About Kelly Brogan

KELLY BROGAN, MD, is a holistic psychiatrist, author of the New York Times Bestselling book, A Mind of Your Own, Own Your Self, the children’s book, A Time For Rain, and co-editor of the landmark textbook Integrative Therapies for Depression.

When loving you is leaving me, and leaving you is loving me...

I’ve been running a program for a long time. It goes something like this:

I see what’s happening. I will remain calm and hold another’s emotions and explain what’s happening so that I can get them to see, and then they’ll act the way I want them to.

Sounds innocent enough, and certainly has “worked” in that I am able to swiftly align with being right about why a wrong is happening. I don’t have to feel my messy feelings beneath the experience of another’s choices or behavior, and I get to focus entirely on how I can hold, inspire, or otherwise induce change in that person.

When these strong beliefs or complexes take hold in childhood, they gatekeep the emotions of that child-self so that the adult self doesn’t have to caretake that inner child and can instead focus outwardly on other indirect ways of meeting that child’s unmet needs. These emotions—to that little child—are HUGE. They literally represent existential danger because when we were little, rejection, betrayal, and abandonment meant death. They got flagged as that dangerous, and we’ve been in survival mode ever since…

Life gives us opportunities to complete the integration of these emotions called upset; aka, when someone has done us wrong and we feel they are wrong about it.

This upset is the place to enter.

He did this to me, and I did this to me…

Ronny cheats on Rhonda. She catches him. She is shocked, dismayed, and devastated. She makes his behavior mean that he doesn’t love her and that he is a bad man. But it’s sticky because she also wants him to love her, and he might sometimes be a good man. So there’s a split between Ronny as bad object and the idealized overlay she’s placed on him as good object (the changed, healed Ronny who is contrite and committed).

The thing is that, if we have eyes to see beyond our projections, people show us exactly who they are. Ronny has shown Rhonda time and time again, for years, that he is not emotionally available to meet her needs. He is reactive and volatile, he is defensive, and he cannot caretake and hold space for her emotions. Because of this felt insecurity between them, she is not able to offer him affirmation and a reflection of his heroic, positive aspects. So, he sources that elsewhere.

They are and have been incompatible in their needs and emotional insecurity has defined their dynamic. Rhonda knew and knows this. She let Ronny know what she needed, and she also took the bait of imagining that she could rescue him into meeting her needs. She stayed far longer than someone who was ready to love herself would have.

So Rhonda is the one who betrayed herself, and the universe went ahead and materialized that reflection to her. She felt pain that guided her to her need, that guided her to her ask (i.e., I need you to stay open and connected to me even when you’re upset) that allowed her to perceive, hear, and see that Ronny is not actually available to meet that need. And she needed to revisit this familiar kind of “love” from her childhood, until she was ready to move into the abyss of pain that walking away from this dynamic represents.

Pain that has been held at bay through her own neglect of her needs and convincing herself that they will soon be met.

We have ourselves to blame, but why?

We are our own abusers. And this abuse comes in the form of self-dismissal, self-negotiation, and the magical thinking that others will know what we need without our telling them. Resentment is the marker of this self-betrayal that is perpetuated through micro-rationalizations that keep the wound festering beneath flimsy band-aids. And within that wound is a part of us that wants our own attention.

The part that says, “This feels bad, and has for decades, can you please move towards what feels good?”

I remember an afternoon when I was super excited about a pleasure coaching appointment that I had been looking forward to for days. Even though there were only 40 minutes before the appointment, I agreed to a conversation with my partner that I knew could not be wrapped up in that time frame. No less than 8 times in the ensuing 75 minutes, was I tapped by my child-self from the inside to say—“Remember? You wanted this and now you’re letting it go…say something! Exit this conversation!” And after so many rationalizations (“We’re almost there! We can’t start the appointment in this vibe anyway, so I have to keep going!”)—I prioritized securing unfulfilling connection (because we do that through conflict too!) over honoring myself.

After the appointment was forfeited, I felt a flash of anger and blame, and pretty immediately recalled all of those inner taps that went unacknowledged. I was washed over with the disappointment of a little girl with rain on her outdoor birthday party. It felt oceanic and like it would drown me. And then it passed.

And in that deep ocean, I recognized why, after betraying myself in this way, that energy could feel so much more safely channeled as blame, anger, and attack. That’s a much easier emotion to hold than the tenderness of shame, grief, loneliness, disappointment, and self-compassion for all that is within.

Is good enough love actually good enough?

While this betrayal pattern applies to all relationships, romantic relationships suffer most from the fantasy that they are something beyond a conscious agreement and negotiation to meet respective needs, at least in the earlier stages of relating. Many in certain spiritual communities want to pretend that we can “meet our own needs” and that love is enough, but the truth is that knowing our needs and asking for them to be met is the most loving offering you can make to a relationship. And sometimes, even then, it may represent a violation of one person’s needs to actually fulfill the others, in which case terminal incompatibility may arise.

In a relationship, typically, both individuals mistrust themselves and the other person. They are projecting their idealized parent that flips to the villainized object, which is why love can turn to hate with a wrong look. As we learn, through moments of triggering and pain what we actually need—the desire beneath the complaint—and we stand firmly in that need, trust of self grows. And when one person in the relationship trusts themselves, stands with themselves, and the other partner is not sufficiently connected at the heart level, the relationship falls out of resonance.

Walking away from a relationship that has promised connection but not delivered it—the intermittent reinforcement of crumbs dropped here and there—is death portal work. Like any addiction, you will squirm and negotiate with yourself to stay, give it another chance, blame yourself, and otherwise postpone fully owning the truth you hold which is that you must walk.  

This video speaks to the most painful surrogate for true intimacy which is the intermittent reinforcement pattern—or addictive—pattern of need meeting which represents a kind of hell on earth for the anxiously attached individual and requires nothing short of a a rehab to walk away from. The hardest thing you’ll ever do is to walk away from a relationship that you know is “loving” but somehow leaves you starving. To walk away from patterns of love that you now love yourself too much to endure, and walk into all of your stories about how you’re gonna die alone and never make love again…

When we are ready to lose a connection (to a person, a group, or an institution) that we know cannot meet our deep needs, we own that we actually have needs and that they matter. We stop trying to meet them indirectly by being right, seeming good, cooperative, and in an endless loop of trying to change things.

Standing with your self for the first time should and will feel like you are going to die from the fear and pain. This is the sign that you are walking through your true individuation portal. Because adults know, choose, and align themselves with their inner knowing—wounded children people please, manipulate, and give just so they can secure an illusion of safety.

Self-betrayal is at the heart of suffering

When we self-betray, we enter into the resonance of pain, suffering, and harm. We enter into victim consciousness, which is where our first experience of betrayal (rejection or abandonment) by a caregiver lives. We enter the victim triangle either through the vengeful villain, the valiant rescuer, or the hapless victim herself; and no matter what our geometrical location, we are living in a divided-self.

When we blame another or collude with another’s blame of someone else, we are projecting the bad self out there, and rejecting it in here. We play a starring role in our hurt and our conflicts are often the symptomatic manifestation of codependency. The Rescuer is the most cloaked victim of all because we run the program that we must caretake another and be patient so as to secure the response that will caretake us (i.e., I’ll take care of you today so you will take care of me tomorrow). This response can come in many forms including connection, approval, or the validation that we are right and good.

This pattern of self-victimizing victimhood lives in many arenas of our human experience:


Whenever you “need” symptoms to go away quickly, fight symptoms with pharmaceuticals or supplements, “beat” cancer or MS or depression, trust an outside authority to know what you need to be well, safe, or better.


Whenever you rehearse and review all of the ways that you are right, all of the reasons why your feelings are valid, and when you escape feelings through thought.


Whenever you imagine that simply showing or expressing a feeling is not reason enough, when you stay when you want to go, when you take the bait of peace and connection over authenticity.

Hunt your pattern, smoke out your victim, and love her...

What’s your betrayal story? Go back to the worst transgression that ever befell your life—even if, objectively, most wouldn’t even characterize it as a betrayal. What did you make it mean about your unlovability? Yeah, dig beneath the, “it meant they’re bad and wrong layer,” and the “I keep attracting man-children or she-witches layer.” What did you make it mean about you? That’s the hook to your song that keeps playing and keeps playing, until…

…we are ready to resolve betrayal once and for all. Until we are ready to remain loyal to ourselves through the pain we’ve been running from for decades. And we learn that everything we’ve ever wanted is on the other side of fear

Here I give props to my incredible pleasure coach Whitney (and my ride or dies Tahra, Dani, and Eyla) for walking the trenches of my reclamation process with me and teaching me these tools…learn more about how to identify what you need and how to ask for it in this workshop

1. Park your story and feel

I’m the story Queen. Most doctors are good at pattern recognition but psychiatrists call it a profession. Once I have my story concretized, the pain gets stuck swirling in how and why I’ve been wrong and the desperation brings me outwardly focused. Give yourself the gift of wordless pain. Throw a blanket over your head and cry in the fetal position. Punch a bag or a pillow. Scream. Tell your feelings that you will STAY, that you will be with yourself as long as it takes to shift. And it will. I promise. Sometimes even after a few minutes. Sometimes after a few days. Definitely after a few weeks.

2. Your pain doesn't need a why

This is the hardest work I’ve done. To make my intuition enough. My pain enough. To let my knowing stand like a pillar of white light that needs no one else’s light to brighten it up. Sometimes simply—it doesn’t work for me, or it hurts without reasons, validation, or proof is the highest form of self-loyalty.

3. Your ask doesn’t need approval

Does it feel like what you’re asking for needs to make sense to the person you’re asking it of? Like they need to value what you’re asking for as much as you do for it to be ok to ask for it? That’s child-play. As an adult, you can ask for what you need, simply because you need it.

4. No one owes you anything

Wobbles in your self-alignment sneak in through entitlement—I deserve, you owe me energy. The truth is that everyone is on their own journey, we are all adults making unconscious choices until they’re conscious; and at either stage, no one owes anyone anything…and you don’t want love based on obligation anyway, do you?

5. Own your ultimatum, own your decision

Like most, I used to think that an ultimatum was a form of manipulation. The truth is that everyone has deal breakers, and communicating them clearly is a way to clarify whether it’s even possible for your needs to be met. I require that you stay in the room until we both agree that the conflict has come to sufficient resolution, or I will need to leave the relationship. Sounds dramatic, but if this is what you need, why would you stay otherwise? You would if you believed that your needs are suppressible and don’t matter.

6. How are your own beliefs being reflected back to you?

If someone is telling you about your self in a way that feels hurtful, could it be that they are reflecting your own beliefs back? If he says, “It’s not as bad as you are acting like it is.” Is he showing you that your feelings can’t be trusted? Is it possible that you aren’t so sure that your feelings can be trusted?

7. Call your own bluff

If you’re a Rescuer donating sand to make the pearl in your partner, friend, or family member, what would it be like if your pearl took years to make? What if it was never made? When we stay because of someone’s potential to change, we are living in an illusion while our very real needs are neglected.

8. Forgive, for real

Can you touch the place where you see that this hurt is showing you how you have ignored the flags, the internal no’s, and that you are now ready to fly into the fear of isolation, disconnection, and aloneness—because you are ready for healthy connections, maybe for the first time in your life?

If so, thank your transgressor for what they brought to the surface of your heart so that you could learn to love it. Rise up to a higher dimensional perspective and thank them. Read The Little Soul and the Sun and settle into the possibility that these hurts are essential to the experience of self-reclamation and love we came here for…

Pain cycles repeat for a reason. The dense feelings and the feelings on top of feelings—anger, pain, rage, shame, disappointment, disgust—have been swirling around unfelt, unacknowledged, and otherwise suppressed because of the defenses we developed to blame, self-pity, or focus on the outside fix.

When we are finally ready to feel, honor, and respond to these feelings by allowing them to guide us toward our real-time needs and the honest assessment of whether they can actually be met in a given dynamic, we parent the child who felt those feelings and was hurt in that same patterned way (abandonment, rejection, volatility, etc.) that we are re-meeting with. When we are done knowing love in the pattern of our dysfunctional childhoods, we are ready to experience what it is to gift love to others because we know how to anchor it within.