Thursday, August 13, 2009

abandoned in a sea of messes.....

Carmi's thematic photo prompt this week is "abandoned..." I got carried away. In fact, I think I've written the first draft of a chapter, and I'm not finished. There are many facets of this topic I want to write about..... I'm very inspiried. The theme runs through much of what I've been reading lately as I prepare for a course Im teaching in the fall, and setting up my "shop" at the College. But, this is a blog and I have just written a post that is way too long for this venue. If you are inclined to read on, may I suggest you go get yourself a drink or you may die of thirst. A loo break is recommended as well......

ps. If you do decide to read it, I would really appreciate some feedback. Is this a topic which could benefit from more extensive writing and reflections? thanks....


You see someone looking at you and read longing in their posture and eyes, you hear someone’s voice that is similar to a person in your past, you feel tension in the air and in a quick flash, you're stuck by this strong desire to flee from the raw skin prickling. Even though for all intents the situation doesn’t warrant this gut reaction, you can’t help thinking that this is a “déjà vu all over again,” as Yogi Berra would say.

Emotional memories are scattered throughout the brain and not neatly filed in one place. Our senses absorb emotional experiences in pockets open to being touched again, resurrected later in life by one little trigger. That trigger can be simply a furtive glance, an interpretation of another’s body language, a tone of voice that somehow sounds familiar, a smell, a sound, the way someone touches you.....all through our self conceptualized filtering.

I remember bumping into a friend whom I hadn't seen in a couple of weeks. The last time I saw him, he was friendly and engaging. All cues told me he liked me. I was a friend. However, the next time I saw him, he looked up from what he was doing and in a split second eye contact, I was struck in the gut with a feeling that I was the last person he wanted to see. Not a word was expressed. It was communication through a unique flick in his eye. I was stopped in my tracks. A sick affirmation coursed through me, landing in the pit of my stomach. It was the strangest feeling. How could one split second look conjure up such intense feelings of rejection, worry, doubt, disbelief and dejection?

Where does this extreme sensitivity, this perceptual intuitiveness come from? We all have it. I’m far from clairvoyant in how I sense communication or lack of it. So, what is going on here?

Of course, I took it personally. I had seen that look before.... I had experienced the notion as well as the motion of rejection and abandonment in a relationship. My memory of that, suppressed in my shadowed pit of doomy gloom of unresolved need, wept out a primal recognition. Different scenario, different person, same damn feelings. Same damn reaction. Personal. Not a glimpse of a thought happened in my brain that perhaps he was having a shitty day and his reaction wasn't even focused on me.

Have you found yourself completely overreacting to a comment or a situation and then end up dumbfounded by your own response, be it verbal or behavioural? It happens all the time. And there are some people in our lives whom we react to more viscerally than others. I BET you've just thought of one. :)

Have you ever responded beyond the realm of normal empathy to a point where you are so emotionally incensed with another person's plight that you may as well have climbed into their skin? When this happens, we lose complete visibility, blinded by the rush of emotions, sideswiped by the intensity of feelings, overwhelmed by electricity shorting out in our system. Its like our whole spiritual being is roaring out "UNFAIR!" This is not empathy. You may have started with a feeling of empathy, but you crossed the line because you were triggered. Its your stuff you're dealing with. Chances are, it is tied to a previous experience that still haunts....Feelings that are sitting in a memory pocket somewhere in your brain. Baaaaa-zing!

But, you didn't recognize it as something tied to your own stuff. Instead, you looked around at the others, and for some reason they DIDN'T GET THE IMPORTANCE! DIDN'T GET THE GRAVITY!!! What, are they NUTS? you pondered..... "Why aren't they more incensed? Why doesn't this event/situation/occurance/story make them cry? rage? respond the way they should? Are they so cold and emotionally shut down that they don't feel anymore????"

Of course, they were looking at you thinking............."This human has finally flipped her lid. Why is she overreacting all over the place? What a loonie."

Your anger simmered.....and all of a sudden you were feeling that nobody....NO.BODY understood you. Abandoned, rejected, once again created a toxic feeding frenzy inside you that bellowed in echos. Depressing isn't it? Can you relate??

Triggers. We are triggered by certain circumstances. When we loose the feeling of belonging and being understood, we do the damnest things to torture ourselves even more. For whatever reason, because the reasons are as unique as we are, emotional memories are whooshed up to the surface and thrown out into the light of day. Here's the kicker....we may not have a freakin' clue that there's a connection between then and now.

This is what I will call a transference and its emotionally claustrophic.It happens when an event or a person's plight or a situation hits too close to home for us to be helpful whatsoever. Empathy, even though you THINK you are embracing it, has flown the coop. Just like everyone else, or so you think. If you don't look beyond the reaction and not look at the "WHY's" then, you are doomed to repeat it time and again. It's a good thing we are reincarnated eh? Maybe that's we can learn to resolve our messes......

Think about the people you gravitate to, especially the ones who you are most inclined to allow into your intimate sanctuary....the ones you most want to feel accepted and loved by..... the ones YOU want to accept and to love. The ones that form so quickly, so intensely, so "magically." What do they bring to the relationship? If you need to feel needed, are they needy? If you feel needy, are they the type who are looking to help in order to avoid their own shit?

If you live with a sense of having been abandoned or set adrift when you were young, are the people you find the most intriguing project a sense of confidence much stronger than your own? This is all good stuff if you're aware that both sides of the relationship has much to bring to it. But, if you aren't aware....if you havent recognized and accepted the emotional schemas harbouring in your shuttered shadow, you just may be setting yourself up for a new way of processing what you have so purposefully suppressed. Suppressed issues/feelings don't go away. They arent resolved yet. Over and over again, we try through our relationships to get it right. However, we do damage to ourselves and others when we don't dig deep and ask the big questions.............. WHY do I always attract the same people and what big gap in myself am I trying to fill??

Here's an's a mixture of people living in my imagination, not anyone in particular, so relax!!!

A man becomes attracted to a woman who is competent, outgoing, confident and decisive. These traits are like a magnet to this man because he doesn't feel these in himself. He has always felt like a failure, unable to complete tasks, unable to stay on task. His focus is scattered. His drive waxes and wanes. However, he has never been able to give himself credit for anything. Despite the fact that he really is gifted in so many areas, is charming and intuitive of others etc, he sees himself as a loser and can never ever measure up to his own standards. This negative self talk and self image has haunted him since he was young. He never felt like he fit anywhere, and was considered very different than the rest of his family.

His desire to gain confidence and change his ways, so find focus leads him into many relationships. He can't seem to settle into one because he believes he's no good.... that the person will eventually see him for who he is. Instead of waiting for that to happen, he moves onto another partner who is the projection of what he desires in himself. It stirs him into a lather because he wants to be like that in order to feel more in control of his life... more certain. And like a little boy looking into the glass counter filled with candy, he swoons at the thought of having those traits to savour.

The woman on the other hand has a strong need to be needed, but she covers up her real self with a false self in order to grab hold of security. Growing up in a chaotic family who were unable to provide any emotional consistency, she was determined to gain control of how she projected her image through her extroverted abilities. She lived in survival mode. Her mother never told her she loved her. Her father never paid attention. He was too busy working and now in hindsight, she can see he was in survival mode in an irreparably needy marriage. The woman was in the way of an unheathly dance between her parents. She spent the first half of her life trying to gain attention and to please her parents in order to simply receive affirmation and love. It never happened, though she continues to try.

She then turned to men to find someone who would appreciate her. She was needy too...... and wanted to be cared for, but in a different way than the guy she has just fallen in love with. She figures that if she can find someone to care for, they will reciprocate and give her what she craves. Love. Unconditionally loved.

She was very attracted to this man, who was expressive in his quiet ways, who treated her like a princess, who needed her attention and love. They gravitated to one another like two pieces of one heart. Little did they know that they reflected to one another the needs and the gaps in each other's soul. Insight was lost in the sexual lust and in the cravings of feeling whole. Insight took a back seat to the hunger of filling each other's empty cups. Until one day.........

The man felt smothered. Somehow he began to feel even more incompetent to a point where his partner's nagged at pushed at his triggers. He began to feel a sense of disdain towards her because he felt he'd never measure up. His imperfections grew to form open wounds. He couldn't stop the bleeding. He couldn't stop it because he didn't know his reactions and lack of focus was tied to past experiences of abandonment. He was triggered, but didn't recognize it. Instead, he behaved badly, wrecking yet another relationship.

But guess what???

The woman felt smothered. Somehow she began to feel like she was giving, giving and giving and yet her need to be needed.....her desire to feel unconditionally loved increased as she realized his show of love had a cost. She raged because she felt he didn't know her, and didn't see her for who she was..... needy and lost, not competent and independent. Her imperfections grew to form open wounds, to a point where she couldn't stop the bleeding.

They both felt drained and the disturbing feelings retched up all over the place. Interestingly, what attracted them to one another in the first place was the same thing that repelled them in the end. Why? Because they were trying to find answers and resolution through the soul of someone else. They held up mirrors for one another that revealed the gaps.....the bleeds.

Their cups remained empty. All that had been supressed began to pry open the two pieces of the heart, creating a gulf of misplaced perceptions. Soon, they realized they didn't even feel like they knew one another. Strange, since at the beginning, they felt so close they could read each other's minds.

Abandoned, they both seek a sense of belonging somewhere else. First the woman emotionally leaves the relationship. Too intense....too needy, she thinks. (and yet she is still looking to help the needy!!!!) Having been abandoned as a child and in every single serious relationship she has ever been involved in, you'd think she would learn. Instead, she steps right into another relationship where the person standing in front of her is more than happy to be nurtured and coddled and cared for. This must be love, she thinks. This is how love feels.......

Then, the man emotionally leaves the relationship, but because he leaves with a sense of being abandoned again, he gravitates to another woman he views as strong and caring, someone who can mother him in a way he missed out on as a kid.

So, when does this stop? Can we stop this carousel of brokenness? Emotional memories, the ones that fester in pockets, the ones that we refuse to recognize create patterns of unhealthy and unhelpful behaviour, will only calm down if we conciously bring them to the surface and deal with them. Easy said than done...... who wants to feel such discomfort? Who wants to stare down the doomy gloom shadows lurking in the bowels of our spirit? But, if we want to move forward towards a place of self acceptance where authentic connections can and do dwell, its worth every night when you lie in bed wide awake. Maybe its time to listen to that primal weeping and look inside?


Jen aka Pinky said...

oh my.
Yet again, you are speaking my language.

Part one:
I had an over-reaction recently. I was being yelled at by a very assertive woman. I flashed back (not consciously) to my step-mother yelling at me. I started sweating and my mind went blank. I just froze.

I was flooded with fear, irrational fear.

Age regression.
It was scary.

Part two: Nururing that inner child YOURSELF, instead of looking to someone / something else to do it is the most difficult thing I've ever done.

Great post!!
You do such a good job of being relatable and understandable. (is that a word?? ;-)

Kay said...

Wow! At first, my thoughts on abandonment was simply: "Who has not been abandoned? Or abandoned someone/thing else? Over and over we experience this, in our daily life"

But then I read what you have to write, you want criticism, I can only say some grammitical errors, but other than that, I jumped right in and went for a swim, relating, understanding, and wondering....'how is it that they know me? us?'

Wonderfully powerful writing here, I would *hope all could relate :)

Romany Angel said...

Wow Dana...there is a lot here to take in. I think I may need to read it a couple more times to really get to the bare bones of it. That btw, is a reflection on my concentration difficulties, not your writing.

What you say here makes a lot of sense though and I think many of us tend to keep making the same mistakes over and over again.

One thing that definitely struck me and almost kicked me in the guts was these words........

Have you found yourself completely overreacting to a comment or a situation and then end up dumbfounded by your own response, be it verbal or behavioural? It happens all the time.

I didn't experience this but only two days ago I was on the receiving end of someone who did. To say I am shattered beyond words is an understatement.

Marja said...

Dana I am completely flabbergasted.
The things I feel and think are a bit like a fog but you print it out here perfectly and exactly and again I have no words for it. You could have written nearly my story
but the reason I think you can is not only because of your perfect insight, your intelligence but also because you are a HSP who are usually psychologists and teachers e.g. on this planet. This encompasses more or less 30 % of the population. The rest are soldiers or workers. It is all explained in the book of Elaine Airon
I think you are in the upper end
and combining this trait with your ability to put things into words
puts me in awe
I am highly impressed with this post Dana and I won't give up reading your posts

Awareness said...

Jen... It's the weirdest feeling isn't it, when you react in a way you aren't expecting to...then in hindsight recognizing where it came from? We've all been there. It never seems to be a conscious response. Reflection is the only thing that leads to insight. And the more reflection after those episodes, the more we can alter our reactions next time.

It is very scary to nuture ourselves and not rely on someone else. I think women especially are conditioned to seek this out in others, but also to be the nurturer for the men in our lives. We were taught it was the way in which we receive those "love gold stars" :)

Awareness said...

Kay...thank you for the feedback on the grammar. :) I wrote the darn thing so quickly and re-read it only once knowing I needed to walk away before I rechecked it. I was all over the place with the tenses...! I'll fix it up today.

When we take the first cut at reflecting on the whole concept of abandonment, most of us only envision a person walking alone, or a picture of a homeless person sitting alone begging.....something like that. But, when you slip under the surface, it is apparent that we all experience this regularly. I agree.
Most of the time it comes out in a dismissal from a shop keeper, or being ignored by a co-worker.....or you walk by someone you know and they don't acknowledge you. Still, they accumulate and they hurt.....especially if we're having one of those days when we are more sensitive to the slights.

Awareness said...

Gypsy...WE do! We keep making the same mistakes! :) I think its because we havent resolved whatever conflict we have from our past relationships. The more apparent example is of a woman who keeps moving into abusive relationships....its not like she wants to be beaten up, but her inner view of herself needs some lovin' :)

It is a shattering experience to be the brunt of another person's reaction.....good descriptive word there, because it feels like there is glass inside you that goes into splinters! Know that it had NOTHING to do with you and EVERYTHING to do with whatever crap the other person is dealing with inside. xx

Awareness said...

Marja....thank you...:) I was very surprised when I went looking for this topic on other blogs, and didn't see anything of substance. As I said, I have been reading a lot on these topics. The course I'm teaching in the fall is Crisis Counselling, particularly pertaining to victims of family violence. But, it hit me when reading that we all can relate...we all do feel this in our relationships.
Thank you for the link....I will check it out.
ps. I'm so glad you're still reading and leaving me comments. I have read the books you have recommended (esp. Coelho's) and they have altered/enhanced my thinking in a big way. xx

Gilly said...

Dana, I will give you feedback, but I need timeto read it properly, and then consider what to say!

Its a great post, though!

Sophie said...

This was excellent and well worth the read, very thought provoking! I saw myself here in several places... overreactions, making the same mistakes again and again in choosing partners and relationships, wondering why I did these things. It has taken long and hard inner work in the past couple years to examine my past and my motives so that I can break free of such cycles, and I believe that I am making progress. I think this a course that everyone should take... self-examination and why we do the things we do!

Awareness said...

Gilly....I will be in touch. xx

Sophie...I can't think of anything more difficult to do than to change our patterns of interacting in order to pull ourselves out of the muck. :) I'm glad you gleaned something out of this piece... i think we can all relate. I plan to use the thoughts captured here in the class I'm teaching this fall.... crisis counselling! The focus is on relationships. So, your feedback is greatly appreciated. thank you.

Romany Angel said...

Thankyou for saying that Dana. I really believe that there are things going on that I am unaware of and I am being made the scapegoat. It's just sad.

Selma said...

Well, I knew you could write. This is so good. I could relate to so much of it. I was nodding my head the entire time. All I can say is : 'When is your book coming out?' I mean, really, you have to do this. You will help so many people come to terms with things. Excellent post, Dana. Really top class!