Thursday, July 12, 2007

Breaking Up

Hola Everybody,
My ex correctly pointed out once that I get a period. She swore she could set her watch by it, but I think she exaggerated. She claimed that they came every three-four weeks. I do have to admit that I have cycles and that I go through mood changes which are hard, if not impossible, to understand. The best bet is to carefully weather the storm…

I’m in the midst of one of those “cycles” (psycho?) right now. LOL!

I’ll be scarce today -- gone all day facilitating my prison workshop and it’s dinner tonight. I’ve been so caught up in stuff; I haven’t even bothered to invest in a summer fling! What’s a summer without one of those flings that end as soon as the hint of cold weather comes around, leaving one all bent out of shape?!!

* * *

-=[ Why Breaking up is Hard to Do ]=-

(I wrote the following with a friend in mind. I hope this serves some purpose)

I’ve written before about a breakthrough I experienced behind a break-up. It was shortly after my last divorce (LOL!) and somehow I had gotten involved in a romantic situation that left me curled up in fetal position in bed.

It really hurt.

To make matters worse, I added insult to injury by repeatedly calling and managing in the process to put myself in the worst possible light. Clingy, psychotic, emotionally crippled. What was most devastating for me was the feeling that all the hard work I put into getting beyond all this crap -- the meditation, the therapy, the slow process of growth -- was for nothing.

So there I was, alone desperately fighting the urge to call her and telling her to go fuck herself and all I could do was think of her. I mean a part of me was fine with her not being in my life. It wasn’t a long relationship, and we both weren’t on the same page most of the time, and I had the sense she wasn’t the type who would be there for me anyway. I couldn’t possibly be in love with her, I hardly knew her. In fact, I wasn’t even that interested in her until she instigated the whole affair!

Yet despite the ambivalence, I could not get her out of my mind. I could hear her voice, smell her scent, I thought repeatedly of the great times we had, the sex – I couldn’t stop. I was a mess and couldn’t sleep and my longing for her was overwhelming.

I wrote about a life-changing dream I had as a result of this experience, but I never truly wrote about what I did to get over this mess. What happens when you lose someone you desire or love? Why the hurt, the longing, even the obsessing for that other person?

I think one good way of getting to the heart of the questions is to try to understand what happens in the brain when we lose someone we love or desire. When we make an emotional commitment to someone, they come to live in the emotional centers of our brain – what is known as the limbic system. That person actually occupies nerve cell pathways and literally lives in the neurons and synapses of our brain. When we lose someone, either through death, divorce, relocations, or breakups, our brain becomes confused and disoriented. Since the person lives in the neuronal connections, we expect to see , feel , and touch that person. When it happens that we cannot hold or talk to them as we usually do, the brain centers where they live become inflamed looking for them. Overactivity in the limbic structures has been linked with depression and low serotonin levels, which is why we have trouble sleeping, feel obsessed, lose our appetites, desire isolation, and otherwise lose what joy we have in our life.

In addition, a decrease in endorphins (neurochemicals that regulate pleasure and pain) occurs, which may be responsible for the physical pain we feel during a breakup.

Pretty much a nasty mess, huh? That’s why we should really think wisely before jumping into the abyss. I’m not particularly good at that, I jump – fast. Not a good thing! LOL!

But I digress.

In a Dean Koontz novel, a killer renders his victim unconscious and embeds fishhooks into his temple area. Needless to say, the fishhooks were painfully difficult to take out, needing lots of alcohol and painkillers, and of course they left deep scars.

Many of us can feel like that Dean Koontz character when a loved one leaves us, even when we are the ones initiating the breakup. We have deep wounds, like the fishhooks, that leave lasting scars. Many of us also use alcohol or any form of painkillers (such as drugs, sex, excessive work, or food) to self-medicate. I know what I speak of here: I have left relationships and have been left, I know the pain. Being left is definitely harder.

On that occasion after being left, it felt as if I had those fishhooks embedded in my mind and my heart that were pulled whenever I remembered any good thing about my absent lover. Mental pictures, a song, her name (which was common enough!), a scarf with her perfume still in it – all reminded me of her and tugged painfully at the very core of me.

I was a mess and I guess what really saved me from more pain was that I hadn’t been with her that long, otherwise, it probably would’ve taken me a lot longer, even with The Dream that saved me. The following, from my own experience and my work with individuals, are tips on how to survive and thrive through the loss of a love:

  1. H.A.L.T.! Be vigilant about allowing yourself to get too Hungry, too Angry, too Lonely, or too Tired. What that means is take care to stay healthy. Right after a breakup all we want to do is medicate the pain – we eat or drink too much, stop exercising, wallow, and isolate ourselves. Stop that behavior immediately. Watch what you eat and be more active, not less. Exercise has been found to be as or more effective as the antidepressant Zoloft for depression. Spend time with your friends, and create a supportive network. Make sure you get enough sleep.
  2. One thing we tend to do is idealize people when they’re gone. Even the worst sinner becomes a saint after dying! LOL! Bullshit! No one’s that perfect! Whenever we focus only on a person’s good qualities, the pain increases; when we focus on his or her bad qualities, the pain decreases. Take the time to actually write out the hurts and bad times, and the not-so-good qualities of your ex-lover. Whenever we lose someone we love, there is that tendency to remember only the wonderful things about them. Idealizing a person actually dehumanizes them (making them into fictional gods/ goddesses) and it serves to stunt the grieving process which makes us hurt more. However, be careful to not vilify them, hate is just another (maybe even more powerful) form of attachment. But be honest about their bad qualities.
  3. There are two roads to suffering. One is attachment, when we can’t let go and the other is aversion – running from experiences. Both strategies cause suffering because they stop us from fully experiencing life. Go ahead and cry. Give yourself the time to allow yourself to feel the pain. Crying can be a wonderful release for your limbic system. After you've had your good cry, hide all the triggers – the pictures, the things that remind you of your lover. Go through the house, the office, collect all the pictures and gifts and hide them. These will only serve as triggers for the fishhooks embedded in your brain and heart.
  4. Love is tough. Forget about the fairy tales! When you act weak, needy, or demanding during a breakup, what you accomplish is pushing the person further away. It’s not very attractive or appealing, believe me. When you seem to act as a victim, people run! Good living is not only the best revenge, it is the best way to get well.
  5. This last part is difficult to explain since many of us have no practice being present with our feelings. What works for me is to experience fully what I am feeling. This doesn’t mean thinking about what I’m feeling, it means feeling the hurt consciously, completely. It’s hard to explain to people who haven’t experienced mindfulness meditation. Some people mistake attachment for experience. However, I have come across a wonderful teaching that helps people create this kind of space. It’s called The Work, by Byron Katie and you can learn more about it through her book, Loving What Is, and her website (click here). There are streaming videos with Katie doing The Work. There was one really good one where she does the work with a man who states the belief that women don't like good men. LOL!

The Work is about four questions you can ask yourself. It’s a very simple and powerful technique especially for the overly analytical among us. You suffer when you don’t come to terms with what is. When you fight reality, you’re literally insane – out of your mind. I have used The Work with my participants and in my own life. Katie teaches us to understand the thoughts that cause suffering, such as “I miss her,” and ask four questions and a turn around:

  • Question #1: Is it true? Damn skippy! I miss her lots.
  • Question #2: Is it absolutely true? Not absolutely. I don’t miss her trifling ways, her resentments.
  • Question #3: How do you feel when you have that thought “I miss her”? Shitty, stupid, rejected – which means my thoughts were what were torturing me, not her.
  • Question #4: Who would I be without the thought “I miss her”? I would be happy.

The work then tells you to turn it around – in this case, I miss her becomes “I miss me.” I miss my normal happy, healthy, dynamic, successful self.

These four questions and the turn around can change you life.

May you all know what genuine happiness means.



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