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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.

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