The secret to getting over a breakup and into a healthy new start
The end of any relationship causes sadness. Think of the last day at a job, the last day of a holiday, the last time you see a friend or a relative before they move to another country. Goodbyes are always sad because we do not like parting from the people we have built relationships with. We create bonds easily and hate seeing those bonds breaking.
Romantic relationships are especially painful because they carry a spark of 'foreverness' with them. Although levels of commitment vary between us all, deep down, we wish our relationships could never end.
The critical point is that the sadness we feel can be very uncomfortable. It causes sudden and significant drops in neurotransmitters critical to the feelings of well-being: oxytocin, serotonin, and dopamine. This drop causes mental and physical symptoms (the heart pain is real, not imaginary, because of such intense physiological changes).
In the face of such discomfort, we will try our best to avoid such feelings of sadness. One of the most common avoidance strategies is anger, so we hold on to anger to avoid falling into a pool of sadness. Anger, in time, turns into resentment and then bitterness.
Anger can be justified and, if it can be channelled healthily, it can motivate action and change. Martin Luther King skillfully called for "creative dissatisfaction." I like this term because it describes a way to channel angry feelings positively.
Anger is pointless, however, if we are trying to change the past. We may be holding on to resentment to avoid accepting the reality of what happened and the sadness that comes with it.
Anger carries seeds of entitlement and pay-back, and such feelings can spill over into new relationships and be projected onto new partners, who are not the real source of the anger. This situation can leave us with a series of failed relationships without realising what is happening under the surface. Anger is a slow burner that keeps nagging us at the back of our minds.
The bottom line is that bottled-up anger spreads like fire to everyone we interact with. We are not very good at handling anger and resentment.
The only way to give new relationships a real chance of success and give a new partner a fair chance is to let go of resentment. Our subconscious is not capable of discerning different romantic relationships. It feels like new relationships are just new phases of the old ones and, as a result, we carry old resentment forward to the new relationship(s).
The importance of forgiveness and compassion
A tried-and-tested strategy for dealing with anger is through forgiveness and compassion. Compassion can be difficult for some of us as it can be seen as a weakness, and I understand that because this is how I felt before I started my journey towards compassion and acceptance.
Forgiving does not mean condoning or excusing, and it doesn't mean putting up with violent or inappropriate behaviour of any kind. Protecting ourselves from harm is necessary, and remembering who harmed us and how so we can avoid further harm is part of survival.
Forgiveness is the act of consciously choosing to see others with kindness, compassion, and understanding instead of judgement and hate because we are all fallible living beings. Forgiveness is to stop wishing anyone harm and seeking retribution, letting them go in peace while enjoying peace for yourself too.
The way I start this process with my clients is to make a list of everything they are still angry about from their previous relationship. You are welcome to do that for yourself at home, but make sure you calm yourself down shortly after. I take clients to calmer states via hypnosis in my sessions, but you can go to the gym, go for a walk, or do something that normally brings you joy.
Once you are in a calm, relaxed, and comfortable state of mind, look at this list and, for each item, you must answer the following questions:
- Is there a chance the person didn't mean to do this?
- Could this have been the best they could do at the time, given the circumstances?
- Were they protecting themselves?
- Were they naïve?
Then make a list of everything you can remember that you have done which upset, hurt or disadvantaged someone in any way. Focus on your partner, but extend the list to everyone else. Include things you regret saying or doing. Everything you can remember.
Now, ask the same questions as above to yourself. Were you being malicious or were you just clumsy? What did you not know at the time that made you act the way you did? Were you trying to protect yourself?
Before we can forgive others, we need to forgive ourselves.
We can only extend to others the same kindness we offer ourselves first, so it is important to re-evaluate our own actions first. Although this exercise is much easier done during a hypnosis session with the guidance of a therapist, you can still make progress on your own. Just make sure you are honest with yourself.
By the end of this exercise, I believe you should have a new perspective. Nothing is as simple as it seems, and we all make mistakes. It is very unlikely any of us have been truly malicious. We often act from a place of fear, trying to protect ourselves, trying to survive.
A truly compassionate person is strong, not weak. You have to be brave enough to accept reality and withstand the sadness that comes with it. This courage allows us to see the truth more often and experience life more fully as a richer range of emotions becomes available. Compassion does not make anyone vulnerable; we are much more vulnerable when we fail to accept reality and choose to live in fear.
Compassionate people have more friends, build stronger bonds, and are overall more satisfied with their lives. Having a strong network of friends gives us more strength and security and more opportunities, not less.
How can hypnotherapy help?
In a hypnotherapy session, we encourage our clients to imagine what it would be like to be a compassionate person. What would it feel like to forgive everyone and ourselves for everything? How would that feel, even if just for a moment? Would it feel light, would it feel calm and relaxed?
Hypnosis helps us focus and visualise possible outcomes more clearly. It also promotes relaxation and states of calm, comfort and security, switching off the fight or flight state of the nervous system. When out of this state, it becomes easier to think clearly, evaluate rationally, and problem solve.
A calm state of mind enables us to make charitable allowances towards the possible motivations of those who have hurt our feelings, enabling us to reframe past events in a more positive light.