Note: This essay is written in collaboration with Laurie Parker
If you’ve ever had your heart broken and are struggling to handle a tough break up, you’re not alone. In fact the end of a relationship is known to bring even the strongest people to their knees. After all, you invested a lot of love, time and trust in your partner. It makes sense you’d feel a huge sense of loss attached to the idea that what could have been will no longer be.
It often takes a long time to accept the feeling of loss associated with being aimed at a different future. During this time, many people find themselves stuck in the “denial” phase of grief – lacking hope that their future will lead somewhere better.
In fact, if you’re in the midst of a break up now, chances are it feels impossible to believe there’s something beneficial to be found in the ending of your relationship. I’m here to tell you that there are hidden opportunities.
Break ups can bring up lots of buried emotions – presuming you are open to feeling your “truth” and working through the lessons to be learned.
I believe a break up can offer lots of helpful opportunities for accelerated personal growth… as it brings up issues you might have avoided…and perhaps even distracted yourself from facing.
Indeed, being in an intimate relationship can often serve the function of “distraction” from challenges we need to deal with. In particular many of us can “use” relationships as a way to “fill ourselves up” – as if we are outsourcing the responsibility of “self love” to our partner – as if we are believing that our partner is better at loving us than we are capable of loving ourselves!
In this vein, going through a tough break up can be a wonderful time to reconnect with yourself – and rediscover what you appreciate about yourself. Basically, a break up can be a helpful opportunity to redirect all the love you were putting into the other person back into yourself.
For many people, there’s a huge chance that the extreme pain experienced in a break up has less to do with the relationship itself – or the person you have lost – and much more to do with needing to face up to your own lack of self love, self worth and self-esteem.
The majority of people will fight this view – that lack of self love is at the crux of the pain in their heartbreak. But if you take time to explore the hurt you feel, you might soon discover that the cause of your pain is due to the sudden lack of supply of “love” you’d been receiving your partner.
Basically, the pain of heartbreak comes because you had become dependent on your partner to be your sole supplier of “love,” almost like a life support machine! Without them, you now feel hungry for the love they had been feeding you. And studies report that it’s actually physiologically proven that without love – humans can die – meaning it’s a very real concern. The brain, therefore, goes into survival mode and feels the need to reclaim this love – anyway it can! Unfortunately this can lead to addictions and obsession.
The truth is, your brain is hardwired to help you survive at all costs; yet, it relies on your own programming to determine what “survival” looks like, and unfortunately, it can lead us in the wrong direction.
Once upon a time, the brain would be triggered by the sight of a dinosaur and motivate humans to run, run, run. Your brain would instantly administer a shot of adrenaline to put your body in a peak state of fight or flight. Today, it still has that exact same mechanism, but instead of kicking into high gear at the sight of a dinosaur, it kicks in as we go to give a public talk – or just before a date – or at the end of an important relationship .
Basically, after the break up of a relationship, your brain goes into high stress mode – and mistakenly links your emotional survival with your now-ex-partner. Your brain will have seen your ex partner as an important source of love, and now that this source of love has gone, it triggers you to fight for it back.
Yet, just like how a huge shot of adrenaline before giving a public presentation isn’t helpful, this isn’t helpful either.
Imagine now a different scenario – one in which you have so much “love” inside of you that your brain doesn’t feel starved for love at the end of a break up. You feel so much love within yourself that your brain doesn’t feel as desperate to reclaim the love it had been outsourcing to your now-ex-partner!
This alternate self-love-from-within scenario can literally make the difference between someone who finds themselves almost suicidal due to a breakup and someone who feels upset about their loss, but does not feel a complete loss of self, or like it’s the end of their world.
The most important factor in handling a tough breakup: finding ways to love yourself!
Below are 3 strategies to help you to be your own supplier of love within yourself – and thereby lower the pain and stress of a challenging break up.
We often find ourselves getting consumed by a breakup to the point we lose interest in our daily lives. We become so wrapped up in the break up we ruminate and obsess about how to make things better, how to win them back, what the other person is doing, and so on… This is not a helpful way to focus your attention. It can be a very destructive, slippery slope that leads people to a place where they lose themselves.
Energy flows where attention goes! Rather than focus on the negativity of the ending of a relationship, lift your head up and focus on the beginning of something new…something that energizes you… and builds you up! For instance, do things which are true to your core self. If you’ve always wanted to paint, start painting. If you’ve always wanted to learn yoga, take yoga classes. Or perhaps you’ve always had a dream of doing something such as becoming a police officer. Well, now would be a great time to shift your focus and look into Laurier Online Police School – as a quick example. The point is this: Every ending holds the opportunity for a new beginning – to bloom into your best and truest self! Shift your focus to a new beginning – and explore how you can use this time for your own growth and personal development.
Keep your mind, heart and body as busy as possible. Make plans with friends and family. Go to the movies. Read a book. Take a class. After all, when you’re not busy, you are more likely to think about the other person or the relationship. So stay active and out there – so you stop ruminating on the woulda, shoulda coulda’s!
It’s easy to look back on past relationships with rose tinted glasses. So take time to write down all the pros and cons of your relationship – the good bits and the bad bits. Make sure you are keeping a realistic perspective with regard to how things actually were. A grounded perspective can be very helpful in the process of healing.
Note: This essay is written in collaboration with Laurie Parker
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Hi I’m Karen Salmansohn, founder of NotSalmon. My mission is to offer you easy-to-understand insights and tools to empower you to bloom into your happiest, highest potential self. I use playful analogies, feisty humor, and stylish graphics to distill big ideas – going as far back as ancient wisdom from Aristotle, Buddhism and Darwin to the latest research studies from Cognitive Therapy, Neuro Linquistic Programming, Neuroscience, Positive Psychology, Quantum Physics, Nutritional Studies – and then some.
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