For much of my life my relationships with women were emotionally empty. As a child, my brother and I played alone in the living room each evening while my mother worked at her desk. As an adult, my wife and I lived together like cardboard cutouts of ‘the perfect marriage’. Our friends were envious of our relationship, but we did not feel an authentic emotional connection.
I only recently figured out why.
I was carrying a deep wound that made expressing myself about as easy as wading through cold molasses. I had been screaming out in silence, since I was three years old.
The wound came to light recently after Clair, my first love from high school, came to visit after years of being out of contact. We told each other for the first time that we had shared an eternal love for one another. And we talked about the disastrous end to our ethereal love affair. I still remember sitting with her on the staircase at my mother’s house during a summer party for work colleagues. I had felt an awkward distance between Clair and myself for weeks, and I finally mustered the courage to ask her about the future of our relationship. The deathblow came in her answer, “I don’t see a future for us after you go away to college. That never works out.” It was over. I was devastated. But I never understood why.
I obsessed about that painful mystery for years.
When Clair and I got together last week, I finally discovered the truth of what had happened: Although I loved her like no one else, I had never expressed it to her. She thought I didn’t care about her as much as she loved me and withdrew… and eventually broke up with me.
When she left after our reunion I felt sadness about lost opportunities and curiosity about why I never told her how much I loved her. It would be easy to pass it off as the naiveté of two teenagers – I was 18 and she was 16 – but that answer would be too trite and superficial. What was the real reason I never told this girl, who meant everything to me, how I felt?
I took a long walk, and then a long bath as I mulled over everything we had disclosed to each other. Given my recent commitment to turn my life around, that night as I settled in to bed I started to use Body-Psyche guided meditations to uncover what insight my body-centered wisdom could provide me.
After a few minutes my attention settled into the left side of my belly, and then more specifically into the middle of my descending colon.
The descending colon stores things we have hidden from ourselves, arranged in a timeline from age three at the very top to our current age at the very bottom. In childhood development, age three is the stage at which our brain becomes sufficiently developed to start thinking about how we can put on a mask in order to please others.
The descending colon is like the mythical Pandora’s Box. It traps all the evils of the world, or more accurately, everything that we think is evil about ourselves and must hide from others. The irony is that unlike the mythical Pandora’s Box, when we do have the courage to peer inside, what we find is the innocuous desires and personality traits of a young child, which were judged negatively at some point by an adult. We took those judgments to mean that it would be the end of the world if we ever expressed those dark aspects of ourselves, and so we locked them away in the Pandora’s Box of our descending colon.
So I had hidden something from others, but what was that something, and why had I hidden it?
Sure, I had concealed my feelings from my true love, but the question that still lingered was “Why?”
As I continued to explore, my attention moved further up my descending colon, going back in time towards age three, the age where we first learn to hide our true emotions and intentions.
After about ten minutes I found it: A sudden and intense pain lodged in the top of my descending colon. It was like looking into the black depths of Pandora’s Box, knowing that I was about to be consumed by my own evil.
I felt like howling out loud, but no sound came.
I stayed with the feelings for a few minutes more, and gradually clarity emerged: As a three year old, I needed my mother’s affection, but could not express it. I desperately wanted attention, but could not ask for it. Why? Why would a three year old feel such bolting pain and not show it?
My parents were both research doctors and had overly full professional lives. A favorite saying of my mother’s when I begged her to come play instead of working at her desk was “Children should be seen and not heard.” As I explored further, I realized that I had received the message that my emotional needs were an annoyance to my mother. As soon as my little brain was sufficiently developed to start thinking about how to put on a front in order to please my mother, I made the decision that I should stuff my needs into my tiny Pandora’s Box whenever possible.
So unconsciously I shoved that pain into the top of my descending colon and forced it into silence. All so that I would not annoy my mother by asking her to play when she was working.
As I grew older, I generalized that early decision to not express my emotional needs into a rule against showing any emotions, particularly to women.
When Clair entered my teenage life, that rule inevitably applied to her too. I didn’t tell her how much I loved her, and in turn she left me.
As my exploration progressed, I felt a few waves of intense pain exploding from my descending colon with no external expression – and in the process the old rule of not expressing myself gradually faded away.
Finally, I found the freedom to give voice to the feelings long-hidden in my Pandora’s Box, and the tears came. At first they were the old, suppressed tears. But soon they became tears about what I lost over the years from not expressing myself to the ones I loved. Not only did I lose my first love, but my inability to show love had a terrible impact on all my important relationships thereafter.
I’m left thinking of the lines in Tennyson’s poem:
“I hold it true, whate’er befall;
I feel it, when I sorrow most;
‘Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.”
– Alfred Lord Tennyson
It is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. But it’s even better to heal and be free to love ever more deeply than before.
My future relationships will be much richer than my past ones as a result of this experience.
If you’d like to experience the same, here are some personal development resources, which will guide you towards creating healthy, loving relationships:
- How to Get Over Your Disappointments and Feel More Love and Appreciation
- How to Become More Loving and Compassionate
- How to Open Your Heart
- Receiving Love home study DVD
I wish you all the love in your life that you desire.