Posts Tagged ‘loss’

Is Your Partner Still on the Prowl?

October 12, 2011 Leave a comment

You’re in a committed relationship. Or so you thought. But do you get the feeling that one of you is hedging your bets? Does your mate still act as if he or she is interested in meeting new people? You can sometimes suspect that your partner is still open to this possibility by the way others respond to him or her.

It’s pretty painful if your partner is still shopping, because it means that you’re being compared to others. It’s as if — despite everything you have worked for in your relationship — you’re really a commodity and can be easily traded in for a better or newer model.

This is often what is behind the commitment-phobic personality: These individuals aren’t ready to throw their lots in with yours because they’re remaining open in case there is someone better out there.

If you suspect your partner is hedging or pulling away because of this, it might be helpful to use your best finesse to call him or her on it.

You don’t have to come on like gang-busters. Ask something like, “I feel like you’re not fully celebrating our relationship. Is it possible that you are still ‘shopping’ for a partner?”

Even if your mate denies this, you’ve had a chance to plant a seed.

Remember: Mature people don’t shop — they care about who they’re with, and that’s more important than finding someone better.


Just Which One Is the Abandoner?

I’m a therapist, a family member, and a friend, but no matter which role one I’m in, I tend to empathize with the abandonee.

That is, the person who received the slight. The one who WASN’T invited to the special party. The one who did a great job but got fired. The loving partner left for another.

Even as a kid, I rooted for the underdog. If I watched football on television, I got hoarse cheering for the losing team, unless they’d begin to win, and then I’d feel badly for the other team. It’s something deep in-the-bone in me, borne no doubt of my early experiences, and groomed me to become a specialist in abandonment.

Specialist or no, it’s not always so easy to tell just who is the victim and who is the perpetrator. Will the real abandoner please stand up?!

Sometimes people feel abandoned within a relationship. They endure an aching sense of chronic rejection. After years of feeling taken for granted, dismissed, ignored, or abused, they finally get up the nerve to leave. They feel entirely justified because they didn’t feel loved to begin with. They didn’t matter. Nobody claimed their heart.

Very often, I would even say almost always, the partner they are leaving goes into acute abandonment crisis – heartbreak like you’ve never seen the likes of.

So which one is the abandoner?

Of course the answer is both, but oh do I wish something could have been done to work on this problem sooner. It would spare so much pain.

Abandonment pain is the worst! And the “too late-ness” of the situation frustrates me tremendously.

I’d like to shout it from the rooftops. People have to stop abandoning each other. Lovers have to behave more responsibly. Spouses have to nurture each other’s basic need for love and acceptance. Friends, family, employers have to learn how to communicate and be open to feedback! People have to realize the pain involved in abandonment.

Here’s what complicates things: Some people are hyper-sensitive to rejection (abandonment). So they perceive rejection or insult in the slightest nuance, sometimes even when it is not there. Then they become difficult toward the person, creating a set-up where they wind up actually getting a negative response. Their fear of abandonment created a self-fulfilling prophecy. They feel like the victim, but don’t realize the extent to which they are the perpetrator.

This can take on an extreme form where people go around being belligerent toward others (getting even with them in passive hostile and not-so-passive hostile ways) based upon their misperceptions. These extreme folks have little or no insight and tend to blame all of their problems on the other person, not realizing the problems they caused.

No easy answers for now, just wanted to stroke the folks who find themselves sometimes on both sides of the victim feeling.

What Makes Me Unhappy?

November 1, 2010 1 comment

Contrast. If you feel a negative contrast between what you experienced in the past and what you are experiencing now, you feel the short-fall as “unhappiness,” “loss of energy,” or “depression.”

At first after Paul died, the contrast was nearly unbearable. I had been accustomed to intense connection and constant affection. We spent every spare minute enjoying each other’s closeness – just being together. He had been sick for a year prior and I had always been busy administering to his medical and personal needs, all of which gave my life a sense of purpose, meaning, and focus. It was all about being in love.

Then there was nothing. I sat in the midst of the void at loss for a sense of purpose, feeling lost. The negative contrast crashed down around me and I called it “grief.”

Grief has a lot to do with contrast.

But it’s been a few years now and my frame of reference has changed. I’m no longer comparing today to the days when Paul and I were entwined together. Instead, I am comparing today to the first year following his death. And things have improved enough for me to feel a positive contrast. Hence I don’t perceive myself as unhappy anymore.

Another way of saying this is, you can grow accustomed to something challenging and it takes time.

Contrast is why breakup is so unbearable. You are left with the broken pieces of your heart searching desperately for crazy glue, in painful contrast to the past when you were happily coupled looking forward to your future together.

But sometimes negative contrast is subtle, hard to see. You feel unhappy and don’t realize that you are comparing the quality of your current life to some previous time. You might not be conscious of your frame of reference.

Take Victor. He left his wife because he was feeling hemmed in, bored, and desirous of being with other women. He loved his freedom, but five years later he found himself feeling unhappy and wasn’t sure what the issues were. So he’s changed jobs, changed girlfriends, changed apartments, but he just didn’t feel the get up and go he used to have for life. Since he was fighting depression, he came in for therapy.

What was going on was that his mind was comparing his current life to the old married days when he felt secure and connected, had a sense of future and steady companionship, embedded within extended families, with hustling and bustling of activity. These were the days before he’d begun to grow bored and restless.

Although he chose single life and doesn’t consider his decision to leave his marriage a mistake (whether his reasons are valid or not is immaterial), his mind (working somewhat unconsciously) was busy comparing the quality of his earlier married days to his current reality. He was basically alone, since none of his new relationships resulted in sharing a “total life” together.

Realizing the “contrast” helped him in two ways: It helped him understand where his depression was coming from and it clarified his goals. He has a clearer sense of what ingredients he needs in his life to make him happy, a better sense of direction.


October 25, 2010 1 comment

Some people have written in this week about being in relationships where they feel painfully insecure. This kind of pain is different from that expressed by those who are lonely – folks who are emotionally alone because they can’t make a connection with anyone. Which pain hurts more? Most of us can identify with both of them. If your relationship gives you a constant knot in your stomach, you’re in a kind of torture that takes complete control over your life. After a while, being in the “one down” position brings shame. It causes your self-esteem to plummet. It causes your friends to lose patience with you.

It becomes a negative central focus for your life – an obsession. So why stay in? For most people, it’s because the fear of the other kind of pain — the pain of being completely alone — somehow seems worse. In fact, most people have a fear of being alone. The fear is always worse than the reality.

You rationalize staying in a painful relationship by telling yourself that a bad relationship is better than no relationship at all. Your fear of abandonment prevents you from taking any action that will sever the connection.

The antidote is to suddenly pull back and take stock. Helping people (and myself) to this point is always a challenge. The task involves putting on the breaks and taking complete responsibility for your own emotional well-being — whether you decide to stay in the relationship or not.

Stop looking to your partner to fulfill your needs. Due to the circumstances, you alone must make yourself secure — and not lay your needs at the feet of the other person. When you look to the other person, you give up your power.

When a relationship is going smoothly, you can afford to look to your partner for love and security. It’s normal to depend upon someone to care for you and give you mutual love. But when your partner isn’t meeting you halfway, your task is to get yourself out of the emotional torture. This is where you must act on the realization that you and only you are responsible for making you feel secure.

The tools are available: i.e., “Big You, Little You” from JOURNEY FROM ABANDONMENT or JOURNEY FROM HEARTBREAK. Learning how to take complete care of yourself emotionally is a task that will help you grow — and it might also salvage your relationship.

Heartache Is the Itch You Can’t Scratch

September 22, 2010 Leave a comment

This week, the theme seems to be the durability of the abandonment wound. People write to me that it feels as if they will never get over “him” or “her.” Some have been “hurting” for over 10 years – and these folks judge themselves (and so do their friends) as being pathological for remaining stuck in the muck for so long.

Well, it’s not pathological, it’s the way we are built as attachment mammals. The key is to give your “mammalian brain” (or limbic brain) someone new to focus on. Otherwise, it will keep searching for its lost object, even if that person has been gone for 10 years.

If you have been pining away too long, you must get back out there. You must make new connections. Do not delude yourself into thinking that just because he or she still remains so foremost in your mind (mammalian brain), that this person was necessarily so special. Your limbic brain does this even if the person wasn’t right for you. It’s just the way we are built. The brain continues “searching for the lost object” until we give it a new object to focus upon.

I’m being repetitive, but sometimes it takes a lot to get through to people who are so stuck. Many of you are stuck not only in the heartache, but in the false beliefs that go with it. May I repeat: The fact that you are still pining is not proof that the person is so special. It is proof that you have not yet found a way to outsmart your mammalian brain. To do this you must wake up and challenge your attitudes and beliefs. You must take a new lease on life and realize that your primary task is to make new connections.

Of course, the first connection you must make is to yourself. If you have lingering abandonment feelings, it is because you have abandoned yourself. Being rejected by someone we love almost always causes us to momentarily (or indefinitely) abandon ourselves. And this includes me. I became self-doubting and angry at myself for losing my beloved. This anger toward myself caused me to abandon my self.

So, my first task was to recognize this and to start connecting to myself in a new way. This meant accepting myself and administering to my needs on a profound new level.

I have spoken a great deal about how to “adopt” yourself after “abandoning yourself” in my books, blogs, workshops, etc., so I’m not going to take the time right now. Instead, I’m going to move to step 2: Make new connections with new people.

You must step outside of your usual circle of friends by becoming involved in activities that are new to you. You must reach out and connect with people who are outside of your usual comfort level. Your goal is not to find a romantic partner right off the bat. Your goal is to discover your alter egos – aspects of your personality and interests that you have not explored before.

Your goal is to explore your undiscovered self. You are practicing. You are learning, growing, changing, trying out new things. You are taking positive risks.

Being inflicted with an abandonment wound can be pretty serious business – it can bring the most independent among us to our knees. And it’s a nasty wound – more like shrapnel exploding inside than a clean razor cut. It can become infected and cause scarring. If we don’t know how to overcome it, it can really change the course of our lives.

But don’t let it. Yes, let it make you fight. Yes, it’s hard work, but it’s worth it.

When it comes to abandonment recovery, my message is always the same. There is no magic bullet. No 5 easy steps. Recovery involves work. It involves challenging yourself to the max and changing your life.

When You Have Loved and Lost – What to do with All the Love? – Part II

September 14, 2010 Leave a comment

Self Love Not Narcissism
Caution: You don’t make yourself love’s object narcissistically. It’s more of a spiritual redirection of energy toward that central place within the self we all share – a universal place of quiet appreciation for the wonders of existence. Even if your existence has you currently writhing in spasms of torment, at least you can remember good moments in the past – and you can observe others appreciating these moments. Ponder these things and your own emotional state momentarily lifts a little. Notice I said “a little” and “momentarily.” This is not a magic pill. The benefits are gained slowly, cumulatively, through repeated practice. Use your appreciation of good moments – ponder self love – as a way of punctuating your journey with little commas, to create pause through the day.

If you want to move beyond punctuation and really gain traction to move forward, you need additional tools – power tools.

Self Love Leads to Connection
Let’s talk turkey here: For the vast majority of us, love must ultimately be satisfied in human connection. Your ultimate goal is, most likely, to find a new special someone. But for now, while you are bereft of that person, the idea is to throw yourself energetically into the act of loving yourself and the world around you. This does not happen by osmosis, by using specialized exercises that help you build a stronger relationship with yourself. These exercises act like physical therapy for the brain. They are carefully honed to help you convert love as a feeling into love as an action that you take on behalf of yourself and others in your life. I’ve filled several books of instructions about this [i.e. WORKBOOK:]. True, this process takes a little know-how and encouragement, but it is doable.

You Gain Gravitation Pull
This conversion of love-for-another into self-love transforms you from a satellite to a sun. You become a solar source of your own radiant warmth and energy – a glowing presence that others bask in as well. As you administer love to yourself in a real way through actions you give yourself (methodically prescribed through the exercises), you gain gravitational pull.

The love you give yourself must be unconditional self-love – love which compassionately accepts yourself, warts and all, as you would accept your loved ones. This kind of love is so magnanimous that people in your life are inevitably drawn in.

It’s not Idealistic Gobbeldy Gook
Does this seem impossible? Others have done it. This transformation is how healers are born. It’s also how people’s hidden strengths become activated. You see amazing people around you. Suspect that adversity prompted them to become who they are. All it takes is hard work and the right tools. If others have done this, why not you? And again, consider your choices: You can either drown in sorrow or rise to the occasion to become your higher self. Why not make yourself the object of your love and increase your potential as a human being?

You’ll do this Imperfectly
When you do this, you’ll do it not perfectly, but imperfectly. If you try to do this perfectly, you’ll make yourself the object of frustration rather than love. Plan to love yourself imperfectly. Give yourself a compassionate pass for those times you succumb to abject self-hatred and acute devastation. Love yourself affectionately for these feelings as they are part and parcel of the intense emotional crisis of abandonment. You’ll likely still feel demoralized, hopeless, helpless, and panicky at times – not to mention prone to constant self-doubt and idealization of your abandoner. There’s also the rage and feeling wrung out from all the shouting and crying you’re doing. You’re human, so attend to your wound lovingly. Reassure yourself: This will pass.

Accept all of these feelings as natural, part of the experience, part of transience, part of you, and administer to them compassionately as you would to a small helpless child going through this. Again, this will pass.

When you become conscious of being in heartache, don’t squelch the feelings, but gently remind yourself of the need to make yourself the object of your own love. Favor this idea as you would a mantra as you go through your day… and whip out those power tools and get back to work to do another round of physical therapy for your heart, mind, and soul.

Categories: abandonment Tags: , ,

When You’ve Loved and Lost – What to do with all the Love?

September 13, 2010 Leave a comment

Someone writing into my website asked a penetrating, thoughtful question:

“Dear Susan, In your chapter on Transcending, we learn about the `Higher Purpose of Love.’ “Is the Higher Purpose of Love, in general, that which is more than just wanting to be loved by someone special?”

The answer, of course, is Yes, but what is implicit in the question is: How on earth do you DO that? How do you take love so intense that it burns a hole in your heart – love for a person who wants no part of you – and convert this yearning, burning love into the “higher purpose” kind?

Surviving a Mortal Wound
The answer to the question may be “Yes” but giving that answer automatically breaks empathy with the person going through heartbreak because it becomes one of those easier said than done aphorisms. When you’re aching for someone who’s abandoned you, hearing a simplistic prescription makes you feel even more helpless and isolated. You’re struggling to survive what feels like a mortal wound, certainly not feeling emotionally prepared to snap your fingers and become an enlightened swami.

Back up. Wait a minute. Simplistic, extreme, radical, outlandish, yes. But when you take a moment to stop protesting the awful reality of being left, you get in touch with a strength you didn’t know you had – a strength that allows you, at least for a moment, to ‘face life on life’s terms.’

Protesting is a Universal Stage of Grief
Protesting is a universal stage of grief. It’s something we all go through and some of us are feistier and more stubborn about it than others. The truth is that protesting a loss doesn’t change its reality and only perpetuates the pain.

Trying to Change the Unchangeable?
When you catch yourself railing against the reality of your situation – digging in your heels to ward off having to accept what’s happened – and realize how futile your efforts are, you get in touch with your ability to calmly face facts and ask yourself what choice you really have. You can either continue gnashing your teeth and wringing your hands or you can use the same energy to Rise To The Occasion. What occasion? The occasion of taking the love that is bursting out of your heart for someone you have lost– love that has no place else to go – and convert it into the kind of love you can give to yourself and the world around you. This love is a transforming kind of love – a generalized, self-empowering kind of love that isn’t for one special person, that just IS.

This is love that you will first give to yourself as you would an oxygen mask on an airplane, and then bestow its life-saving sustenance on your loved ones.

How to Begin the Process
Converting love for an ex into love for oneself becomes possible only when you begin facing (and stop protesting) the simple, but painful reality that you no longer have that person to focus your love on. Who else but yourself to make the object of your love? This self-love thing is probably long overdue for you, anyway. You’re handy, that’s for sure – and most likely have nothing better to do emotionally. When you get the self-love thing going, it gives you a new beginning. As your self-love gains momentum, it automatically spreads to others.

To Be Continued…tune in tomorrow.