Linda: There are three major ways that hearts get broken: abandonment, inconsistent attachment, and rejection. With abandonment, the person that we were formerly attached to leaves. Perhaps it was not their choice and they died, or it can be an actual physical leaving, or the person can leave emotionally because of mental illness, addiction, or depression. No matter what the cause of the loss, the grief is intense. The pain is both physical and emotional and it can literally feel that our heart is breaking.
Inconsistent attachment is crazy-making due to how unpredictable the partner is. Sometimes they come close and then in a flash, they are gone. Even when the partner is close, there is no ease or peace of mind because we know the pattern and realize that they will soon be missing once again. A pervasive sense of anxiety is present due to the awareness that love will be snatched away.
Rejection can feel like an attack. The person we have given our heart to holds it in the palm of their hand and can clamp their hand shut at any moment. Our partners can ignore, judge, criticize, or project their self-hatred. They know us well enough to know our tender areas and use that knowledge to wound us.
Any of the three forms of pain can cause us to withdraw in an effort to protect our tender wounded hearts. One popular choice made is to isolate, like a lobster hiding under the rocks when it sheds its old carapace, fearful of being eaten while missing its protective shell. A temporary choice of protection is useful, but for many, their isolation is not short term. Some make a lifestyle out of their self-sufficiency. Fearing being hurt again, their stance of “I don’t need anybody” can become a defensive way of living.
Or the unhealed broken-hearted person may date, or even get involved with one person, but may have strict restrictions on how frequently they see each other and keeps the relationship in the uncommitted, superficial zone.
The way to heal the broken heart is to:
- Believe that it is possible to recover from a severe blow.
- Tell the truth about the intensity of the pain starting with ourselves, to then go on to share the grief with others.
- Find forgiveness for the person who betrayed us in an important step in the process and cannot be rushed.
- Forgive ourselves for any part that we may have played in the demise of the relationship.
- Reach out to our friends and to commit to becoming a gracious receiver of their input. They know us well so can help us to see more clearly increasing our sense of self.
Our self-esteem is likely to have fallen while we were reality-testing with someone who did not see us accurately.
- Dare to find the courage to desire to be close to another once again. Find the motivation to risk involvement in a meaningful way.
- Learn to trust ourselves to bounce back from adversity.
- Find the strength and courage to emerge from isolation to get back in the game.
- Believe that we have learned from our previous ordeal, and now can discern who we can entrust with our fragile heart.
By gradually re-involving ourselves with someone who is capable of being consistently caring, we are soothed. The pleasure and ease of the connection restore our hope and faith that had been battered. The comfort of a loving partnership bathes our hearts in loving-kindness. When at long last, we exchange love and care with someone who is safe, consistent, respectful, and fully present with us, the depth of appreciation of their trustworthiness heals our broken heart. Then we can live in gratitude for the love that has been hard-won.