A practically minded person will understandably claim that moving on is as much a physical act, as it is a philosophical one.
But then there’s also something else, something more personal. Something irrational, the ever present emotional wildcard we can’t quite come to grips with.
What if we paired this time-will-heal-all-wounds passivity (that nevertheless works… eventually), with a new propensity to take control over things we can actually improve rather than obsess over the many fantasies we’ve littered our mind with (oh yes we have).
The logic here is rooted in the idea that taking control of aspects of our lives (that we can change) means regaining control of our emotions.
The problem however, is knowing the difference, and being honest with ourselves about what we really have control over.
The Magic Of Exercising Control
Breakups are aptly named because they destroy everything, including our routines and expectations. The fallout is often that of being cast kicking and screaming into a world where nothing seems to make sense. The routine and solidity of our past relationship has now just crudely evaporated, leaving us wondering whether it was all a dream.
Emotionally speaking, this state of prolonged uncertainty can become unsustainable, because to live without reference points means to inflame anxiety. Left unchecked, the result is that we either end up becoming delusional, or we start begging our exs for the clarity and validation we sorely lack. Yikes.
Instead, I would urge a little self-discipline. And the first step is making sense of what we still have, rather than what we have lost. The things that we still own and can influence.
Things we still have
- Our time – Relationships involve a measure of sacrifice when it comes to free time. In an effort to make emotional ends meet we often shred our individualism. Once a relationship has ended, it can be a somewhat surreal process reminding ourselves that our time is now fully ours once more (save secondary considerations such as children). A powerful first step towards defeating remnants of co-dependence is to indulge in activities that cater to our own whimsical rules, without negotiation. In short, if it feels good, do it. Who’s judging?
- Social circles – It’s time to dust off those ailing friendships that might have fallen to the wayside during the course of the relationship. Also, and perhaps more importantly, there’s no better time than the end of a relationship to enact change by eliminating negative influences and welcoming fresh, healthy new ones. Not only will you get less blow back (people will expect you to make life-changing decisions), but the relative pain of enacting change will be tempered by the far greater pain of the breakup itself.
- Your Finances – Call me superficial, but your financial (and existential) responsibilities have just halved. Of course, this will depend on whether or not you are working or whether your duties were at home (maternity/paternity), however, I can confidently state that for the majority of us, singledom is a boon to our wallets. And consequently, our ability to enjoy ourselves on our terms has increased. Indulging ourselves is not a product of narcissism, nor does it make us superficial, it is actually a key step with regards to transitioning from co-dependence to a functional individual.
- Who you are – Without a doubt, to me, the most liberating and exciting of all of these points. Trauma is change, and people will grant you a great deal of leeway when it comes to fighting your way to peace. People will expect you to change, because you will change. But this doesn’t have to be a subconscious process, and here’s the kicker, you can subjectively decide to become whatever it is you want to become. Just like that. Now is the time to cut corners and ruffle feathers. Now is the time to allow your heightened tolerance of change (grief sends its regards) to help you build a new you. I know it sounds like wishful thinking, but it really works. The reason I mention other people (surely this is all about us?) is because in part we are what people see in us, the way they treat us. But now, because you are going through hell, people will take a step back and wait to see what comes out of all the pain. They will re-assess you, take advantage if this. If you play your cards right you can change the way people treat you, and consequently they way you see yourself.
Breakups are often a time where we lament what we’ve lost. Which is perfectly true and understandable, you have lost a great deal (for good or ill). But don’t forget that loss also materializes new handholds in life, and that for every aspect of your life that has fallen away, a new one has risen. It’s just a matter of being disciplined and objective enough to see it.
Building A New Routine
Moving on is nothing other than adapting to a new routine. Forget the expectation that time will numb your pain, or that you will cease caring. Feeding these hopes will only remind you constantly of how you are still in thrall of the past, and provide constant points of failure (because you will never meet those expectations). You are better off accepting that you continue to care deeply than you are keeping one foot in delusion.
The good news is that no matter how you feel about your ex, you can, and will, move on. The key is giving our subconscious brain a new reality it can play with. To give it new solid foundation to cling to, so that it stops pestering you for the old one (which is what much of our pain is all about, not our exs per se, but our brain wondering where its comfort zone went).
It can be a slow process if we let our present unfold blindly. I’m talking months/years here. Instead, let’s become conscious of what our new reference points are and act on them.
Physically acting is key, because physical repetition teaches our subconscious mind what the new normal is. The more we do something, the more the brain will come to recognize it as a part of our lives.
So, having said that, take all the things you want your new life to have, and do them.
Grief As An Opportunity
Another often forgotten aspect of trauma is that instead of simply suffering it (a degree of pain is unavoidable) and cursing our ill fortune, it can be a tool. I know how I tend to repeat this ad nauseum, but grief is a period in our lives where the walls and rules of our day to day lives are crushed. Given that we’re now left with an open playing field, it would be folly not to consciously build new walls that are beneficial to us.
Think of a breakup as a new beginning rather than an ending (which it is). This isn’t an attempt by me to make you feel better, it’s just an objective look at what a breakup leads to. Whether you like it or not, you are in the process of constructing a new routine. Given that change is inevitable, why not consciously grasp this opportunity to build something that serves you, rather than leaving it up to fate?
Granted, action and opportunity require discipline and effort, but even just taking baby steps towards these new goals is enough to reward us. This is because taking the helm reminds us that we are fundamentally in control of our lives. And secondly, and no less importantly, achieving baby step goals will grant us a feeling of progress and shore up our bruised self esteem. Win-win.
We might not be able to dictate our situation, but we can choose how to respond and by doing so we are eradicating painful ties to the past without damaging our capacity to love.