“If you are solely dependent on others to provide love, you will always be searching. But in reality, it’s within us all along.”
Mindfully moving past rejection
It feels amazing to be the chosen one doesn’t it? You are that person’s other and you share everything. There is something intoxicating about being chosen in that way. But rejection can be devastating, especially when you are cut off completely from the person with whom you shared such a large part of yourself. As a life coach, physician and friend to so many who have been heart broken, I believe it is talked about all wrong and not enough. It is one of those things that sticks with us for years and years after impacting our lives often in negative ways.
I had to coach a close friend through a heartbreak, but in the end, he ended up coaching me. Teaching me a valuable lesson by the way he handled this. As I look back, he defined for me a new way to think about heartbreak and love. I now give people different advice on how to handle these types of losses.
I want to give you a different perspective on your heartache. The view that allows him to go-on-loving this person, who rejected him on every level. The perspective that allowed him to use the lessons as a catalyst for personal growth.
As a result of this past romantic hurt and rejection, he is more well-adjusted, more considerate, more optimistic, more understanding, more honest and most especially, more equipped to love than he had ever been previously. The most remarkable thing: he never let himself stop loving that person – he loves her still.
It’s a pretty amazing feat I know. Most people I have worked with go the other way. They often become damaged goods for years to come.
About three and a half years after this breakup, I asked him, “How are you doing with everything?”
He said, “I have discovered something interesting about her, me and people in general.” What he came up with changed everything about the way I view relationships.
When he got together with this woman, they were both with other people, but the connection was strong and intense. He thought they had something special, and they quickly became immersed in this new relationship, confessing their love and admiration. It was wonderful for him, and when I talk to him he can easily go back to that place in his mind.
But it ended with her distancing herself, being dishonest and ultimately meeting another guy in much the same way as she met him. Then, because of some mutually close relationships, he was forced to hear about and even watch this person he loved go through a series of relationships in quick succession. Over the next few years, her life utterly and completely fell apart. He ached for her in two ways. He missed her and he wanted to help. He could not understand why she would not choose him again and why she wanted nothing to do with him.
Over a few quick years, he went from believing he had this special bond with this person to watching her continue to reject him, but try to reproduce that bond again and again with other people.
He said, “What I have realized is that we think we are choosing our romantic partners because of who they are. We think we fall in love with them because they are so great. We even search these people out and think, oh man, they are so cute or intelligent or funny. We imprint our idealistic views of what a partner is on to them.
What we don’t realize is that what we are really doing is constructing an ideal version of ourselves, using them or through them. It’s all very unconscious. It’s as if we say to ourselves, ‘I can be the best version of myself with this person. I sure do like them,’ Or ‘I like who I am with this person. They must be the one for me,’ Or ‘I have no baggage with this person and can start fresh.’
And of course, sometimes – in its most unhealthy version – ‘I can just escape into pleasure with this person and use them like a drug to forget my horrible life.’ We are essentially looking at ourselves through the mirror these others create for us.
And in doing that, it is not them who we actually are falling in love with, but rather our alter ego, idealized self. We are falling in love with who we become in the relationship. And this is why it is so hard when we are rejected. When things end, we are left without the ability to love ourselves, since these other people were doing that for us. It is as if we are saying to ourselves, I am not good enough. I don’t measure up. Their rejection mirrors our self-rejection.
It’s the reason why someone can go from one relationship to the next and the next doing the same things, using the same words, revisiting the same places as old relationships and falling in false love so quickly again and again.”
This insight immediately rang true for me in my own past romantic hardships and those I have counseled others through.
People fall into false love because it’s not the person of their desire they don’t know how to love, it’s themselves.
Does everyone do this? Of course not, but I believe it is happening to some degree for us all. We love a person the most when they allow us to see how wonderful we are through their eyes.
All relationships eventually hit rough patches. You can always find someone prettier. She can always find another tall, dark and handsome. But will she find herself? Is the relationship you are choosing helping you grow and love yourself more?
False love is using others as a means to fill a gap in your own love of self. True love is loving that person fully and unconditionally for who they are – all the dysfunctional parts included – without the projection of your own needs.
My friend’s love was real and stuck, while his ex’s may not have been real and did not stick because of two things:
- He loved himself. He is a confident, happy, secure man. In other words, he did not need her to complete him, nor was he looking for that.
- He genuinely loved who she was and saw her power in the world, despite knowing some pretty unbecoming things about her and not always being treated very well by her. He just simply loved her. If you ask him today, he still does.
What to do
Now some of you might be thinking, “What the hell is wrong with this guy?”
I may have agreed with you in the past and have told him on numerous occasions he is crazy. But I have come around to see that the way he was in that relationship, and the way he still loves her, is exactly the way it should be and is a far healthier place to be than the reverse.
He is not carrying baggage. He does not lose sleep. He is not pining over her. He just loves. He is content to let her try to find that love for herself, too, and has zero expectations about ever seeing her again. He is not putting up walls to others, and he is open to everyone he sees and meets. I said he loves her, I did not say he does not have boundaries.
Managing the emotions mindfully
I once asked him, “How do you do it? If I were you I don’t think I could hold this kind of esteem and stay in love in this way given all you have witnessed.”
His technique is actually pretty simple. First, his view is that to deny what you feel or turn it into another emotion simply because you are hurt, or can’t have it your way, is childish and psychologically destructive.
“We feel heartache because our hearts ache. They ache due to our lack of self-love, and they ache for the loss of the person we love, who allows us to more easily love ourselves.”
When that emotion hits, he says it is actually very simple. You just turn inward and say to yourself, “I love who I am, and I am going to continue to be my best self.” He says when you explore the feelings, as opposed to ignoring them, the emotional pain always points to where you are lacking in accepting or loving yourself.
He told me about a time he was talking to a friend, who knew all the inside information about his ex. This friend told him what was happening, and he literally welled up with hurt, then anger and more hurt after realizing he had been lied to. But when he asked himself, “What do I really feel?” it had nothing to do with what his ex was doing, but everything to do with his own feelings of not being worthy.
He said, “No one can reject you unless you allow it.” I know that sounds like backward New-Age speak. But what he meant was: no one can make you feel rejected unless you reject yourself. When he recognized this insight, he actually stopped feeling bad for himself, and his heart started aching for his ex instead.
He realized she was doing what she was doing because she doesn’t see how incredible she is the way he does. He perhaps loves her more than she loves herself. She was rejecting herself, which explained the string of men and her avoidance of him.
Now when he feels the emotions of that loss or any loss, he feels it, looks inside to see if it is trying to point anything out to him. Whether it is or not, he just deeply sends his ex all the mental and emotional love he can muster for her. He feels how much he loves her, and then he lets it go and moves on. As a result, he is happier, more open and more in love with himself and his life.