On Dancing Out of Control

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“When she is starved, a woman will take any substitutes offered, including those that, like placebos, do absolutely nothing for her, as well as destructive and life-threatening ones that hideously waste her time and talents or expose her life to physical danger. It is a famine of the soul that makes a woman choose things that will cause her to dance madly out of control–then to, too near the executioner’s door.” – Clarissa Pinkola Estes “Women Who Run With The Wolves”


We look at the things that keep us dancing out of control and find, underneath, an aching emptiness looking to be filled. Unfortunately when you are that hungry, you look for it in all the wrong places.

It is said that hungry people make poor shoppers, and so it is.

When we are seeking to distract ourselves from the turmoil inside, the part of us that feels unloved, we seek out chaotic people and situations.

When we feel empty inside we seek out people to fill it but because we seek out people who are FAMILIAR (remember, like family) we are never going to find someone who can fill our aching soul, our bottomless pit that craves attention.

Not only are they incapable of filling it, but we are incapable of being filled from the outside. We need to find the source within ourselves. We need to find it by sitting still, by taking off the dancing shoes and becoming courageous enough to face the pain and sorrow that leads us to dance out of control in the first place.

When we heal our wounded places, when we learn to fill ourselves up, we can start to sit still and make peace with the peace.


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Clarissa Pinkola Estes Page on Amazon

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7 Responses to On Dancing Out of Control

  1. Coppergirl says:

    This post is awesome!!!!! Perfectly described the awful 12 year journey I made post divorce. Ironically, I’ve always gone out of my way to avoid anyone or any dynamic that reminded me of my alcoholic, anti-intellectual family. Drug use/irresponsibility/drama-creating; you’re voted off of Planet Copper fast! Yet in dealing with the loss of marriage/career/a home I loved, I made horrid decisions in many respects, the worst of which was ignoring my gut. If I am turned off by someone at an initial meeting; it’s not due to prejudice, snobbishness, it’s that I am unconsciously reading non verbals, one of the few useful habits picked up in a childhood where one had to read moods, people instantly to avoid coming to harm. Breakups, heartbreak, ill-treatment is indeed a wake up call that ones life needs an upgrade. You may be in the wrong job, living in the wrong place, heading in a wrong direction, not seeing your situation for what it is. Sometimes change cannot be immediate; relocation isn’t always possible right away when your house doesn’t sell, you don’t get the job elsewhere, you have debts to get rid of, but knowing WHY you’re depressed/lonely etc is still empowering, keeping you from constantly hating on yourself for things not completely under your control. Knowing your social circle, perhaps your family, is indeed NOT a good source of support, forces you to look to yourself rather than rely on folk that may be harmful. In the last analysis, fixing the problem requires delving into the abyss of pain, embracing it, getting insight into ones situation, and solving the problem yourself.

    • Susan J. Elliott says:

      Thank you for a great post. Yes, that childhood hypervigilance does come in handy later on in life. The problem is that usually we did nothing with it in childhood except anticipate the bomb that was about to go off…so in adulthood, even though we sense danger Will Robinson, we have NO IDEA what to do about it.

      A breakup IS one of the best times to assess things. I know that had I stayed in my 1st marriage, I doubt I’d be alive today. I had no way of knowing what waited on the other side when I pulled the trigger. I simply fled when the cheating and abuse had escalated to all-out-war level. No job, no plans, no idea of what I doing and 3 little kids to be responsible for.

      I just knew I needed out and it’s probably a good thing that I needed to rebuild from the ground up. I learned that the old way didn’t work and that I needed to find a new way. It was hard and it was work but it was SO worth it.

      During my truly happy years, I had no idea that it was possible to be that happy. I had no idea that level of inner contentment and peace existed. It had to come to me via adversity otherwise I would have never appreciated it.

      Thank you for your comment and keep on solving!!!!

  2. dtm123 says:

    Hi Susan,

    Thanks for the great read! I can relate on many levels. I would like your wisdom and guidance on how Im feeling presently. I am fine with NC, it really wasn’t an issue for me, as far as ever making contact with him. My wound is so deep I felt like he was a dangerous enemy. I did respond to his texts, but have put that to an end. Im okay with that an know I can and will never speak to him again. He is in the past. I know that anyone that can do what he did to me doesn’t deserve any space in my head or life in anyway. My main struggle is while the pain is lessening, I cant stop thinking about the intimacy and physical connection, how attracted I was to him, and how used to being with him all the time. I was able to feel so comfortable, be myself, and felt so incredibly secure in our relationship. Obviously he was just being who he is in his core. I hate him for what he did, but I am learning to just accept it. I feel like I am never going to meet someone that I will feel the same way about and with. It really scares me. I am not editing the “story”, I do realize how bad he was for me in many ways and the relationship was far from perfect, it began in chaos and ended the same. But I never felt about anyone, not even my ex-husband who I was with for 15 years, as I did him. This is where Im stuck.

    • Susan J. Elliott says:

      I’ve heard this a lot over the almost 10 years I’ve had this blog. I’ve also shared about a relationship I had after my 1st husband and a long-term, very good, relationship that I thought was going to be the 2nd death of me.

      I was in a long-term relationship and he was finding out things about his mother and uncovering covert sexual abuse. I didn’t really know exactly what was going on as I was in graduate school to become a therapist and they warned us not to go around “therapizing” our friends and family, though this was a HUGE part of our relationship prior to me going to graduate school (we met in an ACOA recovery group and both were in intense therapy at the time and had worked through so many issues as recovering sane people).

      He pulled away from me and inadvertently made some comments toward me that made me feel awful about myself, physically.

      I had a friend in graduate school and we had an awesome time together. He helped me feel attractive and wanted and we were so close and so intimate and it felt incredible. I’ll find some of the posts I talk about him in and link to them here.

      Anyway, I honestly felt that no one was going to make me feel that way again. It was a devastating breakup for me. Our good times were the epitome of good, but like you, the bad times were the epitome of bad.

      He’s tried to get in touch with me the past few years and I have ignored him completely. Go away. Leave me alone. Not interested.

      But I found someone who was a million times better. Who was there for me and loved me and cherished me which this guy failed to do the last 3-4 months of our relationship. My husband Michael was better than this guy in just about every way.

      They actually lived in the same town and the first time I went back there to see Michael, I had a really hard time. But within 2 weeks, it was Michael’s town to me, not the other guys and I never worried about bumping into him there (in fact I would have welcomed it).

      But the closeness and the niceness were off the charts before I met Michael and I didn’t think I would duplicate it. But after a while, I didn’t care.

      You can’t pine for the “good” stuff without realizing how high the price was. It was this very relationship that led me to “I would rather be alone than be mistreated for 5 minutes.” It took many months of journaling and emotional blood letting to get to that mindset but eventually I did. And it was freedom. When being treated well is THE most important thing and no amount of closeness or physical intimacy is as important as that, things change.

      I would suggest journaling and coming up with affirmations and mantras to change your mindset around this. It works! I’ll find some of the posts I’ve written about this guy and link to them here.

    • Susan J. Elliott says:

      Here’s one http://gettingpastyourbreakup.com/gettingpastyourpast/2016/05/splitting-again/

      This is about relationships. He’s just a small part of it but the message in this post is important.

      http://gettingpastyourbreakup.com/gettingpastyourpast/2015/09/rubber-meet-road/

      • dtm123 says:

        Thank you for sharing your posts. They all speak volumes to me, as there are some similarities in our situations. Especially your statement about the epitomes of the good and the bad. My ex has a lot of emotional damage from his childhood. His father, who just recently passed, before we ended, used to cheat on his mother, who he adored. His father would take him along to meet these women and have him lie to his mother when they got home. That has scarred him beyond words. Additionally his mother, who passed away, about 15 years ago, suffered from severe mental illness the majority of her adult life. She spent years in and out of a psychiatric hospital and had many rounds of shock treatments. So these are the memories of his childhood. He was always scared, and developed anxiety at a young age. His parents divorced as a result of his fathers infidelities and was not a good provider or a reliable, letting him down most of the time. I’m not excusing his behaviors, as he is a cheater by nature, as his father was, but a lot of his actions are driven by emotional fear. In the case of his wife and I, he looked elsewhere the moment he felt he wasn’t being love unconditionally. To him unconditional love is having his needs and need for attention come before anyone else. In many ways he competed with my children for my attention and time. He is his own worst enemy and has hurt the 2 women, his wife and me, who gave him the love, comfort and stability he never had as a child. So I struggle between thinking he is truly repugnant and a bad person and thinking he is damaged and never did the work on that damage to become emotionally healthy. I don’t forgive him for what he did to me and probably never will. He never supported me or my kids emotionally, never had a connection with them, he never helped me around the house, never helped pay a penny towards groceries and he was at my house 90% of the time and I cooked 2 meals a day for him. He would sit on my sofa, be on his phone, eat snacks while I ran around like a chicken with out a head taking care of my children and him. It was very unbalanced. So yes the bad was bad, but the good was good. But at the end of the day, after me taking care of him and catering to his anxiety and putting his needs before my own he literally walked away one day, I never heard from him for weeks, and when he left he had a new girl lined up. He was being unfaithful at the end, that I know for sure. While this break up is by far the hardest thing I have ever experienced I’m starting to feel that he was not the right person for me at all, and that I deserve so much better. I was a partner to him and he was not to me, he was a selfish taker. I know I will recover from this and it will take some more time. I hope that I can truly get to your 5 min philosophy. I have never felt so much pain but it’s getting better and I will not seek or rush to find a new relationship. I need to heal before I can be good to myself or anyone else. Thank you again for sharing!!

  3. WhoAmI says:

    I grew up in a very chaotic family and it took me years to get use to peace and stability I remember my ex husband, who also grew up in chaos tell me that the most important thing we needed to do is not hit the self destruct button and we didn’t. For the first time in my life I found a stability I never thought I would have and I learned to focus my energies on bettering myself instead of surviving. I was truly happy for a good portion of those years. I won’t go into details but eventually we divorced and I met the BH that brought me to this site. My relationship with the BH started out as a whirlwind romance which then turned into a tornado. It was like the horable conditions I grew up in. Even though he is gone from my life I still struggle with this “need” for chaos in my life and I find it difficult sometimes to make peace with peace. I don’t fully understand why but I’m pretty sure it’s because I would rather deal with something external than with what is going on inside of me. When those days come and I feel like hitting the self destruct button, I do my best to just do nothing and wait it out. It truly feels awful at the time but once I get the emotions out (crying, punching pillows what have you) I always seem to have a major breakthrough about myself and I’m always amazed that I feel so much better when it ends. I usually have a major journaling session on my insights and I’m so proud of myself that I remembered to do nothing even when I have no idea why I’m not to do anything and see no end insight.

    Hopefully that makes sense.

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