ASK ABDI: HOW DO I LET GO OF THE HURT AND ACTUAL PAIN OF A BREAK UP?

QUESTION: I met this guy a few months ago and everything started to move very fast. Kindred spirits for certain. However, my body started to react and my skin started to break out. I was so scared, but I didn’t have the heart to tell him. I wanted to keep it going. I really liked him. In my gut though, I knew we were going too fast. I knew very well this guy came into my life for a reason. It was beyond the “falling in love” and “I want to have kids”. It was much deeper. I can truthfully say I needed him at that exact moment in my life. I knew things were a little off, but I still went with it. We had these great conversations like old friends do.

For about six years, I was knee-deep in the searching and healing phase of my life. Gave my possessions away three times, traveled extensively by myself, did Vipassana, trainings of all sorts. I come back to New York, and now I have to dress this part again. No more picking fruit off trees and sitting on the beach. I know I need to be here; it's been an adjustment… big time.

Back to the guy: I tried just being friends with him; he still wanted to see me. So, he comes over for a weekend before he leaves for work out of the country. I’m not perfect I know, perhaps he saw something he didn’t like. I don’t know. At the time everything seemed to be going great. He even said so. I never heard from him again. I tried to reach out to him. Asked him to please contact me and to not do this. I was capable of accepting whatever it was; I was not “in” love with him. Like I said, it felt deeper. I never heard from him. I am writing to you, my last resort. I feel so hurt and no matter what practice I do - the pain doesn’t go away. I can see the lessons to be learned. I’m trying to let go of the hurt and actual pain, but it just doesn’t leave. Maybe I'm not ready; I don’t know what to think. It’s been a month since he and I spoke. I have not reached out except that one time. I am going through many emotions with this one. I can’t seem to completely detach, and this is where a lot of the pain is. Is this karma? Can you help me make sense of this?

ANSWER: I am sorry for your pain. As you are experiencing firsthand, nothing kicks off our wounding like issues that can arise from intimate relationships. The feelings of abandonment that are up for you now are deep triggers for many of us.

Before we get into it, be aware of your pain and how you want it to stop. In your situation, we all want the pain to stop. Intellectual understanding will not help nor expedite the pain cessation. I can fall off my motorcycle because I applied the brake too hard in the wet and get bruised up. I can analyze the accident and understand my part in the accident. I can make all kinds of adjustments to my riding style and gear. Regardless, my injuries will still take the same amount of time to heal. Sounds obvious, but when we are in pain we have to make sure we are not throwing everything at the pain to make it stop. 

The reason I say all this, is your last line about whether it’s karmic. What does that mean? You did something wrong in the past and now you are being punished? Will that give you some sense of control over a situation in which you are helpless? Words like karma are just concepts and, as such, have no bearing on your immediate situation. The same with maybe him seeing something in you that he didn’t like. Does this make it your fault? Again, another attempt at trying to control something that is beyond your control at this stage.

Now, let’s start at the beginning. You met this man and your skin broke out. This could be because your body knew something your conscious mind was not ready to tackle. Was it that you felt something was off? Or was it that you were afraid of becoming intimate? Or was it both? You have to sit with this and feel it out. Not think it out, but feel into what was going on at the time. There is a split in your language throughout: you totally needed him at that exact moment in your life, and something was off. Go into it with your feeling and see how much of those statements are your head and how much are your gut. The gut/intuition always trumps the head here, as the head has accrued many defense mechanisms for protection, while the gut has not and can not.

The part about how he felt things were great right before ceasing all contact: this is quite common. People get scared all the time when they get close to another person. The part about things going too fast in the beginning is usually a sign of the addictive pattern in effect. We tend to push through instead of letting things happen naturally because we are too anxious and do not trust. Then we get really close too fast for the comfort of our unconscious, which then freaks us out and we pull back. Usually one person does this, sometimes both. Many times one person is open, while the other pulls back, and then as soon as the other comes around, the first person pulls back. This back and forth is a common dance for those of us who have fear around intimacy. This is also the consequence of not listening to ourselves when we get that something is off. Do not take this as a criticism; rather park it in the useful knowledge part of your learning. When riding in the wet, ride slower.

To your last line about detaching from the pain: that is the last thing you want to do. You want to feel through it, otherwise it will not heal. It will be subverted somewhere in your psyche and you will repeat this pattern somewhere else. Much of what passes for spiritual practice in our culture is an unconscious attempt at detachment. In order to heal, we have to examine and investigate using our hearts and our heads. That involves immersion, not detachment.

You have done much seeking. Take all those years as preparation for facing this part of your journey. Teachers come in many disguises. For me personally, many times my lovers and the heartbreak that came from the ending of relationships taught me more deeply and honestly than the teachers, shamans, or techniques that I came across. Nothing breaks the heart open like pain. One day you will look back at this situation and see the healing that it brought. In the meantime, you are fresh off the surgery table and in the intensive care unit. Tend to yourself accordingly.