Hovering so directly exposed, we can feel the earths rotation.
He is damp and desiring as if newly being weaned from my
breast. His skin in a pervasive slide over mine, learning the
notes to this melody of flesh. Hunting the reeking nectar
lying beneath the surface of our ability to control.
Latex becomes the festering of love’s honey, it fills the
entirety of this ocean of blankets, preventing this action’s entire purpose.
His Body arching into me, desiring to conceive a feeling rather than a thing.
I want to take you deep into any part of me you wanted to coat or fill.
You defy my ability to keep things stagnant and dark,
You are my own precious piece of this world
Writhing to the beat of one pulse
Can you do anything but be powerless?
The moment sweeps over us like a passing tide, and you lay on me.
Are we even 2 people anymore?
I don’t think so.
I wrote this poem when I was 16 years old. A time when the war raged between my temporal and eternal self. On the one hand, I was born straddling the dimensions. I have access to awareness and transcendental knowledge that most people have no access to. It made me wise far beyond my years. On the other hand that awareness and knowledge did not exempt me from my own human nature. I still struggled with the torment and ecstasy of the flesh. I could not rectify them. In truth, integrating these two polarities within me is still my life’s work. It is this integration work, rather than the work of siding with my divinity so as to relinquish my humanity that makes me the teacher that I am. It is a work that begins with authenticity and transparency. Which is the very reason for this highly public blog.
Today, for the sake of this commitment, I am going to write a blog I have been dreading for months now and expose an aspect of myself that I am perhaps the most afraid to expose, which means it is the aspect of me I am the most ashamed of. Many of you who are reading this article are aware of emotional abuse. Things like deliberate threatening, shaming, humiliating, exploiting, and isolating to name a few. But there is another form of emotional abuse that goes on between people, which is harder to recognize. And it leaves even deeper scars. It is this form of abuse that is today’s epidemic and it is called ‘Emotional Neglect’. I did an Ask Teal episode on this subject called “Today’s Great Epidemic”. The best way to understand emotional neglect is this: Instead of trauma caused by what IS done, it is trauma caused by what IS NOT done. Keep in mind that the traditional expressions of emotional abuse, physical abuse and sexual abuse can go hand in hand with emotional neglect. But a person can still emotionally neglect another person without overtly emotionally abusing them in the traditional sense. Above all else, emotional neglect creates a void within a person. Let’s call it an emptiness, but an emptiness that screams and aches through the being.
Emptiness is so painful that the word emptiness doesn’t really cover it. It feels more like a starvation or an inner vacuum or black hole or chasm. The most important quality though to recognize is the lack. Emptiness is a state of lack. And lack tips us off to the fact that we are missing something. The key is finding out exactly what we are missing, exactly what we are lacking and exactly what it is that we lost.
I am struggling to provide an image that captures the emotional signature of this struggle to fill the inner void. So instead, I will post a video/song that captures it for you:
When we are young, our consciousness becomes fractured by traumatic experiences in our life. We suppress, deny, disown and dissociate from aspects of ourselves in order to be accepted and survive within the social group we are born into. These aspects of us are frozen in time and so they do not come with us into the present. In our past, if we experienced trauma as a result of one of our needs not being met, the aspect of ourselves that could not get that need met is still stuck in time unresolved. We experience that need being unmet in present time as well. So the thing we are lacking or missing is that need that was not met at the time in our past that the trauma occurred. For example, say we were wounded as a child because we felt no sense of belonging with our family, that lack of belonging becomes a traumatic imprint. We feel the lack of belonging and that is really what the emptiness in our adult life is about. When we feel emptiness, because it is like an internal starvation, it is so uncomfortable that we do anything we can to try to escape the feeling. This is when we say that people are trying to ‘fill in the void’.
Most people who struggle with chronic emptiness had adults in their life who were incapable of giving them emotional intimacy. As a result, their inner world did not feel seen, heard, felt, understood or validated. Not only did this wound them, it made them subconsciously conclude that there must be either something bad there or nothing there at all. Emotional neglect is the cause of the inner void.
When an adult does not understand what emotional needs are or how to meet them, they cannot meet the child’s emotional needs. The adult is essentially unitentionally invalidating the importance of their child in their life. This child does not feel seen, heard or felt. There is no intimacy in the relationship and so this child lacks the knowledge about how to form intimate relationships.
When a child is shamed for having emotional needs and wanting to have them met by the parent, the message the child receives is, “There is something fundamentally wrong and unlovable about me”. This child grows up being completely blind to his or her own emotional needs as well as being very afraid of his or her own emotions.
Most people who suffered emotional neglect, either keep their suffering entirely to themselves or go from psychiatrist to psychologist trying desperately to figure out what is so wrong with them. Most are drowning in a sea of self-condemnation because they can’t see what it is that caused them to feel the way they feel. This is because emotional neglect is not what you see. It is what you don’t see. It is the encouragement that didn’t happen. It is the comforting that wasn’t given. It is the loving support that wasn’t offered. It is the loving words that were not said. It is the sense of belonging that was never granted. It is the understanding that was never reached for. Emotional neglect is so hard to recognize because you can’t see what isn’t there and so you can’t remember what isn’t there and until you see what could have been there, you wont even know something was missing.
Emotional neglect often goes hand in hand with an unhealthy style of availability in parenting, which leads to insecure attachments in adults. If you were talking to a psychologist they would say that instead of developing a secure attachment, a child who experiences emotional neglect often develops either an anxious preoccupied attachment or a dismissive avoidant attachment.
I was the odd one out in the family from the minute my personality started to come through. My family tried to love me, they did a good job providing for me physically and giving me every opportunity to succeed. They enabled my desires. However, I did not feel understood. I did not feel like I belonged. I did not feel wanted. I did not feel safe. I did not feel trusted. I did not feel seen or heard or felt.
We don’t teach emotional connection in schools. We go into parenthood completely unprepared. When you have a child you just assume that you’ll have an easy time connecting with and relating to that child. It is a shock to realize you do not relate to your own child at all and it is a shock to realize that even though you love your child, you have no idea HOW to love your child. This was the shock that my parents experienced with me as a child. This was painful to all of us. And to be honest, when my brother was born who DID fit into the family and who DID relate to my parents, I felt like my emotional alienation was sealed. I felt like there was the three of them and then there was me.
This is not an uncommon dynamic in today’s world. Many people experience the exact same thing relative to their own family. Teal Tribe is absolutely teaming with people who experienced this dynamic and who found their way to spiritual community because of the internal pain it caused. However, the situation in my childhood was compounded exponentially because a loose family friend (who happened to be a sociopath) recognized this emotional distance between my family and myself. He capitalized on the gap that was there and set himself up to fill that gap by providing for my emotional needs. Most especially the emotional needs of belonging and being understood. He provided these things at a cost. The cost was my entire childhood. You all know the rest of that story. It was not that I thought loneliness would lead to being hurt. Loneliness did lead to being hurt. I began to develop an absolute terror of being alone.
I was an acutely miserable child. And I entered adolescence with a gaping wide internal void. A vacuum like loneliness. No one ever touched my internal world. The isolation I experienced was soul crushing. I wanted the feeling of connection so bad that I did not care if that connection came in the form of being abused or loved as long as my inner world was being touched. At that point I wasn’t so conscious that this is what I specifically wanted. It was more that I was in so much internal pain every day that I wanted anything to take away the pain. This is the beginning of addiction.
Before you continue reading, take a look at this article: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/johann-hari/the-real-cause-of-addicti_b_6506936.html
Every addiction, no matter what it is, is the result of a need that is not being met. The question is what need? The answer will change depending on the person. We also use addictions to get away from things. Basically we use them to move away from something unwanted and towards something we need or want to experience. We have to figure out what we are trying to use our addiction to get away from and what need we are trying to use our addiction to meet. Unless we stop running away from what we are trying to run away from and begin to meet that need in healthier ways, we will always have reason to relapse back into the addiction. Even though it is beneficial at a certain point to start physically weaning off or eliminating the thing you’re addicted to, it does no good to do so, unless you have addressed the underlying cause of the addiction. And something does not have to be what the scientific community calls a physiologically addictive substance in order to be addictive. This is especially because on a physiological level, we can become powerfully addicted to the chemicals our own body produces in response to something. Because of the pain I was in chronically, I had a highly addictive personality.
I was a tomboy growing up and a very talented competitive athlete from the get go. I was never an ugly duckling. But I was not the ‘top pick’ for school crushes for boys in grade school and the first year of middle school. But in 1996, when I was eleven years old, I went to the movie theatre and saw a movie that would change the course of my life. It was Romeo and Juliet by director Baz Luhrmann. Never had I seen an example of intimacy greater than the relationship between the two stars in that movie. Their emotional needs were met completely and entirely by each other. I felt the craving within me to be loved like that. I fantasized about it. It became an obsessive quest to find that for myself. I looked at the world through different eyes. I watched the way the other more girly girls at school behaved in such a way that they were able to captivate and guarantee their connection with the boys. That next year, I was scouted for a modeling agency and as a result, I underwent a ‘transformation in personal style’. I went from painfully shy to having to come out of my shell. Overnight, I was the object of everyone’s fancy. I had no friends up to that point. And if anything, this transformation made it worse. Instead of being oblivious to me, the other girls detested me and went out of their way to try to hurt me. However, the boys became an absolute guarantee. I noticed that in the presence of a romantic partner, I no longer felt that internal starvation. The isolation was subdued. My emotional needs were met for a time.
Twelve years old was the beginning for me of what experts call “love addiction”. I have always hated that name. The addiction has absolutely nothing to do with love. It has everything to do with attachment. It should be called attachment addiction. With attachment addiction, the feeling of bonding and limerence becomes the drug of choice. And for a beautiful woman, this drug is not only legal, it is everywhere. It is like a heroine addict trying to live sober in a world where people eat heroine for breakfast, lunch and dinner and where every movie is about heroine. You become addicted to the chemicals your own body produces in response to boding with a primary attachment figure (partner) and you become completely powerlessly dependent on that person to meet your unmet emotional needs.
Being in a relationship becomes a desperate and compulsive ‘I have to’ on top of ‘I want to’. It is the only way you can feel safe, feel belonging, feel self worth, and avoid the loneliness, isolation and emptiness. But because the nature of the connection is built on addiction rather than genuine love, you are still a vibrational point of attraction (match) to what you are trying to escape from through the relationship. As a result, the very things you got into the relationship to escape, surface within the relationship and then all hell breaks loose. Many of the top female stars in the world are attachment addicts because fame is to attachment addiction what the nicotine patch is to a cigarette addiction. Marilyn Monroe was perhaps the most famous attachment addict in history.
Attachment addiction (love addiction) tends to show up in the following patterns: Difficulty sustaining relationships after the initial obsessive phase wanes. Constantly searching for a better relationship. Feeling worthless and suicidal when alone but terrified and dissatisfied when in a relationship. Repeatedly attracting troubled, avoidant or emotionally unavailable partners. Confusing sex and romance for real conscious and committed love. Involvement with a fantasy of who someone could be, rather than involvement with the reality of who someone actually is, which leads to perpetual relationships with incompatible partners. Premature commitment usually in the form of impulsive decisions to increase the level of bonding such as moving in together, getting married and having children. The inability to take a relationship slowly because of the intensity of bonding, immediacy of bonding, depth of intimacy and desperate fear of abandonment. Serial dating or serial monogamy. Potential affairs. Anonymous and unsafe sex. Using sex, affection and sensual charm as a currency exchange for protection, power or money. The inability to set healthy and appropriate boundaries. Withdrawing from all other relationships when focused on ‘the one’ primary attachment relationship (partner) in their life. And the inability to be single.
I am a recovering attachment addict. The reason this last year was so desperately bad for me was that last year was the year I chose to face it. Anyone who has gotten over an addiction or who has been through a withdrawal, can probably imagine what it has been like. When I was a teenager, I developed an addiction to the Ketamine my abuser was using to keep me hooked into the cult group and dependent on him. Long story short, attachment addiction withdrawal made the withdrawal and recovery from Ketamine addiction feel like a glorious, leisurely stroll down a sunset kissed beach.
In typical attachment addict style, my last relationship fell apart miserably due to incompatibility. I had married my bodyguard, a decision that had provided me with more safety than I had ever felt in my life. On top of being handsome, he was a human being rich with both depth and substance of personality. But it was the most emotionally unhealthy relationship I have experienced in my adulthood. True to my pattern, we tied the knot just one month after we met and the marriage unraveled just two weeks after we tied the knot. We tried unsuccessfully to make it work for a year but by then our incompatibility and opposing attachment styles had made the bond so toxic that he left to return back to his home in Europe.
For years, I was the girl who always had a ‘backup’. At the peak of my addiction (my late teens and early twenties) I had a minimum of four backups for each primary partnership I had. They were there just incase anything went wrong with my partner. It was my insurance policy that I could always avoid that torture chamber of an inner void. Breakups would lead to suicide attempts. So, the maximum amount of time I had been single up until my last marriage was a week or two. And that was only because 11 years ago, I decided that I couldn’t have a clear conscience and have ‘backups’ at the same time. But before that, the maximum amount of time I was single was one day.
This time, I had no backups. I was so wounded by the relationship and so terrified of relationships as a result of it that I experienced a paralysis when it came to relationships. I saw the pattern so clearly that I couldn’t repeat it anymore. I was plunged into everything I had been trying to escape from since childhood. I was plunged into my own isolation. I was plunged into everything the addiction was trying to cover up. I had to face all the emotional aftermath and the consequences of the addiction itself. It was an indescribable hell that is ineffable and not understandable to anyone who has not gone through it themselves. It gave rise to suicidal ideation, an unshakable background feeling of doom, anxiety attacks, recurrent illnesses, a flare up of self hate with behaviors to match that self hate. I was haunted by the idea that I should take a sabbatical from my role as a spiritual teacher and perhaps quit entirely. My weight dropped to 97 pounds. Each day felt like a year in agony. I found myself in a position where I had nothing left to do but to use my own processes on myself and to go into those places that scared me the very most. For those of you who have not already put two and two together, this is my Achilles heel, the root of roots of suffering in my own personal life.
I am one of those people who believes that seeing a therapist regularly should be part of everyone’s preventative health routine and it is especially important for people in positions like I am in. I have to stay in check with the amount of influence I have in other people’s lives. For this reason, I regularly see various therapists. But I also found myself attending Love Addicts Anonymous last year. To be honest, I hated it. This is going to really invalidate people who believe in the AA approach to addiction recovery. But in my opinion, not only is the Love Addicts Anonymous curriculum completely wrong about how to accomplish recovery, it is a recipe for self hate. They do not teach attendees how to approach the inner void and loneliness. They simply prescribe forcing yourself to be single and attend the groups. From there, the solution they give you is to essentially pray for help from a higher power. Don’t even get me started on the AA curriculum. I shall save that for another day.
Long story short, I went through withdrawal and sobriety did not feel good. It felt like shit. But it felt a tiny bit better (or perhaps more real) than the loss of self and emotional intoxication of the addiction. It is disorienting to experience something simultaneously being better and worse. Part of this recovery was to discover that my pattern of attraction was to incompatible and emotionally unavailable partners. As I went into the inner void again and again, I found my attraction shifting completely from the type of men I was usually attracted to, to a totally different type of man. I still wanted a relationship. I was being single at that point mostly because I didn’t want to repeat the same pattern, not because I didn’t want a relationship. So when I decided consciously to start dating, I decided to give men a try that did not cause that obsessive, desperate, addictive type of feeling within me. I gravitated towards the feeling of calm security and warmth, which is a reflection of actual love instead of addictive love. It had occurred to me that because I always gravitated towards emotionally unavailable and avoidant men, I wanted to try something completely different. I wanted to try men who actually demonstrate availability and accessibility to me. Men who initiate rather than whom expect me to initiate. It was during this time that I consciously chose to give a man I’d known for two years a shot at a date with me. That man was Ale.
Over the next three months, I put him through every compatibility test I could think of. I approached the relationship with a kind of ‘guilty until proven innocent’ mentality. He didn’t live in the same state, so I couldn’t use him to run away from my loneliness. The relationship had a totally different feel than usual. I did not feel a desperate craving for him. I did not obsess. Instead, I felt a cozy, warm, homeyness with him. I loved who he was as a person. He proved himself to be completely compatible to me. For the first time in my life, all of our relationship problems were external to us. I managed to stay single for 6 months before I decided to officially commit to him exclusively, which is akin to a world record for me. We did not get married right way. He took 2 months after moving in with me to propose to me and we are waiting until July to get married. I am so far outside of familiar relationship territory, it isn’t even funny.
Some people have a rigid idea about the correct amount of time people should spend dating before committing and a rigid idea about the correct amount of time people should live together before getting married etc. But the truth is, it’s just a matter of opinion. And some people who play it safe in every way by doing everything ‘right’, end up being left after being married for 15 years by the very person they thought was a sure bet. This is why the decisions you make relative to love must be left up to your own individual guidance systems as a couple. And the more awareness you have, the more purely that guidance system can guide you.
I have been avoiding the comments underneath my posts about this upcoming wedding to Ale because of how cruel some people have been with their judgments about my love life and about marriage in general. Because of my willingness to be authentic about my personal life, as opposed to hide it like every other spiritual teacher, people cease to view me as a ‘teacher’ and begin to see me like an immature little sister who they have to advise. But I can feel the collective confusion about my decisions relative to partnerships percolating in the subconscious of those who follow my material.
My decisions do not make sense to people. Nor does my relationship history. The judgmental perception that ‘it’s just one guy after the next with Teal’ is accurate. I am ashamed of it. You’d be hard pressed to find someone in today’s world that actually feels proud that they have a trail of tears and multiple failed marriages behind them. The one upside is that relationship trauma provides a real education about relationships in general. You end up really getting what to do and what not to do in relationships. It turns you into an expert.
To be authentic with the world, you have to first be authentic with yourself. It offends me that people do not trust me to question myself. My ego does not like the taste of condescension. I am fully aware of this pattern within myself. I am aware of where it comes from. I can recognize it when it occurs. There is a part of me that is ashamed of it, but also a part of me that is unwilling to condemn this pattern within myself. This part of me feels compassion for myself because this pattern exists for very valid and painful reasons. As with any addiction, the potential always exists for relapse and it isn’t wise to go into denial by convincing yourself that you’re completely beyond it. I am in the active process of recovery. The frustrating part about attachment addiction is that the collective impression is either 1. There should be some correct albeit arbitrary time spent single before it is right to be in a relationship again and get married etc. or 2. That being single forever and independently in need of no one is how you know you’ve succeeded.
The worst part about this relationship with Ale is that when he showed up, because he showed up when I was sober and I made a sober choice to be with him, he did not have the drug-like effect of washing away my pain that I have experienced in previous relationships. There was no temporary high associated with him. I am with him but I am also with my pain. His presence did not bury the wound that is ever present and still in the process of healing/integrating in my life. A wound that thanks to this blog is now fully visible to the public. Instead he offers the loving presence necessary for both of us to be present with this aspect of myself. This sobriety is a blessing and a curse. I am not swept off my feet into a parallel reality of ecstasy in limerence. I am not telling myself this life with him will be perfect as if I am saved. I am in this relationship with my feet on the ground. I cannot use it as an escape. This relationship is absolutely healthy.
If people are unfamiliar with attachment addiction, they think love should look like it does in the movies. An unbridled, obsessive rapture that throws you into a state of permanent joy. So they are confused when I seem more pained and more unsure than I have been in other relationships. They do not know that it is because I am sober in this relationship. As such, I cannot escape myself within it. I am experiencing what it means to really love and be loved. I am experiencing conscious commitment and compatibility. The situation we are in with his ex wife and children is like relationship poison. It is super painful and puts immense strain on the relationship. But at the end of the day, it is still a problem that is external to the relationship. The world that is internal to the relationship is raw yet pristine in its paragon.
I still fear the isolated, tormenting emptiness of loneliness. I am becoming more familiar with it day by day. One day my own process of healing relative to this condition will give rise to the definitive teaching on the subject. I have discovered that the terror of being left alone with yourself is the result of being afraid of yourself. The way this fear begins is that you believe if you are alone, it must be because other people can see you are bad. So being alone with yourself is like being stuck in a prison with a demon within that is ruining your life by preventing connection and love, but a demon that you can’t see or hear or feel… only vaguely sense. Of course from a higher perspective, we can see this inner badness is an illusion. But death is also ultimately an illusion, and look at the lengths we go to avoid death.
The part of me that is attached to what other people think of me is afraid that this blog will be met with judgment and condemnation and serve as a justification for people to abandon me in favor of other spiritual teachers who feign enlightened perfection. This part of me is afraid that this blog will serve people with a reason to discount my teachings about relationships instead of cause them to value them higher. This part of me is afraid that this blog will cause people to use the proof of my humanity to discount my divinity. My eternal self believes that people are ready for authenticity. But my temporal self is consumed with doubt that people are mature enough in mind and emotion to actually be ready for it, instead of to ‘burn me at the stake’ so to speak for being ahead of my time.
Perhaps a side of me that needs to feel fully seen and understood is relieved. As for the rest of me, I am left with a quote by Robert Anthony. The opposite of bravery is not cowardice, but conformity. And so, once again, I have chosen not to conform. I place my vulnerable authenticity in your hands.
back to top