The biggest problem regarding your typical “moving on” mindset (as I see it), is that it is only ever relative to our feelings towards our ex. And thus we measure “progress” as an indicator of our feelings with them specifically in mind. The issue here is that rather than provide us with an objective path towards healing, it only serves to reinforce their presence as we continue to depend on an spectral connection.
In short, we risk substituting one relationship with another (and tangible or intangible our subconscious mind cares not), the one that once existed, with the one that continues to reside within our minds.
Much like breaking any mild addiction, you don’t break dependency by using the addiction itself as a reference point. For instance:
- You wouldn’t leave an open packet of cigarettes on your desk everyday and try to gauge how strong the impulse is to smoke, day in day out.
- You wouldn’t keep a six-pack of beer chilled in the fridge “in case”, if you were dead serious about removing alcohol in your diet.
Relationship breakups are functionally no different. By overly fixating (“overly” is obviously the keyword here, because to a certain degree we have no control over this happening) on moving on, by keeping track of our feelings and responses to emotional triggers, by inspecting every nook and cranny of our emotional fallout and comparing it to the previous week, by plastering visual reminders around the dusty halls of our consciousness (I’m looking at you Facebook), we are only blowing more life into the romantic ghosts of our past, because we continue to depend on our past relationship to define and validate our present and future.
The coveted end-goal of emotionally sustainable acceptance requires removing as much self-judgement and over-analysis from our bouts of grief as possible, by observing them as objectively as possible in the present. It might not make our pain any less raw, but it will help clean our emotional wounds and allow us to achieve emotional stability sooner than we otherwise would (even though allowing raw emotion to flow through us may mean more pain in the short-term).
Given my aforementioned tirade about treating mild addiction, I want to point out that we absolutely do not have to fixate on tying loose ends to regain control. I would actually hedge that by focusing on aspects of our lives that exist independently of our breakup situation we are bound to make more efficient long-term headway.
Indulging in activities that promote and force us to adopt a new routine are fantastic ways of regaining a sense of control over our lives, directly suffocating insecurity and reducing the feeling of drifting aimlessly that often accompanies breakups. And better yet, it all works regardless of our past and how heavy our emotional ball and chain currently is.
Here are a few classic examples:
- Get on a diet (goals will differ from person to person, from losing weight to muscle-building or skin improvement. Whatever you feel you can improve, improve).
- Dust off social circles (or start new ones free of painful mutual acquaintances)
- Start a new TV series / book Saga (Nobody said forming new routines had to high energy)
- Focusing on our careers
While I can see how subjective and potentially superfluous saying all this might initially sound, I really cannot stress how important beginning to structure a new routine really is. It isn’t just about distraction and it certainly isn’t about needlessly occupying our time.
This isn’t entirely for our conscious benefit either. A large part of our pain stems from our subconscious mind’s relentless thirst for getting its old comfort zone back. However, we can start to abate this brutal subconscious hammering by giving it something better, a fresh new comfort zone that we are comfortable with.
The sooner we identify with this new reality, the sooner both our subconscious and conscious mind can wholly integrate with it.
Ghosts, And The Illusion Of Company
Why do I mention it within the context of this particular article? Well, aside from the fact that it often, along with the damage to our ego, encapsulates a large portion of the breakup pain itself, it is also another way we use relativism to trick our minds into a damaging false sense of security (in tandem with my point regarding phantom relationships).
Indulging in uncertainties and allowing them to comfort and guide us is an efficient way to stave off the inexorable marching wall of loneliness, but only in the short-term. While there is always the chance (even if most of the time it really is a Hail Mary pass) that our expectations regarding the future are met, most of time all we are doing is prolonging anxiety and accruing further emotional damage, because every day that that fateful call come through or they don’t knock on our door is yet another resounding defeat in a succession of resounding defeats, and another nail in the coffin with regards to our already critical state of self-esteem.
We need to ask ourselves a simple question. Who is really more alone, the person who comforts themselves with a dream of what may come, or the person who accepts the situation at face value? As painful as accepting a situation as is, is, without hedging our bets on a favorable resolution, we’ll never feel quite as lonely as we will should our house of cards come crumbling down all around us. Personally, I’ll take a short-term eruption of pain over an unending meandering fjord of anguish any day of the week!