And here we are, deep within the all-encompassing, all-devouring, ever-draining swirling maelstrom of guilt, anger, confusion, hope and anxiety that being alone after a breakup entails (no matter what the context is and no matter who did the dumping).
One of the greatest catalysts of all of these emotional outlets is solitude, as it lays bare the rawness of our feelings and forces us to contemplate the reality of what separation really entails. But all is not lost, rather, our “alone experience” is a reflection of our own internal tumult, and thus partially within our control.
While we can’t argue ourselves out of grief (due to the fact that most of it is playing out at a subconscious level), there are steps we can take to regain self-control, and master our solitude, rather than being mastered by it.
Solitude And Loneliness Are Not Synonyms
I find that all to often people tend to feel that solitude and loneliness are somehow the same thing. Being alone is a state of being, feeling alone is a state of mind.
In fact, many (guilty as charged on my count), find it far easier to feel alone around people. In the words of the Thin Red Line’s Sergeant Welsh:
Private Witt: Do you ever feel lonely?
First Sgt. Edward Welsh: Only around people.
But so what? You may right ask. How does this distinction help? The reason I bring is this up, is to reinforce the realization that we are ultimately the master and commander of our present emotional predicament (aside from the natural sub-conscious elements of grief).
That there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with being alone. Especially with regards to moving on. There is absolutely no right way to navigate a breakup.
So, let’s drop the pretense that being alone is a pretext for punishment, and instead, start to work on feeling less alone.
The World Is Our Oyster
One way to remind ourselves of the undeniable virtues of singledom, is to look at the breakup as a landscape of opportunity rather than a series of consequences. For one, it exposes the lie that we must weather the inevitable storm, rather than build a new life that better fits our needs right at this very moment.
While these two scenarios are not mutually exclusive, much of what happens next remains a choice, should we choose to see our immediate future as a decision rather than something we are forced to suffer.
Let me put it this way; the brain wants its comfort zone back — and it doesn’t really care how this occurs, or what the consequences are (hello rebound relationships! I’m looking at you). If we are lamenting our lost partner, it is only natural that reconciling is the easiest and safest way to give our subconscious brain what it wants.
But it isn’t the only way.
Finding A New Comfort Zone
Here are a number of ways we can reconstruct a new comfort zone, and appease both the conscious mind (a worst case scenario still means a much blessed distraction anyway), and the subconscious mind.
Develop a new routine that works, and stick to it — day in day out. The key here is consistency, the more consistent you are, the quicker your brain will accept the new you as legitimate and stop barking for a return to the past. Does it really matter what this routine involves? Not really, but it should obviously be something that you are comfortable with, or you will merely replace one torment for another in the long run.
Redefine who you are by reinventing yourself. This can be tricky due to the fact that, for the most part, we perceive ourselves through the eyes of others (let’s be honest here). Nevertheless, force your mind to reconsider who you are by changing something significant about your life. A conspicuous example would be to erect a new social circle and explore it (joining a gym or local meetup, sharing hobbies, casual dating e.t.c).
Drop self-criticism and judgment. There is always something to learn about a breakup, and you will have inevitably made mistakes. But who doesn’t? Letting go isn’t only about accepting that they’re gone. It’s about letting go of your own self-judgment. Who benefits from self-inflicted misery? What purpose does it serve beyond delaying a rosy new dawn and alienating yourself further from your present? If there are lessons to be learned, and apologies to be made, make them, then set sail for new horizons without beating yourself up. If your actions match your thoughts, your mind will naturally acquiesce (in time).
A Note On Diving Headfirst Into Dating
Don’t get me wrong, dating is a fantastic way to move on, provided that you are incredibly skeptical about your intentions, and doubly skeptical about your expectations.
Rebounding is a real threat, not only because it is a glass house that will shatter and leave you precisely where you started (or worse, with the added illusion that nobody will ever be quite the person your ex was), on top of hurting someone else who may have genuinely believed in you.
My only advice would be to be constantly honest about your intentions, both with yourself and with your new partner in crime. While it isn’t the sexiest thing in world to tell a romantic prospect that you have come sliding in off of a breakup, it usually pays to mention it (if only in passing, and definitely without making it the crux of the conversation). P.S, if it’s just a fling you’re after, as long as it is implied that this is all that’s going on, then none of what I’m talking about applies.
While this may dampen the mood somewhat, and many will be dissuaded by this revelation, it won’t deter those who have taken a genuine interest in you, and will allow them to adjust their own expectations as necessary (because they will know there is a pretty big chance you are in a state of constant flux).