I read a short story last week that was about emptiness and love. That funny thing that happens sometimes, happened, and three different people wrote to me within about 24 hours about… emptiness and love. They were feeling — and I think a lot of us are feeling it — a harsh, empty, loveless feeling that keeps swooping into their consciousness during this quarantined period, sounding the alarm that something HUGE is missing from our lives. One woman even said “I know you’ll think I’m crazy for holding on to this big HOPE love is going to save me.”
There are plenty of people who would say yeah, that’s crazy, and they’d have some platitude about loving yourself or something, but not me.
One of the harshest effects of early trauma is the injury to our ability to connect with other people — a chronic feeling that love can’t get IN — or a scared reaction when love does show up, or a set of defenses that block love from ever showing up at all.
As hard as it is to be staying at home right now — with all the fears about money and safety and the future that this triggers — we have an incredible opportunity at the moment to go ahead and (I can’t believe I’m even saying this let ourselves experience that empty feeling.
Normally there’s a lot to distract us from it. Whatever it was for you, shopping, vacation plans, work goals, dating apps, weed, meds, money — whatever made you feel like happiness was just around the corner — with all those distractions diminished right now, what we’re left with, is all the crap that was under the rug. That’s what all these letters I’m getting are about, that emptiness we’re feeling:, the instinctive knowledge that we are incomplete in a tragic way because we haven’t fully experienced love.
By the way, nothing could be more important, just in case you’re still beating yourself up and calling yourself crazy. I know I’m always saying how critical it is to face reality and to not get stuck in blame and fantasy that completely gives away the control of your own happiness, because that’s fatal to your progress. But real love is not a fantasy. The fact that you long for it is natural and right and needs to be listened to, and that’s why I’m saying that the emptiness you feel during lockdown is trying to tell you something.
It’s really a gift — a gift we’ll need courage to accept, which means facing that emptiness for now, and letting the tears come if you have to, and letting the awareness come too that you’ve been suppressing about the nature of your loneliness, not so much where it comes from, we know that, but why is it happening now, and what would it take to free yourself to change and heal, so that you could, in increasing ways, open yourself to love.
With Childhood PTSD, it’s so common to feel, especially after an experience of loss, like we’re on the outside of love. Like other people are in this world of goodness but we’re stuck outside the gates, like orphans.
But, remember, you can’t be exiled from your own experience.
Alone is always we start, but our healing from all the false ideas that trauma taught us can bring us forward, into being in love, meaning feeling it, sharing it, knowing it, having the highest experience of it that people can have, at least a little bit in your life. It’s that full experience of love that everyone is longing for. It’s not really a thing you “do” or you “get”, it’s a state of consciousness that you enter. I think this is why it feels like a walled city when you’re on the outside of it. trauma or no trauma, it can be hard to come in from that place. But it’s the place where were aiming and it’s worth fighting for.
I think before too long this lockdown will end and I don’t know about you but I want to face everything the isolation has been teaching me, because have so much I want to learn and become. Normally I’m making videos and programs about practical changes to make life full — and I’ve got a bunch of new videos and a new program lined up and coming out soon but
Today, while this worldwide isolation is still weighing heavy on us, I wanted to make this one special video about, not the fullness of life, but the emptiness, especially now when so many people are feeling like it’s too much to bear and they want to escape or control it somehow.
But, what if you just let it happen? With all the dignity within yourself, and the safety of knowing that the isolation will pass and the distractions will return very soon, what if you just faced it? What if you faced this space in you where childhood trauma stole your natural ability, your instinctive knowledge of how to love, and though you’ve created a lot of good in your life it drove you toward the sorrows and regrets that are now haunting you?
I have great news: There’s still time. This is what I wanted to say to the people who wrote me. I want to shine a light on a few myths that need to be set straight, so that even as we take practical, commons sense steps to heal our lives, we aim not at being just commendable or appropriate, but at being fulfilled, and at reaching the place we’re longing for, that we were born to find.
First: real love is not a transaction, and can’t be negotiated or demanded of anyone.
What you didn’t receive as a child is gone and can’t be replaced by humans. But real love is still here and what shows up in your life is a gift to you from something far more powerful than yourself. The reason this longing for love won’t go away is because we’re made for it, and the reason it is so liberating when it happens is because for once we don’t have to force something to happen. It just… arrives one day, as naturally as hunger or sleep, but it’s not cyclical like that. It’s a transition, a maturation, something like puberty; It takes over and you change whether you want to or not, but in this case it’s not coming merely from the body.
We don’t seem to be able to choose whether it begins. We can choose a lot of things, including many forms of love like duty and service and being part of a family, and taking care of others, and those can go a long way toward healing that emptiness, but that larger love that’s signaling itself through the emptiness you feel, is not something you can make happen. It’s more like, it makes things happen through you, good things even though it can make things pretty messy, that ultimately benefit you and the other person and perhaps everyone.
Now, you can still screw it up. You can distort it and try to turn it back into some kind of negotiation, or get obsessed on it, or destroy it even, because everything good in life can be abused. And if you have Childhood PTSD you’ve already absorbed way more than your share of that. But you can’t take real love out of existence, so long as it’s flowing through you.
It may be inconvenient or terrifying but when it’s happening, even if with all the emotional overreactions of CPTSD, all you can do is your best. Just try to be honorable, don’t be a jerk, don’t act like an entitled little kid, or like an emotional blackmailer. We just have to do our best, even when we don’t know where it’s going, even if it usually turns that you don’t get what you would have wanted, there’s a way to go through it that deepens you and makes you stronger. You’ve been conscripted into the greatest project of all time, to bring more love in the world, and there is no greater good.
Second: I say this to a lot of women and men I’ve coached: You get to want love to turn out the way you want it to turn out! Just because everything in your life so far was a disappointment, doesn’t mean you can protect your heart by setting your sights low. If you’re going to struggle with love, struggle for what you really want. You want the real thing! The REAL thing.
When I ask people what they really want, and they say “a life-partner,” or they say, “a long-term relationship” or they talk about getting needs met – no. Trust me. Don’t set your aim at what you think you’ll likely have to settle for. Set your aim for what you want.
What you want is the one. You’ll have plenty of chances later to lose the one, or to never find them, or to settle for number two, or three or four. There are no guarantees here but I’m telling you, get it clear, what you really want and wear it with pride. Don’t act cool about it. Don’t crapfit; (you know that word, if not, I have a whole video about it).
You got so good at fitting yourself to crap when you’re a kid that you can’t stop — you take a crappy person or situation and in your mind, make it OK, “I can make this work.” Don’t make it work. Don’t try to hedge your bets and pretend you’re OK with “whatever” or you’re gonna get. You’ve been getting whatever all your life. Is there empty space inside you? Yes? It’s made of whatever. The only version of you that anyone’s going to fall in real love with is the REAL you. If your Childhood PTSD is mucking that up with a lot defenses and fear and anger and “grabbiness,” then healing is very likely going to be big asset for you, and in that case, you’re on exactly the right channel.
Finally, third: Heads up, I gotta talk about God here and if you’re not into that I invite you to adapt what I’m saying into your own terms: Don’t let anybody tell you that the idea of perfect love is crazy. It’s the most real thing there is, it’s how we are shown spiritual reality, an experience of seeing through God’s eyes if only for a little bit, so that we can, just once at least, feel the oneness with all things. That is the place where our souls live right now, all the time, even though we almost never feel it.
Trauma can tear us out of knowing this, but it can’t actually take that away. You are part of it, and through your love of another person, if you can keep healing and open to it, you can experience it; your oneness.
Maybe you’ve experienced this before. It’s not a trick played by chemistry. It’s your awakening. It’s an intense spiritual experience for anyone, and if you have that trauma in your past, your attachment issues can kick in and you’ll want to grab hold of the fear and unfortunately this can take you out of it.
It doesn’t always work out like you’d hoped, but it expands you and raises you up into who you really are. I get letters from people — “but you don’t realize… I’m almost 40,,, I’m 51… I’m 67… I’m 75…”
Here’s what I learned from my friend Gladys, who found her great love at age 80, just a few years before she died: there’s still time, and for all you know, the greatest love you could possibly know may still lie ahead of you, especially if you keep healing from what happened in the past.
That longing you feel when you’re lonely, especially now, has a message for you. That it’s real, and it’s pointing the way toward home.
I offer several online courses — here are the most popular:
Healing Childhood PTSD (best place to start)
Become a Member and get access all my courses, plus access to regular group coaching calls, live on Zoom with me.
If you think early trauma has affected your relationships, take my quiz.
If you like videos you’ll LOVE my YouTube channel!