We have had our share of breakups. We are sure you have too. Commiserating over a cup of coffee one Sunday morning, we found common ground in that oh so familiar place where amnesia takes over. You know the place. The one where we forget what didn’t work in our past relationships. Our minds firmly stuck in a sick loop of longing and desire when we know deep down our past love didn’t fully serve us. Friends and family constantly advising to let it go or get over it, but we just can’t. We knew there must be a way out of this breakup quicksand and we were determined to find it.
You can’t settle a matter of the heart with your mind.
Our conversation quickly unraveled one thread of the moving on mystery. Praise the java Gods! We realized that letting go does not equal no longer feeling the love. It always seemed the end goal was to stop loving our past partner so we could get on with our lives. We both shared our numerous attempts to shift the happy memories by reminding ourselves of all the reasons why the relationship didn’t work. Epic failure!
The problem with this approach is that love trumps everything. No matter the level of offense, we always settled back on the parts that did work. But why?? Digging way back into our memory banks of Psych 101, we remembered there were several reasons. Love is a base human need which we come into this world wanting, seeking and most importantly, needing. At the core, we only want to be happy so our mind finds a way back to happy at any cost.
There is no logic in love.
It was clear our desire to move on would not be fulfilled by constantly redirecting back to the pain. Armed with the knowledge that we are hardwired to get back to happy made us confident in concluding that this approach leads only to endless cycling from the present pain to the past happiness and back again. The puzzle remained unsolved. This was going to take more than coffee. Maybe a cookie would help.
Resistance is futile.
Fueled by sugar and caffeine, we dove back into the depths of breakup breakdown. We found some simple truths that resonated through our breakup experiences. Inevitably, we all have moments of being deep in the story of our past loves. Remembering a particularly sweet time we had together, longing for what was or fantasizing about the parts that made our soul sing. We became aware that our minds made these moments more and more significant the further we moved into grieving our relationships. The more we pushed ourselves to move on from surviving our loss, the more present our pain became. The natural reaction of our system is to come back to balance and seeing we were fully engaged in our relationship stories, the only resource available was past happy memories.
The good news is… It is not our fault we get are stuck in the drama loop. This simple formula of pain to pleasure is a base instinct.
We are designed to move from survival mode to thriving.
We are smart people. We said no to seconds of coffee and sweets. We even ordered water. And obviously, we know beating ourselves up over feeling stuck was not helpful. The fundamental concept of basic survival made it clear that the answer could likely be found in seeking and gaining the knowledge we needed to work with, instead of against, our survival instincts.
We all prefer pleasure to pain.
Well, ok, not always, but that is a whole other topic entirely. Focus. We knew our minds bring us back to past moments of happiness or fantasizes about future moments of pleasure. The trick must be utilizing our natural inclination for pleasure in the present moment. Eureka! Attention and action are the required keys to unlocking this breakup puzzle. We broke down these two steps as we strolled to our cars feeling quite accomplished. We were determined to put our breakthrough into play immediately and vowed to stick with it.
The result was gradual but obvious. We talked weekly and noticed our conversations shifting. Our reactions and responses to our breakups becoming healthier and easier as the pain was losing it’s hold. Do yourself a favor if you feel stuck and try this two-step trick.
- Attention —- When the wave of your past love washes over you, allow yourself a few moments to really feel it. Notice where the feeling resides in your body. Give yourself permission to lean into the happiness found in this old emotion. Stay present with the good that dwells in remembering.
Warning: Do not slip into 15 minutes of fantasizing as this leaves you rooted in the past or projecting into the future. It is natural to get stuck here so stay out of the failure zone and anchor into the success of noticing your response. We found we were able to catch ourselves more quickly each time.
Once we validated in our mind it was ok to feel the happiness, we were able to start working together with our feelings instead of pushing against them.
- Action – Do something immediately that is pleasurable. Take the dog for a run, put on your favorite tunes and have an impromptu dance party, snuggle the cat, connect with a friend…whatever gets your endorphins pumping. The goal is to continue the pleasurable energy. This will link up in your mind that all happy thoughts lead to further fun. You are in effect breaking the cycle of happy thoughts looping back to pain.
Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
What we learned:
- Grieving and healing from a breakup are not quick or easy work.
- Survival instincts kick in immediately.
- Feeling stuck is not our fault.
- There is nothing wrong with still feeling the love.
- The key to success is being aware of our patterns and working with them.
We made it out and you can too! This simple strategy helped us shift from surviving breakup breakdown to thriving on a daily basis. Go take your life back!
Want additional support – Check out our online course Shhh…I’m Feeling: The Epic Battle between Heart and Mind.
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*As published in the Huffington Post