When Chris’s girlfriend broke up with him, he couldn’t seem to recover. He sent her flowers on the anniversary of their first date. He invented excuses to call her and took any warmth from her as a sign of hope for their future. His friends got sick of hearing about her. Even after she got serious with someone else, Chris continually tortured himself by obsessing about her. He even went so far as to follow her on dates.
This fixation on a former love is not unusual. Many have trouble letting go after a relationship is over. The depression that follows the break-up of a relationship is considered by mental health professionals as a normal part of grieving. However, to those going through it, the pain can seem unbearable, and the accompanying behavior, embarrassing.
Why do we get so attached to another human being? Spiritually, the closeness that we feel serves us by propelling us into a sense of oneness that reminds us of our connection to the Divine. Sociologically, attachment keeps us together for the purpose of raising healthy babies and continuing the species. Physiologically, a chemical reaction occurs when we meet and bond with a partner. But when a relationship is no longer flowing – either because one partner wants out or for any other reason – it is time to release. The magic of releasing gracefully may actually bring the partner back. However, it doesn’t work to fake it. One must truly release without expectations for the future. And it is much easier to release than to go through the agony of holding on after it’s over.
Below are some guidelines for releasing when it’s necessary. They make it easier to let go and even expedite the process so you can be free to move on.
- Allow yourself to cry and grieve without judgment. Embrace the tears. Even welcome them, because they are healing. Don’t fight your feelings of depression and sadness. Just let them be, knowing they will pass. Meanwhile, realize the pain won’t kill you. By letting your grieving flow freely, you will recover quicker.
- Surrender to the Divine moment-by-moment and day-by-day, especially during the hard times. Stop trying to make something happen with your ex. Just trust that if you’re meant to be together, eventually it will be. But for now, you must release. There’s magic in this. Each time you manage to surrender, putting your pain in God’s hands, you will be met by some unexpected good. I’ve seen this come in the form of a distraction, a visit from a caring friend or an inspirational e-mail that lifts your spirits. This will build your trust. Understand you are and will be taken care of, even in the midst of your sorrow. Watch for what shows up for you each day in the form of support and love.
- One of the best methods of stopping obsessive thoughts about the other person is to focus instead on yourself and your own life. What we may be looking for in our lover is something we think is missing in ourself, so it makes sense that attention to the self is what will really fill this void. By turning your attention to yourself, you heal. Open to the Divine vision of yourself as a fulfilled, sacred being with an amazing life. Declare it is time that you come into your own. Every time you slip into obsessing about your former partner, take steps toward realizing your potential. The goal in letting go is to eventually be neutral about the other person. This means that you don’t waste time thinking about him/her, either with longing or with bitterness. Wish him/her well, but be too busy with your own life to waste much time on something that is now in the past.
- When pain arises, embrace it but don’t feed it. There is a hilarious bit in the film Broadcast News, in which each morning, the television producer played by Holly Hunter spends a few minutes in her closed office bawling her eyes out. Then, she puts away the kleenex and gets on with her day. This is not a bad approach to the sadness of release. Yes, you must embrace and allow the pain, but there are times when you must put it on the back burner and get on with life (like at your job). Furthermore, you don’t want to become a drama queen (or king) in which you allow your life to become a tragedy of unrequited, doomed love. There is too much loving and living waiting for you.
Notice ways in which you feed your pain. Practice what psychology calls the “observing ego” and spirituality calls the “witness consciousness.” This is simply noticing that you’re allowing the pain to mushroom. By noticing it, you disidentify with it and effectively make a “break” with it. You can’t both be aware of your pain, and let it take you over at the same time. Eckhardt Tolle’s book “The Power of Now” details ways of starving your “pain body” out of existence. The act of simply noticing you’re wallowing in your pain will help you transcend it and move on.
A step-by-step approach to begin using your witness consciousness is:
- Notice when you think of the person or your pain and how often. This alone will begin to dissolve the pattern
- Say to yourself, “I’m thinking of him/her again.” Watch yourself do this as if you suddenly realize you’re sitting in a movie instead of being completely caught up in the movie. You will notice that the pain actually goes away as you disidentify with it.
- As the pain dissolves, take a moment to feel the life spirit that animates your being. Feel your body deeply. This puts you back in touch with the Divine, with your highest Self.
- Become aware of this present moment. Look to see what’s going on around you and find something to be grateful for, even if it’s simply the gift of being alive.
Start understanding that you are not your thoughts, and that you can instantly pull yourself out of mushrooming negative thoughts or pain. As you master this practice, you are living in the present and leaving your past in the past.
- Forgive so you can be free. Whether you blame your ex-partner or another person for “breaking up” your relationship, hanging on to bitterness will not serve you. If you feel victimized, remember that you chose to stay in the relationship, ignoring the warning signs that were invariably there. Now, it’s time to move on, and that’s good. Be glad that you have finally seen the truth and can be open to something better. And don’t bother taking anything personally. Refrain from thinking there is something wrong with you.
- Take the high road as a way of practicing self-love. Don’t name call. Don’t scream. Don’t act childishly. Don’t be petty. If you’re a parent, don’t put your children in the middle with little digs or get into a custody battle unless your children are truly in jeopardy. You may think vengeful thoughts but don’t act on them. You will respect yourself much more by being above this “small” behavior.
- Do a formal release of your partner. It’s not necessary to do it face-to-face or over the phone. Write a letter that you don’t send or perform a ritual, releasing him/her to his/her highest good. Imagine the ties between the two of you – between your hearts, between your sexual organs, between your minds, between your souls – being cut. Then, say good-bye out loud and in your heart. This may be extremely painful, but you will feel much lighter afterwards.
- Don’t let your heart close. There is no such thing as a broken heart, only one that’s opening wider. A heart in pain is simply feeling love and loss fully. A study of AIDS babies’ parents showed that those who loved their baby with all of their hearts until it died recovered from their grief far quicker than the parents who refused to bond with the baby or abandoned it in an attempt to avoid the grief. This means that it behooves you to embrace your grieving while continuing to be open to love in whatever way it appears in your life. A heart that remains open heals faster.
Time does help. Seeing your former partner regularly (if, for example, you work together) forces you into doing deeper internal expansion. If you have ever been in love before and gotten over it, you know you can do so again, even if this love has seemed like the greatest love you’ve ever known. Rest assured there will be much more love for you and that this ending is just a new beginning in your life.
About the Author:
Kathryn Alice, RScP, ALSP is author of the bestselling book LOVE WILL FIND YOU and is considered the U.S.’s premier expert on dating, love & soulmates. She directed the Agape Crisis Support Team for the six years. Her work has helped tens of thousands find love and has been featured in Cosmopolitan, Parade Magazine, The New York Times, Psychology Today, Cosmopolitan, Body+Soul and on Montel, NBC & Aware Show. She teaches internationally in Los Angeles, Seattle, Atlanta, Chicago, Sydney, Kuala Lumpur and Cape Town. To find out more about Kathryn’s work and for more helpful articles to ease your heartache, visit her website at: www.KathrynAlice.com