Moving on is often — because of how immediate and raw the emotions involved are — measured on a day-to-day basis. The expectation? That tomorrow will be a darned site better than today. The reality? An unfortunate emotional trigger brings our hopes kicking screaming to a halt, and we’re back on the roller-coaster. Hold on to your hats!
In this article I will discuss several signs you’re moving on, but it all comes with an initial disclaimer. If we’re going to even begin to assess our healing, we need to scrap the day-to-day nonsense. Progress, if anything, is a trend, not a set of stairs that steadily lead us to an emotional requiem.
In short, it’s going to feel just a wee bit chaotic in the short-term, even if in the long-term we are heading, inexorably, in the right direction.
Everything Compares To You
Unlike Sinead O’ Connor’s timeless classic “Nothing compares to you”, a draining sign you’re hooked to a past relationship is — sorry Sinead — comparing anything, and everything, to an ex.
That arch over there? Oh, that’s where we first exchanged necklaces. That coffee shop I just passed? That’s where they first told me about their greatest fear. That person’s eyebrow? That definitely rings a bell.
Your day-to-day life becomes a haunting, a cemetery of memories that has erupted and come alive.
So, what’s going on? Think of it as your inner me poking you with a stick and demanding its comfort zone back. The problem with this inner me, or our subconscious mind, is that it is blind and thus does not understand what’s going on beyond the skein of our skin. In short, you’re not going to argue it out of making you temporarily miserable.
The only thing it does know is that you’re hurt, and by repeatedly littering your life with painful reminders of what you’ve left behind, it is attempting to get you to go back to safety and relative calm of your life before the trauma (even though it is patently unaware it may not be an option).
As life moves on, and you rack up new experiences and naturally craft a new comfort zone, this painful process of comparison begins to abate because the subconscious mind begins to associate with your new reality, rather than look at your past as an anchor of salvation.
Moving on does not mean never comparing things to your ex, nor does it mean never having things trigger a painful reminder. I personally feel some triggers can last a lifetime, and that erecting an expectation of perpetual numbness is destructive towards healing, because in most cases it may never happen. However, moving on does mean that both the severity and the frequency of these reminders should degrade significantly over time.
Emotions Stop Fluctuating Wildly
One of the most frustrating hallmarks of grief is how our emotions tend to polarize from one day to the next. One day you “realize” that it was all your fault, the next, that it was all theirs. Desperation turns to anger, which fades into sadness which leads to bargaining, which ends in…
The emotional roller-coaster is both draining and necessary, in that it allows us to process painful memories and come to grips with trauma. Only, I might add, up to a certain point.
There does come a time when over-analysis becomes damaging. And at some point either we consciously decide to attempt to regain control, or enough time passes to dilate the emotional abrasion to the point where our emotions begin to settle somewhere along an objective spectrum.
Again, moving on does not mean that we find a sense of perpetual peace or enduring, timeless hatred. What it does mean is a feeling of long-term stability. If the poles of your emotions are narrowing down, no matter what emotional residue they are now narrowing down too, it is a sign that you’re moving on.
Although, as mentioned at the end of my first point, and will no doubt be echoed through the rest of my points, hiccups occur, and you can expect occasional oscillations, setbacks and feelings that you’ve just taken a mighty leap backwards in healing.
You Stop Waiting For An Outcome
Most breakups, no matter how mild, leave a sense of untidiness. There are always questions that need answering, feelings to be ironed out, and loose ends to tie.
It isn’t always about reconciling, sometimes it is just about neatly packaging the past so it fits perfectly on a memory shelf. However, it is still an expectation, and expectations are almost always harmful with regards to healing because they create finish lines on imaginary race courses that we have no control over.
Creating expectations means lining the path of healing with potential landmines. We can’t control outcomes, and thus if we come to emotionally rely on them, and they don’t come to pass, they will take us back a few pegs on the healing scale.
Even if they do come to pass, I will personally hedge they will only ever produce more questions, and a factory-line of new ends to tie.
Moving on, in a way, is about surrendering to the present circumstances and accepting the mess as it is, right now. I’m aware how difficult this is given how much is at stake, and how little control we realistically have over the bullying power of our emotions. But sometimes, just becoming aware (or, as Eckhart Tolle would say, shining a light) on the traps that we lace our own minds with is a way of dilating their control over us.
You’re Sick About Hearing About It
Even if you still caught in the emotional waves of a post-breakup storm, there comes a moment when you can become sick and tired of being sick and tired. In my case, I became frustrated that I felt that I was being defined by my own breakup, rather than defining my new life around the trauma. It seemed like a waste of a fantastic (if painful) opportunity to build myself into something new.
As always, easier said than done.
But recognizing what was happening to me was a start, and the wheels were set in motion, even if I would occasionally relapse into subjectivity and drown again. In a sense then my objective was to effectively fake an external vibe of moving on. In order to redefine myself, predominately for the sake of my ailing social circles and family, and not be that guy.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with pain and trauma, and the ensuing natural fallout. If anything, I feel like they represent the biggest opportunities for growth we have and we shouldn’t deny ourselves the experience, however destructive they can seem. However, I did get a little sick of being the breakup guy and felt it was time to at least attempt to move on physically if not emotionally.
It worked, ever so slowly, but it did work. The lesson, at least personally, is that moving on can be aided by moving on in a far more literal sense. By physically ushering myself into a new routine. No matter what that routine actually is.
So, again — personally — I feel that a sign that you’re moving on is that life becomes a little less of an act. That our fake plastic smiles melt into something a little more genuine over time. That our actions become a little less synthetic and a little more fluid and we stop feeling like puppets on the strings of our emotion.