These wounds run deep.
The wounds of betrayal, abandonment, and deception.
(I feel the weight in my fingertips even as I type those words out.)
You placed your trust in someone and they let you down, brutally.
You let your guard down, welcomed them in, and they took from you – your confidence, your ability to trust, your open perspective. You’re left feeling violated and vulnerable, trying to make sense of the mess that they left.
I know that these wounds run deep and I know that we all carry them.
In fact, psychotherapist, Susan Anderson, suggests that in a primal sense, “our first fear is abandonment – being left with no one to ensure our survival.” She believes that the primal nature of these wounds also makes them cumulative:
“Abandonment’s wounds are cumulative. It contains not only your current heartbreak but previous losses, disconnections, and disappointments as well. When your current relationship is torn, feelings from the past, stored deep within your emotional brain, erupt and flow into the tear.”
So no, you’re not crazy.
Each time a friend cancels plans or an opportunity for a date comes up or a family function is planned, you’re not crazy for running through your worst-case-scenario checklist, feeling controlled by anxiety or crippled by insecurity.
You’re simply human. You’ve been hurt before, badly. And when an opportunity comes up where you just might get hurt again, your body goes into protection mode. Protection isn’t a bad thing. But pal, please hear me when I say that over-protecting yourself from hurt will hold you back and cut you off from a world of relational beauty that requires the very vulnerability that you fight oh-so-hard to avoid.
At the risk of sounding dramatic, I need you to know that my life has been filled with a series of friendship and family let-downs. I don’t consider myself blameless in these heartaches but I do know that they hurt. Really hurt.
I’ve forgiven and invited-back-in only to be let-down ten times harder.
I’ve cut people off in the blink of an eye and felt the guilt for my lack of understanding.
I’ve built bridges that I shouldn’t have built.
I’ve burned bridges that I shouldn’t have burnt.
The point? Relationships are messy. They are sometimes painful and sometimes healing and without them, you will never feel connected.
Sure – in some ways it’s safer to build those walls up real high and real strong so that nobody can get through. You can feel comfortable in the security of disconnection as you bury yourself in work, books, Netflix, podcasts, and social media scrolls because “it’s just not worth it” to build relationships again…but only for some time.
Eventually, you will start to feel the ache for belonging. Your walls will start to feel closer and closer, boxing you in, until you reach a point of desperation, hop onto Amazon.com, and buy the first Abandonment Workbook you find by a psychotherapist named Susan Anderson and…here we are. Or, at least, here I am.
Keeping some walls up (for now) but letting others crumble.
Reaching out rather than waiting to be reached out to.
Saying yes to that volunteer opportunity.
Inviting someone I know to a women’s empowerment event.
Being open and honest and real with myself about the pains I’ve experienced but also grasping onto hope for the best relationships that have yet to come.
There is no hope for connection when you cling to the false security of isolation. Even in isolation you are damaging yourself by not allowing yourself to be known.
There is hope in the risk, the inevitable risk, that comes from trying again.
Here are 3 small steps you can take to help you break down some of your walls and slowly begin to trust again.
1. Take responsibility
The longer you cling to a victimhood mentality, the longer it will take you to rise up out of the ashes of burnt relationships and write a new story for yourself. As Susan Anderson says, “Taking responsibility for your side of the equation prepares you for positive change.”
2. Give people the c h a n c e to earn your trust
If you never send the invite, show up for the event, go out on the date, or ask for the favor, you’ll never give relationships, as a whole, a shot at redemption. You can start small but if you want to get connected again, you have to start somewhere. Give someone the chance to surprise you.
3. Thank your instincts for having your back and then move on
After years of beating myself up for my “irrational” anxieties and lingering insecurities, I’ve learned to take a comforting, maternal approach instead. When I start to feel threatened or uncomfortably vulnerable, I soothe my fears. I thank my instincts for warning me, but I let them know that I’ve got this. I’ve weighed the cost of showing up and reaching out and I believe that even though the risk is there, it will be worth it in the end.
I know it feels safe but trust me – you are made for more than isolation.
You are made to love and be loved.
You are made to see and be seen.
You are made to connect and be connected.
Each day, pick a wall. Reach up high. Take down one brick. And slowly but surely, the sun will start to shine through, once again.
– Photo credit: Annie Spratt