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Ask Dr. Norman Brown Your Own Question

Dr. Norman Brown
Dr. Norman Brown, Marriage Therapist
Category: Relationship
Satisfied Customers: 830
Experience:  Family Therapist & teacher 35+ yrs; PhD research in couples
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My boyfriend broke up with me last week and hasnt talked to

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My boyfriend broke up with me last week and hasn't talked to me since. I know he loves me so much still and is forcing himself to do it. The reason is because I have intermittent explosive disorder and I broke his things and got crazy the other day. It only happens once in a great while when we get into huge fights, but when it does happen it's really bad. I've broken many of his things. He's broken up with me many times because of this but we always get back together. I know I need to fix this and I'm going to start treatment. I told him this but he still wants to hold his ground. Before the incident we were doing amazing and so happy and in love. Is it possible that he can really lose love for me and get over me over that one incident? Is he just mad right now? I think that he really wants to break up because it's happened so many times and that was my last chance. What makes me feel like there's a chance is the fact that we were so happy for months leading up to that one incident. Is it really possible to force yourself to leave someone you truly love? I miss him so much and I need him in my life. I don't want to let go. I just need to know if he's going to come back or really move on..
Submitted: 11 months ago.
Category: Relationship
Expert:  Dr. Norman Brown replied 11 months ago.

Dr. Norman Brown :

It IS POSSIBLE to break up and stay away and get over a loveaaaaaa, but only if one sticks to that program for months. If you are each other's first loves, the relating patterns that you've formed will persist for much longer, even a lifetime.

Customer:

So you think he will get over me?

Dr. Norman Brown :

The best thing for you to do BY FAR is to start treatment NOW, without trying to get him to pledge anything in return. Because you've probably said you'd do this in the past and you haven't carried through with your intention. So this time, make an appointment; keep the appointment. Then message him that you've started treatment and what sort of a schedule you will be following with it. Don't beg him to come back. Don't try to move him by acting desperate or suicidal.

Dr. Norman Brown :

Apparently your relationship's been going on for a year or more. So he's probably thinking "This is either going to be VERY long term, or 'the one' or it's not. So I HAVE TO KNOW THAT SHE WILL NOT HAVE ANY MORE explosive outbursts, or I have to quit the relationship and never come back."

Customer:

Yes that's exactly what I'm doing. I made an appointment and really look forward to treatment. I know that I need to change. and I've stopped begging. Two days ago. But my question is do you think that he could eventually get over me by being apart even though he truly loves ms and we were doing good before the incident? Or do you think if he truly loves me he'll miss me and come back like he's done previously? I made it clear that I AM going to change and i AM getting treatment and giving it my all.

Dr. Norman Brown :

I'd like to know how long you've been together, how many of these explosive incidents you've had, how many relationships of comparable length (at least 1.5 years) HE's had before you, and how long the separations have been in previous breakups before he came back to you. Then I can make a more professionally competent estimate. But I'd guess the chances are better than even that he's come back if given enough proof that you're working on it and NOT JUST SO YOU CAN GET HIM TO COME BACK, but so you can do your best to prevent any other outbreaks from happening.

Customer:

Yes, I'm seeking treatment because I hate it! I hate that part of me and I need to learn how to control it. Not for him but for myself. We've been officially together for almost a year and a half. We were dating for about half a year prior. He was with another girl for 3 years before me. They didn't have many problems. He told me that he just lost interest in her and wasn't attracted anymore. We've had over 10 incidents. It's always when he gets really angry and tells me he needs space and I get crazy because I hate when he tries to leave and ruin the whole day because of something stupid. Me refusing to get out of his car/house leads to worse actions. I know that it's a mental problem because I tell myself over and over that I need to control myself and let him have space when it happens again but it never stops! And i fully regret it after. It's like a whole new person comes out. In previous breakups, they would last a week. The last breakup which was the longest, lasted a month and a half. We'd talk and sometimes fight during that time. I finally cut communication and he begged for me back and we got back together. That was about 5 months ago.

Dr. Norman Brown :

I'm not too familiar with what you're calling "intermittent explosive disorder"--but I'm assuming that there's some warning signs you or your partner could be aware of shortly before you get explosive. Now that you've written more, I know your problems are with how you react to his withdrawal in the midst of a fight. And your catastrophic expectation is that he'll never come back, and that drives you crazy. You have two kinds of prequels: You feel hurt/disappointed/humiliated, and you feel on the verge of being abandoned. Like everybody else in a lovers' quarrel you both lose control and start following automatic programs: he withdraws to avoid getting more violent in his anger.

Dr. Norman Brown :

You could learn a lot about better management of fights, but not eliminating them. Hurt-humiliation etc. are all subtypes of SHAME, along with guilt, awkwardness, shyness, etc. I developed a homework assignment that couples in my relationships classes (21 yrs) and in therapy have used so they can become aware of the "shame moments" arising naturally (and inevitably) in their relationships whenever one person's excitement or joy (the 2 positive categories of emotion, out of 9 categories) is interrupted or impeded by the other's response (or non-response). It's how the behavioral dance continues from that "shame moment" that determines whether a minor detour or a major fight occurs. Video Research has shown that a "shame moment" occurs before every escalation in couple conflicts. Doing logbooks on these shame moments separately then leads to therapist-managed couple comparisons and discussions of how to soothe down the escalations. Your explosiveness (called "Attack-other" in the system I've adapted from Donald Nathanson's book "Shame & Pride" and published in my own relationship textbook (Love & Intimate Relationships, 2000) would have to be redirected and unlearned.

Dr. Norman Brown :

I'm going to watch "Planet of the Apes" with my 25 yr old disabled-by-chronic-pain daughter now--part of celebrating her getting a judgment yesterday that she's legally disabled--after we watched the newest Mark Wahlberg/DenzelWashington movie 2guns at the Atlanta antique-drive-in last night. I think I have the homework written up for the teacher's manual I wrote for my textbook--in a Word file no less.

Customer:

I'm very sorry to hear that. Best wishes to you and your daughter.

Dr. Norman Brown :

It's likely that using my exercise (also published in a manual for a movie on shame produced in the late 1990s) could form a good foundation for the more focused work you'll need to do to unhook your furious response from shame-moment-escalations and abandonment-fear moments.

Customer:

Thank you so much

Customer:

In conclusion, do you think he will miss me and give me another chance?

Dr. Norman Brown :

Yes. IF you persist in working on yourself and merely let him know every 10 to 14 days about your progress in treatment. And maybe your therapist is going to want the two of you to stage a normal fight so you can practice interrupting your escalations before they lead to explosion, and also aborting explosions by walking away.

Customer:

Okay, I hope so. Thank you very much for all you help.

Expert:  Dr. Norman Brown replied 10 months ago.

Ma chere Genevieve, If you have any more questions to ask me please do. But you seem to have gotten what you're asking for, so you can click Accept and release your funds so I am paid.

 

I recognize from your questions that you have a high anxiety about abandonment, and this is clearly one of the emotional time-bombs in your being that can push you over the edge into an explosive reaction. Perhaps you had a parent who abandoned you completely, or that threatened to abandon you often, or used ignoring or unresponsive-ness as weapons to keep you from disturbing her or his activities. If that is so, then another goal of your therapy needs to be to build a relationship with someone who you can reliably depend on (in imagination, inside of yourself) to act as your secure home base when you are alone, and when someone else who you love goes away from you.

 

Through NO mistakes of their own, Many people have had the misfortune to have NEITHER parent (& esp not their mother) be sufficiently reliably present and responsive in early childhood to enable them to build this inner image of security for themselves. When they get deeply in love in young and even middle adulthood, These people are likely to unconsciously attempt to create this secure home base through the physical presence and emotional reassurance of their love partner, which is exactly what any healthy human being would naturally do. But when the early childhood model for this secure base is missing, their need for reliability and emotional safety is so strong and so vulnerable (lacking in an emergency backup security system), that any crisis of possibly losing the adult lover (like a dangerous argument) triggers the most catastrophic expectation of loss. Thus these people without a backup security system of an internal secure base may cling to their lover so intensely when they feel threatened with loss, that the lovers feel strangled and may fear their partner's desperate intensity, so they will push her away--which is exactly what she fears the most. [Isn't THIS what you're worried your boyfriend might be doing this time?]

 

If that normal human fragility is part of the biological basis of your emotional patterns, then your long term emotional health would best be served if you ALSO build a relationship with a therapist (or an older relative or friend who loves you enough to do this) so that you can ALWAYS go to see her or him when you need an absolutely secure base trustworthy connection. Both my wife and I have served as "on-call" secure-base therapists for many people (and for me that also includes students who've seen me for only dream interpretation or a little therapy, and some online therapy clients that are connecting thru the internet at first). We are both elders, and there are many others in our profession as well as in religious and spiritual institutions and groups, for whom loving younger people and guiding them when asked is a privilege, not a duty. Though nobody ever taught this in graduate school for psychotherapy, for those of us who experience it as a calling, psychotherapy is an act of God.

 

It may become safe enough in a marriage for a person who has lacked secure attachment to either parent to have her spouse as secure base. But many people with unfairly damaged parenting also have a therapist who they may keep contacting intermittently over many years or decades; and there are also many people who are able to rely on their inner connection to a deceased parent, grandparent, Higher Power, or religious guide. Psychologist Carl Gustav Jung agreed with many native peoples that he had consulted during his long career as a pioneering psychoanalyst when he said that we all have an Archetypal pattern in our brains for a Mother and a Father, with the Mother-Archetype being more primary; and as a result we are all capable of having MANY MOTHERS and MANY FATHERS, not just from among our aunts and uncles and grandparents, but also from the mentors and other admiring and loving guides that we meet during our lives, from the religious and spiritual figures that we believe in and may pray to, and from the expert counselors, therapists and educators we may encounter.

 

What I'm suggesting to you, whether my speculation is accurate or not that you may have been undeservedly deprived of the secure parenting that every person needs, is that you can by your own intention exert the extra energy (and the extra money-energy if necessary) to reach out for extra trustworthy mentorship, therapy and guidance, so that you won't have to go through life being dangerously (to you) reactive to arguments, instability and potential loss of your romantic lover. You will probably be able to sense whether your new therapist experiences her or his work or not as a privilege to love clients and wants to provide you with a secure base to touch in to in the foreseeable future. If your therapist approaches the treatment process as a craft but does not foresee further involvement as one of "many mothers" or "many fathers," then you might consider further therapy afterwards for your abandonment feelings, if they are as powerful as they may be.

Dr. Norman Brown, Marriage Therapist
Category: Relationship
Satisfied Customers: 830
Experience: Family Therapist & teacher 35+ yrs; PhD research in couples
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