Updated: Jul 11
Heartbreak and being responsible for other people’s feelings is a topic that keeps showing up a lot for me at the moment. In conversation with colleagues, with friends and exploring it in my own personal life.
Many of us will make decisions to avoid experiencing heartbreak at all cost. Avoiding a deep connection and intimacy for fear of what will happen. For the concern that we might in some way ‘lose control’ and not function properly. So instead we prefer to keep ourselves distant and not connect too much. We avoid intimacy to protect ourselves in case the connection breaks and ends up feeling too painful to experience.
Some of us make decisions to avoid connection because we have already experienced so much heartbreak. We are exhausted and tired and feel that if it happens again our hearts just may not be able to handle it. We tend to turn our pain into a suffering that we can’t break free from.
There are those of us that keep ourselves distant and disconnected from people for fear of letting them down and breaking their heart. That we don’t want to add to a higher level of commitment because if we do we don’t know we can promise that level of commitment and intimacy forever. The fear of breaking someone’s heart means that we don’t allow ourselves to fully experience intimacy and falling in love. We don’t trust ourselves. We possibly have been involved before with someone having their heart broken and have been heavily blamed for that by lots of people and so we are afraid of going there again.
What if I told you that no matter what you do, you will always experience heartbreak and you will always be a catalyst for breaking someone’s heart?
Experiencing heartbreak is pretty much guaranteed. Whether you are involved with someone for a short time or watching from afar or if it’s been a marriage spanning decades.
Heartbreak feels heavy. It feels like we are alone on the inside watching the world carrying on as normal as though it doesn’t see and recognise our pain. It feels as though we want to say for a moment ‘world stop! Can’t you see what I’m going through and how everything else seems so meaningless?’ Even if we are the instigator of a situation and made the decision, inflicting heartbreak on ourselves does not make the pain any easier to bear.
When we’re in the midst of the pain it can feel so overwhelming that we can feel like we don’t want to return there, ever. If we try to avoid it and prevent ourselves from experiencing it we can keep it trapped, beginning to blame, point the finger, feel resentful about our situation or the other person or maybe blame an external catalyst that led to the event.
It’s possible to learn to detach yourself from certain emotions but they will still be there in some way, the sense of regret, loss, disappointment, etc. The questioning of what it means to us as individuals;
’Where did it go wrong? What could I have done differently? Should I ask for a second chance?”
The problem is with detachment is that we lose access to love and intimacy by placing walls around us. We become emotionally isolated and lonely. So when we explore the discomfort that comes with heartbreak, can we also name what heartbreak is? Why does it happen? What is heartbreak, anyway?
Heartbreak is nothing more than the disappointment of a projected future not happening. What could have been. Even in such a short space of time we can feel a really deep connection to someone. We begin to imagine the possibilities. What our lives can look like having them in it. Building that intimacy and that depth of understanding and appreciation of each other. Creating a deep connection with someone, feeling like there are so many great possibilities. Maybe you have higher expectations for them than they would be able to meet? A romantic idea of who they are and how they can be in your life. When you experience heartbreak what goes through your mind?
‘We could have been really good together’
‘We had so much going for us’
‘We could have had children together, they would have made a great mother/father’
‘I am going to be lonely for the rest of my life’
‘I would have ruined the relationship at some point anyway’
‘They are better off without me and deserve someone better’
So when you experience heartbreak it is for the loss of what ‘could have been. Who does this belong to? The projection belongs to the person who experiences the heartbreak. If we are the heartbreakers it’s important to show compassion to how someone is feeling and their experience of the situation. It’s also important to not take the responsibility for it. How anyone reacts to a situation is their story and what they feel about the situation and what comes up for them. Even if you are the instigator there is still an element of loss of a projected future too. An idea that something, somehow could have been different.
As with any emotion I always advocate being with it.
If we allow ourselves to fully be with it, soothe ourselves and acknowledge the pain, and give ourselves permission to process and work through it, it is cathartic and allows us to acknowledge that even though we can experience heartbreak, it doesn’t mean that we won’t survive it. Allowing ourselves to fully experience and come out the other side means that we can know that in the future we will survive it again. So we know we can go into future relationships with our hearts open, knowing that when any wounding takes place we will be able to support ourselves and work through it. Not getting involved with someone if we are afraid of experiencing heartbreak or breaking someone else’s heart is holding onto fear and a lack of trust in yourself and the other person. How beautiful it is when we surrender to the love and belonging that relationships can give us.
Many of us when experiencing strong emotions which are difficult too process will try and avoid them maybe by distracting ourselves. We may work more or seek out alcohol or drugs to distract us. Maybe we quickly latch onto the next person that shows us interest to fill the gaping hole of loss we feel. Possibly we get angry with the world around us looking for someone or something to blame for the pain we are avoiding experiencing. Coming back to how we feel, noticing where does the sensation arise in the body. Allowing that sensation to move through us, to fully give ourselves time to feel into it all.
My lesson in heartbreak is to be with it all, allow yourself to feel it all. Once you have worked through it continue to keep your heart open as the feeling so you can access the vulnerability that comes with that deep intimacy and connection. The feeling of being seen, even if in the big expanse that can be a lifetime, it’s just for a blip and it’s just momentary, it’s still worth experiencing the intimacy.
How do you hold yourself in heartbreak?
Do you avoid intimacy, love or commitment as a means of protection?
Do you worry about losing yourself when falling in love?
Carla Crivaro is a trauma-informed and certified Sex, Love & Relationship Coach, she works with men and women internationally to reach their goals in delicious sex, profound love and authentic relationships. Carla helps men and women understand themselves and each other, sexually and relationally, in and out of the bedroom. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.