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 frigid......so 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, shamed...........you 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 why.....so 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 example.....it'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?