More on the “Panic of the I”

In my clinical practice, a very common reaction to the loss of a partner is “I don’t know who I am anymore.” Sound familiar?

One of my clients aptly referred to his post-divorce aloneness as the “panic of the I.” He compared his feelings to those of a toddler who feels the world is safe and friendly until his mother turns out the light and leaves him alone to face the boogeyman.

You may be baffled by the fact that you feel so incomplete and fearful without your partner by your side. After all, you did just fine on your own prior to the relationship. So, why the panic?

Relationships are made up of 3 entities

As so often happens in romantic partnerships, the emphasis on building the relationship takes precedence over the growth of the individuals in it. Therefore, in the aftermath of a breakup, it is not uncommon to feel confused about who you are without your partner.In a future blog, I will talk about a fundamental principle of all healthy relationships; it takes 3 to form a healthy and balanced relationship (1) You (2) Me (3) We.

Without being aware of it, you may have found yourself turning more to your partner (You) and to the relationship (We) for your self-worth than to yourSELF. However shaky you may feel on your own, the good news is that you are in an ideal position to start filling in those gaps for you.

But “How?” you ask. Consider the following behaviors:

  • Did you look to your spouse to figure out what you wanted or needed?
    Now it is time to turn to your SELF for those answers.
  • Did you look to your partner to give you the confidence to take care of you?
    The time has come to build your muscles of independence.
  • Did you find it hard to be alone with your SELF during the relationship?
  • With or without a partner, it is essential to be comfortable in you own skin.

  • Did you feel powerless to make changes in your life so you depended on your partner to succeed?

    Feelings of accomplishment and worth come from within.

  • Did you feel your spouse needed to change for the relationship to get better?

You are not in this place by coincidence. It is time for you to be brutally honest about your role in the collapse of the relationship.

The Paradox

Shifting your focus from your partner who you believed was your source of security to what feels like an unsteady “I” may seem like a contradiction. However it is only by taking full responsibility for yourSELF that you can successfully change the “panic of the I” to the “well-being of the I.”