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The Crash After the Crush

Intense emotional pain drove me to discover its true source

“Look, Daddy, there’s a Taco Bell at the next exit!”

I grimaced when I saw which exit he was pointing out. My first thought was to say, “No, there are other Taco Bells closer to home,” but then I thought, “That’s ridiculous, I’m not going to let unpleasant memories of my ex prevent me from going into this area of town.” I pulled off the interstate.

As I turned onto the familiar road I’d driven hundreds of times during the past two years, an overwhelming sense of gloom descended over my body. Suddenly the joyful afternoon spent with my sons at the movies was gone. The sadness I’d managed to escape for a few short hours was back. The crushing sense of loss settled heavily in my chest; and I was glad I was wearing sunglasses so that my children could not see the tears welling up in my eyes.

I was devastated by the breakup, but I was confused as to why. I was the one who ended the relationship. I had grown tired of the criticism, the manipulation, the lack of respect. I felt like I was doing all the giving, but received little in return. I felt that I could never do enough to please her. More than anything, it was that I still didn’t know where I stood with her after two years of dating. One day she’d say she loved me, then the next she would ignore me. It was after a particularly long period of ignoring me that I had enough and ended the relationship.

After I said goodbye, what I never expected - could not anticipate - was the incredible pain that swept over me. I had never felt anything like it before. It was much worse than what I felt after my divorce. And, to top it off, despite all my reasons for leaving her, I still wanted to be with her. That was when I concluded that something was seriously wrong with me. I needed to know why.

I was driven by my severe emotional pain to seek answers, because I never wanted to feel that bad again. I didn’t know where to begin, so I set off on what I called a journey of self-discovery. It started with writing in my journal which is how I collect my thoughts and work through problems. As I wrote, exploring my feelings, I noticed that I had a pattern. All of my long term relationships had been with women who had similar personality traits to my ex. How could this be, I wondered. The women I had dated had diverse backgrounds, and vastly different physical appearances.

The next thing I did was read. I searched the self-help section of the book store and bought dozens of books. I was reading some great stuff, but I still wasn’t finding what I was looking for. I scoured the web for articles that might give me a clue as to why I was attracted to a specific personality type. I was getting a good picture of the type of person that attracted me, but I still lacked the reason.

After many months, my reading lead me to a therapist. My therapist showed me that I was attracted to women who shared my mother’s personality traits. I said, “That can’t be true, my mother was a wonderful person.” What I did not realize was that I was more attracted to my mother’s negative traits than her positive ones. My mother passed away 20 years earlier, and I was selectively remembering only good things about her which explained why I had difficulty accepting the bad ones.

In time, I was able to recall physical and verbal abuse I experienced as a child which led to my creating protective behavior patterns that I have followed ever since. My therapist taught me how I acquired, during my childhood years, subconscious beliefs about myself that guided my actions, and had for decades. She also taught me how to change those beliefs.

I was highly motivated by psychic pain to find out why I felt the way I did, so that I could prevent its return. Emotional pain can also cause people to get depressed and shut down. Along my journey, I experienced that too. There were days when my creative energy ebbed, and it was difficult to go to work (see my earlier article: How to Move Forward).

Over time, as I studied and came to understood the causes, my pain went away. I learned to recognize women’s traits that triggered my old beliefs so that I could avoid them.

Like physical pain, which I explored in my last article, emotional or psychic pain can shut you down or drive you to find a solution. The difference being that the source of psychic pain may be buried in your subconscious and will require a qualified therapist to help you root it out.

Robert Evans Wilson, Jr. is an author, humorist and innovation consultant. He works with companies that want to be more competitive and with people who want to think like innovators. Robert is also the author of the humorous children’s book: The Annoying Ghost Kid. For more information on Robert, please visit


Dear Mom