We all have times we feel let down, abandoned, rejected, hurt or disrespected by someone close to us. We feel angry, sad, lonely, etc. We take it to heart. Sometimes we are conscious of our hurt feelings and sometimes they reside subconsciously because we have learned to suppress truly painful emotions.
I have come to recognize a low-grade, below the surface, sense of abandonment and loneliness. This feeling comes and goes for me. Significant familial and intimate relationships trigger it.
Eric Zimmer of theoneyoufeed.net says he gets the same cyclical feelings. He treats them like a cold or the flu. He knows they will pass.
What brings on the strong emotions?
The sources for this feeling for me are three-fold.
One: Distraction or inattention from my partner brought up old wounds from childhood. My parents were divorced. Attuned attention from them often felt fragmented or non-existent. They did the best they could as they navigated stressful lives of their own. Subconsciously, I absorbed the sense that I was on my own. I had to handle things, perform well and keep my emotions in check. That’s a lonely place to be. Those old wounds spoke loudly in my nervous system when I later sensed my partner’s preoccupation with everything but us (me).
Two: From college on, I physically lived far away from family. Part of my desired persona was to look independent. I went to Michigan State University, a college of more than 50,000 students after growing up in a small town of about 9,000 people. I moved to Chicago after college. I moved on and up (in my opinion). I did not need anyone. I wanted to explore the world. The trouble arose when I married and had a family. I needed help but thought I should be able to handle everything. All of my family was out of state. The stresses of parenting and marriage, felt heavier without familial support. The isolation sat in my chest and came out in tears late at night.
Three: My partners suffered from their own wounds and struggles. Everything from ADD to PTSD to dysfunctional childhoods. Their wounds left them incapable of meeting emotional needs (theirs and mine). It helped to gain understanding of their unavailability but the emptiness still slipped in. In the throes of sadness, it was (is) difficult to see beyond the hurt. Blaming is much easier. Brooding takes over. The crying starts again.
They do not have to crush you
As my wedding date grows closer, these old now familiar feelings loom. I’ve done enough personal work and professional research to know they are part of my makeup and are not dooming. I can work through them and create secure connections with loved ones.
They still give me pause. They still don’t feel good.
Space from the overwhelm
My suggestion is to get space from the downward thought spiral. Exercise. Talk with close friends. Help someone else. Create something. Do something novel to break a pattern. Write down a personal narrative that leads you from childhood wounds to what personal strengths those wounds gave you.
Space allows us to see the issues in real light. We then discern whether they are a ghost wound from our past or our partner’s past. We can also see if there is a practical solution to our pain. For example, joining a church, moving closer to family or finding a supportive community could relieve feelings of loneliness.
Notice the times when you do not feel low. When do you feel light and energized? When do you not feel owned by your feelings? Know you can live through the tough times. They will not keep you from living a rich meaningful life. If anything, they will give you fodder for growth.
You are not helpless
My main message for this post is to strive for understanding and action versus wallowing in painful emotions. Take it from a recovering? wallower, doing these helps us take the hurt far less personally. It is reassuring to know powerful emotions guide us but do not have to own us.
Do strong emotions keep you down? How could you get space from them? Do you notice a cycle or pattern regarding your emotions?