So again, let me remind you that this blog series is in no way intended as a negative judgment of unpartnered women. Much of what I am offering can just as easily apply to men or women, partnered or unpartnered. The central aim here is to offer some uncommon possibilities that might provide food for thought leading to some kind of healing integration and the lessening of suffering.
Over the last year or so, I have had contact with an increasing number of single women who have disclosed a preference to me that they wish they weren’t. They are all lovely, intelligent, spirited women, thus I found their struggle somewhat surprising. In contemplating their situation, I’ve come up with six possibilities you won’t find in The Inquirer or People magazine that I thought might be worthwhile offering for consideration. Rather than simply offer six capsule summaries, each week I’m offering a different possibility in depth…
Possibility 5: Humorlessly Searching for the Wrong Thing in the Wrong Place
The poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge observed that “No mind is thoroughly well organized that is deficient in a sense of humor.” Coleridge was expressing a traumatological truism: When retained or embodied trauma becomes triggered in me, my sense of humor is nowhere to be found, making people, places or things just not that funny. It’s a poopy, stressful way to walk through the world. And the evidence is overwhelming: many women in almost every culture on the planet have been exposed to sexual, physical or emotional abuse at some point early in their lives. If those early experiences remain skillfully unaddressed – the operative word being skillfully– they will tend to shape and direct a woman’s life in different ways than they might otherwise; that abuse impacts a whole variety of subsequent preferences, from the people we feel most and least drawn to, to our capacity to readily regulate hot emotions, to the choice of life’s work we pursue.
When our early experiences, especially emotional abuse, diminish our capacity for easy emotional self-regulation, our brain then determines to a great extent what we impulsively and unconsciously turn toward and away from – it can make us even further susceptible to stress. There’s a reason very few of us can grow up to be Rock Stars or Presidents, Movie Stars or CEOs: our hearts, brains, minds, and bodies simply haven’t been sufficiently organized to easily manage the stress. But we can all do the work to recover our authentic smile.
Having our authentic smile and our sense of humor compromised by abuse of any kind, frequently compromises our brain’s capacity to process sufficient energy and information necessary to live a life of joy, with a committed partner if that’s what we greatly desire. A genuinely joyous person, someone whom it feels good simply to be in the presence of, stands a much great chance of attracting a resonant partner than someone whom it doesn’t feel good to be in the presence of. And those are often people like me, carrying anywhere from 1-9 Adverse Childhood Experiences on the ACE Scale.
Joyfully Searching for the Right Thing in the Right Place
Motivational psychologist, Frederick Herzberg once asserted that the most powerful motivator in our lives isn’t money or finding the perfect mate; it’s the opportunity to learn, grow in responsibilities, contribute to others, and be recognized for achievements. In other words to grow and integrate connections in heart, brain, mind and body such that unending, lifelong growth and development is the recurring result. In even simpler words, learning and … unlearning. We unlearn and discharge the painful memories contracted in our early lives, and replace them with new learning borne of new, healthy people, places and things.
One way to increase such capacity and resist the impulse to go “Bowling Alone,” which brain research suggests compromises our capacity for learning, is to give away your TV set and increase civic participation. As Nathan Heller points out in his New Yorker review of the several books recently published on people “squandering their golden years” – more than half of U.S. residents are single (in 1950 four million people lived alone; in 2012: 31 million do). So, instead of joining organizations like Single Mothers by Choice out of resignation, join the PTA or Habitat for Humanity by intention instead.
Sticking out from the right side of my computer screen is a small, rectangular piece of paper. Printed on it in colored fonts are the easily visible letters: WWLD? What Would Love Do? That note serves as a frequent reminder; I need it because the fear centers in my brain so often get triggered and override this higher-order, heart-brain impulse. It’s also a way for me to rightfully and joyfully manage Herzberg’s assertions. With love serving as my neurological CEO, my fear circuitry is repeatedly invited to take a back seat. When it does and there’s plenty of room for love, there’s concurrently plenty of room for creativity, ease, relaxation, mindfulness and joy. And I’m reminded that my first work isn’t to find someone to love me; my first work is to find increasing opportunities to be fiercely and fearlessly loving. And it’s paramount to include myself in that circle.
Feel free to express a small bit of that love to someone you know on the upcoming holidays by clicking HERE.