Can We Still Be Friends After The Breakup?

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Wild FlowersKatelynn shared during the introduction to one of my classes that she had been struggling to cope emotionally after a recent breakup. I asked her if she could tell us what brought about the dissolution of the relationship. She told us that significant differences in their needs and values were generating a lot of conflict. Her former partner left on short notice when he was offered a job in California. I asked Katelynn if she was making any effort to keep in touch with him. Katelynn told me that she found it too painful to keep in touch and so she stopped returning his calls.

I had Katelynn close her eyes, begin to breathe softly and deeply and bring her former partner to the forefront of her awareness and then tell us how she was feeling. Katelynn said that she was feeling mildly depressed, isolated and numb. Katelynn later shared that she was missing her former partner and that she was experiencing a profound sense of emptiness combined with feelings of sadness and anger. She said that the whole experience left her wondering what she had done wrong.

Katelynn told me that the pain and pressure that she was experiencing within her body let up as she continued to work with the practice of breathing into the feelings and sensations. After some time she began to experience a greater sense of peace, calmness and ease.

The wound that never fully heals

The loss of a love can be especially devastating. The painful emotions that arise while we’re in the midst of a breakup can leave us feeling overwhelmed. The intensity of the feelings gradually diminish over time, but that doesn’t mean we have thoroughly processed our losses.

The vast majority of us have never learned to work constructively with our feelings. And many of us never fully process these losses. Much of the grief, hurt, sadness and disappointment remains trapped within our bodies. The painful feelings that arise in response to the losses that we experience over the course of our lives form layers of armor as they accumulate within our bodies. In many instances we end up building walls around ourselves. Someone who is well matched for us may come along at some point, but our fears and suspicions create barriers that prevent us from trusting or letting anyone in. The deadening resulting from our leftover emotional baggage also prevents us from being as fully present.

It’s Complicated

Breakups can be especially complicated. We develop a strong attachment for the person that had been a part of our life and there are qualities about them that we truly love. We often experience a painful sense of longing after the breakup for what is no longer. There are also circumstances that get in the way and aspects of us and our partners that that made one of or both of us feel that the relationship was unworkable.

Letting go can be that much more difficult for those of us who haven’t learned to process our feelings. The parts of us that are not processing emotionally cannot let go because they are still living in the past. We do tremendous damage by tearing ourselves apart in the process of separating from our partners.

Deliberately hurtful or just being true to themselves

We all say or do things at times that are hurtful to others. Partners that are especially abusive can leave us with deep emotional wounds. It’s important for us to know abuse when it’s happening and to sever all ties with those who have an inclination to inflict verbal, emotional or physical harm upon us. We also need to distance, if not sever ties with former partners that are toxic. That can be hard to do in some instances, especially if there are children involved.

We sometimes feel hurt when our partner’s feelings and needs do not reciprocate our own. But that doesn’t mean they are intentionally doing anything to hurt us. They may just be being true to themselves by doing whatever it is that they need to be doing at this point in their lives. In some instances they may be misguided, confused and making all kinds of mistakes. And yet we need to be able to let go and allow them to live the lives of their own choosing even if that doesn’t involve us to the extent we want it to.

The only constant is change

Every now and then someone comes into our lives with whom we share a special bond. We may only know these individuals for a short time or they may remain an active part of our lives for many years to come. Our feelings and needs change over time and so do those of our partners. Differences in values, needs and expectations can create incompatibility. Sometimes the people that we have invested in can no longer live up to the promises they have made or meet our expectations. But that change doesn’t necessarily mean that these individuals are no longer an important part of our lives or that we have to completely sever the bond. Doing so can be very damaging to everyone involved.

Change is the only constant. Everyone and everything we know and love is in a continual state of transition. We often experience feelings of hurt, loss, sadness, disappointment and anger when we, our partners and our relationships change. Breathing softly and deeply while fully immersing our awareness in the midst of these feelings helps us to reconcile conflicting feelings and expectations so that we can allow the people in our lives to be who they need to be and our relationships to evolve. Maintaining our connections to the people that have played an important part of our lives as we and they change is an important part of our healing and personal growth.

The feelings that arise when a relationship with someone that we once shared a romantic connection begins to go through a transition can be very uncomfortable. We may feel hurt and angry, but at some level we still love this person. And if they ever experienced feelings of love for us then they probably still do. We’re still relating to this person with whom we share a connection and yet the relationship is not what it used to be. It can be an awkward adjustment when we’re still interacting with the same person and yet we’re no longer physically intimate. We often feel anxious that our former partners will start seeing someone else and it often hurts when they do. It takes some time to adapt to new sets of boundaries, ways of relating to one another and the continuing changes that take place.

Attachment and Loss

Liz was six to eight weeks out of the relationship when she first came to my class. The remainder of this chapter is taken from a series of conversations we’ve had over the past few months.

Liz: At the time came to your class I was in this crazy place where my whole life was changing. Everything that I was most terrified of was happening. I thought I was searching for a partner and going into romantic relationships in a mature way. I was looking for support so I didn’t have to go through life alone. Having to do it all for myself was terrifying because for much of my life I felt that I couldn’t always rely upon or trust my parents.

Don and I met when I reached out to him on Ok Cupid. I noticed on his profile that he had also traveled to India. We chatted a bit, talking about our experiences in India. Don told me that he had just moved to New Hampshire and that he was teaching himself to cross country ski. We agreed to meet to go cross country skiing for our first date. I started spending a lot of time at Don’s condo and after six to eight months he bought a house and I moved in, believing that this was a serious relationship.

I invested so fully and quickly in Don and our relationship once I sensed that he was really interested. We got together four years ago and I never adjusted that image. I was in it for the long haul no matter what. I really stuck with it all the way through despite the fact that a lot of changes were occurring during our final year together. On some level I knew intuitively what was about to happen and that scared the shit out of me.

Don started pulling away from me in September and then we broke up in May. He became more invested in other things, but I didn’t adjust my level of commitment to the relationship or my dependence on him. So when Don broke off the relationship in May, it felt like my entire support system was gone.

I couldn’t extract my grief from the terror I felt over what was going to happen to me. I was angry with Don. I was having so much difficulty concentrating and my energy was really diffuse. I was desperate to have something move at the point when I came to see you.

I finally got all of my stuff out of Don’s place and moved to an apartment. Don was focused on selling his house. Finding new homes for the dogs was really traumatic for both of us. I felt the trauma of it too because one of the dogs was mine, but I had no control in the situation because at the time I didn’t have enough money to take them. There wasn’t much communication between us during that time. I don’t think we spoke for three to four weeks. I was feeling this big empty hole and felt like I was operating as half a person.

Tour de France

I was doing a lot of biking, working with a physical therapist to address some of the structural issues pertaining to my body over the summer and then I started working with you. I had three weeks of vacation time at the end of summer before starting my new job. I wasn’t sure how to fill that time so I was asking all of my friends and trying to come up with ideas. I was thinking of going camping in Maine or taking a road trip to another city, but no one was biting.

Don was leaving in August to go and travel for the next two years. He had been planning to tour Europe by bike for three months and he said to me “Why don’t you just meet me over there. We’ll do the bike trip and you can spend your three weeks touring with me.”

I wasn’t sure if spending my three weeks on a bike tour with my ex-boyfriend was a good idea, but I remember talking with you about it. Everyone else thought that was crazy. And they were asking me “Why would you go on this international bike trip with an ex-boyfriend that had recently broken up with you?” You had said that it would probably help me to work through the loss. I had a feeling that everything was going to be okay and it felt like it was a trip that I wanted to do, so I went ahead and did it.

I did have a contingency plan. I made a concerted effort to plan things so that if it was really horrible and felt awful that I had all the equipment with me to keep doing the bike trip by myself. I would have done the exact same trip on my own, about a day’s worth of biking behind him, because he’s a much faster rider than me.

Lovers to friends

The trip was awkward at first. There was a learning curve on what it was going to be like because we were so freshly broken up. We had all kinds of logistical details to deal with from the time we started the trip. Don was really trying to not be such an asshole in the ways that he traditionally was. We had to get the bikes on the train one evening to get to the ocean. I was trying to find something I could eat on the train that wouldn’t aggravate my food allergies. I got back close to the time the train was leaving and I could see that Don was clearly frustrated and then he snapped at me.

I went right back into my old pattern of feeling awful but not saying anything about it. I was thinking “This sucks and it’s not any fun.” But then he apologized saying “I’m sorry. That whole situation was dumb. I shouldn’t have been mad at you.” I could see that he was clearly making an effort.

Then something else happened within a couple of days. I was feeling weepy, sad and lonely. We were staying in this international hostel. All I wanted was to have my pain be seen and acknowledged and maybe have a hug. We were in this room with bunks and I was curled up on a bed crying. Don washed up and then went downstairs to work on his travel blog. I stopped crying after a while, cleaned myself up and went down to work on the blog with him. While we were sitting there alone in this lounge I let him know that I was having a hard time and that I felt bothered by the fact that he acted like I wasn’t even in the room and then left. I didn’t like it that he was ignoring me and that it was making things worse. I told him that I was feeling alone, unseen and that he didn’t care if I was upset.

Don then acknowledged what I was feeling saying “I’m sorry that I just walked out on you. You must have felt so awful when I just walked around you like you weren’t there and then left. I was just trying to give you some space because I didn’t know what to do. I thought that I was doing what I would have wanted, which would have been to be left alone. But that’s not what you wanted at the time and it actually made you feel worse.”

Don then asked me “Well, if it happens again, what should I do?” I responded by saying “Why don’t you give me a hug?” Don said that he wasn’t sure if that would be okay. I felt comforted by the fact that Don actually listened and then relayed back not only what I said, but insight based on it. He was clearly paying attention and putting two and two together. I felt during that conversation that he really understood me very well. He gave me a hug and I felt seen and acknowledged. For once he totally got it.

There were a number of days when I had bad moments. One day I was crying and biking for a full hour. I probably biked ten miles crying. I had my sunglasses on so people couldn’t tell I was crying. I said to myself “I’m going to keep going.” And so we did.

Processing

On a trip like that you really do have to depend on each other. We had to work as a team. In some ways our dynamic was very similar. We were still the same people, but in other ways it had changed. One of the really nice things that happened is that I was able to separate all the pain I had of being alone and losing the support and being afraid of the future and being angry at him for breaking a promise and not supporting me. There was a separate grief, which was really important for me to get to. The trip gave me the opportunity to gain access to that grief. It made me clearer on the fact that I do love this person and I don’t want to not talk to him. I don’t want him to be gone. I don’t want someone else to be having these conversations with him.

It took me several months for me to realize those were separate sets of feelings. On the one hand I’m feeling “Shit! What am I going to do? How dare you break your promise?” On the other I’m thinking “I really did love you and I wasn’t just using you for your support.”

I’m happy that we were able to spend the time together and that we’re still in touch. Don is off touring Europe now so we communicate via G-chat and talk on the phone occasionally. I don’t know when he will be in the Northeast again.

Moving On

A huge percentage of my free time was devoted to Don and the life we shared together. After living together in Don’s house for a year I moved down to Boston to go to law school and he stayed in New Hampshire. For three years we talked on the phone every night. And then on the weekends I would either travel back up to New Hampshire to see Don or he would come down to Boston to see me.

Before I would go into the weekend thinking to myself “I’ll see Don then we’ll decide what we’re going to do together.” That’s all gone now. What I find really disturbing is the feeling of having to get used to doing everything on my own. It’s like “What am I going to do? I have to go find my own friends and make my own plans.”

I feel like I’m becoming more emotionally independent. I’m getting used to the fact that he’s not there and I’m finding that there are other people I can talk to when something happens. And I can also process things on my own without having to talk to anyone at all. That’s giving me some space to move forward. I feel like I’m doing a relatively good job evaluating my life, what’s real, what kind of things I want to invest in now that I have this new single life. I’m figuring out what I want in my job and I’ve been getting involved in this meditation center. It would have been really hard to do that if I was still feeling as shitty as I was.

Ben: I knew there was some risk involved when I encouraged you to go on the road trip with Don. I didn’t exactly know how the road trip was going to turn out, but I had a strong intuitive sense that you needed to go and spend the time with him in order to do the processing needed to heal from the breakup.

Liz: Many of my friends were telling me to not talk to Don for a year saying that it would make me feel better. I felt the absolute worst during the three weeks that we were not talking at all.

Ben: I see other people that follow suggestions such as those given by your friends and not talk to their former partners for a year, if ever again. It has much to do with their lack of emotional-cognitive sophistication. They end up shutting down portions of their body – mind consciousness.

Completely severing such a bond can be very destructive to everyone involved. Abruptly severing ties is very jarring to our body – mind. Cutting off makes it much harder for us to process the hurt, fear, sense of loss, confusion, anger and other feelings that are a normal response to the changes taking place in our relationship. These emotions are more likely to remain trapped within our bodies. We end up hurting ourselves in ways that negatively impact our ability to form healthy attachments with potential companions that we encounter along the way.

We may need periods of time after a breakup where we agree not to see each other, talk on the phone, text or email to help facilitate the transition. This time apart can help us to adjust to the transition taking place by enabling the various parts of us to reconcile or come to terms with the fact that we are now in a different kind of relationship.

Liz: It’s been a year since my housemate broke up with his girlfriend. Now he’s constantly dating several women at a time, but he isn’t actually connecting with any of them. He’s only using them to hook up and doesn’t take it any further. He doesn’t appear to be at all conscious of what he’s doing.

Ben: Much of the population is so disconnected from their pain. They never really process emotionally and heal the wounds they suffer in a breakup. They end up doing a lot more damage to themselves and others by acting out. They sort of, but not really connect with others. Sadly, many people continue to operate indefinitely at that level of unconsciousness in their romantic involvements.

I’m seeing lots of change in you over the past few months. I could feel how you were in a very raw and vulnerable space when you first came to my class and that concerned me. You were contracting or closing in around the hurt of the breakup. The healing sessions that we did enabled you to do the deep emotional processing needed to facilitate the healing of the emotional wounds going back to your relationship with you parents and those pertaining to the breakup of your relationship with Don.

You’ve become more resilient and that’s enabled you to make the transition much more gracefully. The sessions helped you to process much of the grief while putting you in a more receptive space that made it possible for you to learn and grow from the experience you had with Don. There’s considerably more work to do, but you’ve made a lot of progress.

Liz: I think that’s true. And the work that we have done has also affected me in some ways I didn’t anticipate. I’ve made some progress in my relationship with my parents. My anger and expectations towards them had limited my ability to have a better relationship. I was able to let go of some of the expectations I had of my parents and that made it easier for me to accept them for who they truly are.

One aspect of the real pain I felt with Don was not knowing why he left. I kept asking myself “Why? Why? Why?” I felt this huge need to understand the reason behind his decision to leave and understand that it wasn’t my fault.

Going on the road trip gave me the opportunity to reflect on everything that happened between Don and I over the past few years and that gave me a fresh perspective. Don had gone from kindergarten through grad school without a break and then straight into a job. He had been working for five years and always felt lot of pressure from his father. I could see how all the demands and responsibilities were weighing so heavily on him. The house and dogs that other people might have appreciated were very burdensome and he felt like he just couldn’t take it anymore. So he extracted himself from all of that in stages.

I could see the things Don was doing such as taking time off and getting rid of all these things that were burdening him was probably the right decision for him. It sucked for me to lose it all after four years of investing in him and yet he was not enjoying his life. I could see that it was very courageous of him to leave his job and live off savings for two years. Seeing Don so unburdened and joyful and realizing that he hadn’t been happy made me realize that it wasn’t about me. I could see that Don had chosen the wrong lifestyle for himself and he was trying to make a correction that was really in line with his heart.

Ben: I doubt that you would have come to this realization you had if you had not done the healing sessions and gone on the road trip with Don. This whole experience turned out to be a crucial part of your healing after the breakup. By being open and present you have been able to do much of the healing and gain understandings that you probably wouldn’t have come to otherwise.

Liz: I’ve read a number of books by the author Cheryl Stayed. One of the things she says repeatedly in her writing that really got to me is “The fact that someone wants to leave is reason enough to leave.” The reason Don wanted to leave is because he felt like he had to and so he did. I felt some sadness. I wondered why he wanted to leave. I didn’t want him to leave, but he did.

So much has happened since we made that road trip in August. I started listening to a podcast one evening called Dear Sugar. A woman that called in that evening was struggling with a recent breakup. She said there was an amazing chemistry with the man she had been seeing for the past year, but he had now distanced himself from her saying that he was discovering that he really liked men and needed time apart to discover if he was bi or gay. He said that he really did care about her and that his ending of the relationship wasn’t about her. Relationship expert Dan Savage who happened to be on the show that evening said “People don’t breakup with someone they truly want to be with. They give you some excuse to try to make you feel better so that you don’t hurt as much. But that excuse becomes the sword that you fall on. You end up getting more deeply hurt because you’re hoping that they will come back. You end up thinking “He’s going to discover that he really does love me.”

Listening to that podcast made me reflect on my own situation. The big reason Don gave me for breaking up is that he was going on this trip, that it would be really long distance and that it didn’t make any sense to continue the relationship. He then said that it wasn’t about me, but about the circumstances. The part of me that was holding on to the hope of Don returning was thinking “Maybe when this trip is over Don will return and we’ll get back together. He really does care about me. It’s not about me. It’s about the trip.” But that’s just not true. If Don really wanted to be together, he wouldn’t have broken up with me and would have maintained the relationship while he was traveling.

Don and I had a conversation over the phone not too long afterwards. I was trying to get him to admit things that he had done that made it easier for me to believe that our relationship was permanent and that he was serious about it even though he had already backed out. I admit that I had a part in not wanting that to be true, but I think he did things to lead me to believe that he was in it for the long haul.

I was really clear that I wanted to be married someday, but there were times when I felt insecure and I would ask Don if he was really committed to the relationship. He would respond by telling me “Well look at my actions. What are my actions telling you?” Don’s actions were telling me that he was a settle down sort of person. He had a job that he took very seriously, bought a house, a car and had two dogs. We also saw each other every weekend. And so I kind of took him at his word. But he never really intended it to last. In his view he feels that he was very clear that marriage was never on the table.

Don also said on many occasions that he didn’t believe in marriage as an institution. He felt that people go through so many changes and that it didn’t make sense to make a promise to stay together, to continue to care about one another and make the relationship work. He said that to him it only made sense for people that had been together for a really long time and then got married for practical reasons like taxes or health insurance.

In my mind I was thinking that Don and I would stay together for a long while and when it made sense we would get married. Don felt like he was saying that marriage was not on the table, so don’t look for it. I took what Don said as meaning that it was definitely a possibility while he felt like he was saying that it was not.

Don didn’t make it clear to me that he was not in it for the long haul even though he knew that at some level. In some ways, that deprived me from of the opportunity to leave earlier. Had I done so, I wouldn’t have had to experience that huge loss all at once. We were having this conversation and he wasn’t owning his part of what happened between us. He took no responsibility saying “I have nothing to apologize for. I did a really good job.” I realized that I was never going to get what I wanted out of him on this. I really let go of a lot in that conversation.

Ben: The person doing the breaking up doesn’t always know what they want. They feel uncomfortable and they’re afraid to be honest by coming right out and saying “I really don’t want to be in the relationship with you anymore.”

Liz: Don and I have talked a lot less since that conversation. I had been holding onto the hope that Don would get tired of traveling and that we would get back together. Holding onto that hope was holding me back. That conversation enabled me to let go of the hope. We’d been catching up once every ten days or so. The conversations felt more generic and the connection had faded a bit having lost some of its intimacy, but that wasn’t as terrifying as it had been before. Things have been moving in a very different direction since that conversation. I’ve been focusing more on my new job and getting more serious about my meditation practice.

Ben: Whether or not we can remain friends depends on our own needs and considerations as well as those of our former partner and the unique chemistry between each pairing of individuals. We may find it difficult to open to or trust a former partner because of the damage that’s been done. We sometimes outgrow former partners or we realize that we didn’t have much in common to begin with. Sometimes it is best to just let go and move on.

Just because the romantic relationship didn’t work doesn’t mean that there isn’t a potential for a meaningful friendship. Couples that were horrible as romantic partners sometimes make the best of friends. The romance can sometimes die out, and yet there’s still a deep love for one another. Some couples need to maintain a cordial if not friendly relationships for the sake of any children involved. And there are those who manage to work out their differences and get back together. It’s up to each of us to tune into our feelings, needs and intuition to determine the extent to which we open ourselves and allow our former partners to be a part of our lives.

Liz: Don visited Boston a week ago and we had lunch. It went fine. We caught up a little about my job and his travels. I felt myself holding myself back from him this time – in my mind I kept wondering “What are looking to get out of this?” I would listen to him talking about how he doesn’t miss the burden of having dogs or owning a home and feel my disappointment that we were just very clearly not on the same page. I didn’t talk to him about that feeling, though, because it’s not that kind of relationship anymore. At this point, in answer to the question of whether I think I can be friends with my ex, I would say this: we can be cordial, I’m curious to know what’s happening with this person who holds an important place in my life story so we’ll stay in touch, but we can’t be close and intimate friends now. My trust in him has been broken, I’m too disappointed, and I need to open up that intimate connection space so it will be available for someone else someday.

©Copyright 2015 Ben Oofana. All Rights Reserved. This content may be copied in full, with copyright, creation and contact information intact, without specific permission.

Ben Oofana is a healer who began his training with Horace Daukei, one of the last surviving traditional doctors among the Kiowa Indian tribe. Call (913) 927-4281 to learn more or to schedule an individual session.

A special thank you to Kathleen Lolley for granting me permission to use her painting “Wild Flowers.” Be sure to check out her work at http://www.lolleyland.com and her Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/LolleyArt

What to Do When the Pain of a Breakup Won’t Let You Sleep

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Can't Sleep

We operate primarily from our conscious mind during our normal waking hours. And then our subconscious mind takes over when we’re sleeping. Our subconscious is far more vast and powerful than the conscious mind. It is also the repository of the vast amount of memory, emotion and life history that we have failed to process.

The defensive armor that enables us to contain the backlog of emotion stored within our bodies softens whenever we consume alcohol and other substances, become physically ill or suffer as a result of an injury. We’re more likely to act out by doing things we wouldn’t normally do while sober when we are under the influence of alcohol and other substances. We tend to feel a greater sense of emotional vulnerability at times when we become physically ill or suffer from some form of injury.

The defensive armor that we construct also softens to some degree whenever we’re sleeping. Unpleasant feelings and memories that have been held within the body can more readily make their way to the surface during the times in our lives when we’re going through a breakup, having our abandonment issues triggered or faced with survival issues such as the loss of employment. These highly charged emotions can make it difficult for us to fall asleep. We may also find it difficult to stay asleep and wake up at times during the middle of the night or awaken too early in the morning.

MRI’s of people going through a breakup show increased in the areas of the brain associated with physical pain, reward, motivation, addiction and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Fears of abandonment as well as the painful emotions that arise in response to a breakup also trigger the release of adrenaline and cortisol which is a steroid hormone. Adrenaline and cortisol interfere with our ability to sleep. The resulting sleep deprivation adds to our sense of emotional instability.

There were periods in my mid-twenties and on up until my early forties where I repeatedly found myself attracting and attracted to women who were either uninterested or unavailable. In some instances these women would reenact the traumas of my childhood and adolescence. What made it worse is that these patterns kept replaying themselves over and over again. The pain of not having my basic needs for love met was excruciating. My sleep was very irregular during these episodes. I would often fall asleep at various times of the day to compensate.

I would experience all kinds of fear, pain, feelings of loss along with a vast range of other intense emotions. I would experience physical pain throughout my chest and sometimes my entire body would ache. The emotions and physical pain were also accompanied with a wide range of sensations. I would sometimes experience these sensations all throughout my body.

Losing about half of my income when the economy crashed in 2008 triggered the worst of my survival fears. It felt as though the bottom had fallen out from underneath me. I would sometimes lay in bed for hours consumed by an overwhelming fear and anxiety and wonder how I was going to make it. There were many nights when I couldn’t fall asleep until two, three or four in the morning. I would often wake up during the middle of the night and it would take me a long time to go back to sleep. At other times I would wake up too early. The lack of sleep left me feeling exhausted, but I felt I had no choice but to keep pushing on.

I didn’t fully understand the process taking place as I found myself flooded with all kinds of painful emotions, but I had an intuitive sense that it was something I needed to go through. I made a conscientious effort to be fully present to the overwhelming fear and anxiety by breathing into the feelings as they arose. Breathing with my awareness fully immersed within the painful feelings activated the innate healing intelligence residing within my body and mind. Working my way through the intensity of emotion facilitated a profound transformation within. I grew stronger, became far more resourceful and experienced the kinds of changes that eventually made it possible for me to attract and be attracted to healthier companions.

I will sometimes lie in bed for hours breathing into all the feelings and sensations that arise. At other times I will get out of bed and then sit up in a chair while breathing into the feelings and sensations. I have learned to see these episodes as an opening because it gives me the opportunity to access feelings that would not otherwise be readily accessible. The more I can open myself to the feelings and experience them fully, the greater the transformation I experience. I have gained lots of creative insights as a result of staying fully present to the feelings and physical sensations that arose.

The intensity of emotion combined with the flood of adrenaline and cortisol and lack of sleep can be very hard on the body. We feel fatigued, frustrated, irritable and moody when our bodies are not able to get the sleep they need. Our energy is diminished, we find it difficult to concentrate and have difficulty performing everyday tasks. Failure to get adequate rest also weakens our immune system and that makes us more susceptible to many other health concerns.

We need to do certain practices and make use of various resources to mitigate the effects upon our body and mind. I found going out for long slow walks late in the evening to be very grounding. Breathing into the feelings as they arose during these walks would diffuse the emotions so that I got a better quality of sleep.

I had the opportunity to go through Pancha Karma with an Ayurvedic Physician when I lived in New Mexico. The combination of Ayurvedic diet and herbal remedies helped to balance my constitution. The emotions became more manageable, I felt more balanced and that made it easier to sleep. I also found that receiving acupuncture helped by balancing and restoring the healthy flow of the body’s chi or vital life force and the various organs and systems.

We need to be especially mindful of the foods we’re consuming while we’re in the midst of a breakup. We need to avoid foods or substances that contain caffeine and refined sugar as they tend to exacerbate our anxiety and confusion. Green leafy vegetables like kale contain folate, which produces dopamine, a neurotransmitter that helps to keep us calm. Tryptophan found in turkey, nuts, seeds and eggs helps to produce serotonin, a neurotransmitter associated with feelings of happiness and well-being. Omega-3 fatty acids found in salmon have anti-inflammatory properties that counteract the negative effects of cortisol. Antioxidants and phytonutrients found in berries improve our body’s response to stress by reversing or limiting damage resulting from free radicals. Pistachio nuts contain crucial phytonutrients that provide antioxidant support for the heart. Dark chocolate can help to reduce stress hormones such as cortisol. The antioxidants found in cocoa cause the walls of the blood vessels to relax, lowering blood pressure and increasing circulation. The vitamin D contained in milk can reduce the risk of panic disorder. Flax, pumpkin and sunflower seeds contain magnesium which can help to alleviate depression, fatigue and irritability. Zinc found in cashews has been found to reduce anxiety. And probiotics have been shown to reduce activity in the parts of the brain associated with stress responses.

I do want to offer a word of caution here. Acupuncture, Ayurvedic Medicine and diet are important components to our physiological and psychological health and yet there is no substitute for doing the deep level processing that we need to be doing to heal the deep emotional wounds. We still have to feel the feelings.

The various forms of therapeutic massage such as deep tissue body work can bring a lot of emotion to the surface. Having all these intense emotions flooding my awareness wasn’t at all pleasant. But having all these feelings brought to the surface so that I could access them made it easier for me to do the emotional processing that accelerated my healing.

The work I have done with a number of powerful healers and the vision quest, a traditional Native American healing practice that involves going out alone into the mountains to fast for four days and nights without food or water, has done more than anything to diffuse the intensity of emotion and heal the traumas of my own childhood and adolescence. I have become more resilient and have developed more of the resources I need to handle whatever comes along in life and process any subsequent emotions.

I generally sleep much better, but there are still nights every now and then where I have trouble falling asleep or wake up at some point during the night. It can definitely be an inconvenience, but I see it as an opportunity to heal the underlying disturbances operating within my own psyche.

Many of the people I work with tell me that they sleep better as a result of the individual healing sessions. The presence working through me during this process facilitates the digestion of past traumas and any subsequent emotions such as fear, grief, hurt and anger. The triggers associated with traumatic events are dismantled while building a much stronger and more stable foundation. Those who have the opportunity to work with me experience a greater sense of wellbeing as the body and mind becomes more physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually resilient.

©Copyright 2015 Ben Oofana. All Rights Reserved. This content may be copied in full, with copyright, creation and contact information intact, without specific permission.

Ben Oofana is a healer who began his training with Horace Daukei, one of the last surviving traditional doctors among the Kiowa Indian tribe. Call (913) 927-4281 to learn more or to schedule an individual session.

The Disappearing Act

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walk awayThe disappearing act is something that has been around for as long as we have existed as a human race. We often hear of about parents disappearing in the personal accounts of those who were abandoned by their mother or father as children. The tendency to disappear has seemingly become more common among people in our present day and age.

Becoming involved with another person and then vanishing is a very hurtful and grossly insensitive thing to do. The people who do the disappearing are often so self-absorbed or immature that they don’t really consider how their actions affect another person. Of course there are instances in which the disappearance occurred not by choice in situations where one was imprisoned or drafted into military service. The remainder of this chapter consists of a dialog between Priya and I in which she shares her recent experiences with a Stephane, a man that showed up in her life a few months back and then abruptly disappeared.

Priya: My young husband passed away unexpectedly in 2012. I was just starting to get back into dating after a year of mourning his loss and had created a very short profile on OkCupid to test the waters. My profile consisted of two photographs and three lines. And then one day I got a message from this guy saying “I didn’t think it was possible, but your profile is even shorter than mine.” We then we started chatting back and forth.

Stephane had mentioned in his profile that he works as a psychotherapist. It was interesting because he started asking questions about me. I responded by saying “You’re the therapist …figure it out.” Much to my surprise, he came up with some pretty accurate insights. He guessed right off that I had just come out of a long term relationship.

We decided to meet after a flirtatious exchange. The first date felt very disconnected. Stephane appeared to be stressed out, exhausted and older than the picture posted on his profile. We met in a crowded bar and at the time he seemed to be more interested in watching the game. Two other guys at the bar were flirting with me. I thought that it was all playful and fun, but it seemed to really bother Stephane.

The first date didn’t go very well, but he said maybe should give it another try. Stephane was very quick to set up the second date. He wanted me to come down to see him in Brooklyn, which was fine because I love exploring this part of the city. This time he came across as someone who was very willing to open up. I assumed that had something to do with the fact that he’s a psychotherapist by profession. One thing I did notice is that he tended to overanalyze everyone and everything around him.

I could sense a lot of anxiety about Stephane, but I started to see his eyes brighten over the course of our conversation. There was almost this boyish look on his face as he began to relax. I loved the transformation I saw taking place in Stephane as he began to let his hair down, access his free inner child and just act silly.

At some point our conversation turned to the subject of loss. I then shared with Stephane about the loss of my husband. I loved that he was so open to hearing what I had to say. I had shared a very important part of me and felt that the fact that I was more vulnerable with Stephane made him more attracted to me. My sense is that a person is being intimate if they’re sharing a lot of personal information. I didn’t think it was possible to share that much information and still have an intimacy barrier. I hadn’t shared my loss with anyone before in my dating experience, so for me that meant intimacy. But looking back, I don’t think it was the case for him and at some level I sensed it. I should have listened to my intuition

I felt that we were growing closer after the second date. We kissed at the end of the date and he said lets meet again. I texted Stephane after a few days, but then I didn’t hear from him for a long time.

The experience of being intimate with Stephane stayed with me, making me miss my husband in a different way than before. Something about my interaction with Stephane was helping me to process the grief. The feelings continued to surface for a couple of days. I felt that it was healthy to access these feelings and I wanted more.

I texted Stephane and said “Hey, let’s get together.” Stephane responded by saying “Let’s do it.” He said “How about tonight?” I was up for it but then he canceled at the last minute. I was a little surprised because I thought that we had progressed further. Stephane didn’t make himself available for another date.

Bewildered, I sent Stephane a message saying “I really enjoyed the time that we spent together and if you feel similarly, I would love to see you again and often.” I received no response at all. I felt so disappointed and so I stopped texting him. A couple of months went by. One night I was out with my friends and for some reason I thought of Stephane. I had a little too much to drink and I texted him saying “Where the fuck have you been?” That captured his attention. And then we had this playful exchange. During the exchange he said “Me not responding doesn’t mean that I’m not interested.” I then replied with “Well okay, what are you going to do about it?” Stephane then said that he would love to hang out. I thought I would give him another chance and see where things wanted to go and so we finally did hang out again.

At that time I told Stephane “I’m in a place right now where I just want to be friends. I’m not looking for anything long term. The conversation is very good and I feel that we connect on many levels. That’s something I enjoy and I’m in a good place. So I would love to see you more often.” Stephane seemed to become very relaxed around the whole idea of no commitments or expectations.

What I was hoping for is an adult relationship in which two people are fully present for each other for whatever period of time. It doesn’t have to be forever or a year. It could be for a month. But at least they fully honor the connection. And I do believe that’s possible. I believe that you can be friends and share about your life and share your ideas to change the world. And you can also have an intimate sexual relationship. I thought that Stephane had that potential given the depth that he had demonstrated before.

At that point, we really started to see each other. After that date he invited me to his place. I ended up spending the night. We talked for five or six hours. We had another date where he came over to my place and again we talked for hours. After the second big date I started to feel like he tapped into this whole reservoir of pain inside of me. It felt like layers of grief were surfacing, because the depth of sharing was something that I had only previously experienced with my husband. Now I had shared with another man. Having done so was beautiful, but it also felt sad.

The date seemed perfect. I felt euphoric and was glowing afterwards. But then a day later I started to slip into a depressive state and mourn the loss of my husband even more deeply than before.

I slept with Stephane in a certain position that I used to sleep in with my husband. I could hear his heartbeat and it reminded me of my husband’s heartbeat. It reminded me of how my husband’s heart suddenly stopped and that evoked a whole range of emotion.

During our time together I saw Stephane transform from this stressed out individual into this guy whose eyes were sparking and full of youth. Suddenly he changed into this effervescent personality. I loved watching the transformation. We kissed, made love and it was so tender and romantic.

Along with the sadness came feelings of abandonment. Stephane had already shared with me that he’s the kind of person who cannot commit. He said at one point that it was very easy for him to walk away from a relationship. The whole time I kept fearing that he was going to walk away. I also knew that if I chased after him or tried to text him that it would sabotage this relationship and that he would put even more distance between us.

I went through my usual abandonment cycle which I feel with almost every guy, but this time I decided to do something completely different. Normally I delete the guy’s number so there’s no way for me to text him. Or I do text him, the guy runs away and then it’s over. This time I decided to take it to the next level. I decided to own these feelings by sharing them with Stephane, not to burden him or expect anything from him, but purely to share.

Stephane’s biggest fear is that someone will start expecting things from him, but that’s not what I was doing. I assumed that since Stephane is a therapist, he would understand what I was going through and we could be friends. And that he would also understand that I’m not feeling all these intense things because I’m expecting more from the relationship. So I picked up the phone and I called Stephane and told him what I was going through. In the moment he was very compassionate about it, saying “Hey, I wish I had the time right now to talk about this. I can’t right now because I’m at work, but let’s meet on Wednesday.

Tuesday came and I didn’t hear from Stephane. So I texted him and said “Hey, what’s going on? Are we meeting Wednesday or not?” That’s when I received a text message saying “Sorry, I think that our last conversation was a little intense. Understandably intense, but not at par with where I’m at right now. Sorry.” Stephane broke up on text and that was it. I never heard from him again.

In receiving that text I felt two things. It felt like a stab in the heart, but at another level I was almost expecting it. I felt the same things when I received the phone call letting me know that my husband had died. The abandonment wound is so primitive that at some level we almost expect to be abandoned. Every time a relationship ends I feel two things. I feel really sad, but I also know that it was going to happen anyway.

Sometimes I miss the fun parts of the connection I shared with Stephane. I miss the music we shared, the depth of conversation, the intellectual connection and the perceived emotional closeness. Now I feel that he was holding back a big part of himself. I don’t think he was really letting me in. And that’s why it was so easy for him to walk away. Why else would you be able to walk away so easily.

Ben: The thing that caused me the most grief and frustration when I first came to New York was this seeming inability of the people I encountered to form any kind of meaningful or lasting attachments. The tendency to disappear is indicative of deep interpersonal deficits. You can meet someone here in the City, share all kinds of deep personal information and feel like you’re really making a connection. But there are lots of people here don’t really comprehend that in terms of intimacy. It’s nothing for them to just disappear, because what may feel like a connection to you and I really doesn’t mean anything to them.

I feel fortunate to have spent time in other states and countries in different parts of the world. One of the things I value most is the experience of connecting with people wherever I went. It was so amazing to open up and share with someone I was meeting for the first time. There was a greater sense of continuity in that something good would usually come of the interaction. It may not necessary turn into a romantic relationship, but it often developed into a friendship or some form of connection.

Many people living her in the city lack a certain empathetic quality that would enable them to bond and form meaningful attachments. I see it on a personal level and in the people I work with. People we encounter or interact with can seem to be really present in the moment, but they cannot sustain this presence. They often just disappear. It’s just the way that many people here operate.

The disappearing act happens to some degree everywhere. It’s just much more prevalent here in the city. People in communities across the country and in other parts of the world often warn their friends and acquaintances about a potential love interest if that person has acted in ways that were hurtful and abusive. Word gets out and then the man or woman gets a bad reputation. The advantage of this is that it holds men and women accountable for their actions. People in a place like New York City can do all kinds of horrible things to one another and seemingly get away with it because there isn’t the extended social network to hold them accountable. It’s so much harder to hold anyone accountable here in a city of eight million strangers.

Priya: But what is commitment anyway? My sense is that it is about accountability to another person. It seems that a lot of people here are so scared of that. And they fear that they will be asked for something that they cannot fulfill. One of the things that Stephane said is “I cannot disappoint a woman. If I think I’m disappointing her then I will walk away.” At some level he perceived that by sharing what I’m going through that I was asking for some massive amount of support …something that he felt he couldn’t provide me. And so he already knew that he had disappointed me and that’s why he walked away. He behaved consistent with what he told me about himself. And that’s the same pattern he’s been playing out with women. This is what I understand based upon what he shared with me.

Ben: There are a lot of things about the environment here in New York City that cause people to operate on a very surface level. We’re bombarded with massive amounts of light, sound and other stimulus. And there are innumerable distractions. People are stacked above, below and on all sides of us. And that means that other people are constantly in our energy field. All of that static interference exceeds our processing capacity. Our state of disconnect is further exacerbated as we continue to spend more and more time on our smartphones and computers.
All the shit flying through our sensory channels leaves us saturated, thereby overwhelming our processing capacity. We can barely do the processing necessary to work through our own feelings and issues because our brain-mind is so overwhelmed by the sensory bombardment and all the other distractions that it is forced to contend with. Interpersonal relationships invariably suffer, because we do not have enough available bandwidth available to be fully present.

Priya: That’s so bizarre. I will create that bandwidth, because connection is why I’m alive. That’s why I’m here. How can you live without that? I don’t get it…

Ben: But you have a different orientation. Your orientation is to experience that deep intimate emotional bond or connectedness. Other individuals build barriers around themselves. They may hunger for the sexual hookup, but they don’t allow anyone into that deep personal space. They are avoiding their own feelings and issues. In doing so they are abandoning themselves and therefore they cannot be truly present with anyone else.

We operate with these assumptions that say everyone is looking to love and be loved, but in doing so we are setting ourselves up to be hurt. Much of the population is wounded in such a way that prevents them from being truly intimate with another human being. Many are threatened by intimacy. Matters are further compounded by the fact that they do not recognize their inability to bond as an issue that needs to be dealt with. And many of those who do recognize the issue do not possess the willingness or desire to do what it takes to heal.

Priya: One of the things Stephane told me was that he was really surprised that I kept texting him even though he didn’t text back. I responded by telling him that I knew that most people would feel rejected if someone didn’t text them back. I just had this intuition that we would be really good friends and that we have a capacity for connection. And that I thought that his unavailability was his problem and not mine.

Stephane’s response was “Wow, good for you that you thought that way.” I could have continued to think that way, but I was up to my capacity where I couldn’t indulge his unavailability any more. I felt like I was playing this role of drawing him out of his shell all the time saying it’s safe. I’m safe. It’s safe to connect. I considered texting him again, but I feel like I’m worth more than trying so hard to draw someone out of their shell. So I just chose not to. Maintaining a connection shouldn’t be so hard if it’s meant to be.

I come with so much connectedness that some people cannot bear it. They cannot be in my presence. My groundedness and connectedness makes them encounter the uncomfortable feelings they are avoiding.

Ben: The act of being fully present in our personal interactions can trigger a lot of feelings. One has to experience a lot of feelings in order to be fully present in their interactions with others. A large percentage of the population is not willing to do that.

Stephane, like so many other men in the city, may continue to move from one hookup to another. Or he may eventually find a partner who operates at a similar level of disconnectedness with whom he can relate on a superficial level that doesn’t force him to address his issues. It’s like they’re sort of together, but there’s no real depth or intimacy.

Priya: Stephane told me that he’s working primarily with returning vets and patients struggling with addictions. When I asked Stephane how he’s helped his patients, he told me that he primarily focuses on strategies to help them cope. I could see that his reviews were really good when I looked online, but then what does a patient who is so low functioning really know.

Ben: There are highly skilled psychotherapists that make a profound difference in the lives of their patients. But I sometimes feel cynical about psychotherapy, because I know of so many therapists who are just as damaged, if not more so, than the patients they are purporting to help. They may have an intellectual understanding of psychopathology and yet they’re not really doing the deep processing necessary to work through their emotions and heal their own dysfunction.

None of us are perfect. We are all wounded in some way and we all make mistakes. And yet I’ve felt horrified by the level of dysfunction in some of the psychotherapists who have shown up in my classes and that have worked with me individually. Sometimes they disappear because of their inability or unwillingness to face the issues. I’m thinking “Okay, so you’ve earned your degree and now you’re practicing as a psychotherapist. But how can you possibly facilitate healing within another when you’re not even doing the work necessary to facilitate your own healing?” One of the most important qualifications for those of us who work in any kind of therapeutic capacity is that we strive to live from a place of integrity by consistently addressing our own issues to the best of our ability.

Intellectual understanding will only go so far. I look into people’s auras all the time. I see people who have gone through years of psychotherapy. I see many instances where they possess a greater intellectual understanding of their suffering and yet they’re still holding so much trauma and other stressful emotional content within their bodies. Psychotherapy can be a very important aspect of the healing process, but it needs to be combined with other modalities. One also needs to be willing to do the deep emotional work.

Priya: At one point Stephane said that he didn’t have any interest in going back to address childhood issues with his patients. And that may be a reflection of his own unwillingness to address those issues and do the processing necessary to heal his own emotional wounds. That may also account for the fact that his approach is based primarily upon offering coping skills, rather than addressing the underlying issues. I’ve noticed that lots of people are not willing to go back to address childhood issues. I’m sure that’s not the only way to heal. There must be other ways.

Ben: Unresolved issues from our past are often the underlying source of our present day struggles. These issues have a tendency to play out in our present day lives. They need to be addressed at some point. We cannot fully heal until the wounds are healed and the issues brought to some form of resolution. That’s not all there is to healing, but it’s a very important part of the process.

Relationships will invariably bring our core issues to the surface. Much of the populace has spent the vast majority of their lives avoiding or disconnecting from their feelings, physical bodies and the issues they haven’t wanted to deal with. They’re afraid to experience their own feelings. And that’s why many people bail out as soon as a relationship brings their core issues to the surface.

I met a Chinese woman one evening while attending a class. I found the conversation with Jian to be very enjoyable, so I asked her if she would like to come along with me to pick up an order I had placed at Whole Foods. She then asked me if I would like to have tea. We ended up going to McDonalds for tea because it was the only place still open at that hour of the night. It turns out that we had a lot in common. We ended up talking about all kinds of things. And we kept taking until three in the morning.

Jian shared with me that evening that she had recently come out of a relationship with a man that she met in a bar. Before long he had moved in with Jian and she ended up becoming pregnant. Jian’s lover was apparently very cruel. He made a point of sending Jian a picture of himself with his new girlfriend shortly after he broke off the relationship. I felt very concerned at the time because I could sense her grief and I knew that she had been deeply hurt.

I really enjoyed talking with Jian and thought I had found a friend. Jian works as a nutritionist, so I had a sense that we could learn from and possibly help each other. I wasn’t all that physically attracted to Jian, but we shared so much in common and I really enjoyed the connection. There was a light playful quality to the interaction and it was a lot of fun spending time with and her. I hadn’t known Jian for that long and wasn’t yet sure how I felt about her, but was open to the possibility that there could be potential for something more at some point in the future. At that time I just wanted to be there for her as a friend. I would have also been perfectly content if the connection remained a platonic friendship.

Jian and I were supposed to meet again the following week. She woke up late that morning and then called to say that she didn’t feel like going out. She then invited me to come over to her place. We spent much of the day talking and drinking the amazing fruit tea that she makes from goji berries, longons and other various other ingredients. We exchanged a few emails afterwards and then she just disappeared. I sent one email telling her that I really enjoyed the connection and that I valued her friendship, but I never heard back from her.

Priya: So many of my friends here are struggling with these same issues.

Ben: The stress of living in a place like New York City makes it all the more difficult to remain grounded in our feelings and physical bodies. People who live in their heads can easily lose touch with their intuition and the empathetic capacity that would enable them to bond with another human being.

One sees lots of couples here in the city. Some people do find love in the city and yet so many others struggle to find someone special with whom they can share their lives. New York is full of men like Stephane who will show up in women’s lives and then disappear. These men want to act like they don’t have any vulnerabilities at all and so they play it cool. A lot of women end up pursuing unavailable men and then they devise all kinds of strategies for holding onto them in their attempt to make the relationship work.

There’s percentage of men and women on the dating scene in New York like the guy Jian was going out with that exhibit sociopathic characteristics. On the surface they possess superficial charm and good intelligence. And yet they tend to be so out of touch with their own feelings that it impairs their ability to empathize with the feelings, needs and considerations of others. They are pathologically egocentric and are incapable of love. Their sex lives have a very impersonal quality and are not well integrated. There’s an unreliability, untruthfulness and insincerity about them. They also lack remorse or shame when their words and actions cause pain. These individuals tend to possess a magnetic quality that draws others in, but they can be very wounding to those with whom they become involved.

There are actually a lot more men and women in the city who want more than anything to find someone with whom they can share a deep meaningful and lasting connection. Sadly, there are so many social barriers that are preventing people from engaging with one another. Many of the men I have spoken to tell me that the women they encounter won’t even give them a chance.

Women that have been hurt by unavailable men like Stephane often internalize the painful feelings. All of the stresses and distractions of being in New York can make it that much more difficult for them to process their feelings. Fears, hurts and other conflicted feelings held within often get projected onto men and that can make it difficult for women to open or trust. The deep emotional wounds that many women hold cause them to gravitate towards men like Stephane or those that exhibit sociopathic tendencies. And yet in many instances they’re afraid of the men who are truly desirous of a relationship that have the capacity to show up fully present.

Priya: There’s a lot of the fear among men and women in New York City. And that fear often shuts down the natural flow of interaction. Much of this fear has to do with a lack of trust of people’s intentions. People here often feel you want something from them. Even if you’re sincere and have the best of intentions, they still don’t trust you. And in many instances they assume that you have some kind of ulterior motive.

Ben: There are a disproportionate numbers of men here in New York that are afraid of commitment. And there is also a level of fear and guardedness among women that I have not encountered anywhere else. Many won’t make eye contact in public spaces, or they react very negatively if a man were to approach them. And yet many of these same women anguish over the fact that they don’t have a man in their lives.

I’ve met women and have sometimes spoken with them for hours in all kinds of settings. We seemed to have a lot in common and it felt like there was potential for friendship. But in some instances they were still unwilling to exchange contact information despite the fact that we shared many common interests and they enjoyed the conversation. If it were anywhere else we would have most likely continued the conversation. Others have expressed their desire to continue the conversation, but have often disappeared after exchanging a few emails.

Much of the fear, guardedness, inability to commit or just show up fully present stems from the fact that people have been deeply wounded at various points in their lives. We are all empathic to some extent. Those who are not strongly rooted in themselves may internalize the attitudes, fears, confusion and other mental-emotional baggage of those around them. These mental-feeling states then compounded by people’s inability to process their own feelings and bring issues to a place of resolution.

Noted psychotherapist Carl Jung spoke at great length about the individual and collective consciousness. Every city, state, region, nation, ethnicity and race has its own collective psyche. An element of fear, guardedness, mistrust or suspicion has become incorporated in the collective consciousness of people residing here in the city. We can easily get sucked into the collective mind if we’re not firmly rooted in ourselves. Operating from the collective state doesn’t really serve us, but sadly many people have a very limited capacity to step back and examine themselves and do the deep internal processing that would enable them to truly think their own thoughts and feel their own feelings.

We have all been hurt somewhere along the way. A fearful and guarded state of mind is more likely to become our default mode of operation when we fail to process what we’ve gone through and any subsequent feelings that arise. Allowing our fears to control us stunts our growth. And that limits the quality of all of our relationships by preventing us from being as fully present in our interactions as we could be.

South Asia has a whole different set of challenges, but one of the things I enjoy most about being in India and Sri Lanka is that there’s a greater sense of continuity in personal interactions. I meet all kinds of people along the way and find that I’m much more likely to see or at least hear from those with whom I connect again. There’s a much more reciprocal nature to my interactions with women in this part of the world. I have sometimes given my business card to women that I met along the way. In many instances they initiate by calling or emailing me.

Priya: I would initiate contact or show interest in men that I met because I didn’t know the social rules. I didn’t have a problem with that, but it seems dating here in the United States has developed all of these unspoken rules. Girls are not supposed to initiate contact.

Then there’s a lot of focus on keeping the dating interaction light and breezy. And there are all these other rules to determine how long we’re supposed to wait before we text so that we don’t sound too desperate or needy. People here in the United States have this strange obsession with neediness or clinginess. No one wants to be perceived as such, but that’s a defense against our own feelings of vulnerability. Everyone feels needy to some extent, but we’re so ashamed of these feelings that we punish ourselves. In many instances we devalue and then punish those who we perceive to be needy or vulnerable. We cut that person off, reject or throw them away.

Ben: That’s another thing I really like about being in relationships with women in India and Sri Lanka. It’s much easier to express one’s feelings of attraction and desire to spend time with another person. It’s okay to have wants and needs. I feel a much greater sense of acceptance. I can express what I’m feeling without fearing that the woman I’m engaged with is going to run away.

Priya: Having a communal orientation is a normal part of life in India. We expect to be supported and to support others. It’s normal to need other people and that’s not a problem. The main drawback is that people, and especially women, are not as self-reliant as they could be. Women are almost expected to be vulnerable and needy and are protected for that reason. And it’s okay to be needy. A woman certainly won’t be rejected for that reason.

I found myself wondering what I had done to attract this experience of being abandoned when Stephane disappeared. And that evoked feelings of shame. I was thinking that like attracts like and that maybe I have a little Stephane in me, otherwise why would I attract someone like that into my life. Maybe it’s an indication that I’m not as developed as I think I am and that I wouldn’t be attracting people like Stephane into my life if I didn’t need them to teach me these lessons.

Ben: We do tend to attract people and situations that reflect our woundedness and the issues that we need to be addressing. We also have to be careful with the new-age-isms or we end up creating a lot of additional confusion.

Much of South Asia is swarming with mosquitos. We don’t ask ourselves “What am I doing to attract this?” and then come up with some lengthy esoteric narrative to explain why we’re getting eaten by mosquitos. Part of the reality of being in South Asia is that we end up getting a lots of mosquito bites unless we’re doused with repellent, shielded with nets or have some kind of blood chemistry that repels the little airborne bloodsuckers. The disappearing act is a standard operating procedure for many people residing here in New York City. And that’s something we’ve likely to experience firsthand as we make ourselves vulnerable by being open and attempting to form attachments with other people.

Priya: I was offering Stephane a safe friendship where we could explore feelings. What happened in the end is a loss for both of us. Stephane and I could have helped each other. I could have gone further in the process of healing the grief of my husband’s loss. He could have processed the residual grief of losing his mother and dealt with his intimacy issues. We could have learned and grown in the process of sharing our experiences given the fact that he’s a psychotherapist and I’m so process oriented. That’s what attracted me to him and why I had continued to text him. Of course I stopped when I got to the point to where I was not honoring myself. While I will progress further in my healing, he will continue to operate at that same level of dysfunction.

Ben: Relationships challenge us, but in doing so they provide us with one of the greatest opportunities for personal growth. People with avoidant tendencies are driven by their fears and are therefore very unlikely to ever grasp these opportunities. We may see the woundedness of the other person and think to ourselves “If they would just… The problem is that we cannot fix another person. We need to put the focus on ourselves. And we do that by taking the steps we need to do to facilitate own healing.

I encounter so many people who are frustrated, hurt and sometimes devastated because one potential love after another has disappeared. It’s not that we have bad relationship karma or that we are necessarily doing anything wrong. We’re not damaged or defective. This is just the way in which many people here operate.

It’s important for us to work with the feelings of hurt, loss abandonment or disappointment that arise when someone disappears on us. The way we do that is to bring the person or situation to the forefront of our awareness and then notice what feelings arise in response to their disappearance. We take note of where these feelings are situated within our bodies and then we breathe softly and deeply while focusing our attention in the middle of these feelings and sensations.

Working with powerful healers and going through the vision quests has also helped me to process the feelings of hurt, loss and disappointment that arose when other people have disappeared. And some will reappear from every now and then. It’s just seems to be a part of everyday life here in the city. The losses are not so devastating as they were in the past. I experience feelings of sadness, disappointment and loss at times, but I’m much better equipped to work through any feelings that surface. I stopped personalizing other people’s lack of congruence and interpersonal integrity. It also brought me to a place where I feel a much greater sense of connectedness within myself.

Becoming more intuitive has also helped by giving me a better sense of the people I’m dealing with. I’m also more cognizant of the fact that the words coming out of a lot of people’s mouths don’t have a whole lot of meaning or significance. I’ve learned to step back to allow the people I interact with to show me through their words and actions if they have the capacity to show up fully present and to sustain the connection. And with this understanding I’m able to make a wiser investment of my time and energy.

©Copyright 2014 Ben Oofana. All Rights Reserved. This content may be copied in full, with copyright, creation and contact information intact, without specific permission.

Ben Oofana is a healer who began his training with Horace Daukei, one of the last surviving traditional doctors among the Kiowa Indian tribe. Call (913) 927-4281 to learn more or to schedule an individual session.

Healthy and Loving Relationships Begins With You

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Chagall-Lovers
People often show up in my classes while in the midst of a painful breakup or divorce or shortly thereafter. Some are struggling with patterns of abandonment and rejection, trapped in dysfunctional relationships that they can’t seem to find their way out of and in some instances strung out on partners that hurt and abuse them. Others have never been able to fully let go of a former partner when the relationship didn’t work out and move on in their life. Most of are hurting and in many instances they’re also carrying deep emotional wounds that go all the way back to childhood.

Yvette described feelings of separation, sadness, hurt, emptiness and anger directed at herself after going through a recent break up. Karen talked about her feelings of heaviness and fears of abandonment. She told us about how she had been abandoned by her mother as a child saying she feels that it has caused her to attract people into her life that are not willing to make a commitment. Henry is full of anxiety and regret. He wonders what he could have done differently and now says that he’s no longer willing to make the emotional investment required to be in a relationship. Yvette, Karen and Henry only showed up to class one time.

It really saddens me when I see these people show up a time or two and then disappear because I see how deeply wounded they are. Many have disconnected from their feelings and physical bodies to such an extent that they have little, if any, sense of how to work constructively with their own feelings. Most will never fully heal the emotional wounds because they lack the resources and understanding that would enable them to do so. What usually happens is that they continue to carry the hurts, losses and disappointments in their bodies. People who do not heal the deep emotional wounds will invariably continue to attract similar partners and reenact the same dramas or patterns of dysfunction that are causing them so much pain.

What’s preventing people from taking the steps necessary to facilitate healing?

There are so many things about our modern fast paced way of life that are taking us further and further away from ourselves. We have become so much busier now and are more distracted than ever before. Our attention span has shortened and that’s making it harder for us to focus our attention for any significant length of time. Our inability to maintain focus prevents us from doing the work that is necessary to facilitate healing and growth. Many of these changes have come about as a result of our spending way too much time on our computers and smartphones.

Searching for an intellectual solution

Our society places so much emphasis on intellectual development. We’re taught that there’s an intellectual solution for every problem. Many of us are expecting to find the answers to all of our problems in a book, lecture or through psychotherapy. Our intellectual mind comprises a very small portion of our total awareness. Intellectual understanding is an important aspect of healing, but intellect alone can never heal the pain of a breakup or help us to “digest” the highly charged emotions held within the body that cause us to attract the wrong kinds of partners or that keep us locked into patterns of abandonment and unrequited love.

The majority of class time is spent leading those in attendance through various practices that help them to become grounded in their feelings and physical bodies and facilitate healing of the deep emotional wounds. In some instances I will have an individual close their eyes and visualize a current or former partner directly in front of them and then inquire as to how they’re feeling. I will then have them begin to breathe softly and deeply while fully immersing their attention in the middle of any feelings or sensations that arise. At other times I’ll have a person go directly into the feelings of grief and loss. I teach other practices that enable people to open their heart in a way that increases their capacity to love and be loved.

Honesty (or lack thereof)

I’m teaching people how to go right to the underlying source of the issues to effect the change needed to facilitate healing. People who show up in my classes and those who work with me individually often acknowledge that I’m right on target. The problem here is that many are either unwilling or unable to sustain this level of presence. In many instances one’s resistance to being present stems from an unwillingness to be fully honest with themselves by going to those places where they are vulnerable, facing the issues and feeling unconditionally. But failure to show up fully present by addressing the relevant issues and experiencing our true feelings is akin to going through life blind.

Resistance

Many are hugely resistant to experiencing their true feelings or facing their issues. People often stop the healing process when the pain comes up and then they often try to suppress the feelings again. They fail to understand that they wouldn’t be holding so much pain inside had they not spent so much of their life avoiding the feelings and issues they haven’t wanted to deal with. It’s important for people to realize that there is no escape. Sadly many will continue to suffer as they live with all that pain and stress within their bodies and that will cause them to attract similar partners and reenact the same kinds of patterns.

Many of us want so desperately to find someone to love and be loved by and yet we’re abandoning ourselves whenever we shut down emotionally or avoid our feelings. We rather put it all behind us or forget so that we can move on and then go out and find someone whose just going to love us and make it all better. Life seldom ever works like that.

Those of us who disconnect from our feelings and physical bodies are not being fully present. We do not have a healthy intimate relationship with ourselves; therefore we are incapable of experiencing healthy intimacy with anyone else. In other words, no one else can truly love us until we learn to love ourselves.

Limited Processing capacity

People often say they’re in touch with their feelings, but the vast majority of us are only accessing the very surface most levels of our feelings. Everyone varies in their capacity to process emotions and work through issues. Those of us who possess a greater processing capacity can digest feelings of anger, grief, hurt, loss and sadness more quickly and easily. That makes us better equipped to handle the challenges of daily life. Those of us who have disconnected from our feelings and physical bodies have a very limited capacity to process our emotions.

A huge jolt to the system

A painful breakup or divorce is a huge jolt to the system that can devastate and in some instances blow us out of the water. Our defense structures break down and the backlog of painful emotion stored within comes flooding to the surface leaving us feeling totally overwhelmed.

Feelings that are not “digested” remain trapped in the body indefinitely. Our limited capacity to process the emotions that arise in response to what’s happening in our lives makes it very difficult for us to heal, let go and move on when things are not working. The highly charged emotions associated with past trauma, hurt and abandonment also causes many of us get locked into patterns of abandonment and unrequited love or we find ourselves continually attracting the wrong kinds of partners. We pine indefinitely when someone doesn’t reciprocate our feelings of love, stay trapped in toxic dysfunctional relationships and remain trapped in our grief when a relationship ends.

Some of us also have a tendency to obsess about our partners by constantly trying to figure out why they act as they do and why our relationships are not working the way we want them to. Spinning ourselves around in circles by thinking obsessively about our partners and why things are not working in our relationships generates more painful feelings. These feelings get trapped in our bodies and that reinforces our painful fixation in a way that makes it all the more difficult for us to let go.

What happens to all of the feelings that we fail to digest?

Jelena had never dealt with her feelings after the dissolution of her marriage. She drank for the first few months to numb the pain. Jelena described a profound sadness accompanied by a sense of heaviness when I had her check in. She felt sick to her stomach as she began to breathe into the feelings. After some time she could feel the sadness moving up from her abdomen to her throat.

Manfred worked on Wall Street as a broker and was so focused on making money that he ignored the many problems in his relationship. Manfred crashed after the breakup feeling as though he had lost all sense of direction in life. Manfred says he no longer knows who he is or what he wants. He feels as though he’s caught up in a tangled web of resentment towards his ex-girlfriend and anger at himself.

Many are so out of touch with their feelings and physical bodies. Their internal state of being looks and feels very dark and murky and is full of anger, hurt, fear, confusion, resentment and sadness. This whole bandwidth of the psyche has become so toxic or polluted. War, other forms of violence and the destruction of the planet are all manifestations of the destructive forces operating within resulting from our individual and collective failure to take the steps necessary to heal our woundedness.

Emotions sitting within the body for indefinite periods of time become very heavy, dense and stagnant. Undigested emotional content tends to break down or putrefy over time. This emotional residue has a very numbing or desensitizing effect. It can cause our bodies to become very tense or armored and accelerate the aging process by impairing the functions of the organs and systems. We may also develop a heavy and depressive quality. Our range of possibility diminishes and in some cases we find ourselves in a state of paralysis.

Many of us stuff ourselves with food, smoke or rely on pharmaceuticals or self-medicate with alcohol and other drugs to numb the pain. Pharmaceuticals and recreational drugs and the many other things we do to numb or distract ourselves may provide momentary relief from the pain but they never resolve the issues or take our suffering away. What usually happens is that the painful emotions fester within our bodies. These emotions feel much worse after having sat within us for so long if we ever do allow them to come out.

All of us have been hurt, if not deeply wounded, somewhere along the way. Many of us were abused as children. We’ve experienced all kinds of hurts, losses and disappointments in our adult relationships. The problem is that most of us were never taught how to work effectively with our feelings. And most of us have very limited access to the resources that would facilitate healing. That leaves many of us very disconnected, if not totally out of touch, with our internal state of being. The disconnect that takes place when we fail to process our feelings or shut down emotionally leaves us so far removed from the underlying source of our issues and that’s why many of us feel so powerless to effect change in our lives.

Most people never fully process the feelings of hurt and loss after going through a painful breakup or divorce. The intensity of the feelings will diminish in intensity over time, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that we have truly healed. The leftover residue of our unprocessed grief, loss, hurt, anger, fear and desperation remains trapped within our bodies indefinitely. Those of us who fail to thoroughly digest the painful emotions can never fully heal and move on in our lives.

It’s the parts of our body-mind consciousness that enables us to feel that make it possible for us to bond or form healthy attachments to other human beings. The problem here is that most people are not process oriented. It’s our unwillingness or lack of desire to face the issues or experience our true feelings prevents us from learning or growing. The deep emotional wounds resulting from past hurts and traumatic experiences that we fail to address make it very difficult for us to form any kind of healthy attachment.

Hurt, fear, anger, resentment and other conflicted feelings held in the body create distortions in our consciousness that seriously limit our capacity to bond with another. Shutting down emotionally also diminishes our capacity for empathy and that makes it all the more difficult for us to understand the needs and considerations of others. People who are not working constructively with their feelings do not grow. Many of our relationships fail because one or both partners possess the emotional maturity of a hurt, angry, fearful and confused child.

Many of us are placing way too much emphasis on externals such as physical appearance, wearing the right clothes, saying the right things, acting a certain way, the kind of car we drive and house we live in and how much money we make. Taking care of one’s appearance and having financial security are important, but it has no direct correlation with our ability to form healthy attachments. It’s just not possible to have a truly healthy relationship when our body-mind is full of sadness, hurt, disappointment, anger and other toxic emotional baggage. Our relationships only become healthier and more loving when we take the steps that will enable us to heal and evolve.

Taking a different approach

Many of those who show up for class a time or two and disappear mistakenly assume they have learned all they need to know and yet they’ve barely scratched the surface. It can take weeks, months and sometimes years to firmly grasp the practices I’m teaching and to fully process the feelings of a break up or divorce and other emotional baggage accumulated over the course of their lives.

Errol was seething with anger and resentment towards his former wife when he first showed up in my class. But he gradually developed a cheerful disposition and became much more easy going over the next year and a half as he continued to work through the many difficult feelings and issues. It wasn’t long before Errol got together with another woman who turned out to be a much better match for him. Some who have chosen to work with me individually have been able to bounce back and move on in their lives after a painful breakup or divorce and get on in their lives after a few sessions.

Most of us have huge amounts of work to do, and yet the vast majority have a very limited grasp of the work that needs to be done to facilitate healing. Matters become even further complicated whenever we try to escape our suffering. Healing requires tremendous discipline and commitment and only a small percentage are willing to do what it takes to make that happen.

It’s fairly common for people rooted in the ancient traditional cultures such as those found in the different parts of Asia to be doing various form of intensive spiritual practices on a daily basis throughout the course of their lives. Consistent practice enables those who follow the ancient spiritual disciplines to continually develop their bodies and minds and to deepen their connection with the source. Daily practice enables one to develop greater physical, mental and emotional resilience.

The whole concept of daily practice to develop one’s body, mind and spirit is totally foreign to many in our modern western culture. The vast majority of people seem to have lost touch with themselves and are therefore lacking in body-mind consciousness. That’s not at all surprising considering that we have learned from an early age to disconnect from our feelings and physical bodies.

The dysfunctional patterns that cause us to form attachments to people who abuse and abandon us or that do not reciprocate our feelings of love have so many highly charged emotions attached to them. The residue of these charged emotions blind us in a way that prevents us from seeing what we’re getting ourselves into and recognizing our partners for who they truly are.

I struggled for years with patterns of abandonment and rejection. Somehow I had an instinctive sense that I needed to breathe into the painful feelings that were surfacing. Breathing into the feelings helped to diffuse the painful emotions that were creating so much suffering. I stopped doing the practice once the pain subsided and yet I was still stuck in many ways. It took me a long time to realize that I needed to be breathing into all of the feelings and sensations pertaining to what was stuck, stagnant or not working in my life.

My intuition eventually led me to breathe into the feelings of deadness that I experienced in my heart after an ex-girlfriend suddenly disappeared from my life. I began to experience a sense of warmth and connectedness flowing from within as I continued to process the many layers of deadened emotion held within my chest. I began to develop many other variations of this practice over time. I later incorporated various Chi Gong practices once I began to train with Shifu Li Tai Liang in the Internal Martial Arts. Having the opportunity to train with Shifu and others who have attained mastery in various ancient spiritual traditions has helped me to grasp the importance of intensive daily practice.

Grow or die

Betty Friedan, a leading figure in the women’s movement during the 1960’s once said “Growth is what human beings are made for. If we don’t grow, we die.” Healing and personal growth take place when we face the issues and work constructively to process what we feel in response to them a daily basis. Failure to do so leads to contraction and stagnation.

We often feel devastated when our relationships don’t work out the way we want them to, but we can become far more resilient and develop the capacity to use everything that happens as fuel for growth. When that happens we’re able to let go and walk away when we need to. We get over setbacks, hurts and disappointments much more easily. We become much more open and receptive so that something new and better can come into our lives. And we find ourselves attracted to healthier companions.

Certain aspects of the healing process can only be done on our own. We all need to be doing some form of intensive daily practice such as Chi Gong, Pranayama, Yoga and Tai Chi. We also need to be doing practices that will help us to digest what we feel in response to the many issues or concerns impacting our lives. The practices I teach are quite simple and yet they are some of the most powerful healing tools or resources anyone will ever gain access to because they awaken the innate healing intelligence that resides within our bodies and minds. We do that by breathing into the feelings or sensations that arise in response to what’s taking place in our lives.

Afraid to feel

Many of us are now afraid to experience our true feelings fearing that they would completely overwhelm us if we were to ever allow them to come out. That often stems from the fact that we hold so much pain inside. It’s important for us to understand that the volume of painful feelings held within will gradually diminish as we take the steps necessary to facilitate healing.

We can’t do it all on our own …Knowing when it’s time to seek intervention

Doing so many years of intensive daily practice has greatly heightened my sensory capacity. I can always see and feel the deep emotional wounds of those attending my classes as I sit at the front of the room. I feel how the painful emotions and other stresses held within people’s bodies constrict their consciousness. And I see how it causes them to reenact many of the same kinds of dramas and to cycle through the same sets of thoughts and feelings. Many of these individuals are suffering terribly and yet they’re not doing much of anything constructive to facilitate healing.

It’s hard for me to fathom being so deeply wounded and not taking action. I knew with all certainty that I had serious work to do when I saw the traumas of my childhood and adolescence playing out in my adult relationships. I was so determined to heal that I would try any approach that held promise. I usually did at least three to ten sessions of any modality I chose to explore to determine what, if any, progress I was making. And I kept working with the practices and modalities I found to be most effective.

I’ve worked with a number of exceptionally powerful healers whenever the opportunity presented itself. I have also gone through many vision quests, a traditional Native American practice that involves going alone into the mountains to fast for four days and nights without food or water. It’s this commitment to doing whatever it takes to heal that has enabled me to heal the kinds of wounds that most people continue to live with for the remainder of their lives.

Stepping up to the plate

In many instances the dysfunctional patterns that create so much suffering in our lives are so deeply entrenched that we require the assistance of a powerful healer to help us digest the highly charged emotions and “reformat” our system. The emotional wounds resulting from my own childhood trauma and subsequent reenactments were so deeply ingrained within by body and mind. I would have never completely healed had I not had the opportunity to work with a number of exceptionally powerful healers and go through the vision quest.

People like Yvette, Karen, Henry, Jelena and Manfred tend to become more heavy and stagnant as they fail to deal with their issues and digest their emotions. They often sink deeper into their dysfunction as the years go by. It’s important that you become fully honest by asking yourself “Is this the kind of life I want to be living?” If not, then what are you willing to do about it? It’s important for you to understand that nothing much is going to change until you take constructive action to facilitate the changes you desire. And there is no time better than the present.

The vast majority of people who have been deeply wounded will continue to suffer for the remainder of their lives. That has a lot to do with the fact that many of our conventional and alternative approaches to healing are very limited in their effectiveness. It may be necessary for you to go beyond your comfort zone by stepping into the realm of the unfamiliar in order to heal.

Native Americans learned to rely upon the forces of nature. Their traditional doctors were some of the most exceptionally powerful healers on the planet. Special gifts and powers of healing had been passed down from mentor to apprentice or were received during the vision quests. These gifts and powers facilitated healing that would not have otherwise been possible.

People experience much more profound healing changes when they combine the practices I’m teaching with the individual sessions. Consistent practice combined with the individual healing sessions will enable you to develop a much greater processing capacity and become more present to your feelings and physical body. This will give you more of the strength within that will better enable you to handle whatever comes along.

The presence working through me during the individual sessions cleans up the convoluted tangled mass of feelings by helping you to digest the grief, hurt, sadness, resentment, anger and fear and in the process they build a much stronger foundation from which to form healthy attachments. You will become more congruent as the conflicted parts of you come to a place of resolution. You will become more authentic and that will enable you to live from a place of honesty and integrity. You will also develop greater capacity for love, empathy and compassion.

The changes that take place as you heal your woundedness will enable you to cultivate inner beauty. That will make it easier for you to attract the love you truly need and desire. You will naturally find yourself attracting and attracted to healthier companions. Your capacity to love will deepen and you will form progressively healthier attachments as you continue to heal and grow.

©Copyright 2013 Ben Oofana. All Rights Reserved. This content may be copied in full, with copyright, creation and contact information intact, without specific permission.

Ben Oofana is a healer who began his training with Horace Daukei, one of the last surviving traditional doctors among the Kiowa Indian tribe. To learn more or to schedule a private session call (913) 927-4281