I have such a sense of loss, I feel like I’m going crazy!

Nov 16, 2020

QUESTION

Dear Venerable Robina, my teacher,

I am seeking advice from you. I feel I am in a situation in which I’ve hit rock bottom. I have been drafting this email so many times but never sent it, this time I will!

I’ve been living with my boyfriend for more than a year. I have become more demanding and clingy and needy. I’d complain about the smallest thing and he would get more annoyed and sometimes angry. Things were difficult; my health was not good. Stress was building and it got to a point where he took steps back and pushed me away from him emotionally. He said he needed his space and I got more clingy and in the victim mode and scared. 

After a few weeks break to give him space I came back again but I felt the dynamics had changed. He seemed miles away emotionally. I panicked completely. He said that he would break up, that he had no energy for this anymore. I begged him not to give up what we had; we had talked about having kids etc. Then he said he needed real space, with no contact for a while and that he does not know if we can stay together.

The days have been horrible since then. My mind is going crazy, frantic. Seriously everything is so dark and hopeless, but I know it is my battle at the moment. I know it’s not about him or his decision. I am constantly crying, feeling despair. It’s such a trapped feeling, because my normal reaction would be to sabotage the relationship and force the break. Then I probably would run away, go our and party, find guys.

Instead I see this as a great chance to work on my mind, and look at my fear of losing, my fear of uncertainty, and confront myself truly – maybe for the first time in my life. I think my suffering is so huge because I’m staying with this situation and not pushing it away. I want to prove it to myself that I can change. But it’s so hard, I tell you! It feels like there’s a hole in the ground and I’m falling and falling. 

Of course I do this to an extent because I want to rescue the relationship but also because I see now how I contribute to this situation. Every boyfriend has said the same thing, whether they were good or bad boyfriends, they all said the same thing: “give me space.” So I know it’s my thing to work on. I feel this relationship is definitely worth it, that I want to have it. He’s such a good person, although he’s not a saint and brings his flaws to the relationship as well, of course. But he knows them and tells me after every argument that he wants to work on them, so what more can I ask for? 

I feel so bad that I only saw my suffering in the relationship, I feel now so selfish, that I was not more happy for what I have and that I was asking for more, that he should be different; I mean we both did that. We both didn’t accept the person as much as we should and be happy for what we have.

I am writing you because keeping up being brave and facing attachment is really hard. 

Your sincere and truly devoted student,
W

ANSWER

Dearest W,

Just a quick response for now: good to see you at the teachings on Zoom. Every word I said about the bottomless pit of attachment: the emotional hunger, the neediness, the assumption that you’re not enough, and then the panic/aversion/anger etc. that arises when it’s thwarted, when it doesn’t get what it wants – all of it! – was exactly for you! We all know these words, it’s just hard to practice, isn’t it?

The main attachment we all have — and this is the source of your suffering – is the craving to be seen and heard and approved of. When that’s there we lose all common sense!

This is the way it is. This is human beings’ reality.

Let’s keep discussing.

Much love,
Robina

QUESTION

Dear Ven. Robina:

Thank you for the quick response after the teachings yesterday. I agree that all was applicable to me, although I know your words already so deeply, every time I listen to you I realize something new in them as well, like I heard it for the first time. Thank you very much for your teaching yesterday. It was very inspiring.

I truly can confirm your statement, that my attachment is craving to be seen and heard and approved of.

But would you agree that I need this approval and attention from the outside as I don’t give myself enough approval and attention?

I came to this question today in a meditation: 

I started crying in the meditation and I felt I had access to my really inner sadness. I saw myself as a child, lonely, scared and asking for protection, I cried but I continued meditating and watching what unfolds. I saw this little W and then I visualized all the buddhas and bodhisattvas all are around this little W and they hugged me and were there. It was a raw experience. I didn’t felt better after it, it didn’t give me happy feeling but I felt there was tension released and I thought that is just part of the process looking there what is really inside.

Is my craving for always wanting to bond with people because I am not close with myself? Would you agree? As I realize that I am very often quite harsh with myself and I don’t have nice words for myself. I think self-love is something I never really had and I want to explore that.

On that note, this frantic-panic-out of control attachment I described was so strong. But I understand that there is no short cut, right? I have to go through the transformation process without losing my courage. But it’s been like a tsunami and it’s clear that I am so not in control of my life and thoughts.

I’m also watching my speech as well, trying to understand other people’s boundaries and not talking too much. 

Thank you very very much for dedicating your precious time to my problem.

I came a quote across recently by Hamlet, I thought of you: Maybe you like it. “For there is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.”

I send you all kind thoughts and warm greetings from our soft-lockdown; my forced retread now.

Love,
W

ANSWER

Yes, W, that dream: very powerful: you’re feeling the sense of not-enough, of loss, deep in your bones. So real. And it’s good to see it so deep inside.

Usually we think that somehow we must not have got approval when we were very little and this is why we keep seeking it.

But the Buddhist view is the other way around: we were born with this particular attachment to be seen and heard and approved — and join the universe, sweetheart! This is everyone’s problem to one degree or another. 

The main energy of attachment, in general, is dissatisfaction, but it depends on what we’re attached to. Some people have this bottomless pit of craving for food, some for sex, some for money, some for power — you name it! But the particular pain you’re describing is the dissatisfaction with yourself. You’re just not enough, so therefore you assume you must get it from the outside.

Yes, exactly — you’re not close to yourself! That’s how it manifests. It’s so primordial and it won’t go away overnight. It really is the subtlest level of attachment and we’ve all got it.

So, the solution? The overt practice every day is to remind yourself that you are just fine as you are, that you have this amazing potential, that you have such good qualities. Etc. etc. etc.

Analyze carefully, using logic, that you are just fine in yourself; everything is within you. And look at how absurd it is to assume that your thoughts, your actions, your achievements, etc., etc. etc. are not valid until someone else sees them and approves of them. We should laugh at how ridiculous it is! 

So, every day, try to leave the man alone. Give him a break! Back off. Let him be. Stop expecting something from him that he can’t give. And try to be content with what he does give. But know that you have to be content with yourself, that you have to approve of yourself; that your happiness does not depend on him.

Slowly, slowly, honey!

And yes! Control the speech! So many of our problems with other people disappear if we can do that! It seems so simple, but it’s profound. It doesn’t mean we suppress what we feel, but we work with ourselves internally, be our own therapists, as Lama Yeshe puts it.

Much love — and much courage!
Robina

QUESTION

Dear Ven. Robina, 

Thank you so much for your response.

Just today I met my boyfriend for a walk for the first time in weeks. It was a good talk, although he still has doubts and his thoughts are not clear. We both were very kind to each other, and understanding, but I still don’t know where the journey will go, if he decides to give it another shot or not. I truly could see his suffering as well.

Anyway, I totally could understand how you described the main attachment I am facing at the moment: The dissatisfaction about myself. I really will think about it. I thought I always crave other people in order to fill the hole I have inside of me.

Your advice on self-love as a medicine for being less disappointed about myself is a huge thing, but it makes sense. 

May I clarify one more advice from you: “Analyze carefully, using logic, that you are just fine in yourself; everything is within you. And look at how absurd it is to assume that your thoughts, your actions, your achievements, etc., etc. etc. are not valid until someone else sees them and approves of them. We should laugh at how ridiculous it is!”

And what do you mean that I assume that my actions and thoughts are not valid unless somebody sees or approves them? I think its a good advice but I want to understand what you mean.

And on your note: to leave him alone, that I should back off. I will. I try to imagine he is my former mother or father and I want the best for him. And I will continue to cultivate my practice and trust that everything will work out best for me, regardless of what happens. I will try to focus on the trust and not the scary part: that I will be miserable and alone for the rest of my life.

I truly value your time that you took to answer me. Thank you very much. I have all the ingredients and now its up to me, with courage to practice it every day.

Thank you very much again and with love,
W

ANSWER

W, dear one.

Our craving to be seen and heard and approved of by others assumes logically that we are not valid until they have approved of us — what I mean is: let’s say you’ve made something beautiful, but we automatically want someone else to see it to say it’s beautiful, otherwise we’re not satisfied. In other words, your ability to make something beautiful is not valid until someone else says it is.

Think about it! It’s another way of talking about “the hole” you have inside you. That hole is the assumption that you’re not enough in yourself, which is why we crave someone else to love us, approve of us. Why can’t we approve of ourselves? Why can’t we be satisfied with ourselves?

Attachment in its nature is the assumption that we are not enough, do not have enough, have not achieved enough: that’s its default view. And we utterly believe it! 

Attachment to food and external objects is so clear: why do we crave them? Because we assume there’s that hole there that needs filling!

Same with attachment to approval, except that it’s more pervasive, more primordial.

Keep moving! Keep approving of yourself. We need to learn to be content, as Lama Yeshe says.

So, yes, leave the man alone. Let him work out what he wants. Act as if he’s already separate from you. It’s good practice for you!

Slowly, slowly.

What do you think?

Love,
Robina

QUESTION

Dear Ven. Robina, 

Thank you again, so much, and it all makes sense intellectually, but to put it into practice and live by it is another story.

It’s really scary how deep and big this “hole” is. I really can say its one of the most difficult times in my life, facing my fears and lack of self-love so much, that these nervous breakdowns are so intense that I don’t recognize myself anymore.

The impatience of the uncertainty makes it all really difficult to deal with.

I know it would be the best thing to leave him alone, but what makes me suffer most is that I’d rather know if it’s over or not, because I feel I can’t move forward and I can’t have hope. 

I just have to survive the days and trust that there will be a time where I am not overwhelmed by working on my attachment as intense as now, a time where I find peace and contentment.

By the way, I can’t make it today for the teaching as work is still occupying my evening. I’ll catch up on the teaching via the YouTube clip so that I am prepared for next week.

And please do not feel obligated to answer; you already gave me enough of your precious time, and so much advice for dealing with my raw attachment. I’ll keep up my courage, self-approval and my daily practice. That’s all I focus on now.

I want to say thank you kindly for the advice. 

Kind regards and a lot of love. 
W

ANSWER

You’re doing so well, dearest W, don’t forget that. You’re confronting your attachment, your pain, your delusions — and that’s practice, baby! Yes, contentment comes. But it’s a long way to be free of attachment totally, so keep moving, one step at a time. And rejoice each step of the way.

You have to keep remembering that this whole experience is good, not bad. Really. Interpreting things correctly is crucial.

Much love,
Robina

QUESTION

Dear Ven. Robina,

I’ve really have been in a spiritual boot camp these last few weeks!

What is so interesting is that once I had begun to really let go of the fear, to begin to feel content, that whatever happens it’s okay, the energy shifted and my boyfriend came to me and made a decision to stay in the relationship!

Of course, I am happy and relieved – but the last few weeks have taught me that true happiness is not when attachment gets what it wants.

It has been one of the toughest times in my life so far. I thought I was going crazy – regardless of how the relationship turned out!

I learned that even if things go well in life, there is so much need to practice Dharma, not only during the emergencies. It all really taught me that.

Whenever I will hit rock bottom again, I will read this email conversation and remind me of your teachings and my illusions – and my courage.

I can’t tell you how much I am thankful for your advice, it was really the last thread I was hanging on to. That sounds dramatic but it was kind of like that sometimes.

What can I do for you? If I can’t do anything for you I can practice and do my dedications for you! 

Looking forward for your teachings tonight.

A huge thank you again for guiding me through that time and much love,
W

ANSWER

Amazing, W. I’m delighted. And impressed!

But you’ve proved to yourself that practice works. That’s the most powerful thing. You can’t argue with that!

And thank you for offering to do something for me. Let’s discuss. But your practice, your courage, make me so happy already! 

Much much love,
Robina

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