By Susan Anderson
Heartbreak hurts so deeply because it pulls at that raw abandonment nerve we all share. It rips us open to the core, overwhelming us with powerful emotions – loss, despair, panic, shame, hopelessness – that seem all out of proportion to the actual event.
12 facts to help you with abandonment pain:
1. The intense emotional crisis of abandonment is real; it is temporary, normal – part of being human. The regression into primal fear does not mean we’re weak; it’s an involuntary reaction to feeling left behind by someone we love.
2. Overcoming heartbreak begins with understanding the primal nature of the wound so that we can prepare for battle – a battle to quash the self hatred and STOP beating ourselves up, and instead to treat ourselves kindly and gently with exquisite self acceptance and self care. Physician, heal thy wound.
3. The abandonment wound is cumulative, containing all of the loss, anxiety, hurt, disappointment, rejection, and self doubt we’ve experienced since childhood. The breakup reopens the primal wound, sending all those old, unwelcome feelings into the current tear, causing us to feel small, weak, worthless, and helpless all over again.
4. By reactivating the feelings, we experience a symbiotic regression – as if we can’t survive without this person. This is an illusion. We can survive the breakup and stand more firmly on our own two feet than before.
5. Abandonment’s painful sore brings us in touch with neediness and fear, but there-in lays the cure. We awaken to an opportunity to cleanse the primal wound. Ripped open, we can finally administer to the reactivated feelings we’ve been neglecting since childhood.
6. We didn’t know how to administer to ourselves as children, but now as adults, we can accomplish this. How? By transforming heartbreak from an emotional crisis into a growth crisis. By directly tending to the accumulation of feelings all bubbling to the surface, we can finally become emotionally self-reliant, a task long overdue for most of us.
7. There are exercises we can practice that help us take care of our feelings in a profound new way, a way that helps us increase our capacity for love and connection, first to self and then to others.
8. We’re always hearing the platitude that we should “love ourselves” but most of us don’t know what to do to make self-love happen. We can’t just will it to happen, or snap our fingers, or recite affirmations in the mirror to make us love ourselves. The solution is in the doing.
9. Practicing a program of abandonment recovery involves behaviorally administering to your own basic needs through self-caring gestures. The exercises work incrementally, like physical therapy for the brain, to help you heal your own primal abandonment wound from the inside out.
10. At the very time you feel your life is over, a new you is just beginning. The key is to use this time of emotional recovery to treat yourself with exquisite self-nurture, forgiveness, acceptance, and compassion. You are inculcating a new relationship with yourself.
11. At first your heart won’t be into taking positive actions, because that heart is momentarily broken and only beats for your lost love. But that’s where your newly forming adult self comes it. You take yourself in hand and carry yourself forward to a self-compassionate higher self.
12. It takes a leap of faith, but there are tools out there and people to connect to who can help you gain by your abandonment crisis rather than be diminished by it. Remind yourself: People are always strongest where the breaks are.
Susan Anderson, CSW, who has devoted the past 30 years to research and clinical work aimed at helping people heal their abandonment wounds and overcome self sabotage, is the author of four books including Taming Your Outer Child and Journey from Abandonment to Healing.