Please raise your hand if you have experienced a gut wrenching, heart wringing breakup in the past. You too, eh. I thought so. Well, it’s a pretty universal experience and I have had my fair share of breakups. The last one has been especially painful as well as enlightening.
So what can we do about this nasty occupational hazard associated with falling in love? We have to risk it if we want to experience that beautiful feeling of love, expressed through intimate, open hearts. But how can we utilize the specter of a breakup for our own gain? How can we have our cake and eat it too?
In the past I was the kind of guy who flat-lined emotionally. I had difficulty in feeling my emotions as I was good at minimizing, rationalizing and justifying away my feelings. Ofcourse we needed to break up because she was feeling this and that and this is where we were going, blah, blah, blah.
Thankfully I found psychotherapy school in 2013 and I finally discovered a way to reclaim my emotions, own them fully and express them healthily.
Even then, connecting with a lifetime of repressed emotions is slow work. I was waiting for a strong trigger, to blow apart the dam that was holding my reservoir of tears, which I hadn’t shed since I was 10 years old.
It took a year of therapy before it finally happened. The trigger arrived in the form of a heartbreak that disintegrated that dam and burst open the reservoir of tears and untapped emotions.
But I needed to channel that outpouring of energy healthily, otherwise it would have flooded towns and taken many lives in its wake. That’s when my psychotherapy training started coming in handy. I realized that heartbreaks can be a great tool for personal growth, even as we go through the most difficult parts of the experience.
Here is what I discovered through the process…
Be aware of the shame and guilt that follows a breakup – be gentle
Breakups are difficult and they really affect your ideas of self-worth. Also you feel guilty and ashamed at breaking the expectations of a bunch of people, especially if it was a long relationship. Be aware of the feelings of inferiority and not being good enough, if they are showing up and don’t try to cover them up with the blame game.
The Ego is down and out – use that to your advantage
The Ego generally takes a beating during a breakup and we feel very vulnerable. The Ego is then desperate to push up its defenses to protect our inner core. It tries to be ultra-defensive. Makes you feel like the breakup wasn’t that big a deal. That she was a bitch/he was a bastard anyway.
The Ego is down and out and this is the best opportunity to sneak past it and take a look at your core issues and woundings
Stop! The Ego is down and out and this is the best opportunity to sneak past it and take a look at your core issues and childhood woundings. Try to hold off on the great desire to erect those walls. Say to yourself – Yes I am hurt, I feel vulnerable and I will not let this experience close my heart. Work with a psychotherapist on your core issues. Strike while the iron is hot!
Feel the emotions deeply and find safe ways of releasing the energy
If you are someone who finds it hard to feel their emotions then this is a great opportunity to allow these feelings to rise up. Avoid the desire to rationalize, minimize and justify. Be with the feelings, however painful they might be. Find a safe way to release the energy. Some experiential work with a psychotherapist is the healthiest way to experience the catharsis that you need at this time.
Journal and write about your feelings and experiences
If you are someone who gets completely overwhelmed and trapped in their emotions then dry up those tears with some Kleenex and pick up a pen. Write it out! Journal your feelings, write whatever you feel like. The technique of writing Emotional Letters can help here. Write her/him a letter stating how you feel but DO NOT mail it. Read that letter after a week and see if you can write another letter from the perspective of your ex, to you. Rinse and repeat.
What did the experience want to teach you? What have you learnt? Create some self-development goals for yourself based on those insights
Create self-development goals for yourself based on your insights
Once the emotions have sobered down a bit, find the silver lining in the situation. What did the experience want to teach you? What have you learnt? Create some self-development goals for yourself based on those insights. For example, if you were too clingy and codependent in the relationship, then create goals to spend more time alone, to love and pamper yourself, to avoid the urge of getting into a rebound relationship, etc.
Breakups are bloody hard but they can be one of our greatest teachers, if you know how to use the opportunity it provides and learn from the experience. Then you will never close your heart to love again because what’s the worst case scenario? You would get 2 years of therapy done in a month!
Free Phone Consultation for folks in Ontario, Canada
As a Registered Psychotherapist and coach, practicing in Toronto, Canada, I often see clients who suffer from difficult breakups, especially men. If you identified with this article, live in Ontario, Canada and need support, then contact me and we can have a free 30-min phone consultation.
Photo Credit – Jinterwas – Flickr Creative Commons