This is a description of the "broken" state of being resulting from the abrupt, unplanned, or unpleasant termination* of an intimate relationship based on my bamboo analogy, and how the healing process must proceed.
In that essay I hint at the relationships we form with others as being analogous to the building of bridges between two peoples "bamboo structures." I am taking for my subject here the special case of "love" relationships, intimate pair bondings between two sexual and probably life partners. While it is a narrow range of application, it tends to be extremely intense, so its examples are easier to elucidate - and of course may readily be interpreted for other types of relationship and their endings.
So, as I have said, the relationship between two people is like a bridge they build in cooperation between their respective personal structures. It is constructed of many parts of themselves which have been placed, either carefully or carelessly, where they serve to carry you and your lover across the chasm between you. These parts are all specific to the relationship and serve dual functions - they are a part of you, but they also become a part of the other person, as you build the bridge stronger and tie yourselves more tightly in your hearts.
Each of you must provide a sturdy abutment, to support the bridge and anchor it to you in times of difficulty. It must be built out of the highest quality bamboo you have, firmly attached to your foundation, that it may truly represent you to them.
The bridge must be a joint effort, each contributing roughly equally - not as some ideal to work towards, but in actual fact. You cannot try to get your chosen or assumed partner to put more work into the relationship - if they don't do it to start with they are lazy, or incapable of doing it and you would be better off "alone."
The termination of the relationship results in a disaster area. A perhaps huge amount of your energy and the material of your self (the bamboo) has been rearranged to complement and share with your ex-significant other. Yet, somewhere on that bridge that used to exist to them, with all its busy traffic and commerce, there is a tortuous rending, a break, bamboo shards dangling in the tropical breeze. Your little monkey cannot play there, where so recently it was pleasant and fulfilling. Every pathway, every stick, of your soul, has been moved, even if only slightly, to accomodate the building of the abutment, the weight of the bridge, and to enjoy the results of the flow that used to move along it.
The process of healing, to be very brief, consists of first lashing off the coarse and torn ends of the bridge so it does not collapse into the sea. This done, several processes will be required, and probably undertaken in parallel. The material of the bridge must be recovered and brought "home" so it can be used in your self and some perhaps stored for future bridges. The abutments must be dismantled and entered into raw materials inventory again. Then when most of the superfluous structure has been eliminated, the many small changes in the overall structure, the extra brace, the reinforced lashing, must be re-examined and readjusted so they are in balance with your whole self again.
That is the crux of my use of this analogy. My whole point. You must heal before you can love in this fashion again, you must retreat from hasty bridge building and restore your personality and soul to a state of relatively independent sustenance (I say relatively, because most of your intimate and social network will still be intact with any luck). If some drive within you impels you to try to connect anew with someone else, its source must be examined very closely. If it is a lonely or cultural desire to be part of a "marriage," your structure is in error and must grow beyond this state. If it is physical or sexual in nature, you must invent appropriate ways to meet these needs without being convinced they can only be met under the influence of love, and do it without hurting other people.
The emotional rebound is a special case of two people with intact but broken bridges discovering a certain affinity and confusing it with a genuine opportunity to build a loving partnership. Essentially what has happened is that your bridges match enough to feel like you still have the old relationship. You will treat each other the way you treated your previous lovers, and it will come close to working. A similar thing can happen when two people have similar fantasies or mythologies about the love they want - they coincide enough that an attempt to unite is embarked upon - but it is not a genuine bridge that is being built. In both cases it is a wishful structure, built for no one or someone else, and will fail as its finer structure turns out to be totally inappropriate.
At some point a relationship built this way will collapse, since one or both partners has not really done any of the healing required - their bridge still cries their old lovers name with every step they take on it - even though it may have been silenced briefly by the thrill of the new persons body and mind.
Does this story make it seem foolish to ever build such a bridge in the first place? Perhaps taken at the extreme case of the sudden traumatic termination of a significant intimate relationship, it could. We must remember, however, this analogy is intended to apply to all our relationships, which each provide us with sustenance in the form of traffic and "profitable commerce" with other humans, and in fact with the whole universe.
In this light your bamboo house is in reality just part of a much larger, universe encompassing structure, interlaced and endless, in which there are denser foci which refer to themselves as "I" - and may have little monkeys hanging out in them just like yours. It is of course multidimensional, because our bridges arch and overlap in a dizzyingly complex fashion. Just think of all the people you know, even very casually, and how each relationship has its own special mode of operation, its intimacies, its customs. Every one of these is a bridge of some sort, and so many of those people have their own bridges to each other and others beyond.
*Let me explain why I chose to say the termination had to be abrupt, unplanned, or unpleasant. Any of these three will do, since they all result in there being a complex structure, a portion of the bridge and its abutments, built out of our energies and time that now serves no useful purpose. The gradual termination allows us to recover some of our investment, removing some or even all of the bamboo from the bridge and recycling it into our own self, but this "stage" in the relationship becomes its own bridge of sorts, something we get used to and have to dismantle The planned termination allows even more of that to be done, but since the gradual ending may have to be guessed at rather than premeditated, one may be wary of yanking out the structure lest the action become a self fulfilling prophecy. The unpleasant termination, even if slow or planned, is more likely to make the task of removing the remains of the bridge for re-use more arduous and odious than it would have been otherwise. (return to top)
© Huw Powell