Breakups are so hard! Believe me, I know. I've been through some really terrible ones that have taken a long time to get over.
For me, these are often times where I've cried and felt the pain and felt really regressed back to a younger, more insecure, more vulnerable version of myself.
You know about that, right? You do things that don't seem like yourself. You say things that sound like a younger version of you. You feel pain you thought you'd already worked through.
But here's the thing. If what you're experiencing is heartbreak, then your heart can actually break open and while it'll still hurt, it's expansive and eventually leads to something deeply beautiful.
So when I see folks who seem like they're imploding, contracting, and really struggling with a breakup, what's actually causing them pain is that they're triggered.
Their fear of abandonment is activated. And it happens to everyone sometimes.
See, our early experiences of love (and therefore our imprints about what love is) got blended together with a bunch of other things that weren't love.
In our early relationships with those closest to us, we likely experienced love, but also fear that that love wouldn't be there or would go away. Remember that we're talking about the stage when we were a pretty helpless little infant and the relationship and the love was our source of everything---food, comfort, warmth, shelter, etc.
So if mom or dad didn't pick us up and hold us enough of the time when we wanted it, or if we experienced other early "misses" in the attunement, it might have felt really scary to us or like the world isn't a safe place.
And that's a really visceral feeling that happens in our bodies, in our nervous systems, and then we can live through it again as adults when it gets triggered. Like in the case of a breakup.
Which is why breakups can feel like the world is ending. Like we're not valuable. Like something is very, very wrong. Like we're so confused at how the person who was "our person" now isn't.
So, when this part of us gets activated by a breakup, by loss, by death, or even by an argument that has you fear breaking up, it's good to know how to take care of yourself in it.
Here are some ways to really amp up your self care and work towards healing when your fear of abandonment gets activated:
- Spend some gentle, quiet time with yourself and just feel how you feel. Don't go so deep into it that it's overwhelming, but just take sips of the feeling to get a taste of your emotions. Be gentle with yourself, welcoming the emotion, and letting it be there. Keep feeling what's happening in your body.
- Watch for ways that you might rush to fill in the feeling of emptiness with other things---new experiences, keeping busy, food, friends, new partners, etc. Check in with yourself about whether these things help you dull the pain. Feeling good is important, because now is a time to really do things you love, but it's also a time when it's easy to self abandon through numbing out, which, as you might guess, just keeps the abandonment trigger activated.
- Keep the focus on you. When our abandonment is triggered, it's really easy to make it about the other person---how special they are, how what you shared is so unique, or how you're certain you're supposed to be together. When you make it about them, you miss the opportunity to care deeply for yourself. Bring it back to you by being with your emotions without making any meaning of them, sharing some kind words with the little girl or boy inside you, and fine tuning your self care. This way you don't self abandon.
- Do things that feel loving. The most important thing is to really send the message to the little one inside you that you're there. You're not leaving too. You're paying attention, you're listening, you're soothing them. So what does that for you? Journaling? Meditation? Baths? Playing your favorite game? Massage? Sleeping well? Eating clean food?
- Finally...therapy! When we have these early wounds opened up, we have a great opportunity to do some body-based healing work to help bring our system back into a regulated state. That'll help ensure this experience gets to be growthful, healing, and productive, rather than further wounding.
I hope that helps you! As always, share your thoughts with me in the comments below. Have you experienced this before? What helped you while you were in it? What do you want to remember if you ever go through this again?
Also, I'd be ever so grateful if you'd share this post on Facebook. Thank you.
All my love,
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