When we are separated from love in a traumatic or extremely abrupt way (cheating, abandonment, replacement), we often internalize a message that we caused that- that we are to blame.
When we are separated from love in a traumatic or extremely abrupt way (cheating, abandonment, replacement), we often internalize a message that we did something to cause that. And so we look outwardly for validation and comfort. Repeating our story to anyone who will listen, watching the new relationship in hopes that it will fail, trying to prove that we’re good and fine.
But no matter how much external validation we find, the message still lives inside of us: a deep belief that we are bad or rejectable. Resentment can give us some temporary ammo: “I’M NOT BAD, THE OTHER PERSON IS BAD!”, but this is a false, manic energy that keeps us from experiencing the wound that needs our help. As much as it seems to be about the other person, it’s really not. It’s about the message they left behind in you.
When we slow down and start working with the sensations in our body, especially the heart, we start to see what’s going on. Maybe it’s numbness at first. But beneath that, there is a lot of pain, confusion, and self-doubt. A frantic effort to examine everything you did, everything they did, and figure out “what happened”. But the thing is, sociopaths and narcissists are incapable of attachment, so they form and break “bonds” at the drop of a hat. This is not your fault. You did not do anything to cause that.
People go on about how you need to “examine your role” in an abusive dynamic. You really don’t. Absolutely, introspect and learn about yourself. Maybe you have some people-pleasing habits, or perfectionism, or codependency, or maybe just some insecurities (who doesn’t?).
But someone else abruptly abandoning you after intense, repeated declarations of love and life together? And replacing you with another person while you’re still in a relationship? And blaming you for it? This is just not your fault. I don’t know how else to explain this. It is not your fault when someone does this to you. A million people can validate that it wasn’t your fault, but you are the only person who can actually do the hard work to absorb this message.
This behavior is indicative of someone with extremely serious psychological damage, and you are only damaging yourself when you try to analyze what you did to cause it.
It’s not a matter of victimizing yourself or having a pity party or getting angry (“this person did these awful things to me”). And it’s certainly not a matter of saying “NOTHING IS EVER MY FAULT! I’M PERFECT!” Quite the opposite actually. It’s recognizing that the unbearable feelings they left behind in you are real but they are not even true. This enables you to leave the past behind and move forward with your life.
Turn the focus from external to internal. Mindfulness can help you to identify these painful feelings, so you can learn how to release them. That way you can live a life of joy, knowing you are good and loved, rather than a life of avoidance and triggers.
I don’t recommend this to people new to recovery, but it’s something that I found very helpful later on. Think of somewhere / something you avoid after the relationship. A place, a song, anything that you avoid at all costs because it causes great discomfort.
With mindfulness, you can gently immerse yourself into those situations and allow yourself to explore that discomfort, especially how / where it is felt in your body. The default is just anxiety, which is a jumbled mess of fear saying “avoid this”. But as we non-judgmentally examine what’s behind that discomfort, we’re likely to find a lot of the old feelings that our egos try very hard to avoid: shame, jealousy, rejection, humiliation, worthlessness, inadequacy, your fault, not enough, or a relentless voice saying “you ruined it and you just need to admit it”.
These feelings have nothing to do with the other person anymore. They live inside of you, and you are the only person who can heal them. By developing a kind relationship with yourself, you can slowly agree to experience these feelings fully, staying with them as long as they need (this can take months or even years). But eventually, all I’m asking you to do is recognize that these things aren’t even true. And if they aren’t true, is a life of avoidance really necessary?
Shame can be a helpful emotion for identifying when we’ve done something wrong and rectifying the situation, but when our entire identity becomes shame… This is the worst kind of suffering. And it causes us to act out in more shameful ways, which only locks us further into the lie of “I’m bad”. But with daily practice, you can develop the love needed to heal it.
The thing is, when we believe–when we know–that we are good and loved as we are, there aren’t really “triggers” anymore, because those beliefs don’t live inside of us anymore. There is nothing to trigger. It is much easier to live freely, and to offer your love wherever you wish, especially to yourself.
So stop holding yourself hostage, and instead learn how to let yourself back into the wonderful warmth that lives in your heart. And if you can’t, don’t worry. Just gently ask “Why? What am I afraid of?” Then just listen and offer comfort, for as long as you need to.
When we open ourselves to this kind of love, we are no longer attracted to the “love” offered by Cluster-B types (attention, sympathy, approval, hyper-sexuality, flattery, mirroring). These things actually feel very uncomfortable, because they intrude on the relationship you’ve built with yourself.