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The More They Hurt You the More They Hook You

October 12, 2010 Leave a comment

Why is that? Why is it that the more they hurt you, the deeper in goes the hook?

It’s a demoralizing dilemma to be in. A lot of you wrote about it this week. One person sent this message: “I feel like a fool. I should hate him [her husband] for all of the sneaking around with ___ [the other woman], but all I want is to lie next to him and have him put his arms around me. I keep begging him to stay, not to leave me. I’ve become pathetic. I don’t blame him for not loving me”

Another woman was beginning to lose interest in her boyfriend, that is, until he became a no show on Friday night. The next day, she still hadn’t heard from him and his phone was turned off. She went into a panic that could only be quashed if he called.

Eventually he did call, told her he’d call her again that evening, but didn’t follow through. She went back into panic. Now she imagines that she is madly in love with him, that she doesn’t care about what a louse he’s been, she wants him and only him.

A man writes that he suspects his wife of having affairs. She flirts outrageously with other men right in front of him, avoids spending time with him, and doesn’t like having sex (with him), and seems to only care about her own needs. “I hate to grovel for her attention,” he explains, “and if I do try to talk to her about our relationship, she becomes angry and accusatory.”

Yes, it’s demoralizing to be in the “emotional beggar” role. But it doesn’t mean you’re a weak person. It just means you’re human. It could happen to almost anyone, given certain conditions. And it takes tremendous strength and insight to get out of it.

Another young man says his girlfriend has cheated on him more times than he can count, and she always comes back, swearing she’ll never do it again. She’s hurt him so many times, he’s tried to break up with her, and has dated many nice women in between, but the only one he obsesses about, the only one he wants is her. He’s hooked. He’s hooked by the pain she has caused.

I’ve already written about this– that when pain is introduced when you’re forming an attachment, it strengthens the attachment. I mentioned that when the researcher accidentally stepped on the toe of the duck, the duck imprinted him stronger than the other ducks. I also mentioned that fraternities inflict pain in their “hazing” to make the new “pledges” more loyal and bonded to the fraternity.

Here’s a little more explanation. The Zagarnic effect shows that the more problematic a situation is, the more enduring its impact upon your motivation. The study gave problem-solving tests to two groups. The control group had an easy-to-solve problem; the other group was given a problem that couldn’t be solved within the time-limit. Researchers went back to the two groups many years later. The ones who couldn’t solve the problem still remembered what it was about, but the control group had forgotten all about it.

When someone causes you to feel pain, the mammalian part of the brain (it is unconscious) creates an impression of that person so that it can warn you (with stress signals) to proceed with extreme caution during your next contact with him. This extra arousal from your autonomic nervous system gets confused with “being excited.” It arouses your “fight or flight” response, which gears you up for “competitive mode,” and the challenge holds your interest.

Also, someone who arouses those old familiar insecurity feelings reminds your mammalian brain of old feelings you had as a child when you were trying to gain your parent’s attention or acceptance, and this creates a kind of special arousal that hooks you in – and you find yourself “groveling.”
Regardless of the reason, if you find yourself in this position, first know that you are not alone. The best among us have probably been in this position. The key is to learn take back control of your life.

You are not your mammalian brain – it’s just a powerful part of your biological being. The antidote is to take 100% responsibility for your emotional needs, stop looking to your partner to take away the pain that he or she caused in the first place. It’s your job to set your life right.

Just don’t underestimate the strength it takes. And don’t judge anyone who is caught up in this. This is all about being human and learning not to be ruled by your addictive emotions – by your primitive brain.

Rejection Hurts: What to Do?

August 27, 2010 1 comment

When someone rejects you they acquire power in your mind. They acquire power due to their ability to inflict pain. The more they hurt you the harder it is to let go. This is the painful paradox of abandonment.

“Why does it take so long to get over it?” people ask. Those suffering from rejection judge themselves harshly for not being able to feel better sooner. They beat themselves up for feeling so weak and needy. They feel this so called “weakness” is proving their abandoner right for rejecting them.

People going through abandonment lose self-esteem this way. They beat themselves up for losing the person. They conclude that they must be reject able, valueless, unworthy. They shame themselves for pining and yearning and wanting someone who has hurt them so badly.

They turn the rage over being rejected against themselves, beating themselves up, causing themselves to plummet into a painful depression, damaging their self-esteem further. Having disqualified themselves as worthy of love, they are panicked over fearing that they will wind up dieing alone. The anxiety seems unbearable and bottomless.

That’s why abandonment grief feels like a terminal illness. People are afraid they will die of their wounds – that is, die anxious, worthless, and alone. Whew, a painful depression! And it lags on.

What to do:

First and foremost, stop berating yourself for feeling so miserable – and for the length of time it is taking you to get over it. It’s only in the movies that people recover so quickly. It’s only in the movies that people just get mad, burn their ex’s clothes, and walk away triumphant. In real life, people pine away for long periods of time, but they are too ashamed to admit to most people. So when it happens to you, you think you’re taking too long, but this ongoing pain is how men and women alike react to rejection.

Second: Rejection is a painful laceration that takes time and effort to heal. You must replace your ex with a love of your wounded inner child. Treat your hurt feelings not with self-criticism, but as a cherished child that it is your new job to take exquisite care of. Physician, tend thy own wound.

Third: Getting over someone is all about time management. Recognize that this is your full time job. Time management is pain management. Discover what things help you the most and do them more. What parts of the day are the most painful? Plan them differently. Your new priority is time management and it involves creativity and taking initiative.

Fourth: Get into therapy or support groups or both. Abandonment opens you up to the core. It’s like exploratory surgery – but now that your chest cavity has been splayed wide open, why not go in and clean up the wound. Question some of your false assumptions about yourself and your life. Do your emotional spring cleaning.

Fifth: Use your friends. Yes, I know, the heartbreak has dragged on so long, they are sick of listening to you. You can tell because they’re beginning to say things like “You need to let go and move forward,” not taking into account the fact that you are already doing everything in your power to let go and move forward, but you just can’t. You’re miserably stuck, which is the whole POINT they’re missing.

Never mind, just ask them for patience and forbearance. Explain that you need their companionship, you need to talk, you need more support. Explain that you’ll be there for them when they need you. If you’ve been a good friend to them over the years, they owe you one already.

Sixth: Add new things into your life. Enlarge your circle of friends and activities. Explore your alter ego states. Again this involves creativity and taking initiative. You have to join new things, especially activities where you will be around other people.

Seventh: Re-acquaint yourself with old friends and family. This is reunion time. You can tell them all about the breakup and the transitional period this has thrust you into. Tell them you are reconnecting your past with your present and want to meet up with them to reconnect. This has a wonderfully healing impact

Eighth: Go on a self-improvement plan. Some people go to pot. They let themselves go. Do the opposite of that. Become your best self. Join a gym, take up jogging, yoga, philanthropy, journaling, go back to school, move, change jobs, etc.

Ninth: Be determined to turn this painful period into a positive experience. As a result of your efforts you become your higher self.

Tenth: As our higher self emerges, consider making new love connections again. This time, however, look for partners who are more emotionally safe to attach to. And don’t clamp on to anyone at first. Take your time, play the field, lead from your newly acquired wisdom rather than your old patterns.

The Bigger and Better Syndrome

August 26, 2010 6 comments

Also known as “Looking to Trade Up,” this syndrome is the scourge of committed relationships. You are attracted to a new person. She turns you on. You’re into her. You start seeing her every chance you get. The sex is hot. You feel close, connected. You begin to imagine a future together.

But as it gets more real, you wonder if there might be someone better for you out there, someone who gets you to feel even greater passion. In other words, if you were to commit to your current partner, would you be selling yourself short? Another woman starts coming on to you, and you start thinking about her. This changes the dynamics of your current relationship. Your partner starts to get needy and insecure. You feel the pressure. You feel engulfed and want to get out. You’re caught up in “The Bigger and Better Syndrome.”

How common is this syndrome? Very. It’s especially prevalent among “good catches.” They know they have options: The other fish in the sea swarm them. Having too many options is a problem. It makes it hard to make a final choice. You’re never sure if there might be someone better. So you delay “choosing the one you’re with.” The opposite end of the extreme is the person who latches on to the first person who shows any interest. You think “this is it.” Underneath, you are assuming “this is the best I can do.” You rationalize clinging to this person with “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” This can work out okay if you’ve picked someone who commits back to you– and someone who will grow with you over time.

But very often the person who clamps too quickly gets dumped. You’ve sent out all of your attachment tentacles to someone who is “looking to trade up.” Your partner eventually reverts to “surveying his other options.” You go into high gear to keep him. You are in pursuit mode. You are desperate to hold onto your catch. The emotional challenge serves as an aphrodisiac. You feel really hooked on this person – addicted. Your entire life revolves around keeping him. He, of course, in the meantime, is pulling back, resisting your engulfment.

Many eligible people out there have Bigger and Better Syndrome. They look like “winners” because they always seem to be on top. They seem to never get dumped. They are the one who does the pulling away, the leaving. They leave a long string of heartbroken lovers in their wake. This is good for their ego, bad for yours.

Yes, these people seem like the winners for a while. But if this syndrome continues into middle years, they wake up one day realizing they have a problem feeling love toward anyone who loves them back – especially for any length of time. Feelings of emptiness and loneliness creep in. Their life lacks a sense of purpose or meaning. They don’t know how to fill the hole except to continue finding partners who can make them feel infatuated. But they can’t sustain that feeling indefinitely, no matter who they fall for in the beginning. So out they go again in pursuit of “Bigger and Better.”

They are searching for the holy grail of lovers – someone who will keep them infatuated forever. He or she must be out there, they believe. But they continue to be surrounded by too many options, and they can never make a final choice. They have “Bigger and Better Syndrome” but don’t know how to fix it. What’s the solution? They have to hit bottom with feeling the emptiness – the futility of their current pattern. They have to recognize they have this syndrome. They have to become truly wise about how self-defeating these romantic escapades have become. They have become committed to change their ways. And then they have to take action.

This action consists of learning how to love – not just enjoying “pursuit mode” and infatuation, but learning how to love. Love as a verb. Love as a choice. Love as a cultivated behavior. Stay tuned…