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On Being Separated from the Loved


"What is the Noble Truth of Suffering? Birth is suffering, aging is suffering, sickness is suffering, dissociation from the loved is suffering, not to get what one wants is suffering."—the Buddha
There is no experience more profoundly human and natural than that of sadness and despair over separation from the loved. Its our natural response to mourn the loss of a deep connection with another; we are pack animals; bonding is our species great survival advantage.
When an important bond is severed, due to the end of a relationship, death, conflict or other commitments, it is inevitable that a deep emotional pain should be experienced. Unfortunately, this suffering can feel so overwhelming, the dejection so hopeless, that we seek to suppress the experience, to somehow 'grin and bear it' and move on through life as if we 'can handle it.' Alas, separation depression must be felt; the unacknowledged doesn't evaporate, it is simply shunted into largely unconscious areas of the brain, creating negative 'relational schemas' (in the brain's Right Hemisphere). These 'schemas' are felt as the expectations, impulses and urges that propel our emotional behavior. Suppressed heartbreak lingers on as an open wound, though one hidden behind a locked door in the mind. For example, the bruises of childhood abandonments and rejections don't heal unless they've been truly held and mourned, released by the tears of the heart, the tightness of a heaving chest and on. Until this cleansing process they remain active beneath our conscious life, latching onto current interpersonal dramas, activating fear and hysterical obsessions.
Meanwhile, any act of repression has recurring implications: perhaps a heaviness of mind or a feeling of emptiness. Moreover, in current relationships we hide from another when any hint of sadness begins to emerge: for it to be seen by someone else risks its containment. We maintain a campaign of concealment, and so may develop appetites for the short term pleasures of addictive behaviors, anything that relieves the pressures felt by compartmentalizing the mind. Shopping, food, drugs, sex without intimacy attract our attention, for they quickly relieve the underlying sense of a darkness emerging, shadows creeping in from the edges of awareness.
Separation depressions that aren't addressed with compassion also create a fear of disclosure, for if we cannot experience our disappointments, and suppress these experiences, what we reveal to others isn't complete. We mistrust the love we receive, as intuitively we know that we haven't been completely recognized.
Eventually our opportunities for freedom dwindle, for with each lose we must squelch and muffle greater degrees of sorrow and grief. Eventually we may sabotage new opportunities for love and deep connection, for the remainders of previous estrangements, where the loss wasn't felt, drains us of the effort and faith to take another risk, and all love involves risk.
In short, trying to shield ourselves from the sadness of separation winds up repelling all that is vital in life: the capacity to connect with another through emotional tolerance, mirroring, attunement, care. It is only by dropping the belief that we can live without grief and finally open to the buried heartaches that we can heal our losses and open to our futures.
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