There’s something to take away from every relationship experience, even if it is only a not-so-joyous dose of enduring cynicism. However, there comes a time when allowing our past to negatively define our present (and future) becomes unhealthy and frustratingly redundant. At this point we owe it to ourselves to shatter the chains of grief and nurture our existential well-being.
This article is my attempt at paving a realistic five step roadmap towards unconditional emotional acceptance, without attempting to amputate and numb our own capacity for love in the process.
1. Let It Rain
Despite the rather gloomy and anti-climatic first step, I nevertheless feel it is imperative to accept our present as is, rather than attempt to run from it. In short, it’s probably going to get worse before it gets better.
The reason for my stance stems not from a personal affinity for pain, but because it allows us to begin processing internalized insecurity. Moving on is only partly a conscious process (while you consciously want to forget, your subconscious mind is hellbent on resurrecting its comfort zone), in order to move on entirely, we need to satisfy a counter-intuitive spectrum of subconscious criteria that can take time to naturally accept (and is almost completely independent of logic or reason).
In any event, there is no better place to start than by brutally smashing any semblance of denial. We need to take the proceedings at face-value, and not hang on to the short-lived relief of false hope. For instance, if we were dumped for someone else, we are better off accepting that they are now in love with them with rather than hang onto notions such as GIGS (that it’s only temporary and they’ll be back once they realize how much we care about them). False hope is a time bomb that creates expectations that may never pan out, resetting our healing and catalyzing resentment.
Healing never really begins until we are willing to collide head-on with our fears. But that doesn’t mean we should revel in insecurity either. If taken too far, our subconscious grief can lead to a cycle of self-inflicted torture, the symptoms of which are plummeting self-esteem, anger and guilt.
2. Shedding Guilt, Anger And Low Self-Esteem
Perhaps the most misunderstood part of moving on involves declaring a general amnesty with ourselves. Forgiving your ex is not enough! In order to let go entirely you will need to forgive yourself. This means:
- Dropping the perfectionism (you made mistakes, but so did they — there is no such thing as a perfect partner and you are never solely responsible for their happiness).
- Preferring dignity over compassion – While breakup pain is a very traumatic reality of life, allowing our pain to define us leads to a cycle of self-victimization that destroys everything we have left. Leading to further isolation and a general worsening of self-esteem.
- Putting your needs first – While I don’t believe in actively seeking sympathy, I do believe in indulging our personal needs and desires. Make use of social circles, talk yourself out, do things for your own enjoyment and improve your life without guilt or remorse.
- Not begging for scraps – Begging or bargaining by compromising our fundamental needs is a surefire way to shatter our already fragile self-worth, especially if we are turned down or denied. It also leads to long-term resentment and guilt, which ends up being primarily directed at ourselves.
Most of the time the simple act of shining an objective light on our insecurity is enough to regain a modicum of control over our feelings. It always pays to ask ourselves who our fear is benefiting. In most cases we realize that it serves no functional purpose, other than jeopardizing our sense of existential peace.
3. Never Stop Moving
Initially, the onset of healing can best be characterized as a positive shift in attitude (points 1 and 2). But consciously moving on is only ever part of the puzzle. There are a number of things we can do to dramatically hasten healing. The reason why action is a catalyst for forgetting an ex and moving on is simple; we are actively reprogramming our subconscious wiring to accept a new reality.
There is simply no better way to persuade our subconscious mind to “get over it” than by giving it an alternative.
- Physical exercise quells trauma (it satisfies the autonomic nervous system’s flight or fight response) and produces naturally occurring painkillers (endorphins) which promote both immediate and long-term relief.
- Rekindling old social networks greatly helps minimize the effects of insecurity, shreds the last vestiges of emotional co-dependence and trains your mind into accepting new comfort zones.
- Re-prioritize your objectives solely with your needs in mind. Focus on your career, pick up a new hobby or pet, and reap the rewards of re-acquainting yourself with emotional self-sufficiency. In short, learn to love yourself.
- Erect new life goals. Ideally the smaller and more achievable they are the better. Even small steps forward greatly improve feelings of self-worth and self-esteem.
What you end up actually doing is secondary to the importance of doing something. The bottom-line is that we can’t directly communicate with our unconscious inner wiring, if we want to move on, we have to show it that we mean business. Give your subconscious brain an offer it can’t refuse.
4. The Fallacy Of Closure
Seeking closure and attempting to tie loose ends are natural byproducts of grief. However, creating the expectation of “making sense out of chaos” is ultimately detrimental to our healing, because all it takes to reset grief is a single tassel of logic that is out of place.
No matter how much clarity we attempt to grasp, there will always be questions that will remain unanswered. And for every question that is answered, there will be a dozen follow-up questions to replace it. There is no understanding to be reached, and there is no logical cure-all for our insecurity.
The penultimate step of moving on involves abandoning our very human tendency involving subjective over-analysis. There is no other way to summarize this difficult (but ultimately liberating) shift in expectation other than to call it an unconditional surrender. It involves accepting any contact, along with our doubts and expectations in absolute terms and at face value. No more what-ifs.
This stage of moving on is often referred to as the sadness stage of the Kubler Ross cycle of grief.
5. How To Forget An Ex
Once we’ve weathered trauma and taken decisive steps towards building a new life for ourselves, the notion that every breakup is potentially a blessing in disguise will become progressively clearer.
While things did get worse, and emotional rock-bottom was reached, we are struck by the realization that we are once again in control of our lives. We are alive and in charge. That we are, if not quite yet, but potentially nevertheless, emotionally self-sufficient.
The last act of moving on involves using the experience as a way to mold ourselves into something wiser, stronger and more productive. Grief is a powerful form of shock therapy and an unparalleled chance at growth that we shouldn’t deny ourselves.
Every moment of anguish is another drop of emotional cement that shores up insecurity, not just now, but forever. So long as we do not suppress healing or live within a construct of denial. While there are ways to temporarily dodge most breakup pain, sooner or later pent-up insecurity can and will crumble in a cacophony of pain.
By facing our demons head-on we reject cynicism and become invulnerable. Allowing us to confidently move onto something new, knowing that we are able to conquer our fears should romance crumble again.
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