In my mid-thirties, I at long last came face to face with a person I was sure was the love of my life, my soulmate, the one person I was destined to spend the rest of my days with. What fanned the flames so wildly was our ability and willingness to allow and support one another in asking and answering The Two Perilous Questions together. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending upon your perspective) all the questions and answers translated into us spending too much outrageous, frenzied time together in Carl Roger’s famous state of unconditional positive regard.
Five years later, our inevitable, Adverse Childhood Experiences-riddled, star-crossed breakup – which caught me completely by surprise – unfolded quite predictably, in retrospect. We each tapped into and painfully triggered our respective core abandonment wounds: long-suppressed dissociative experiences buried away deep in the recesses of implicit memory. Neither of us had the inner nor the outer resources to handle these triggering events in ways that afforded reasonable emotional arousal regulation. Rather than work through, all we could manage was to act out these stored traumatic memories (she once tried to run me over with her VW Rabbit; I tore the driver’s side door off the car and threw it into a nearby river). Ultimately, that trauma history required me to voluntarily admit myself into a community mental hospital – having everything, including the very sacred ground I counted to be able to stand upon, vanish from my life overnight, was more than my neurophysiology could handle alone.
Wither Impoverished Roots
Three months of intensive residential therapy, which essential rooted out a whole personal palette of ungrieved loves lost – father, mother, sister, puppies, friends, jobs, pets, money, business colleagues – and my neurophysiology ended up essentially being completely remodeled. And some form of that remodeling process seems like it has been actively ongoing ever since.
A few months after my discharge from the mental hospital, I made a date to meet with Soulmate. What I encountered was more than a little perplexing and unsettling. One thing that became clear immediately is that while I was busy over the interim months doing a LOT of brain and body refurbishing, Soulmate was essentially busy doing none. The moment we first re-encountered each other I almost was unable to recognize either her face or her energy. It wasn’t that they had physically changed – it was that I had. The way my eyes now saw and my ears now heard and my brain now thought and my body now felt had been significantly revamped such that, not only did I barely recognize Soulmate, but I wondered what in the world had ever attracted me in the first place!? Soulmate was condemning and accusatory, way too skinny, spoke in a shrill voice and had absolutely zero interest in anything I thought or might have to say that wasn’t good or in some way a positive reference to her. Her narcissistic wound burned way more brightly than I ever remembered.
(We know from information theory research that we only process a small portion of all the energy and information available to our senses at any moment, and that what we actually end up seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and physically feeling is significantly influenced by our conditioning. I would hypothesis that it is our dissociated, overwhelming early life experiences (ACEs) that end up profoundly shaping (distorting?) many of our adult sensory perceptions, especially in significant relationships).
Out of this seminal romantic experience and a number of others before and since, I have come up with five things that seem to be recurrent threads running through the experience of loves that I have lost:
1. For human beings love is almost always an embodied experience. I don’t feel love unless my body and brain feel it. When love feels lost, it’s because I’m no longer feeling it in my body and brain. Something temporarily overriding (often surfacing implicit stored traumatic memory) has taken its place. But just because I don’t feel it, doesn’t mean love is not present.
2. Lost love is attempting to move us through the illusion of separation. I say attempting, because in my experience, more often than not, it fails. We almost always equate and associate how we end up feeling with the missing person, place or thing. But the missing person, place or thing was operating much like an entheogen: temporarily making brain/body connections that will later require ongoing structural reinforcement and integration in order to become self-sustaining.
3. There is more to love than our brain’s and body’s responses to it or awareness of it. This is a tough one to actually be able to rest fully in the truth of. Refer to Thread 1 above for one reason why. Also, realize that much of what many people call love, is actually abuse by a name we use to justify actions we are mostly unable to consciously control. I’m thinking energy transgressions here of all stripes and shapes.
4. Even though lost love feels real, it isn’t. It’s just momentarily (sometimes momentarily for decades) out beyond our field of awareness. We’re essentially out of touch. Getting back in touch requires work, often painful work, which many of us prefer not to do (with good reason: it’s painful!). Should we want to give that work a try, we might start with … The Two Perilous Questions above.
5. The energy that we call love is actually the fundamental subtle energy of the cosmos; as the mystic poet Rumi repeatedly advised – our work is to skillfully attend to whatever barriers live within us which work to block this energetic reality. This possibility can be difficult to know and trust when you’re feeling mostly cut off from it. Naming it – calling it God or Jesus or Mary or Moe or Joe – can sometimes work to afford people recurring glimpses. British director of The Centre for Real-World Learning, Guy Claxton, calls those of us doing this work, “glimpsters.” We’ve gotten a reminder glimpse of this reality (most often through drugs or romance) and now the work is to do whatever we can to nourish, fertilize and fortify our brain and body sufficiently to receive and sustain love in its pure unadulterated, ever-present subtleness.
Last Call: Dream a Little Dream of Love - I’ve put together a new online offering scheduled for April 26th. It’s about dreamwork and human development especially where blocks to love’s awareness are concerned. Click HERE to check it out: Dreaming with the Heart in Mind. We actually can begin to know what some of our personal blocks are and begin to move through them.