After 21 years of marriage, Mike’s wife left him and disappeared with his best friend. He attempted to push the pain and grief away by filling his life with more work; his job, starting a new business, and remodeling a house. He sold each house as soon as he finished it and would then buy another to remodel. He bought bigger and more expensive “toys” to fill any moment of quiet time; a boat, motorcycle, horses, quad runner and more. At the end of each day he was so exhausted from working such long hours that he fell into an escape of sleep to rise the next morning and begin the emotional avoidance all over again.
This is just one scenario of the result of a wounded heart. There are endless songs that lament the anguish of the loss of love. Regardless of how our heart is wounded through the ending of a relationship, it is so emotionally painful that research has found actual physical evidence that it is not just in our head. Our broken heart can manifest the malady in cardiopulmonary disorders. We physically feel the pain as a squeezing tightness in the chest, a knot in the stomach or some other physical symptom.
So how can we take these emotional traumas of life and turn them into something that will create the ability to experience a deeper love and a more evolved relationship? How can the pain take us to a place where we are willing to allow ourselves to be in a state of vulnerable openness again? Unless we offer ourselves the opportunity to grow through the pain, we will navigate our relationships through a base of fear.
A Conscious and Curious Approach to Emotions
Ultimately, what we fear the most we will always recreate. If Mike continues to avoid the feelings of betrayal, grief and abandonment, he will unconsciously project those fears on any woman who might offer the possibility of emotional intimacy. If the emotions aren’t resolved, they will reappear again within a relationship or the fear of being hurt again will be so intense he might never trust a woman enough to even begin a relationship.
Each one of us has a strong desire to heal at a subconscious level and the emotional discomfort will keep coming back. We have the choice to continue to run from the feelings or we can be curious and allow them to lead us to what we need to know and understand. We can then consciously choose how we desire to believe about that situation that created the wounds. Typically, the more we are willing to be with the emotions, we will be lead to identify situations that are getting hooked into long before the recent event.
In Mike’s case, he discovered that his wife’s betrayal and abandonment was connected to his mother’s death when he was 12-years old. During his healing process he admitted that the unresolved issues from his mother’s death was one of the unconscious fears that was part of him pushing his wife away, creating emotional distance within their relationship. He was afraid to love her too deeply and at a subconscious level, expected all women to abandon him. Even though he was unconscious about his behaviors at the time, he was aware of the fear and emotional discomfort. He didn’t have the tools to know what to do with his emotions, so he attempted to ignore them, numb them out and blame his wife.
Rather than being willing to bring up the discussion of Mike’s emotional distancing, his wife chose to look for it in other places. Perhaps if she had been willing to talk about her emotions in a loving, supportive manner there could have been an opportunity for both partners to have grown and resolved the problem. Our emotional landscape ripples out to cross that of others in our lives. We are all intertwined in this way.
As we look at our emotions in a different way and use them as red flags, it reminds us that there is an old wound or erroneous belief to look at and change. Remaining curious and open to explore those feelings takes us on a satisfying journey in life. To cloak our feelings in fear in order to try to prevent future pain will only keep us stuck.
Taking Responsibility for our own Emotions
It’s easy to blame others for our wounded feelings. Mike’s wife blamed him for the lack of intimacy in their marriage. Mike blamed her for running away with his best friend and the years of grief and sadness afterwards in connection with the loss of his hopes and dreams.
By choosing to go to a deeper level spiritually, he came to accept the losses. He chose to cope with the situation by putting it into a perspective that the most important lesson was to love through the disappointment and pain. By carrying this love deeper, he accepted the belief that he could open into the possibility of experiencing a deeper loving relationship. Rather than to continue holding anger and blame, he changed his focus with his ex-wife and chose to hope that she would be happy with her new love.
After grieving the betrayal of his friend and blaming him as well, Mike chose to accept the belief that a healthy friendship has boundaries. Mike focused his energy on creating new friendships and reaffirmed that his current relationships embrace honesty and similar life values. Even though it was incredibly painful, Mike began to accept his situation, resolve the grief, and know that everyone concerned had lessons to learn. He grew to understand it would serve him better to learn his own lessons and learn how to love through them.
Ultimately, life is about living, loving, learning and growing. When any of these elements of life get stuck, our emotions let us know. These lessons might come in the form of grief and sadness from a broken heart of lost love, the death of a loved one or countless other situations in life that connect us to sadness, grief and loss. Emotions bring to us incredible opportunities of growth and spiritual development. As we move through life this growth results in more conscious awareness, living within ourselves with peace and harmony and an incredible sense of satisfaction of learning to love ourselves and others in a deeper way.
Marlene Bennett, M.A. LMHC.