Dear Dr. Norquist:
How do I release myself from an addictive love relationship and not feel as though I am floating alone in space after letting go?
Dr. Norquist responds:
It sounds like you have defined yourself through your connection with the man with whom you are in a relationship. In other words, your experiential sense of who you are comes from being connected with another. Therefore, when you break that connection with the other, you feel lost and undefined, no longer having a clear sense of identity … i.e., "floating alone in space".
Our individual lives develop according to where we put our energy and attention. Perhaps most of your energy and attention has been focused on your partner as the source of security and happiness in your life. In habitually focusing your energy outside of yourself, you leave yourself ungrounded and unknown. You end up being a stranger to yourself. Having your sense of happiness and security dependent on someone else leaves you very vulnerable – as you cannot control another’s actions and you certainly cannot control the changing circumstances that life brings our way.
Most importantly, however, this over-focusing on others for your sense of security and self-definition leads you away from the task of discovering and developing who you are as a unique individual in this world. It’s like you’ve been given a beautiful piece of gold, and the tools to create a work of art with this gift – and a finite amount of time in which to accomplish this endeavor. While time is ticking away, however, you are spending your time watching what others are creating, and trying to be a part of their unique creation, forgetting you’ve got your own gold to work with. This is a gift. It is also a responsibility – a responsibility to yourself, and, I believe, a responsibility to God.
I’d suggest you start turning your attention more inward. Spend time with yourself. Listen inside for what interests and excites you. Get to know yourself. This will take time. At first you might feel quite lost and lacking in direction. Be patient. You do not have to cut yourself off from others or from significant relationships to do this, but you do need to make a consistent effort over time to spend time listening to your own inner dreams, to the interests that have prevailed over time, and to the source of sparks of excitement and enthusiasm that you have felt.
In this way you will slowly but surely start building a sense of yourself that is grounded in yourself, rather then another. Eventually, you will no longer need to cling to a relationship with another for your sense of security and happiness and if you choose to let go you will be able to be grounded in yourself rather then "floating alone in space." Then you will be able to choose to be in a relationship not out of need, but because you know it is healthy and right for you. Also, you will be having a good time creating something with the gifts that you’ve been given.
Dear Dr. Norquist:
I am a guy that has a really good friend that is a girl. She has recently started dating a guy who isn’t exactly perfect. In fact, I know he drinks and I’ve heard he may also be into drugs. And since she started dating him I’ve noticed some changes coming over her such as: her grades are slipping, her attitude towards her old friends, and I think he may have even gotten her to start drinking a little. I’ve been contemplating whether or not to confront her and tell her that he’s not the right guy for her, but I do know she really likes him. I’d hate to see her get hurt, but I’m not exactly sure what to say or do?
Dr. Norquist responds:
It certainly is hard to see someone we care about engaging in activities or relationships that are harmful to them. However, she is not likely to be open to hearing any negative statements regarding her boyfriend – so your message of caring would go unheard if stated in this way. Parents often have the same emotional struggles that you are experiencing here. What would be most useful here would be if she could experience your caring and concern, perhaps through kindly noting objective changes you’ve noticed (without any mention of her boyfriend), and asking if everything is OK. Often we need to learn by going through the fire ourselves, and this may be the case with your friend. Do what you can to be there for her, in a constant, caring and accepting manner as she moves forward with her own process of learning from her life experiences.
(Dr. Sallie Norquist is a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice and is director of Chaitanya Counseling and Stress Management Center, a center for upliftment and enlivenment, in Hoboken.)
Dr. Norquist and the staff of Chaitanya invite you to write them at Chaitanya Counseling and Stress Management Center, 51 Newark St., Suite 205, Hoboken, NJ 07030 or www.chaitanya.com or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by fax at (201) 656-4700. Questions can address various topics, including relationships, life’s stresses, difficulties, mysteries and dilemmas, as well as questions related to managing stress or alternative ways of understanding and treating physical symptoms and health-related concerns. Practitioners of the following techniques are available to answer your questions: psychology, acupuncture, therapeutic and neuromuscular massage, yoga, meditation, spiritual & transpersonal psychology, reflexology, Reiki, Cranial Sacral Therapy, and Alexander Technique Ó 2000 Chaitanya Counseling and Stress Management Center