Feelings for others are one of the most challenging facets of life that people must deal with. Emotional attachment is a powerful feeling that you feel towards another person. In a healthy relationship, this feeling is usually positive (caring, love, kindness) and in a negative relationship can be harmful (anger, bitterness). Either way, emotional attachment can feel overwhelming if you have never dealt with it before and even for those who have it can be rough.
Twice in my life (two years ago and a decade ago), I experienced extraordinarily powerful feelings for other people that I had no idea how to deal with. Both times I felt like I was suffocating and could not survive. Each waking moment was a rasping, ripping experience that passed in slow motion. The first time it happened, I had no outlet and no support network so I entered the blackest depression of my life. My emotional connection with my mother was shorn away due to certain bad circumstances. There was one occasion where I stood on my bed with my four inch scout knife and tried to convince myself to fall on it. Fortunately, my vivid imagination convinced me that I wouldn’t actually succeed and would just lay there in pain feeling stupid. After six years of growing out of that horrific experience, I thought that it could never happen to me again.
I was wrong.
The second time I experienced the tearing away of a close emotional attachment it was the loss of my first romantic love. Due to my own stupidity and poor choices, she left me. I did not take it well. Tears were shed. Runs were ran. Booze was drunk. The Box was sent. Plato was annoyed. Losing my first romantic love felt awful… I thought I would never again experience love with anyone. Desperation set in and I dated many girls in a short period who couldn’t make me forget the original. It felt like the insane burning in my head would never end. Time eventually healed that wound and I moved on to bigger and better things. There will always be a little soft spot for my first love, but I feel only a tinge of regret now.
Losing an emotional attachment of a certain kind, be it friend, lover, or parent, for the first time is an agonizing experience. My discovery though is that the subsequent losses are not nearly as painful. I have had close relationships with lovers since then, and losing some has hurt, but I have already dealt with all the same emotions and know how to handle it. Not only that, but each time it happens the experience is much easier. Even cutting off my father due to his vile behavior three years ago was not hard. I dealt with some anger issues and moved on with my life. Having had a few lovers since my first has made me even more resilient in that area. I feel a bit of disappointment and some sadness, but I understand that this is just how life is and raise my eyes to the next horizon.
My reaction to the first experience of loss was self-destructive. I did idiotic things like break my athletic trophies and other possessions, cut myself inside and out and withdrew from the world around me. My kindly grandmother helped me learn how to deal with these hard issues in a much healthier way. My reaction to the next loss was to use these powerful feelings as motivation for making myself a better person mentally, physically and emotionally. You’d be surprised how many miles you can run or websites you can build or people you can meet when you feel emotional pain.
What brings all of this to mind? I had a conversation with the woman I’ve been casually dating for quite a few months last night and she explained to me that she wanted to be alone and did not want to have any sort of commitments. Knowing her, I understand. I realized from the start that she, like many women, prefers men who are distant and emotionally uninvolved. This setup worked perfectly because that is how I felt up until very recently. When I started developing stronger feelings for her, she could tell and was quite put off. I am a straightforward person and don’t play games or conceal what I think, so pretending to still not care was not an option. We talked about it and agreed to do our separate things.
Comparing the ending of this emotional attachment to the first time I lost a romantic partner is amazing to me. The first time, it took months of sharp pain, many mistakes, begging and other ridiculousness for me to move on. This most recent experience was calm, relaxed and slightly sad. Part of that sadness is for the loss of the passion that I felt that first time around. That sentimental passion was really hard, but I also felt like I was truly alive. I could feel the pain tingling in every part of my body, mind and soul for what seemed forever. My situation now reminds me of getting tackled in football: sudden pain, then a few seconds later it fades away to a dull ache in the back of your mind and within a minute you are lined back up at the line of scrimmage about to do it again… and when night finally comes and the game is over, that tackle is inseparable from the thousand other hits you took that day.
I guess this is what maturity is- understanding how good and bad experiences happen and how to handle them. I still feel like my life is happier now than it ever has been before and I am finally realizing that how I feel comes from inside of me and is not a result of who I am dating, where I work, what I own or anything else. If I give each situation life throws my way my best, I can always walk away with my head held high feeling better than ever before.