The end of a relationship gives rise to a wide range of emotional and psychological distress, and for some it can leave deep scars, affecting people sometimes even years after the split. Whether or not you develop some kind of traumatic effect from your last breakup, it is still a painful and stressful experience to go through.
With all the reasons you have to suffer, and you do need to acknowledge your pain at your own time, but at some point you can also have reasons to look forward to a renewed life! Change can feel daunting with all the uncertainties and unknowns, but can also feel exciting!
Not knowing can be intriguing and even exhilarating! The reason sometimes we don’t allow ourselves to experience these feelings is because we tend to fear the unknown while expecting the most unpleasant/negative outcomes, and like that we discard the possibility for the greatness that can come out of a different set of circumstances. Instead of: -what if it goes wrong?
Remember that where you are right now can also lead to the best thing that ever happened to you. What if it goes right?! The possibilities are endless, which also include potential for many positives – remember that.
Even though there are changes you can’t control, this might be the perfect time to start directing your attention on the ones you can. Separations lead to many ramifications that go beyond the split from an ex partner, sometimes even splitting from some friends in the process, as well as family members on your ex partner’s side, to mention a few ramifications that you have little control over.
However, despite the fact that these changes can be brutal and devastating, you can use this time to change other aspects in your life that complement your new you and the life you are now rebuilding.
Maybe that means looking for a job you always considered but was too afraid or too committed in your relationship to go for; maybe you dream of studying a particular subject – take a course, or it is a particular hobby you always wanted to try; or a particular sport you wanted to practice; maybe a volunteer position you can see yourself in; etc.
Changes are great at introducing opportunities, but it is up to you to invite them in and assess them in a curious manner. Take this opportunity and also be curious about yourself – rediscover yourself by investing time and attention in the new you.
And how do you invest in yourself?
Start by always acknowledging your feelings
Ignoring how you are feeling can be considered a form of self-neglect, even though you don’t always have to act on your feelings, it is important to recognise and accept them with kindness and non-judgement – all your feelings, including the least pleasant ones.
You don’t have to stay with these feelings forever, as our emotions are not fixed, but it is important to acknowledge instead of avoiding them. Unpleasant or Negative emotions are an incredibly normal, healthy and helpful part of life.
I think it’s really important not to fall into the ‘happiness trap’ of believing that to be happy one must feel joy all the time or that unpleasant emotions are a sign of weakness or low emotional intelligence. Trying to hide away from negative emotions, can lead to further emotional pain.
As a human being, you will experience a full range of emotions throughout your lifetime in response to rapidly changing situations, and going through a breakup is definitely an event that leads to many changes with distressing effects. You can think of your emotions as a source of information.
Your emotions tell you something about what’s going on with you and around you. Emotions, however, are not the only source of information available to you, as you also have your rational thoughts, your stored knowledge and experience, and your values and goals.
Information provided by emotions needs to be appraised and evaluated in light of these other sources in order for you to better understand your own circumstances and then decide how to behave in a given situation.
Self-care starts with acknowledgment of your difficulties, acceptance and self-compassion.
Learn about what makes you happy
In the midst of a breakup you may still be caught up in the couple’s dynamics and include him/her in your past sense of happiness which will conflict with your present opportunities for contentment. It is understandable that this dynamic and embedded habits are difficult to break – after all your sense of happiness was connected to memories with somebody.
Although difficult, that reality is gone and all these changes in circumstances also affects what can make you happy today, because what made you happy yesterday might not make you happy in the present time.
Furthermore, the sense of nostalgia can lead to selective memories, filtering out the negative moments and replacing them with the positive ones instead, exacerbating the belief that we will never be happy again – even though a common belief after a breakup – it is not a realistic one!
So, learn to live a life of a newly single person, by learning about and respecting your own story, your journey, your own time to heal, whilst finding what is it really that you enjoy – what makes you you – and practice more of what improves your general well-being.
Happiness can mean different things to different people, but in my line of work together with my experience, I can safely tell you that happiness is not a long life objective that only happens if you complete a set of tasks in a complex time-frame, or something that only the lucky ones experience.
Happiness is everywhere, is in everything, happiness is in you, is in learning and accepting oneself (and learning about oneself involves all range of emotions, not just the positive/pleasant ones), happiness is in your values and principles and in the satisfaction from acting on those values, is in a random act of kindness, is in how you choose to treat others, and more importantly how you choose to treat yourself.
Happiness is an ability, a skill, and like any skill, with the right practice it can be improved.
Try new things
How do you learn more about yourself without trying new things?!
New circumstances may call for new actions and for that to happen it is not just about considering what could be good for you, you have to actually go ahead and try different things. It is not all just about introspection alone, to invest more on yourself, you will also need some behavioural exposure – trial and error!
An error doesn’t mean failure, the real failure is in not trying, so it’s best to keep trying and you will know what works for you and what does not, but only by giving these new opportunities a chance. For e.g. you may be considering a dancing class, you probably have many expectations but not sure if it is for you since you have never tried it before.
If you try it and you love it – great – another new experience that ends up contributing to meeting new friends and occupying your free time in a healthy and joyful manner.
However, if it ends up not being what you expected, don’t be discouraged to try other activities just because dancing was not as gratifying as you hoped it would be, at least now you know that and can focus on other potential activities. Regardless of the outcome, continuous trial and error means you are experimenting – good for you! The dancing class was a simple example, but just comes to show that you only know something and reap its benefits if you experience it yourself, so it’s always worth giving it a try.
Continuous trial and error means you are not giving up on yourself and that alone is something to be proud of.
Not only can you learn to love yourself more, you can also enjoy the process by embracing these new aspects of your life. Surely, change can seem daunting but it can also be exciting when you look at your new life with curiosity.
The end of a chapter also represents the beginning of a new one – a new set of opportunities not only to enjoy a renewed life, but more importantly it is a chance to reinvent yourself!
Embrace your new life – You got this!
Wishing you a kind recovery.