The answer to problems is not to stop having problems, but to work through problems when they present themselves.
Sort of seems obvious, but it's not.
It's why sometimes we end up with "things" we carry around from relationship to relationship, moment to moment.
Bits and pieces we refuse to look in the eye, to explore, to say, "I don't want this in my life anymore."
Sometimes they're minor, like the fact that I realized recently that I hate (HATE) being referred to in masculine terms by men ("boy," "man," "dude"). It's a minor detail left over from minor slights over minor things that happened to me as a kid, that built up minor layers of boy-term-hating sediment so that when I hear that "she's just one of the guys" (you know, even after I fought to be accepted as such), I feel a deep, burning, flip-o-the-switch rage.
It's Silliness, remedied easily enough once I took the time to say, "Huh. I'm a grown-ass woman, and this shit shouldn't really bother me so."
Then there's the major stuff.
The deep wounds that seep and ooze and bleed years after the initial hurt. The gnarly scars that calcify, then stunt your emotional range of motion.
The event or happening...the one moment that changed everything.
The parts of ourselves that scare us so badly (because we see the depth of our badness, or the expanse of our pain, or the extent of our brokenness), we skirt the issue, walk the long way 'round, and do nothing.
But it just piles on more, the layers get deeper. Pieces--important pieces of you--get covered and grown over until it seems like a dream that you were anything other than you are now.
There is no question that it is excruciatingly painful to peel back the layers, to suddenly look back with clarity at your own self-sabotage, your undoing, every missed moment or opportunity in the name of self-protection, preservation.
In a lot of ways, like me, I bet you probably didn't know you were doing it.
Because sometimes your "thing" becomes you, defines you. You cannot remember a before or after, only a now, and the vague sense that you could be better. Or maybe that you were better once, long, long ago.
Or maybe you even harbor the stronger feeling of derision for the pre-"thing"-you...that patsy, that sucker, that idiot who wouldn't know a hard knock if it bit him/her right in the ass.
You mistake your old sweet innocence and capacity for openness for naiveté. Your "awakening" was so rude, you convince yourself that had you struck first, or had you never loved so passionately or felt so wildly, it wouldn't have hurt this bad.
You've let your "thing" go so long, nursed it so poorly, that you truly believe you are better off now as this limping, twisted version of your best self.
Life used to be different. YOU used to be different.
The view from there held endless possibilities.
The view from here is narrow, tight, and focuses only on survival, subsisting on meager rations of love and joy and abandon.
And not that life has to be a never ending hippie-dippie whirlwind of positivity, but you once did things differently.
You once reached without hesitation for her hand without fear that this time would be yet another time she'd pull away, cold.
You once knew a missed call meant a missed call and not the plummeting stone in your stomach that means that surely, SURELY he is fucking someone else instead of you.
You once gave of yourself easily, happily, willingly and without hesitation, before knowing that doing so would make him be cruel to you, disgusted with your vulnerability.
There were once moments in your life when you weren't terrified of the first time, or of meetings with strangers, or simple turns of phrase.
So you now believe that your approach to life couldn't possibly be any different than what it is now, because while you see the potential for joy if you could Just. Let. Go., you also see the potential for PAIN, blistering, gut-wrenching pain, and there's no way you'll open yourself up for that again because it's the only thing you ever recall feeling with any clarity.
It's the sharpest feeling, so you believe it is the strongest feeling, the only feeling worth remembering.
In an attempt to ward off the next onslaught, you ward off everything else, and you live a sort of emotional half-life...a life lived largely in fear of an imaginary potential future that you are sure--beyond a shadow of a doubt--only exists to terrify you further and make you bleed.
You live in this fear of pain gladly, in some ways, because you figure that's "just the way it is." That it's the only way to protect yourself and function somewhat normally and without the potential of being ripped open. Again.
Or at least, it doesn't have to be.
But it means work. A lot of work.
It's never solved in a day, or after your first big breakthrough, or even your second or third.
It just takes the tiniest bit of guts to get started. To say, even to yourself, "I need help."
I'm not saying you have to fix it right this second...I'm just saying you have to begin. To take that first step. To hold eye contact with it just a beat longer than normal.
You can do it.
It's important, and worth it.
Want to read some stuff about how your "thing" can affect your relationships? Grab a copy of How to be Dumped: the Definitive Breakup Guide for more!