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They'll all fall

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Dealing with lost love

I'm giving some simple advice online to a woman that's gone through a bad affair and has been left with the kind of pain that often causes.

As this is something that happens fairly commonly, I'm sharing that advice here (with her permission):

Let me start with the last point first: Having emotional responses isn't 'Being an idiot'. It's being a human. Us 'science types' can all too easily disappear into the 'I should be logical and only have positive emotions' - and forget the both sides are necessary, and are stages we pass through on the way to wisdom.

Back to dealing: I'm going to throw in several sides to this, all targetted at helping you get over him.

First, a different way to look at this: It's impossible to want a particular person, as the only way we experience a person is through our senses. We can only know our own experiences - the person is an abstraction, really. In terms of this, what you want is a role in your life, or probably several roles. You want the experiences that those roles make you have. And you've not yet disconnected those roles from him, so it feels like you want him rather than the roles. So whenever you feel a need, remember that it is those roles that are speaking to you - sometimes, you'll feel it as if it is a particular person, and really it is those roles.

One way to do wholesale disconnect from love roles is to add in disgust. Think through the disgusting sides of the person - maybe there's simple side of looks you remember, a disfigurement or some particularly ugly set of toes, or just a horrible set of clothes - maybe it's more of a whiny tang to his voice at some times, or a particularly stupid phrasing or missing insight making you think 'What IS it with him?', or maybe it's a smell - dirty feet some day, or bad breath at some point, or maybe it's something else alltogether. I don't know which of these will resonate with your memory, or if there's another memory alltogether you'll find, yet I'm sure that there are some things that's annoying and disgusting and you'll remember them now or in a short while.

Another way to disconnect roles is to do it singularly - finding somebody else to share each aspect with, and noticing how that role gets filled, this need of yours is fullfilled.

Next part: You're changing your behaviour to avoid triggering pain - and I believe that is actually *driving* the pain, and making it stronger. You're adding in fear of the pain to the pain itself, and you're sort of locking down the pain by acceeding to its demands. The standard way of psychology to deal with getting rid of this sort of triggered behaviour is called 'Progressive desensitisation'. That consists of going lightly into the situation, and staying there until the reaction has gone down, then going a little farther into it, then staying until the reaction has gone down, etc. In your case, I don't know exactly how your progression of the trigger goes - if you've got some way of doing 'partial triggering', we may want to look into that - but I know one thing: I can give you a way to stop the pain loop, which will work fairly well immediately and better over time (assuming no serious diet deficiencies - if this turn out to not be OK, we'll deal with it).

The technique is very simple: Calling up a memory or an imagined setting where you're really all OK, happy and content. To get that memory called up properly, you need to call it up in all your senses. First, imagine how the scene looks. Next, imagine what sounds you are hearing. Then imagine how your body feels, where your clothes touch you, how you sit, what the temperature is, how it smells. Then go back to the visual image, adding in movement, perhaps focusing on a different aprt - and remember to see the scene from *your* position, being in the scene. It should be bright and clear, with full vibrant colors, large and totally immersive. Continue with the other senses, filling in more aspects. Then just remember the sense you have there, and go on with life.

As you do this a few times, it will become easier and easier. If you need to strengthen the emotion, go out to 'normal reality' again and then back to the scene. And if you find you need to have the state from the scene available at other times (without going into the scene), you can touch yourself in a particular way - for instance, pressing the thumb and ring finger on your left hand together - when in the scene, and then do that again when you need to associate with it at other times.

[She mentioned that she was calling him at times.] Oh, and when it comes to calling: Find somebody else to call instead. Just choose somebody - your mother, a girlfriend, a male friend - it doesn't really matter who, just have somebody else positive to call.

Feel free to post comments with questions, as usual.


  • I never thought that giving advice on love has to be so scientific. That's pretty interesting.

    By Anonymous Wong Online PoK√©r Hu, at 9:05 AM  

  • There's different ways to give the advice; the woman I gave this to was analytical, so I give her analytical advice :)

    By Blogger Eek, at 6:46 PM  

  • wow, I just felt much better, bless you, Love u, thank you, I am excited don't know what to say.thanks once more

    By Anonymous Elijah, at 12:04 PM  

  • Thank you... Im going thru something like this ... and reading this really helped! THANK YOU!!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:31 PM  

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