June 06th 2010 - Love Advice for the Broken Hearted
Lynne Namka, Ed. D. © 2010
So “Give yourself to love, if love is what you’re after” the songwriter Kate Wolfe tells us. But unfortunately part of love is hurt and pain which can be more fully understood by pondering on the whys, wherefore and why nots of heartbreak. We have all experienced it in one form or another—that excruciating betrayal or loss of someone we cared deeply about. Movies ever repeat the theme of love gained and lost. Songs pulse and throb with the pain of losing someone.
When we care about someone deeply, we experience connection and the good feelings of belonging. We expect these to go on forever, but unfortunately all of human nature is not wired this way. Most first loves do break up and some later ones as well. Friends we consider to be forever move on to others who better suit their tastes. Like the oldie-but- goodie song says, “You always hurt the one you love.” If you choose someone who is basically selfish, is caught in addictions or mental illness or has unresolved childhood trauma issues, it’s probable that you will feel betrayed.
Learning to deal with the excruciating feelings of being left is a greater part of being a human being. I know. I’ve broken the hearts of good men that I had to leave and have had my heart broken several times as well. So I know both sides and have experienced all the emotions that come forth during the breakup process. In addition, I’ve sat in therapy sessions in compassion with numerous men and women who were heartbroken. One of my therapist roles is being “The Love Coach” helping people sort out what went wrong and how to keep the heartache from repeating next time. As Patsy Cline sings, “Heartaches, heartaches, my loving you makes my heart break.”
Love pain may be the worst feeling of all—a gut-wrenching anguish born of loss. Old core beliefs about not being deserving of love surface. Love suffering is one of the great mysteries of the human condition; it hits the self-esteem hard. Like the song says, “Love hurts.”
Love gone wrong. We never get the life nor the love we expect. And we do not deserve the emotional pain of betrayal, but it happens just the same. People leave because they fall out of love and know the relationship is not right for them and they cannot stay any longer. Some betray the ones around them because they need new vistas or experiences. Some become totally absorbed in new hobbies. Some run away from tried-and-true love because they need the excitement of someone new; they aren’t mentally ready to settle down to one person. Some stay and seek out others outside the relationship because that is what they grew up with— important people in their lives couldn’t be faithful to their partner. This is narcissistic entitlement—“I get to do this because I can”—which causes much suffering in the world.
And sometimes people leave because they have life lessons to be learned elsewhere with someone else. Their decision to leave may be entirely about their needs that could not be met in the relationship. So if this has happened to you consider that being left may not be about you at all. It may be something their ego required that you could not provide. This doesn’t mean that you were flawed. It just wasn’t the exact match like a jig saw puzzle piece that almost fits, looks like it should fit, but won’t go into that exact configuration of the open space left in the whole puzzle.
Betrayal is often the result of expectations not met. When we think we have found true love, it feels so good that we expect it will go on forever. We are set up for the unrealistic happily ever after by romance novels and films. The Finnish people are deemed happier than Americans because they have lower expectations. When something good does happen, the Finns are pleasantly surprised. Realistic expectations in a marriage are respect, caring, faithfulness, honesty and sharing of finances. Unrealistic expectations are demands like “I expect you to take care of all my feelings or always put my needs before yours.”
Love gone wrong can turn into love gone gone giving a big hit to the psyche and the fragile self-esteem. Humiliation festers. Exaggerations come forth. Dark fantasy takes over. A victimhood story forms. Mourning sets in. Misery is dwelled on. Happiness in the simple things of life goes out the window. Energy drops to a lethargic level. Depression moves in. Ruminations run the gerbil wheel of the mind. Life contracts to dwell on the negative. The illusion of love too often turns to the disillusion of love. The ego kicks in with hurt, bitterness and thought of revenge which is the idea of “You hurt me; I’ll hurt you.” Ugly can set in if you don’t nip it repeatedly in the bud.
Buddhist psychology says that life is suffering and to let go of suffering, let go of attachment. We attach to those that have made us feel good. We attach to the nostalgia of simpler times. What we attach to is the good feelings brought about by the dopamine center of the brain. It’s the pleasure center that puts out the feel-good endorphins that make us feel alive having that grand amour. The greatest and cheapest antidepressant is the endorphins and positive feelings generated by being around the one you love. And the biggest plunge happens when that is taken away from you by your partner’s duplicity. We humans are more governed by our dopamine systems that we ever know. And it is that very dopamine system that keeps us attached to old and unobtainable loves years after the initial loss. It’s called nostalgia—that longing and wistfulness for a simpler time when we felt safe.
If you are still adrift after experiencing pangs over lost love, the best bet is to turn it around to understanding what you need to change about yourself to make love work the next time. Sometimes this means choosing a better-suited partner who can commit to you.
Medical intuitive Caroline Myss suggests using the pain of betrayal as an opportunity to learn something about yourself. “Betrayal, brilliantly serves as the master teacher, motivating us to seek a higher order. In trying to heal from a betrayal, we demand to know why the break up happened. But for all our questions, the answer we seek seldom surfaces, so we are forced to move beyond our questioning. What I’m suggesting is that betrayal is a spiritual message, telling us that it is time to leave the dimension of human logic behind and move to the next plateau of consciousness; diving reasoning… This epiphany is the source of joy. It brings an awareness that the people, places or events that allegedly ‘caused’ a betrayal were no more than players in a dram to serve our growth, as we serve them. Knowing this may not immediately make betrayal painless. But look at betrayal as anything less than a call to higher consciousness can keep us locked in the pain far longer.”
You might find minor comfort in telling yourself that it just wasn’t meant to be and that you don’t need to know why. As my friend, poet John Bailey wrote, “It’s not your fault, but it’s your move.” So move you must if you want to let go of your victim story. Put in a lot of stops. Stop obsessing about getting the lost love back. Stop your single-minded focus on that one person and move on to satisfying sensory experiences. Step back and detach from the angst of loss and grief. Step away from those beliefs of the mind that dwell of suffering.
There are techniques to quell the aches inside and you would do well to practice them if you want to return to wholeness. The Emotional Freedom Technique and Tapas Acupressure Technique and Eye Movement Desensitization Technique help you process and release unhappy emotions. Do a web search for these sites that can refer you to practioners in your area or look in alternative newspapers. Learn to do these techniques on your own each and every time you have a love pang and gradually or sometimes quickly they will decrease.
Pain makes you contract emotionally so go for the opposite: expand yourself. See the situation from a bigger perspective than one of ongoing pain. Open yourself spiritually. Reach out and help someone else. If you have a character defect that caused the break up, go after it with a determination that you WILL become a better person. Practice Thought Stoppage—interrupt each yearning thought especially the negative concept that you were “dumped.” Turn that mental channel of your mind away from the soap opera channel to a more entertaining one.
Your capacity to feel pain is equal to your capacity to love again. The depth of the plunge into the valley of despair can be the one and same as the long climb back to the land of the loving again. It might be a long, arduous journey but the expedition to self-knowledge is doable.
To love is to risk. To love is to face the possibility that you might experience loss. Be glad that you are a feeling person who has the ability to feel for others deeply. Feelings add to the richness of life; go for the richness. Like Faith Hill sings, “When it comes to sitting it out or dance, I hope you dance.” And I hope you love. Find someone who is giving and loving even if it is a furry companion that thinks you are the greatest thing in the world. Then give the object of your affections all its worth. Here’s a line of hope from Oriah Mountain Dreamer’s poem for the walking wounded who seek new possibilities, “Love as if you have never been hurt.”
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