You’re Not Alone in Feeling the Twinge: 11 Ways to Make it Work For You
We managed to make it through the winter holidays so far. Now here come the bright red hearts of Valentine’s Day, and it can be bittersweet. Many people are lonely on Valentine’s Day more alone than they’d like to be, and the imagery of doilies, hearts, kisses, roses, boxes of candy, cards, etc., can drum up old feelings of shame and abandonment fear.
The raw human nerve of abandonment and shame can twinge even when we are not aware of it, especially when we feel some anxiety about our connectedness to others. No matter what our circumstances, we all have these feelings – they are part of the human condition.
When we feel a discrepancy between the quality of love we expected to have and the quality of love we DO have, it triggers shame, arousing our worst childhood self-doubts (Am I not enough? Am I not worth keeping? Lacking something important?).
The world is full of eligible, desirable people whose hearts are bursting with love, but who feel bereft of the love and connection they need. They have the capacity for love but no legitimate object to enact it with.
Valentine’s Day represents the very thing that so many are missing. It is especially painful if we’re going through a breakup or feeling rejected by someone we love. Or maybe we are caught up in cycles of re-abandonment or have difficulty forming relationships. Or maybe we are angry with ourselves for letting insecurity sabotage our love-lives or getting stuck in patterns of being “attracted to the unavailable.”
We may be suffering a health crisis or have lost our career and sense of purpose, or maybe feel disheartened by friends who fail to reciprocate our gestures of friendship. Maybe we feel neglected by families of origin or estranged from one of our children or grandchildren. Or maybe we just feel lost, as if life itself has left us on the doorstep of its greatest fulfillment.
If you’re reading this and identifying with any of these feelings, take ❤️ that you are taking a positive baby step in healing. It is beneficial to tune into our primal feelings because for the most part traumatic shame and abandonment are dissociated. The more we make them conscious, the less damage they can do. By owning up to them, they are less submerged, therefore less able to interfere from within.
Abandonment and shame – our oldest, truest, and most vulnerable feelings – are the domain of the Inner Child. Touching base with this innermost emotional core allows us to love ourselves a little better. This alone can make a difference that ultimately translates into positive change. Just reading this article with some self-empathy and compassion increases our self-love quotient.
To enhance it further, here is a To-Do list:
If self-love means connecting to our oldest and truest emotions, know that they are feelings not facts, and be self-compassionate about them. Practice the mental exercises of abandonment recovery that act as physical therapy for the brain to promote positive change.
Write your feelings in a journal. Hold them as sacred. Putting emotions into words decreases neural activity in the frontal cortex (Schore). Give voice to your Inner Child rather than try to squelch, deny, or distract yourself from its feelings.
While feeling your feelings, get into the moment with them. The most intense abandonment fear and shame can dissolve into the moment’s fresh air and breezes. I and others have written and spoken a great deal about how to get into the moment. When we are feeling our primal emotions and getting into the moment simultaneously, it creates a powerful growth experience.
Consider getting into therapy or joining a recovery group. Inner Child feels most secure and least neglected when we go the extra mile to seek help on its behalf.
Keep Outer Child on your sites. Outer Child is the part of the personality that acts out our Inner Child’s feelings (especially its abandonment and shame) inappropriately. Outer Child’s self-sabotage includes breaking our diets, running up our credit cards, procrastinating, oversleeping, and getting attracted to all the wrong people. By keeping Outer under wraps, you’ll be less likely to allow this self-saboteur to interfere. Take your Outer Child Inventory here.
Reconnect with someone you’ve lost contact with. Demonstrate a genuine interest toward them. Be in the moment with them, fully present and without ‘your own agenda’.
Connect a bit more deeply with a current friend (or potential friend). Give to give not to get. If you need them to gratify you in any way, you set yourself up for disappointment. As 12-step program says, “An expectation is a premeditated resentment”. Get in the moment with them and show genuine interest for THEM without expecting an outcome.
Get into the moment with random people, like the cashier at the grocery store. Put your whole self into the interaction. Again, don’t expect an outcome, just be in the moment and give it all you’ve got. You are creating the love you need.
Create activities that celebrate your separateness. Existentially, on some level we are all alone, whether we are in a relationship or isolated. Celebrate your separateness by deliberately taking a walk by yourself and consciously notice all of the bounties you can. Or make a solo visit to a museum and zero in on interesting sights to nurture your soul in the moment.
Become engaged in at least one health-promoting activity as a gesture of self-nurturing, i.e., a walk, a day of R and R, exercise or yoga class, meditation, workshop, visit to health care. Make sure this activity is self-nurturing rather than merely self-indulging (to keep Outer Child out of it).
Be attuned with your feelings, including sad ones, and use them as a spur to practice self-validation, self-compassion, self-acceptance, self-love.