Suddenly without warning, and sometimes not so suddenly, you wake up and your relationship is over. You feel empty, alone and abandoned. You find yourself looking into a mirror and not recognize yourself anymore. Who is this insecure, lost, obsessive, pining person staring back at you?
You try to resist, but instead find yourself checking messages Facebook profiles as a futile attempt to stay connected to your ex. You talk about it with friends incessantly and can’t seem to focus on anything that was once important or meaningful. You were once a strong independent woman until the grips of love took you for a ride that not only started to get turbulent, but has now come in for a full crash landing. You feel dead to the former you, moving mechanically throughout your day, barely breathing and barely existing. Your inspiration is gone, your motivation to work, create or live is gone.
What happened to you?
Your friends tell you time will heal, you know that’s partially true because you’ve been here before, but the ache is so deep you can hardly imagine let alone remember how you managed to crawl out from under last time. The only thing you can get your former self back is to heal the deep hurt this breakup has triggered. Yes, this is old stuff my dear. It may seem to be about the person who has just left, but that’s only fractionally true, this pain is all about you!
Sure, you’re sad to lose your love but this wound has a more primal origin, one that unfortunately is custom installed in most of us (more on this later). This pain is more connected to your essential humanity than you realize and points to a collective wounding. What if understanding this was the key to not only your healing this pain, but loving and relating in a healthier way in the future, first to yourself and then to others? What if you never “lose yourself” to love, or break up ever again?
In Mary Shelley’s famous book, Frankenstein, we learn of a monster that is created, not by the grotesque assemblage of body parts and electricity, but by abandonment, rejection and loss of human connection. All human life requires connection, validation and affection of some kind to thrive, this is an inescapable fact that has now been proven scientifically. We are wired to connect, to be loved and share love. For so long I judged myself, and have seen women judge themselves for their yearning for this love and connection. As though we’re meant to be some feminist cyborg robots and that wanting or needing this would somehow be a mark against us. It has been thought to be not feminist enough, we’ve been weighed down decades or this dictated by a woman’s movement that while simultaneously empowered us, also seems to have stripped away some this very essential human essence, to desire, yearn for and thrive in connection and relationships.
Oh I too have stood on my soapbox chanting self-sufficiency, independence and that you are the one that you seek – all while secretly not wanting to confess that I wanted by feminist empowerment with a cup of connection and a man too! I still believe what I’ve preached about empowering and uplifting women to be their own happily ever after but not at the expense of denying my humanity and femininity anymore. We have an evolutionary requirement for connection and attachment. The trouble is many, if not most of us have been programmed by unhealthy, toxic or traumatic attachments and relating. These interactions, starting from a very young age leave an indelible mark on our nervous system that like a program running an operating system remains unaware of itself except for the effects of its behavior in the outside world.
You may have experienced this directly as a child through abuse or indirectly through omission – all of which can translate into a pattern of lack of safety in attachment. I recently had the fortunate I’ll be a painful experience of reliving a past breakup, triggered by the ending of an early stage potential new relationship. I knew almost immediately that what was being triggered in me was the past through stepping into my observer self. The observer self is the part of us that always stays detached and watching from a distance. Meditation and mindfulness practices can help you cultivate a stronger awareness of your Observer. This past that remains unattached and curious began to question some out of proportion feelings that were surfacing. I knew immediately they had nothing to do with this person or the current situation. I knew this because my observer game me enough distance from the emotion to recognize what I was feeling was very familiar. My training told me that my nervous system was kicking up an old trauma over abandonment and rejection, this was about the past, a piece of this that remained unhealed and unloved. If we don’t address this old, foundational wound we can very easily slip into unconscious behaviours.
This is how we all allow abandonment wounds to turn us into the monster.
we react and respond quickly without calming down first
we say/do things that appear or feel irrational, obsessive or crazy
we feel we’ve lost ourselves or our sense of identity
we feel lost, depressed and are consumed thoughts and conversations about the person that has left us
we question our worth, appearance, actions
we blame ourselves for driving them away, taking all or most of the blame
we oscillate between blaming the other and feeling sorry for ourselves
we act out, rebound, do destructive things
we can’t seem to regroup, get over it
These monstrous signs are what has given attachment a bad name. We see attachment as something unhealthy, negative and destructive simply because we haven’t been taught to heal the effects of insecure or unhealthy attaching. Attachment, however, is our human nature. Now, there is a difference between healthy and natural grieving of a loss which doesn’t devalue you and in fact is not personal, and what I’m talking about in that bullet list. We each react to the loss of attachment in different ways depending on how we’re programmed to attach in the first place.
In the book Attached, authors Amir Levine and Rachel Heller describe the three attachment styles they uncovered in their research; secure attachment, insecure attachment, and avoidant attachment. At least 25% of us are insecure attachers, and it is those of us that struggle the most with loss that that I write here for here. Insecure attachers have a nervous system that is set up to be hyper-vigilant to any form of abandonment and who in my opinion fall the hardest. Each of these attachment systems or nervous systems will react to grief in the natural ways we think, however, the insecure attachment system suffers this loss as trauma re-lived. Deep in the reassembled heart of Dr. Frankenstein’s monster, he longs for the love and connection to his creator. This longing, when not reciprocated or given either through perception or reality, is a trauma with the capacity to create a monster of us all.
A Course in Miracles says “you think you have many problems but you really only have one, your belief in separation.”
This core principle tells us that the belief in our abandonment is part of our human condition, indeed the disease that creeps around in all of us. A remnant of the original separation from our own creator. Could it be that this very essential wound that was created by the separated ego mind to remind us of our illusory separation from God, is our very own monster? I would say so!
And yet beyond lofty ideas and spiritual truths and concepts, our very human nervous system IS wired for connection at the deepest core of our very survival mechanism. Why do we deny is so?
Breakups and loss can plunge us deep into the hell of this earthly and other worldly wound, but we don’t have to stay there. We can heal and reclaim ourselves from Frankenstein. The first step for me has been acquiring a deep understanding of how my attachment style works and doesn’t work for me and to identify when it has been triggered. Secondly, I approach this from a place of calm reassurance, self acceptance and patience. It’s equally as important to get support in this area and in addition to your own research and understanding, find someone trained in helping you navigate your attachment system. Sometimes coming out of monster-ville is as simple as having someone reflect back to you and remind you of your once former bad-ass self… before the lightning struck! For me, all this has become a practice of awareness and curiosity in the times when I dive into fear. Whether it is triggered by a partner distancing themselves momentarily, or perceived abandonment or rejection, or an actual break up. When this wound is triggered it can feel like YOU – but it is not you, don’t identify with it! It is your nervous system reacting and reliving so you can heal another piece of this old story. Stay conscious and curious so you can repurpose and reconnect to your essential nature, not the monster but rather the Creator within. Your God-self is always safe, always at home, always connected and always loved.