Tuesday, August 5, 2014

How to be more Resilient through a Break-up

Break-ups Can Really Hurt.


A break up is an ENDING.  I have found that endings are very hard for a lot of people. Any ending can feel challenging:  be it a job change, graduation, moving, letting go of a friend - or an intimate relationship ending.  And so, endings are often avoided. 

But being able to do endings well is a wonderful skill.  I don’t mean that there won’t be hurt, sometimes an enormous amount of hurt, attached to ending or letting go of someone. If you love or loved that person, it certainly will feel sad to let them go. Sometimes the sadness feels so heavy you think you cannot manage it for one more minute. 

But how you think about this loss will be key to how well you manage the process.  Resilient people heal. Their perspective about their loss and pain is what allows them to get through hard times without completely falling apart, or giving up on themselves and others.

Life changes.  Endings are inevitable. Some are chosen by you, some are chosen for you. Some are happy endings you planned and some are completely unexpected. But if you resist change and if you believe that things should be able to stay the same as you expected, you will experience a great deal more difficulty than is needed.

Intimate relationships often end after a period of pain or struggle, betrayal of some sort, or at least time spent sorting through hard issues. So when it ends you may already be worn thin. Even if you ended it and know it is for the best, letting go of someone we have spent time and intimacies with is usually a hard process. But it is a process. It is a process that can feel like a severed limb, or a bitter-sweet relief. If you are reading this I am guessing your recent or impending break up or even a more distant one is still causing a good bit of discomfort. So how do we orient ourselves to toward healing?

We have to expect that it will hurt.  Break ups and loss are truly an inescapable part of life. The hurt, loneliness, grief and even agony need not be avoided, disavowed or resented.  People who are resilient are not without deep pain in their lives. They are not without loss.  They know that they are experiencing a normal human difficulty.

Allow the pain in and feel it.  Process it by writing about it, talking to a friend, seeing a therapist, reading books, moving through it - not around it;  and after a bit:

Choose to heal.  To heal the loss of a relationship we have to choose to value ourselves, choose to find help (many current endings will bring up unresolved losses from an earlier time, especially childhood, that may need attention from a therapist), choose to review what has been lost and why, choose to learn from it, and choose life rather than hiding from future connection.

Much of the unnecessary pain I see in my practice and in my own life has been caused by the things we do to AVOID pain.  Resiliency is increased when we expect that hurt will come; try our best to face our truth and the truth about others;  believe that loss is a process; and know that you won’t feel dreadful forever. Resilient people don’t make avoidant choices to end the pain of loss.  Accept what has happened and sit still with it and it will move you toward growth - if you let it.


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