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    Hi Anita,

    Upon first reading your message, I was like, WHAT?! None of it sounded right. I got caught at the part about me wishing that my ex is unhappy. I honestly don’t wish for him to be unhappy. I also don’t believe that I am a bad person. Maybe it’s just a matter of semantics… just suffering from feelings of insufficiency.

    But I kind of marinated in the rest of the message, wondering if it’s possible to be angry and not know it. If anger can be manifested in anxiety and fear.

    I feel that I can have intense feelings of inadequacy. I don’t even see them as such, only that things don’t work out and the reason must be that I’m not good enough or I’m doing something wrong and that needs to be fixed. It manifests as not having expectations that things will work out. It manifests as insecurity with  people of authority. It manifests as not speaking my truth when I think I’ll be rejected. It manifests as putting on a happy face of getting along with everyone. Truly being diplomatic and often times fake. But to me, I don’t feel fake being happy or loving others. I feel like my true nature is kindness and compassion and acceptance.

    The only thing that kept me from disregarding your thinking that anger is fueling all of my behavior was my thoughts of how angry I was in high school. I was positively miserable in my environment. But I felt like once I left my hometown I was free to be myself. I did have a lot of jealousy and anger in my relationships from college until my last serious long-term relationship. After my last relationship I did a lot of work… meditating and working on acknowledging my anger and tendency to be bossy and make others serve my emotional needs. I don’t know if in doing this for the last 6 years of being single, until this relationships I’ve managed to turn all that anger inwards and really lose who I am. I’m not saying I never showed anger with this past relationship, but I never showed my jealousy and I never demanded anything from him. I don’t see this as a negative, because he said that he appreciated my love and unconditional acceptance, which he said he never really felt before. I guess I just didn’t see the point of having my emotions affect someone else negatively.

    I had an intuitive reading done last month and was told that I can be a “bitch” and I won’t be loved any less. That I’m used to just being a pretty face who caters to others needs.

    I do agree that my childhood had a lot of fear and anger. And that the perception of anger went somewhere in the last 6 years of trying to “fix” myself. Could it have just turned into the non-acceptance of who I am? And at times that manifests as strong feelings and depression/anxiety?

    Thinking about this using the words bad and thinking about being angry at everyone doesn’t sit well with me. But I know there’s something that’s resonating because if I view my current situation as having anger, the issue doesn’t seem so overbearing and nebulous. It feels manageable. I will meditate on this for a few days and let you know how things are percolating.

    Thank you, Anita!

    oh, FYI I also started studying this:

    Things that I have learned in the past, but maybe never thought were important.


    Dear Anita,

    It’s funny but my memories of the dolls and what not were at a time that I can remember being scared or lacking anything. The only weird thing that stands out is a doll that I had that I used to kind of be mean to. I can still remember what the doll looked and smelled like. Maybe it was her appearance? Maybe it was an influence from my brother or friend? I remember myself as a very happy-go-lucky child aside from this. I think I was 4-6 years old. I don’t remember being lonely. I thought it was fun to take care of things.

    It was several years later that I was left at home with my older brother overnight. We had moved to a different house. I think I was 7 or 8?  This was the time of my life that I remember a lot of fear. Fear of my dad dying in a plane crash, fear of being alone at night and wanting my mom to be there. By that time I didn’t have the dolls, though a year or two later I would get a lot of cabbage patch dolls and kind of resumed the roll of doll mother for a year or so. At this time, it was more the fun of collecting dolls from different countries or doing the “adoption” of a cabbage patch. I liked all toys and played outside a lot. Its just that I remember being much more into dolls than my friends. Maybe because my mom was an OB nurse and would give me real stuff to play with.

    When I was in high school, every time I went out she would seriously say, “Don’t get pregnant?”. I had to hear from her about the teens who had given birth, always with a tone of disappointment. At that point I decided I never wanted to have kids.

    I don’t know if I can remember accurately or not, but yes, I do feel like that fear and dread of not wanting my mom to go to work at night and the sadness after she left and I was sleeping in my parents bed in the dark is probably similar to that feeling of not wanting him to go away.

    I just wanted to add that I did a meditation after writing that message.. I wished for him to be happy, for his wife to be happy and his family to be happy and the pain went away.  During that meditation, I came back to this space of feeling more alive and purposeful and less sad as I focused on sending love out or wishing for him to be happy. Though I can’t wish that for myself. Maybe it just feels differently if you’re calling it in for your self. Weird, but contacted me in the midst of me wishing that he’s well and happy (I seem to always hear from him when I’m in that state).

    I realized that my whole purpose in life as far as career goes has been to alleviate suffering by helping the marginalized, less fortunate. I remember when I first started in non-profit work as an AmeriCorps VISTA about 20 years ago, one of my roommates said that we kind of have a co-dependent relationship with our work. We all took on so much for so little, hoping to give back and help others.

    I’ve often come back to that thought and wondered about why doing things to help others seems to be the only meaning I feel in life. If it’s an escape from taking care of myself or if it’s just programmed from always feeling responsible for others and not feeling like I mattered. It’s been a few hours now and I haven’t had that deep sinking feeling of sadness or the thought of him and his family.

    Anyway, when in relationships, I feel that needy and conditional love. From that space comes that incessant need and want and black hole in my heart of misery and sadness. The love and wishes I had for him today I feel is unconditional and I’m able to see him as an individual, less someone that I need. I still very much wish I could be with him, but it doesn’t overpower my wish for him to be happy. I wish to have these feelings of unconditional love all the time, but I know that I eventually get back into the wanting and needing. It’s really interesting to know that this is how most people feel in relationships, and I wish I could have that. Is the key to practice metta? Is this another way of me just making myself feel good?

    Again, a lot of rambling. I hope you can understand what I’m writing!

    Thank you, Anita!




    Hi Anita,

    I met him and hung out with him for a couple of weeks before finding out from someone else that he had a wife and kids. This sickened me and I immediately told him we couldn’t hang out. He said he was no longer with his wife, but that he has children that he misses. He left for a few months and when he came back, our relationship got more serious, but we never spoke about what we expected. I left a few months later, with intentions to just let the relationship go. He wanted to see me in the future, I wanted to visit him in his country, but nothing was planned.

    I got up the courage to write him and ask about his family, to tell him goodbye and thank you, and that I won’t be sad about saying goodbye because I knew he was a good father and partner and that his family was lucky to have him (I still didn’t know about his ex/wife). He replied that he had a wife, was never officially married for 11 years. They broke up when he left the ship the first time because he didn’t want to deceive either of us. He said they had been staying together for the kids and their relationship the past 3 years was bad. He told me over the following months that he never regretted that decision. I just assumed I was somehow a fling filling in for the pain he felt with his relationship. That he might be having a mid-life crisis. I never asked anything else other than if she wants him to go back home. He said he didn’t feel free in their relationship (I’m assuming she was demanding) and that he loved me more than he ever loved her. I know that his children are his life and that he wasn’t dealing with his wife’s rejection well. I could see that he was very sad at times. I told him that I knew this. I ever asked him if maybe they could go to counseling and work things out.

    I did all this despite my desire to have these things with him. I apologized later for my suggestions that he make it work for his children. That family is the most important thing. He said he understood my wanting for things to be better with his family, but sometimes better isn’t better. Despite all these reassurances, day and night I wondered if he wanted to go back. And it made me so anxious and crazy (never once telling him how I felt) that I finally just broke up with him because I couldn’t handle myself anymore. I regret it so much. Mostly because I wish I could’ve explained these things instead of running away.

    I’m pondering my childhood pain. I don’t know if my fantasy of having a family with him – someone who I see as a father figure who loved and accepted me is the cause of these thoughts. I used to wish that he would be happy and have his family, because that’s what I know is best for all in the long run. But now I can’t feel that way, even though I try. I guess I don’t know how to deal with these wants that feel so deep and primal. How to just push away a desire for belonging and to have a family or children. The more I think about it, the more I realize that these were always dreams of mine, but I never recognized them. Never before wanted them. And now that I’ve found them I think I also feel anxiety because I fear its too late.

    There’s just a lot of sadness, anguish, anxiety around the entire situation. I guess I’m feeling like it’s difficult to deal with these feelings more than other difficult thoughts because this is something that has more meaning. Like I’ve finally found something that feels meaningful in my life.

    Some context: when I was little, my entire bedroom was a nursery. I had so many dolls and everything that you would need to take care of real babies. I had always wanted to adopt a lot of children. I was always nurturing. My mother who was an OB nurse scared me out of ever having children when I was a teenager, so I just assumed I wasn’t ever going to have kids. But at this point in my life, I’m seeing myself as I was as a child. I loved taking care of things, loved my dolls, animals. Something I always saw as frivolous and unncessary in this crazy, overpopulated world.

    I apologize for the rambling. I just had a major emotional breakdown. The desire and wanting that cut into my gut and chest are still here. Now I just feel fear for never having this, desire to still be with the guy, and overwhelm all over again. Now the only way for me to stop feeling this ache is to imagine that maybe his wife felt the same about having him back… and I feel better that one less person is suffering. ??

    I have been dong mindfulness meditation twice a day and so many things that are good for me. Nothing seems to touch the grief and pain of not having a life with him…


    Hehe,  Thanks Anita!


    Dear Anita,

    I’m glad to hear that you are safe and well!

    Thank you so much for offering your continuing support and communication. Knowing that I have a wise and supportive ear really does make a difference in navigating my healing.

    I’ve been continuing to process things. Thinking about why I am so attached (seeing partner as parent) continues to help me understand why the emotional attachment is so strong. But you’re right – just because I understand it won’t resolve the problem in the future. I guess for now, since I’m not in a relationship, it’s helping me to heal from my last one. As far as emotional healing goes, like you mentioned, I’ve also realized that my years and years of healing is not linear. It does seem to resurface as different lessons throughout time.  Then I think, ” oh no, not again!”. I think I become frustrated that I’m facing the same challenges over and over. But this time I think that having a perspective on all the components of my life that lead to my suffering in relationships and the need to constantly work on them, rather than resolving them miraculously and becoming a perfect person in the future, like you said, is giving me more perspective and hope.

    Thank you so much for the advice for future relationships! I want to think about what that requires and looks like. As of this moment, I’ve fallen back into some heavy grief. Probably because of the loneliness and lack of distractions due to quarantine.

    I can’t stop thinking about my ex being quarantined with his family. Resuming his life, having gone back to his wife and kids. We had been communicating since the breakup in Feb. here and there, just to check in with each other. I know I’m feeling strongly about rejection/abandonment because I haven’t heard from him in a while (I assume he’s gone back to his family).

    I’m working through all of this. But constant painful images and thoughts of him being happy with his family are overwhelming. I’m meditating and just trying to be with the thoughts, letting them come and go, writing in my journal, getting out, exercising, trying to take care of myself,  but I’m starting to feel like they’re starting to get ingrained in my brain and will not go away. I even try to just recognize that I can be happy for him and his family. That’s what I wanted for him. I can’t figure out why my brain wants me to think of these things. I feel like it’s glitchy and not serving to protect me at all. Sometimes I feel like I’m in purgatory or being made to suffer for something I’ve done. Which is completely irrational given all the real suffering in the world. I keep trying to be courageous and know that they’re just thoughts, that nothing lasts forever,… I don’t feel like this is the usual grief and pain that I feel after a breakup. I want to understand why my brain continues to play this harmful thought on a loop. Is there some purpose for this? Is it a way of holding on to something? Or is this something that I really wanted for myself with him, so him having it with someone else is leading to heartbreak?

    I realize this topic has kind of taken a turn from where it started. The evolution of healing, I guess…

    Thank you again, Anita for your thoughtfulness!



    Dear Peter,

    I really appreciate having you share your wisdom and perspectives. Thank you so much! I try and see things from a western CBT perspective, a neuroscience perspective and a more zen buddhist perspective. But I must admit that I haven’t focused on that latter much recently, as I thought that I might have been confusing myself or bastardizing the teachings.

    When I read what you wrote, all of this is something I understood. I guess I moved away into a desperate wanting hope in an almost rebellion to what I thought was my living without desire for so long. I kept the philosophy of living without desire without keeping the practice of meditation or honest self-reflection, which led me to this space of serious confusion. I thought that the reason I didn’t have what I wanted in life because I never allowed myself to dream or have goals, because that is just grasping and desire for something other than what it. This new year’s I decided to have some goals and work hard for them for once. Ironically, they’ve all been squashed permanently because of the pandemic. (And once again I tell myself that this is why I shouldn’t have goals and then give up hope).

    I will reflect on what you expressed that true hope is because this does resonate in an obvious way!

    Thank you again, Peter!


    This is funny to read! That I might not know joy when I feel it!

    I’ve spent the past week continuing to notice my energy and when it starts getting riled up and trying to bring it back down. It really is a life-changing exercise. I still haven’t sat down to meditate as you recommended! But I do go on hours long walks and try to just breathe and watch my thoughts and stay in the present.

    Thank you again!


    Hi Peter,

    Thank you for responding with your wisdom!

    “Sometimes not looking is the best way to find things.” This is important for me to remember. I realize when I get into fixing mode after a breakup, like you mentioned, I do often feel more anxiety around whether I’m better off single.

    All of your points helped to put things into perspective for me. I appreciate reading your words about it being okay to remain independent. When I have these thoughts, my mind instantly goes to me being a crazy old cat lady. But I do truly want a family, I just don’t feel like it’s meant to happen for me, especially with the issues that come up when in relationships.

    But, yes, going back to your wise words about and accepting that love brings both joy and pain… I will remember this!

    Thank you again for your help and wisdom!


    Dear Anita,

    I cried when I read your reply. Your analysis and words hit me right in my heart. It’s funny that with my years of working to resolve my suffering I had never had it laid out that lucidly. The way that you have been able to take my words and translate them is astoundingly accurate. Thank you so much for taking the time to respond. It really changed my perspective and my life!

    “you want the man to need you, to love you completely, which is what you needed as a child from a parent, but didn’t get.”  This makes so much sense. Something I believed that I knew, but reading this comparison helps me to see the direct cause.

    “this is what a young child does when she/he doesn’t get her parent’s attention or when her parent is often not there… she detaches and acts aloof, as if she doesn’t care. It happens after all the child’s cries were unheard again and again. The child no longer cries, no longer asks, having given up.” – Another thing that I’ve kind of been aware of since I was younger, but never really correlated with my behavior in relationships.

    “Integrate the two selves,  and you will be healthily, authentically and truly.”  I realize my need to find my voice and courage to show who I am so that it doesn’t escape only as jealousy and passive-aggressiveness. I have tried EDMR for this.

    “no one likes to feel dependent when there is no  one to depend on.”  – Another eye-opening realization .

    in relationships you see (once you feel attached) the man as a parent.” This was like a slap of reality to my brain. The enmeshment and not seeing the other as an individual. When I read this a few days ago, so much of my confusion and fear melted away. This seemingly simple idea has provided me with a profound understanding. Especially with my last relationship. You ask me to imagine myself meeting someone who needed me and how it would look…

    I never knew what it would look like, or could even comprehend it until my last relationship. I was instantly attracted to someone I didn’t even know under the most peculiar conditions (working on a cruise ship – he was from another country). He was the first person I ever pursued in my life. A crazy magnetism. I liked him at first because of his sense of humor. I fell in love with him because not only did he want to spend all his time with me, but he could tell me that he wanted to. He didn’t play games and was confident. He also took such good care of me. I found out later he had two children, which made me realize that his fatherly side was what really tugged at my heart. I ended it a couple of months ago because I was tormenting myself daily (we both had left the ship, and were separated by 6,000 miles) because I didn’t trust that he wasn’t going to abandon me and go back to his ex-wife.

    Just thinking about him really digs into my heart. He’s certainly been assigned the role of a parent. And I see that I ignored all the things that might have been red flags (like the child with an abusive parent), to get the stuff that made me feel wanted and loved.

    I put all my time and effort into desperately trying to make it work, which actually sent me into a sort of depression. But now I’m beginning to see that I can’t possibly change all these things on my own and the burden is much too great to put on another. I’m finally beginning to realize that the only way to work through these things in the future is to be honest with myself and with whoever I may find myself with about my insecurities, as impossible as that may seem. Is it enough to just be honest about that? Is it possible to stop seeing the other as my parent and not an individual?

    Thank you again, Anita. I hope you are safe and well at this time.





    Hi Anita,

    You’re awesome! I’ve seen that you’ve helped so many people. How do you do it?!

    I understand that feeling abandoned as a child, both physically and emotionally probably lends to my need for a guy that I like to need me. Anything less doesn’t feel like enough. I never feel secure in a relationship after I’ve fallen in love.

    It’s hard to understand where my need comes from, but not be able to change my actions. I think my fight or flight gets kicked in and I have no control over it. But I hide it very well… aside from occasional jealousy and passive aggressiveness….



    Today I noticed how excited and wound up I get when I communicate with people via text. And I noticed my energy usage doing that. That lead me to realized that I kind of thrive on this anxious weird adrenaline-like energy. It makes me excited and friendly, but also kind of crazy. Was wondering if I’m maybe kind of addicted to this state.

    Today I feel really really good. I feel less needy and worried. And I’ve been mindful of balancing my energy all day. Last night I spent time watching my thoughts, sort of like a self-guided mindfulness meditation. It had been a while since I had just laid in bed, doing nothing. No reading, no fixing.

    I came to a realization about my relationships today, which I wanted to post a question about in the forums for feedback.

    Thank you again! 🙂


    I will do this! Focus on how I use my energy… it’s something I never thought of. Thank you again!


    This is a brilliant analogy, Anita! Thank you for sharing!

    I guess I am anxious when I’m in fixing mode. I never really thought of myself as anxious. But there’s definitely a fear of failing and feeling uncomfortable feelings. Like my biggest fear is of feeling things that could lead to me feeling down.

    I do feel exhausted. This makes so much sense.

    Blessings to you!

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