishing YOU).

As children we “punished” our parents this way: We went up to our rooms and kicked and wailed and pouted to make them suffer, even when they weren’t listening. In fact that made us bang our heads against the wall all the harder and to hurt ourselves all the more to try to make them suffer. We also wanted to get them to pay attention.

I know it might seem preposterous that adults could be as illogical and primitive as a child. But consider the fact that children behave this way when they feel powerless to do anything else. Outer developed within the personality in the quest for power – yes, primitive power. Outer wanted power and self-spite is an emerging Outer child power ploy.

If the hell you are going through has anything to do with pining for someone who has rejected you , I hope you consider self-spite as a possible source. It will help you locate the fulcrum and adjust it.

Examine your emotional history for early incidents of self-spite toward your parents. If you can find this childish mechanism and recognize it, you can now, as an adult, take yourself in hand, and remind yourself that you don’t always get you what – that sometimes you really ARE powerless – and that punishing yourself will not bring her back. Letting go will come easier.

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  1. September 17, 2010 at 4:41 pm

    Susan, your advice is right on the money. We can be so identified with our relationships that we would rather destroy ourselves than lose hold of what we know, even if there is nothing we can possibly do to heal that broken relationship.

    For others going through this hell, you can get through it. You will survive. You can let go. You don’t need to hate yourself or get even with the person who hurt you so deeply. You are able to forgive and move on, although it will take some time and my involve some slipping backwards.

    You are who you are. You are not defined by your relationship with another person no matter how you may feel right now.

  2. Rebecca Kale
    September 19, 2010 at 6:09 am

    I am going through a break up right now and am having a really hard time moving forward and letting go. I think a big reason is that he won’t say the words “goodbye” and after a four year relationship I think I at least deserve a little closure. I have tried to communicate with him in so many different ways but for intents and purposes, he’s gone and it’s unbelievable to me. I thought we were soul mates, that we would be married, but he’s become yet another person in my life to walk out on me without a true explanation. Great sadness overrwhelms me because I expected more from him, from love, as human beings as close as we once were. It has shattered the last bit of faith I had in human kind. I fear I won’t recover. I know I’ll never be the same. How can another person pretend to want and be someone for so long and then become something totally opposite that you can’t recognize any more. When a person is vulnerable with you, to you, you should be gentle and kind, but most people I’ve encountered in this lifetime don’t care at all how what they do affects others. I’m not that kind of person. I don’t understand. I don’t think I want to understand how people can abandon other people. It scars them for life and if we have any hope to get over the damage that’s been done, especially as children, we have to become aware of it ourselves first, then dig ourselves out. How many of us are out there stumbling through life because the one’s we looked to for guidance just weren’t there anymore? How many of us are tired of being left behind, forgotten, erased? I am and I choose to treat other’s in a kinder way. Can you imagine what the world would be like if everyone lived their life more consciously, as a collective, for the greater good of humanity? I think the world would be a much kinder place, especially for the children of tomorrow. I myself have three children…………..and my ex was important to them. He didn’t say goodbye to them either. This alone, makes me very angry as he himself was abandoned as a child, abused, and had little to no stability. Here is a clear example of how the cycle continues when you allow it. I have had to explain his absence to them, reassure them, and I will never abandon them nor will I allow another person to come into their lives like that again. It just isn’t worth it. They didn’t need to know what abandonment is. Your book gives me strength. It helps me to understand and make peace within myself and my past history of abandonment. It has opened up my eyes to what’s been going on inside myself all these years, and it is helping me now I go through this breakup and great loss of love. Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom and giving me the tools to help me help myself. You are truly giving us all a gift that will hold value for our lifetimes.

  3. Amanda
    July 10, 2011 at 1:37 am

    I am still reeling after my husband of 15 years dumped me when myself and our little boy went to join him where he was working in Australia
    I seethe, and the situation is made really hard because my — ex — husband, lied and cheated about the fact that the reason he was splitting up, was that he was having an affiar
    This meat myself and our six year old gave up our home, car and work to go and join him, but when we got there he broke up. Two months later (we were in Sydney where i have family, my ex was in Perth) he admits he is seeing someone. Why didn’t he tell me? “i didn’t know if it meant anything’ was his response, totally ignoring the upheaval he had put me and our son through.
    So now, a year on he’s marrying the home wrecking cow, who is 27. But i have to deal with him, and try to rise above it all for the sake of my son. We have now come home to Ireland, and i put my son and his father in touch on Skype. But he’s haphazard and lousy on child support. HOw do i not let this pollute things and try to be spiritual about helping maintain a father/son bond. He has visited his son once, for three weeks, but cut it down to two.
    Hlep! I want to kill this bastard, but have to grit my teeth and ignore the fact he lied, cheated and deosn’t want to support his child. Worse thing is i constatnly feel like drinking (i don’t ) or hanging myself
    I have found Susan’s books a huge help, but can’t find pointers on how to keep dealing with your ex when you have young children

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