Both Feet In!

whatsbehindyouI got an email last week from a woman who’s dating a guy “on the rebound.” Not long ago, she ended a relationship with someone who didn’t make time for her when they were together, because he was always busy racing out the door to go running, or to the gym, or to meet up with his buddies. When she talked to him about it he’d repeat back to her what she’d said to make sure he understood, but that’s as far as it went. She said he’d read a book and learned this technique, but I’m thinking he didn’t read all the way to the end. They’d have a talk, and then he’d mirror back what was bothering her, and then he’d go running. The only time she had his attention is when he traveled on business. Then he’d want her on the phone all day and night, because he was off in some hotel room feeling lonely. So finally she ended it, but she was broken up about it. Because she had a vision of this guy, of how things could have been between them if only he wanted to be there. She kept waiting for the guy he seemed to be the first three weeks they dated, but that guy never came back. So finally she accepted it wasn’t going to happen for them and she threw in the towel and I guess that got his attention, because he was totally blown away. Even though she’d talked and he’d listened and verified what he heard. Somehow he didn’t hear her main message, which was, “This isn’t working for me.”

So now she’s with this new guy she likes, but her ex is devastated and he’s calling her and emailing and texting all the time. Part of her is soaking it up because it’s what she’d wanted so much when they were together. Part of her is relieved to know he does care and another part of her thinks it’s just his ego because there’s another guy in the picture, and if she didn’t have a boyfriend, maybe her ex wouldn’t be feeling this desperation to have her back. It’s making her doubt her current relationship, too. And it doesn’t help that her new boyfriend also has a recent ex. Here’s the thing. Rebounding is common, but it’s not a fabulous idea if you can help it, because you get this weird mixed bag of heartache over what ended, and the headiness of something new. You don’t give yourself enough time to process and mourn the loss of what you had, so it follows you right into your next relationship. And lost in that mix might be the very lesson you need to learn and carry forward, but it’s hard to see clearly when you’re running too fast.

If you want to move forward, you have to stop grasping at what’s behind you. Our friend told me her ex has asked to meet her on several occasions, and she’s had tea with him three times. She wants to comfort him, but the object of a person’s unattainable desire cannot be the source of comfort. Every time she meets with him, he gets a sense of false hope and it seems she is on the fence. Part of her feels she gave the relationship plenty of time and countless chances and another part is wondering if maybe one more would do it. Maybe now that he’s felt the loss of her he’d get it together. She’s had these teas with the knowledge of her new boyfriend, who also accepts calls from his ex, which usually deteriorate into screaming matches. So they’re not off to a bang-up start.

People cling to the past in all kinds of ways. It’s not always an old romantic relationship, sometimes it goes back a lot farther than that. People hold onto their pain and their stories of why they are the way they are because they’re familiar. Sometimes familiar pain is easier to deal with than the unknown of who am I without that stuff? What would it look like if I forged something new? Anything you feed will grow and strengthen. If you want to be happy and you want to be at peace, feeding your pain is not the way.

It’s complicated enough for two people to get to know each other. To take the time, and feel things out, and start to open. You need trust to do that, it’s not going to happen in a crazy, unstable environment, where neither party knows from day to day which ex is going to show up, and how nuts it’s going to get. If you’ve ended something, presumably there’s a reason. Probably more than one. Giving yourself the time to grieve is really ideal, but not everything in life is ideal, and sometimes beauty can grow from a situation that has a bumpy beginning. Having said that, if you didn’t handle your ending well, if you weren’t completely honest, if you didn’t communicate as things bothered you, then do your best to clean up the mess. It’s not kind or compassionate to leave someone holding the bag with no explanation. Once you’ve done that, you really will have to let go at some point so you can move forward and your ex can as well. If it’s a more complicated situation, divorce with children for example, the whole thing changes because your ex will be in your life forever, and you’re going to need to figure out how to be friends if at all possible. Or how to co-parent effectively if that’s not an option, and in a way where your feelings of pain, anger and grief affect your children to the smallest degree possible. There’s a whole post I could write about that.

Short of that, though, kindness is the thing. Sometimes it’s possible to be friends with someone you were close to; I’m friends with most of my exes with a couple of glaring exceptions. But that’s usually not possible unless a good amount of time has gone by, and both parties have moved on. If you go directly from one thing into another and carry your ex along for the ride, if you participate in the drama, you can’t be surprised when things get crazy. If you want peace and you want to move forward and explore something new, at some point you are going to have to release what’s behind you and release yourself and all the people involved from the grip of the unhealthy dynamic. If you don’t, everyone is going to have a tough time breathing, everyone is going to feel strangled by doubt and uncertainty. You can’t expect trust to bloom in a greenhouse full of nuts. Most people who go back for third, fourth, or fifth chances remember within three hours why it ended. If you really have doubts, I suppose you may have to consider a Round 8. But if you know in your heart it’s over, let it be over.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

Put the Power in Your Heart

not2needapprovalAt a certain point you have to stop chasing down approval and start approving yourself. The easiest way to do that is to follow your heart and do your very best not to hurt other people. You won’t always succeed on either count. Sometimes fear, doubt and people-pleasing paralyze us, and even though the heart is crying out for action we simply aren’t able to follow through in that moment or during that time in our lives. Just because you know what you need to do doesn’t mean you’ll be able to do it. You’re ready when you’re ready, and not a moment sooner. Recognizing the need for action is a start, it’s a beginning, so try not to kick yourself if you aren’t ready to start walking just yet. Sometimes we need help to get unstuck. We need someone to kindly hold up a mirror and remind us of our power. No one does his or her best in every moment. We can all be selfish, thoughtless, confused or in pain, and when we make decisions or act out in those states, it’s probably not going to go very well.

Forgive yourself for being human, and forgive others. We all blow it sometimes, but as much as possible, being accountable is the thing. Knowing yourself, and recognizing when you’re spiraling or clinging or running or denying is so essential. When you can see it and own it, you take the power away from the feeling and put it back in your own hands. Maybe you have to sit on your hands to avoid acting out on a passing feeling. It can be incredibly uncomfortable and draining to face down your dragons, but you know what’s worse? Letting them run your life. A feeling is not a fact, and not all feelings demand or deserve your action.

I say this to you because if you’re aware of yourself and determined to be responsible for the energy you’re spreading as much as you can, to be conscious of your actions and do your very best to ensure you aren’t being careless with someone else’s heart, or aren’t inadvertently spilling your pain all over someone else’s path, then you can accept that you won’t always please everyone.

Sometimes your choices cause another person to face their own, and that’s not always easy. It’s one thing if you’re ready to look at your stuff, and it’s another when it smacks you in the face when you aren’t expecting it. That stings and it’s not easy to deal with, and sometimes you’ll want to run or start rewriting history in your head, but you can’t undo the past. If you behaved in a way that caused someone else pain you were almost undoubtedly in a lot of pain yourself and maybe it’s very old pain that’s been chasing you down for years. Have compassion for yourself and for other people because it’s not easy to be on either side of the equation. It takes a lot of courage to follow your heart and to look at your stuff and to move slowly and steadily toward love. It’s brutal to have to face the consequences of your actions and to realize that even though you may be forgiven, ultimately you’re going to have to forgive yourself.

Pain will take you hostage if you let it. Someone else’s pain can do that as well, but you aren’t here to be imprisoned. You’re here to be free. You’re here to love. When your stuff comes up, and it will, trust that you have the strength to look at it and sit with it without letting it own you. Let love own you. I’m not talking about romantic love, although that’s a beautiful expression of the love I mean. I’m talking about opening your heart to that great love that you possess, that limitless well that’s within you, and allowing that to rule your life. Really. If you’re going to give yourself to anything, give yourself to love.

Sending you some right now,

Ally Hamilton

Let Go or Wear Bananas

When my son was about two years old, I began going to the Mommy and Me parenting group at his preschool. We met once a week to talk about child-rearing issues, but in actuality they turned out to be mostly mom issues. One woman was having a very tough time with her son in the mornings. He wanted to pick out his own clothes, and when she resisted he’d throw himself on the floor and scream until he was blue. It had been going on for months, and by the time she basically sat on him and got him dressed in the clothes she’d picked out he was exhausted and angry and wouldn’t eat breakfast, he’d throw it at the walls. Then she’d have to wrestle him into his car-seat, and once they were at school, he’d beg her not to leave. So she was pretty beaten down and most of the time she’d arrive with some kind of food in her hair. Banana, or eggs.

I’d experienced the power-struggle over getting dressed with my kid, too, and had finally just gotten him a stool so he could open his dresser drawers. I figured he was becoming autonomous, and dressing himself was part of the process. Plus, he was making it pretty clear with his exclamations of “MY do it!” I don’t mind telling you he picked out some pretty interesting outfits for awhile. There was also a period of almost a year when he wanted to be called “Kobe” even though that’s not his name. (Yes, the Lakers games were on in the house at the time.) So there he was dressing himself outlandishly, and everywhere we went, my friends good-naturedly called him Kobe. Once at a supermarket, a woman began talking to him as he sat in the cart at the checkout line. He was wearing one of his hand-picked outfits, a green and white striped shirt, some kind of plaid shorts, and black socks pulled up to his knees. The woman told him he was adorable and asked him his name and he said, “Kobe”, and I didn’t correct him because, really, what difference does it make? I’ve been enjoying my kid from moment one, and I love watching him unfold. But this woman looked at me like I had three heads and said, “Unbelievable. Good luck with your kid,” and huffed off to another line shaking her head. I started laughing, mostly from the surprise of it, and Dylan started laughing, too. I leaned down and told him my name was Derek Fisher, and we went about our day. But the mom at school wasn’t okay with letting her kid dress himself which is fine. We all have our non-starters and not everyone wants to walk around with a kid who looks like a color-blind/pattern-blind very short golfer.

However you do it, and wherever the lines are for you, you have to pick your battles and I don’t just mean with parenting, but in life. It’s important to know yourself, and to figure out what is and isn’t okay for you. If you think you can control what life is going to send in your direction, or what other people will say, do or want, you’re setting yourself up for a lot of pain. I understand that accepting the uncertainty in life is not easy. We all want to feel some sense of order in the chaos. In the, what am I doing here, and how did this come to be, and how long do I have, and when will it end, and what happens when it ends, unknowing, unknowableness of life. So we make our plans and we have our schedules and our routines. We go to yoga on these days and we put our mats in this spot, and on this day we go grocery shopping. We have our kids’ soccer practice Tuesdays, baseball Thursdays. We plan our vacation for these two weeks. We go to work and we go here for lunch and order this, or we go there, where we order that. If the person who takes our order knows our name and what we like to eat, even better.

The truth is everything can change on a dime. Your careful planning and reassuring routines can’t save you from that reality. Not everything will go the way we want it to, and sometimes our plans will get turned upside down and inside out. A few years ago I went to a meeting and this person asked me what my five year plan was. I started laughing, I think I might have snorted; I didn’t mean to, it just struck me as absurd. It’s not that I don’t have intentions, or that there’s anything wrong with a five-year plan. It’s just that she happened to ask me this not long after the birth of my son, and nothing at all went according to my carefully written birth plan. So I think it’s good to have a vision, but also important not to grasp it, to allow some room for a different plan to emerge.

Everything is in a state of flux, and we really don’t know how things will be next week, next month, next year. We don’t know how we will be, either. There are things I’d like to do, but I try to take it one moment at a time because I don’t want to get so caught up in a plan that I miss the pure joy that can happen in any moment, or the absolute heartache. I don’t want to be so focused on working my plan that I forget to live my life, or leave some room for life to surprise me. It’s not happening five years from now. It’s happening now and I can’t control whether I’ll get to accomplish every single thing I’d like to, I can only do whatever I can possibly do today. I can use every moment I’ve got wisely, and I can try to pack as much love into each moment as I have within me and as I’m ready to receive. That’s the only power I have.

I can’t control my son’s path or my daughter’s, nor do I want to. Of course I want to keep them safe, I want to nurture them and teach them to be strong and to love themselves, and to go for it in life all the way. To figure out what lights them up, and to move in that direction with everything they’ve got, but I don’t care if they wear orange and green and decide they want to be called names that never would have occurred to me.

An attempt to exert control over other people is really something to examine if you experience that pull. Love doesn’t manipulate, force or reject. It’s not conditional. This is why it’s essential to choose wisely. To know yourself, to understand what’s important to you and what you need, so that you can recognize a person you’ll find easy to love. When we love well, we liberate the objects of our love so they can be their best selves. So they can follow the pull of that inner yes and fly. When you’re loving someone, you’re wanting their happiness the way you want your own. You’re wanting them to discover what ignites them if they haven’t already, and then you want to get busy helping them stoke that flame. Loving someone well helps them become more of who they are, not less.

If you love someone and you’re afraid, then there’s a good chance you’re not loving yourself well, or you may not have chosen wisely. Perhaps you’re being reckless with your heart. Or maybe you’ve been hurt before and you’re scared you’ll be hurt again. If you keep picking people who hurt you, you have some healing to do. It’s also possible you’ve picked someone in a lot of pain themselves. Loving people bent on harming themselves is heartbreaking, and sometimes the only thing you can do is love them from a distance. Of course you try to support them and get them help if they need it, but you can’t control anyone, or manage another person’s path. You can’t save anyone, you can just love people. If you’ve picked a keeper, don’t allow fear to dismantle it and crush that liberation that could happen for both of you. Yes, love involves risk. People grow apart sometimes. Life brings pain that can change a person. We never know what’s going to reveal itself down the path a stretch. If you’re not willing to be vulnerable, you’re not going to be able to love because it requires your willingness to release control. That means you’re going to expose your jugular, the soft underbelly of your heart, but it also makes you human. If you look down and you see opposable thumbs without fur, then you know you’re human already. So you might as well get in the game.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

If the posts are helpful, you can find my books here, and my yoga classes and courses here.

Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are

You often hear people explain their experience as being “on the outside looking in,” but really, I think we’re on the inside looking out. There’s no other way for us to participate in the world around us, or process what’s happening except through our own particular lenses, frame of reference and past experience. That’s beautiful if your interior world is full of love, because in that case the space between you and anyone else disappears. It fades because you’re part of what’s happening, you’re co-creating the moment, you’re not in your head. You’re not busy categorizing or judging what you’re moving through, deciding if it’s good or bad or desirable or what you expected, you’re just in it. Love allows for that kind of liberation and immersion. There’s no fear of getting it wrong, no nagging, stifling voice of “what if” stopping you or making you question if you’re worthy of the joy or the acceptance. When we’re full of love life seems doable and everything is an adventure or a discovery or an opportunity to get lost and find ourselves all at once. To give whatever we’ve got, all the way, and with our hearts wide open. We can do that with other people, or on our own as we hike, windsurf, or get on a yoga mat. We become part of everything. No one is going to be in that state in every moment. We all have fears, insecurities and doubts, and life is always there to present us with opportunities to examine that stuff. Sometimes heartbreaking things happen out of nowhere and take our breath away and send us reeling. But short of that, if you do that inner work of healing, you can be in that state of love quite a lot of the time, and you can catch yourself more quickly when you start spiraling down the well of fear. Your inner voice is the thing that stops you from buying into that “not good enough” frame of mind when you’re loving yourself, not the voice that makes you want to run and curl up and fade away to nothing.

When we’re in fear, it’s easy to feel a separation, a huge distance between ourselves and other people, between our experiences and someone else’s. I think when we feel lonely, misunderstood, discarded or shamed, when we’re grieving or more confused by life than we’ve ever been, it’s not that we’re trying to get into a place where others are so we can feel better or accepted or acknowledged or loved, it’s that we’re trying to get out of this well we’re drowning in. This dark, cold place that echoes with the cries of “What’s wrong with me? Why do I suck so much? Will I ever get it together? Why has this happened?” Sometimes people internalize the things they were told growing up. I saw a quote awhile back that said, “The way you speak to your children becomes their inner voice.” If you grew up hearing you were stupid, worthless, unwanted or an accident, or that you didn’t measure up or always made mistakes, or that you were a disappointment, or any number of other hurtful ideas that reflected your parents inability to express love and not your worthiness to receive it, you may have an incredibly harsh inner dialogue you’re living with. Life does not have to be like that, but you’re going to have to work hard to stop feeding that fearful, unkind voice, and start feeding a loving one. You’re probably going to need some help with that. The lens you’re looking through and the inner voice that speaks out about what’s happening are either wildly distorted, or fairly clear. If you’re in pain, if you’re feeling isolated, and very deep within yourself, don’t believe everything you think, as the saying goes.

There have been times in my life when I’ve felt so far from the surface of things, it was like a slow dark drowning. I used to have an incredibly harsh inner voice. Of course you want to run when the voice you live with is unforgiving and relentless. You want to deny or numb out or keep yourself so busy you can’t hear it, but you can’t escape yourself, and you can’t escape your pain –not in any good or sustainable way. At some point, if you want to be at peace, and you want to be able to connect and share and feel part of everyone and everything else, you’re going to have to turn and face that voice. Not everything you think is true. No matter what has happened to you, what kind of pain you’ve been through, what kind of anger you may be holding, there’s something stronger than all of that. It’s your heart. It’s been there, pumping for you from the moment you began forming as the you you are right now. You are as worthy of love as anyone else, and your heart has a song to sing that is all its own. You don’t want to be stuck in your head, forever analyzing and categorizing and judging your experience. You just want to be in it. You want to open your mouth and let the song of your heart spill out. So get busy if you need to, because as Mark Strand says, “Each moment is a place you’ve never been.” You don’t want to miss too many places. Come out, come out, wherever you are!

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

If the posts are helpful, you can find my books here and my yoga classes and courses here.

Saddle Up!

Fear is a perfectly natural feeling none of us will escape. There’s that fear that makes the tiny hairs on the back of your neck stand up because you know you’re in danger. Then there are the very human fears we all face to some degree or another. Fear of losing those we love. Fear of saying or doing something we’ll regret because it makes us look stupid or feel ashamed. Fear of being hurt, betrayed or left. Fear of rejection. Fear that you’ll take a chance with all your heart and fail. Fear of being alone. Fear of committing. Fear of success. Fear that our past can’t be overcome, and our future will be more of the same. Fear of screwing it all up. Fear of never being seen, known or loved. Fear of death. Fear of really living. Not everyone will experience all those fears, but most people will face at least some of them.

Fear isn’t a problem, but repressing it is. “Don’t be scared” is a common mantra we’re taught in childhood, but you can’t be other than what you are, ever. You feel how you feel and denying your experience is the issue. Thinking that a feeling we’re having is wrong or that it’s socially unacceptable is where we get into trouble. It would be better if we were taught, “Feel scared, but do it anyway.” There’s an elation that comes when we head into the center of our fear, flip it the bird, and dive in. A confidence in ourselves that can’t be gained any other way. There are few things as disappointing in life as when we let apprehension, the loud voice of “I can’t” or “I shouldn’t” stop us from doing something our hearts are crying out to do. When we feel paralyzed that way, our hearts get crushed because it’s a missed opportunity to grow, learn and strengthen. To know ourselves more deeply, and to be able to move in the direction of that inner yes.

People write in with all kinds of fears. This guy is afraid to ask this woman out. This girl likes this guy but doesn’t want to tell him because maybe he just wants to be friends. This woman has a dream, but it isn’t realistic and everyone would think she was nuts for pursuing it. This mother lost her first baby and is terrified it will happen again with her second, so she isn’t loving her baby the way she could. This man wants to reach out to his dad, but they haven’t spoken for thirty years, and what if he doesn’t want to talk? What if he’s dead? This woman lost her husband and her children and is afraid to move forward because who wants to risk that kind of loss again? This guy doesn’t go to parties, ever, because he’s convinced he’s so utterly unattractive no one would want to speak with him. This man is in a marriage without any love, but is afraid to tell his wife how he feels because what then?

There are some situations in life that are so complex, you really do have to move slowly and think clearly before you head off and make decisions that will affect other people in your life, but living in fear feels terrible. It shuts us down and makes us feel there isn’t any hope, there aren’t any options, there isn’t a path that could lead us to something different. I do not believe anyone can flourish from a foundation of fear, and if you’re withering, you really can’t nurture anyone else, including yourself. If you feel stuck in fear, reach out. Get yourself some help and some support if you need it, so you can start to face it down, which is totally different than pushing it down. The very funny thing about fear is that when you have your back to it, it feels like this raging, huge, fiery dragon that could take you down with one big exhaled flame. But if you’d turn around, you’d see it’s just a huge pile of blocks you’ve erected in your mind. The kind you used to play with when you were a kid. The blocks are mostly made of pain, and the tower is teetering. You could, if you found the courage, reach out and knock the whole thing down. Then you could look at the pieces, and start to build something new. Maybe a bridge. I’m not saying the fear isn’t real. I’m just saying it’s not going to kill you.

Sending you love, and the hope that you’ll saddle up if you need to,

Ally Hamilton

If the posts are helpful you can find my books here and my yoga classes and courses here.

You are Invaluably You. (And You Are Awesome)

yourvalueYesterday I got an email from a guy who had an argument with a woman he’s been dating for about four months. They were out to eat and he thought she was flirting pretty heavily with the waiter. Stroking his hand while he was making suggestions about the menu, offering him a bite of her food when he came to check on them later. He told me it’s been an issue many times they’ve gone out, and he’s been keeping it to himself because she’s a flirtatious person which was one of the things that drew him in, and he thought he should handle his insecurities himself. After all, she’s been going home with him, even if she does talk to other guys while they’re out. Anyway, last weekend they went to dinner, and then to a party, and she sat in some guy’s lap. Our friend went to get her a drink, and when he came back, there she was, smiling up at him and reaching for her wine with her head nestled on this other guy’s shoulder. The guy had his arm wrapped around her with his hand on her upper thigh, making circles with his fingertips. Between the waiter earlier, and the guy who’s lap she was in, he reached his max. He asked to speak with her, and she looked at the other guy and said, “Uh-oh, I think I’m in trouble,” and followed our friend outside.

He said he asked her what was up. He told her he really cares about her, but he’s not sure she’s feeling the same way since, in his view, she seems to flirt excessively with other men. She got really angry and defensive and said she can’t deal with jealousy and insecurity, and she guessed it wasn’t going to work out. She told him she can’t be controlled, she needs to be herself, and she has to be with a guy who’s confident. He told her he is confident, but it gets a little hard when she’s letting some other guy tickle her inner thigh. She rolled her eyes and stormed off. So he left, miserably, and he’s been second-guessing himself ever since. He talked to his brother about it, and his brother said he likes when his girlfriends flirt with other guys as long as they don’t cross the line. He thought feeding the waiter, and the lap/tickling thing was too much. His buddies said he dodged a bullet. His mother said she didn’t have the feeling this was “the one,” but she could be wrong (well-played, mom!!!). But our friend is feeling awful. Wondering if he should call her and try to fix it. Checking his phone constantly to see if she’s called. Drafting and re-drafting emails and re-playing the events of the weekend in his mind relentlessly. What she did. What he did. What he said and how he said it and questioning himself.

I asked him how he felt when he was with her. Did he feel good? He said he was attracted to her and that the challenge had been exciting, but it had also made him feel badly about himself. Like he always had to compete and was never really sure if she’d end up back at his place, or if he’d end up at hers, or she’d end up somewhere else. He wasn’t sure she really cared about him at all. She didn’t call or text much and he didn’t think he’d have been seeing her so much if he hadn’t made all the effort. I asked him why he thought he might want to pursue a relationship with someone whose feelings he’s unsure of four months in, who gets angry when he tries to tell her how he feels.

Sometimes it’s the rejection that causes a person to start chasing. The idea that someone could walk away so easily. Maybe I just haven’t shown them the best side of me yet. Maybe if I race and catch up and we hang out a little more, then they’ll see how great I am. You know what? It’s not about whether someone is flirting or not flirting or letting someone else paint their name with chocolate sauce on their inner thigh if you’re cool with that. There’s no need to demonize this woman who likes to flirt. I didn’t hear from her, and maybe she has a whole other point of view. The point is, it’s not working for our buddy. If you’re involved in an interaction that’s making you feel badly, don’t chase it down and ask for more. Our friend said he felt a lack of respect, consideration and sensitivity. I’m like, check, check, check. If it’s making you feel terrible and like you’re not measuring up, that’s a no. If you express yourself to someone you’re trying to build trust with and they shut you down, that’s a no, too. If you can’t communicate honestly, you’re sunk. That goes for both sides of the equation, meaning you want to be able to share the depth of your feelings, and also be able to talk about when you’re feeling vulnerable. In order to do those things, you have to feel safe, seen, heard, supported, loved. If you’re not feeling those things from someone, let it go and don’t second-guess yourself. You can’t squeeze water from a stone, as they say. Sometimes we’re looking for things we’d like in the wrong places. Keep moving. Sunshine ahead ;).

Lots of love,

Ally Hamilton


I know sometimes things can feel really hopeless, like you’ve screwed everything up, or you can’t get any traction going, or no matter what you do, you always end up feeling isolated. Sometimes there are really ingrained coping mechanisms that keep a person at a “safe distance” from everyone else. Maybe that’s how you got through your childhood. by detaching or dissociating. If you cut yourself off from what you were feeling as a kid, if you took yourself somewhere else, somewhere safer, that can be a difficult switch to flip. I know lots of people who moved into adolescence coming out of a difficult childhood and just numbed out. Turned to drugs. Shut the thing down, so to speak. So if you have a lifetime history of cutting yourself off from what you’re feeling, and struggling to really trust or open to anyone, it’s perfectly natural to feel alienated and alone and like there’s not much point to any of it.

I have a particular soft spot for children. Some people believe we pick our parents and the exact situations we need for the evolution of our souls and other people believe it’s all random and we end up as worm food. Whatever you believe, a child in an unsafe situation breaks my heart because the tools aren’t there yet to recognize pain is underneath whatever is happening with the adults around them. Pain, and an inability to handle it in a healthy way. A child can’t process that. A child who is abused or neglected or abandoned can’t understand it isn’t about them. All they can do is figure out how to maneuver. How to exist in an unsafe environment. How to disappear.

So many people coming out of backgrounds like these suffer from depression, anxiety, and addiction. But if you’re not in an unsafe environment anymore, there’s no reason you need to repress your feelings, or be ruled by panic attacks, or create a haze to get through the day. Your way of life may have become centered around this idea of, “I Can’t Handle the Pain.” Sometimes people don’t even try anymore, they just numb. Smoke pot every day or drink wine every night or shop every afternoon, or get hooked on relationships or sex or work or exercise. Schedule every minute of the day so there’s no time to feel anything, and run like hell when a feeling slips through the cracks. Life truly doesn’t have to be like that. There are so many healing modalities available. So much conversation about trauma, and ways to work with it, and through it, so it doesn’t rule your life: yoga, meditation, therapy, different ways to work with your nervous system. But it can be scary to even consider a new way of moving through the world, and all kinds of resistance can come up.

If you’re living in this kind of pain, I really recommend you reach out because too many years can go by in a haze and it’s such a shame, because when life is in focus, it’s so beautiful it takes your breath away. I’m not saying it isn’t painful sometimes, but I am saying even the pain can open you to more beauty. It doesn’t have to close you or shut you down or make you run. And if you did grow up in an abusive environment, there’s so much healing that comes from understanding there is nothing lacking in you. Nothing.

There’s also nothing lacking in you if you love a person coming out of a history like this who hasn’t done the work to heal and develop tools to manage and understand the effects of living through trauma. You just fell in love with someone who hasn’t figured out how to love well yet. They aren’t loving themselves, so they can’t really love you. You can’t save anyone, but you can love people and support them and encourage them to get help. Sometimes you have to do that from afar in order to love yourself well.

The thing is, I think we all tend to take these things on and internalize them. If someone can’t love us well, whether it’s a parent or a romantic partner, we walk away with the feeling that there’s something unlovable about us, instead of recognizing the pain that exists in the other person. We get angry and defensive and hurt, we point fingers and tell ourselves stories, and the cycle continues. Healing is a choice every day. There are always opportunities to move toward love or to move toward fear. Choose love. Seriously.

Sending you some right now,

Ally Hamilton

If the posts are helpful, you can find my books here and my yoga classes and courses here.