Avoid Creating a “Haunted” Past

January 21st, 2011

A dear client of mind ran into an old flame at her 20th class reunion last summer. That chance encounter reignited old sparks. It would have been fine if ……. they both hadn’t been married! When you play with fire, you know what you get; burned, or at least some pretty rough smoke inhalation. No happily ever after followed; only gut wrenching drama and two devastated marriages.Now, I know that when we start out young and in love we’re convinced that this will never happen to us! We believe that because we are SO in love, or because we made sacred vows, or were married in a church or temple, or have threatened death if the other was ever caught cheating, that somehow that makes us safe. Not true!

Today, no one has to travel back to their old hometown with a new dress in tow to reconnect with former classmates or old flames. Virtual reunions with that one guy or gal who left you broken-hearted at the high school hop happen with the click of a button. And why does the intensity of feelings catch us off guard, similar to a hit of cocaine for a recovering addict? It’s all in our head; our brain, that is.

Neuroscience research suggests that raging teenage hormones are stored as sensory and emotional memories. Early loves may be imprinted on the brain the way cocaine addiction is. When you see that person again or chat online, the reconnection can trigger visceral feelings of being young and in love. And because these former relationships tended to be intimate, there are fewer inhibitions.  In essence, we pick up where we left off.

The best way to handle a blast from the past? Be polite and respond kindly with something like, “It’s good to hear from you,” and offer a little catch-up information. The worst way to manage an old connection is to start the reminiscing. When you compare the rush of young love to the stability and security of long-term commitments, it’s easy to see which one is more heady and addictive.  It’s playing with fire; stay away from the pit!