"...why don't you love me?
Oh—you do? I'll see you later ...."
(Stephen Sondheim / "Follies")
Let's talk about what I call "emotional ambushes".
A dear colleague of mine grew up in a house of opposites and mixed messages. There would be long stretches of time where whatever he did was found lacking, followed by the subsequent reprimand, humiliation or cold shoulder. He was often left with a sense of being “less than” and a disappointment to his parents.
Then, coming on the heels of this behavior, there would be the moments when he literally rounded the corner and in an instant, be swept up in either his father's or mother’s embrace and tidal wave of emotion: "I love you so much; I'm so very proud of you; I can't imagine life without you ...."
This pendulum swing became the family’s pattern. It wasn’t until he left for college and began his studies to become (no surprise here ) a therapist, that he was able to experience something other than these two extremes.
Does any of this sound familiar in your day to day life?
Beware of the "gush of caring"—from anyone—especially if it's coming on the heels of distancing behavior. It's a great example of "lip service"—one of the best road signs to heed in any relationship.
Let's bring it into nature. A lovely rain shower will help your garden grow. On the other hand, drought, or a torrential storm will only damage what's trying to emerge. It's no different with us, is it? Life doesn't flow in extremes.
Ultimately, it matters little what the reasons are for the behavior. The backstory gives us context and a frame of reference. It’s the actions right now that we can work with, to create a moment of healing.
Stop / Breathe.
Witness the pattern.
Become adept at recognizing it.
Respond, rather than react, accordingly.
Put another way, when you find yourself in a sudden downpour, make sure your umbrella is at hand……