By Joyce and Barry Vissell
Those nine words by the late Ted Geisel (Dr. Seuss), one of our country's favorite storytellers, contain so much wisdom. They apply to many different aspects of life, and I would like to focus on relationships. Most of us are going to have relationships end at some point in our lives, whether they’re marriages, partners, friends, relatives, or any other type of relationship. People leave, or die, and it hurts. What to do with the hurt?
A person we know had a relationship end in a hurtful way. This individual is so hurt, and doesn’t know how to handle the pain of this situation. The feeling of rejection seems overwhelming. The other person has walked away and there’s no negotiation. For this person, it’s over, and there is no desire for contact.
Many people are stuck in the feeling that "it’s over." The way out of the pain is to remember the good, and feel grateful. The feeling of gratitude will open a door to your heart, and allow the feeling of love to enter. When a person ruminates on the details of the ending, they stay in the pain, and it can become worse with time. The best thing to do is to feel gratitude. Write down the things you can appreciate about having been with this person; and sending the list to the person (if they’re still alive) can be very healing. In this way you are transitioning the relationship in a very conscious and loving way. If the person never responds to your letter and expression of gratitude, you have at least reached out. The expressed gratitude will free you to go on with your life, and even open up to a new relationship or friendship. There’s that great saying, "When one door closes, another door opens."
One of my very favorite stories is from the late Leo Buscaglia, who was my teacher at USC in 1971 when I was 25 years old. I was in his master's degree course, and most of my classes were with him. He was beyond wonderful, and taught me many valuable lessons that I still cherish to this day. My favorite class was a non-credit class called, "LOVE 1A." Anyone in the university could attend the class. About 50 students came each week. He was the only professor teaching this subject in a university in the United States. Those of us who chose to attend the class absolutely loved it. He was teaching us how to reach out and really love people in a heartfelt way. He had wonderful ideas and could back them up with great literature. His favorite book was The Little Prince. He had us practice appreciating people, seeing beauty in each other, expressing gratitude, and writing letters to our families with messages of love. There was such a beautiful energy in the room in each class, that I felt as if I could float, I felt so high and happy.
He was the first person to acknowledge that my sensitivity was a beautiful thing, and that he appreciated that side of me very much. Until he spoke to me in that way, I had felt ashamed of my sensitive nature. He had a way of acknowledging his students and, sometimes, as in my case, he saw beauty and strength where others saw weakness. Those of us in the class were opening up so beautifully with his teachings.
One day I had an appointment at his office at the university. While I waited for him, I couldn’t help but overhear the voices of three men that had come to meet with him before me. They spoke in loud, harsh voices, and told Leo that he couldn’t teach his love class anymore. They told him it was an embarrassment to the university, and he had to stop immediately; this was nonnegotiable. They walked out soon after that. I felt so sad for my beloved teacher; here he was giving of himself on his free time to teach this wonderful class, and it was rejected. He must feel so hurt.
I walked into his office, and tried to think of how I might cheer him up. Indeed, he looked very sad; yet his words surprised me, "I feel so sad for those three men that were just here. I have so much love to give, and they don’t want it." His sadness wasn’t for himself, but for those university officials. He saw what they were missing by rejecting what he had to offer.
Shortly after that, Leo left the university. I don’t know if he was asked to leave, or if he just left. He went on to become one of the most popular speakers in the world, with crowds of over 10,000 people at each talk. He gave his love class to the world, and they received it with great enthusiasm. At one time five of his books were on The New York Times Best Sellers List simultaneously.
Whenever I start to feel rejected by someone, I think of Leo and his words, "I feel so sad for them, as I have so much love to give." I also think of Dr. Seuss's advice to all of us, "Smile that it happened." Acknowledging that we are beautiful, have much love to give, as well as expressing gratitude, can bring a person out of the pain of seeming rejection.
Joyce & Barry Vissell, a nurse/therapist and psychiatrist couple since 1964, are counselors near Santa Cruz, CA, who are widely regarded as among the world's top experts on conscious relationship and personal growth. They are the authors of six books. Visit their website at: SharedHeart.org for their free monthly e-heartletter, their updated schedule, and inspiring past articles on many topics about relationship and living from the heart.