There are three crucial events in our lives that form the foundation of our identities.
We will continue to experience a variety of pivotal events throughout our lives, of course, but they will be iterations of past experiences.
Who says the future won’t turn out much the same way the past did?
Unless we determine how to step outside of those crucial events and what we made them mean, we will repeat events.
Some say this continues to happen until you learn your lesson. I disagree.
It continues to happen unless you have access to what’s going on, and why you continue to live out the same events and circumstances.
Haunted by Heartbreaks
I’ve known for a while that I’ve had constraints around romantic relationships.
Everybody experiences heartbreak. And, we’re all familiar with the pain.
But I began to discover that it was showing up in my world more intensely than for most. At first, I just assumed I was extra sensitive.
“Just put yourself into more situations where you have the chance of having your heart broken,” friends would say. “Then, like performing on stage as a musician, you’ll get used to it and it won’t hurt anymore.”
I thought there might be something to that but now I know it’s not a catch-all cure.
Even if the pain continued to diminish, I wouldn’t have gotten to the root cause of the matter, leaving me powerless in situations where I was truly invested in the other person, regardless of their intentions (sometimes we love others who don’t love us back).
Getting back to the formation of identity.
My earliest recollection of a painful and defining event in my life comes from early childhood, as it will for most.
I was five when my family moved to Japan. But there still wasn’t anything wrong at that point in my life.
It happened shortly after we moved into a small apartment. One night, I was upstairs playing video games with a friend. My mom wanted me back by 6 PM, but I was so engrossed in what I was doing that I ended up staying there for another hour until my sister came and found me.
That night, my dad spanked me.
Now, at this point you might jump to, “okay, I see where this is going — you want to blame your dad for everything.”
No, far from it. My dad was an honest, accomplished man, and to this day I marvel at the positive impact he had on the world.
The issue is what my brain made that moment mean.
Until recently, I assumed that the story I’d constructed around that event was that I needed to be perfect.
As it turns out, not quite.
What my brain made it mean was that I couldn’t make mistakes, because mistakes are painful, embarrassing and difficult.
So, when I enter a romantic relationship or hold the intention of entering one, and it doesn’t work out, I feel as though I’ve made a mistake.
And, what would that mean for me again?
Right. Pain, embarrassment and difficulty.
I now realize why heartbreak affects me as it does. It’s because of what my brain made it mean roughly 30 years ago.
As I said at the beginning, there are three events in our lives that form our identity.
It might be innocuous enough if my only constraint was “not making mistakes”.
But I also have “selfless” and “codependent”, forming the perfect cocktail of insanity.
So, it’s not just that mistakes are painful. It’s also that I try to erase myself when I experience heartbreak. It’s also that I become over-reliant on others for validation, love and support.
Although it may seem as though having your constraints pegged would only send you into deeper depression, for once, it sheds light on your way of being.
Once you understand your way of being, you always have the option of stepping outside it.
I haven’t determined exactly how to step outside of this perilous mix. But caring for myself, as I’ve determined, is a good place to start.