What to Do When a Loved One Lets You DownBy Homaira Kabir
We've all been let down by others at some point in our lives. A friend promises to join you for an outing and doesn’t show up. A colleague doesn't speak up for you in front of your boss. A superior takes all the credit for your hard work. It makes us angry, frustrated, and hurt. But more often than not, it simply confirms the story about them that we have running in our minds.
The pain goes much deeper when a loved one lets us down. It can feel as though the rug has been pulled out from under us, as though our mental stories have been completely shattered. This is because we see ourselves through the eyes of our closest relationships, and we make sense of our lives through their actions. When your child, parent, or partner is caught lying to you, or when you find out things about them that you find hard to believe, it pulls you apart at your very core.
I recently sat with a friend who'd just found out that her child had been caught engaging in substances and behaviors that she'd never thought possible. She said she felt razed to her bones—that nothing else mattered. I knew the feeling, for the journey of parenthood never promised anyone a bed of roses.
I also know that as we grapple to make sense of things, it's easy to panic or to want to hide away—two in-built responses of the more primitive parts of our brain. But this is exactly when we need our presence to be the most awake, aware, and attentive.
This can feel overwhelming, which is why a process that puts together the pieces of your sense of self is so helpful in rebuilding your trust in others (and life) once again.
Physiological: Steady Your Breath
The body responds to outside threats even before we've had a chance to make sense of them. I've often seen myself be startled by a faint shuffle in the bushes during my morning walk, even before I've realized that it may have been a snake. The physiological responses that help us deal with the threat—the release of hormones, the rush of blood to the limbs, an accelerated heart rate, and, yes, shallow and quickened breathing, are all largely subconscious and beyond our control. The one exception is the breath. Managing it through long, slow exhalations sends our body the message that all is safe, and allows us to access the higher cognitive parts of our brain.
Emotional: Feel Your Emotions
It’s hard to sit with painful emotions. We're wired to want to run away from pain and approach pleasure—which is why it’s far more instinctive to want to