“You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere. You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.”-Buddha
Our first response to rejection of any kind is usually shame. It comes out looking like anger and a story of betrayal. It is hard for even the most emotionally balanced among us to not experience our most deeply ingrained fears of unworthiness when someone we have valued walks away and shuts a door on our heart. I have been steeped in these kinds of interactions recently and I have come to believe that these painful exchanges are the opportunity for the deepest transformative shifts in our thinking and why Carl Jung once wrote “The most terrifying thing is to accept oneself completely.” Moving beyond our defensive posturing and even the legitimate excuses about relationship failures to attending to the heart of our own worthiness to be loved is the only cure.
How we hold ourselves when other people walk away from us can be the silver lining of relationship endings. But too often we aren’t willing to do the hard work of feeling where the weight of that pain resides in us. Instead, we get stuck, carrying around other people’s judgments of us and then having to figure out how to shield ourselves from this unhealthy residue left inside of us. This is the root of a lot of physical ailments- from weight gain, to anxiety disorders to chronic health conditions. The effort to silence our pain requires so much attention and, like a dog at our heels, continues to attract more relationships to us which confirm our worst fears about ourselves.
Actually there is no more potent time to make peace with our fears of not being good enough or loveable enough than the moments when relationships that probably were not working the way you wanted them to come to an end. We get to look at the many ways we have misattributed our needs and projected our desires onto other people, believing that their approval or acceptance or willingness to see us would heal the broken places we all carry. For years after I married my husband I was shocked and indignant that his love was not enough to cure all of the pain I brought in to the marriage from my youth. I was unreasonably angry with him for not filling all of the empty places in the way that Disney movies prepared me in their version of true love. Most surprising of all are the ways that these erroneous patterns have persisted in other relationships, continually longing for other people to heal a space that only we ourselves ever have access to. The truth is that we can never participate in relationships with others more deeply than we do with ourselves.
It was in meditation practice that I first glimpsed the possibility of healing and loving myself in this way. I was spending a lot of time on heart meditations at the time, really trying to feel inside to the physical and metaphysical heart center of the body. The more attention I focused there the more that space became both a visceral and mental resting space for me. Once when I was in there, I encountered a much younger version of myself who had been waiting for me to look at her for decades. She had a lot to tell me about how I continued to punish her for the pain she endured as a little girl. I wept and held her and something huge opened in that space. Over the years I have continued to go in and find more of these disembodied younger versions of myself who have been stuck carrying the unresolved and un-forgiven pieces of my history.
Now I think of these earlier versions of myself as the true guardians of my heart and with 100% reliability I find that when something is really off in my world or I have been left feeling abandoned in a relationship, there is a young version of myself waiting there, needing to be heard and seen and loved. Relationship endings are the world’s invitation to heal our deepest relationship to our self. They provide the chance to undo the past in the present, because often we were not capable of understanding and healing the original injury when we were younger. So while we may never celebrate the painful space of relationship endings, let’s at least not hide from the healing waiting to happen inside of us.