It doesn’t. Even when we could swear up and down that this is clearly what is happening…..we swear that we KNOW it to be true on a visceral, gut level….it still doesn’t. It’s just a collection of thoughts, feelings and physiological sensations that have become our story based on what we learned about ourselves at some point in our lives. “He/she doesn’t love me because I am _______ (i.e. unloveable, flawed, not good enough, a failure, unworthy, etc etc)”. And that’s the story we roll with. Over and over it cycles through us. Ironically, what we’re experiencing acts as the “proof” that we’ve been unconsciously looking for to show us that we’re not enough….and our worst fears about ourselves are mirrored back at us tenfold. Man, does it ever hurt. So how do we stop ourselves from going down the rabbit hole?
When that first painful wave of emotion takes you over, don’t tune it out or try to distract yourself with something else, hoping it will go away on it’s own, because it won’t. It’s there for a reason, and is trying to tell you something. Instead, stay with it. Pause. Notice what you’re automatically concluding about yourself, in that split second. What are you telling yourself about you? Is it that you’re an innocent, hurting human being who is doing the best you can with what you know….or is it more self-blaming and shaming, something along the lines of not being worthy/good enough/loveable, etc? Be with it. And be with you, because you need you the most in moments like these. Honesty, patience and compassion are essential. Remember your innocence, and that whatever you conclude about yourself when you go down the rabbit-hole in the first place is just the result of old pain…..your split-second assumptions are ironically normal and adaptive based on what you learned about yourself.
The good news is that with practice, you can unlearn this stuff. And the more you hold onto yourself when it happens, the less painful it will eventually become.