Saturday, June 27, 2015

You ain't ever gonna burn my heart out

Step outside, summertime's in bloom
Stand up beside the fireplace
Take that look from off your face
You ain't ever gonna burn my heart out

Don’t look back in anger- Oasis

Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness, and the word happy would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness. It is far better take things as they come along with patience and equanimity.

Carl Jung

I was recently approached by a certain media organization and asked about writing an advice column regarding relationships and dating.

I told them they must have called the wrong number.

But let me back up a few weeks.

I was recently in Sydney Australia for a few days and had the time of my life. On my last night I found one of those sing-a-long bars in the city and saddled up. I love sing-a-long bars, (truthfully I treat most bars like this). The singer played the song “Don’t look back in anger’” that I have quoted in the title. 100 drunken Aussies immediately began singing along. Not me though. Although I was a DJ for years, my Amerocentric self didn’t know all the words, so I did that thing where you just pretend to join in on the chorus. One line jumped out at me though.

You ain’t ever gonna burn my heart out.

Such a great line, and as somebody CONTEMPLATING writing a column about relationships, I gave it a little thought.  Broken hearts are probably the most common problem people come in for in my work as a psychologist, and I considered the line in that context. I think we all tend to go into a bit of an emotional spiral at the end of a relationship, and ask ourselves the same kinds of questions. Why couldn’t I make it work? Is there something wrong with me? Will I ever find love again? Do I even WANT to find love again?

This shit can make us all a bit of a neurotic mess. I know from experience.

And not just therapist experience.

I think what happens in those moments is we lose our sense of hope. We invested so much time and energy into a person, and then somehow it all went bad. In the worst of these moments we think, how could someone do that to me? Why is this happening to me? I gave you everything and you threw it away!!

These are normal responses, but not, I think the entire picture.

Over the years as a therapist, (and a failed dater), I’ve cobbled together some things to think about when we are experiencing one of these moments.

1   1. ‘We accept the love we think we deserve.’ This idea (as quoted in “The Perks of Being a Wallflower) has been around for a while. If we have a low opinion of ourselves then we are likely drifting towards relationships that confirm this opinion.

2   2. ‘We train people how to treat us by what we allow, what we stop, and what we reinforce.’ Again, not a new idea, but a very important one. Did your partner make you feel bad about yourself? Make negative comments about your appearance? Say insulting things about your friends and family? If so it is up to YOU to draw the line in the sand about what you feel is appropriate. If you sit passively by you won’t change anything.

3   3. ‘When the student is ready, the teacher appears.’ Taken from Buddhist thought, and suggestive of the idea that things come into our lives when we are ready for them. Have we recognized our own patterns of self-sabotage? How our own insecurities contribute to jealousy, tensions, and communication patterns? If we haven’t, then the end of a relationship gives us a chance to think about these things and work on them.

And maybe someone HAS tried to burn our heart out over the course of a relationship. If so, we have to take at least some responsibility for bringing that person into our lives in the first place. But even if we have been mistreated, why should the story end with you feeling sad and miserable? Take this time to better yourself. Pick something you want to improve and work on it. Maybe it’s your physical health, or some hobby you have been dying to try, or a place you want to travel.

Your story doesn’t end with a breakup. It might seem like it at the time, but every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.

And no, that line doesn’t come from the song “Closing Time”.  It was written thousands of years ago by Seneca.

Even ancient Romans got the relationship blues.