The Latest Blog Posts From Ryan David
I apologize for not getting back to you about your love blog [and commenting] like I said I was going to do, but I have been experiencing the worst break up of my life and not sure if I believe in love any more. I keep reading your blog [on love] and hope for those good things to happen to me but I think I am missing the meanings of it all because it seems I can’t get it right. Any suggestions on how to survive love?
The timing of this email question, from a former student about my age by the way, is very interesting to me because I actually just went through/have recently experienced the worst loss/separation/break-up of my life as well. Break ups, like relationships, are all unique, but there are some common factors, specifically when it comes to how you as an individual can handle them. There is nothing easy about how to handle them, and there is no magic solution to make the pain go away. I don't know the specifics to what your situation consists of, but there are a few general things to keep in mind that I think may help get you through as you attempt to move on...
No matter the reason for the break up, relationships consist of two people, and it takes two people to make them work…and, believe it or not, to a certain extent it takes two people to end them as well. So it’s important at some point to first take some time and consider how each person involved is feeling about ending things, and understand how each of you views things. Then you have to ask yourself or find out how you alone are going to approach things, depending on your mindset. Are you going to look at it and accept it as a final, permanent loss, and start the journey of moving on accordingly? Or, are you going to hold on to the thought or idea that it’s just a temporary separation or time apart, with the prospect of possibly being together in the future, because of either a) something circumstantial or b) just because you don't want to let go, and I mean really don't want to…because none of us wants to let go of someone we love.
How are you internalizing/rationalizing “the end”? This is a critical step in terms of moving anywhere. As far as not wanting to let go, sure it’s natural to want to hold on, either because of love, comfort, convenience, circumstance, environment, a list of things can facilitate the emotional attachment and strong bond within a relationship, and timing is everything. But be clear, the initial instinct to hold on is mostly a strong emotional urge not to let go. Logically, rationally, intelligently, and mentally however sometimes we do decide to let go because we know it makes sense, or is healthiest, or "the right thing", etc. At that point, when something we know becomes just as important as something we feel, we begin the struggle to fight what our brain is telling our heart. But as long as your brain and heart are saying the same thing, "I don't want to let go", and your brain sides with your heart, and still 'believes' you want to, should be, or need, to be with the other person…then you’re not ready, and it’s going to be most difficult to move on. It's only when your brain starts to see and believe that you can be/should be/or its best that you move on from what you’ve been, and not be with them, that you can begin the struggle of taming the strong emotions that try to convince you otherwise; strong emotions that we have, and last, thanks to the deep associations we have made in our lives with another person. So figuring out and self reflecting about where you are and where you want to go is really a necessary first step, and a step that may take some time and be painful itself, but the effort needs to consistently be there so that eventually you can make that break through.
Speaking of associations that lead to strong feelings, the more things in your life stay the same (routine, hobbies, environment, etc) the harder it is going to be to snap your mind out of “the funk” of being heartbroken. This is because you are visually reminded on a daily basis of things in your life that are directly tied to your "past". I think you have to shake it up. Put it this way (and I’m not necessarily suggesting this) when I broke up with my ex, I didn't even want to be in MY house anymore, a place that I thought of as OUR home. So three months later, I sold it! Now that's a little extreme, but extreme times call for extreme measures! Granted I had previously planned on, and been considering a move anyway, but not for another year or so. Oh, I bought a brand new bed as well.
Now, just because you make a change, or immediately do something different in your life, it doesn’t mean it’s going to be effective or take your pain away, and fix all of your problems. Because of the way focus and perception work in our heads, it’s almost mandatory that we jump start our brains into thinking new, or different thoughts, and mentally changing our own focus, preferable in a more positive, productive direction. To do this is to be mentally proactive and defend from spiraling into a depressed state by getting fixated on things or thoughts that cause us to feel pain.The key to any change, I believe, is that it needs to be a long-term intrinsic lifestyle change and not a short-term external behavioral escape. Escapes can be easy, simple, convenient, effortless, and lazy. Escapes can come in the form of an interpersonal rebound, and latching on to whomever is near you on a regular basis or conveniently waiting close by. They can come in the form of a new activity such as gym classes, or excessively working out to keep busy, and distracted, and channel your energy. Parties, clubs, and drugs are all too commonly used as a temporary fix or change for people ultimately acting in desperation in an attempt to escape the inevitable pain that comes with loss and moving on. These are the same types of people who tend to rely heavily on denial and repression to an unhealthy extent. The problem with escapes is that most people turn to these meaningless temporary things in excess thinking or wanting them to lead to a permanent fix and authentic happiness. But sooner or later, reality calls, you hit that wall, that new person gets old, you burn out at the gym, or even worse in the case of alcohol, drugs, and the wrong crowd.
Along with figuring out where you are and how you view your situation in the present, as well as attempting to make lasting, meaningful changes in your life, there are some other basic principles that are helpful if consistently applied.
The main thing to keep in mind is something that I teach and preach in my Psychology classes often, and it’s a fundamental part of my approach to life - we can't control or change anything about other people, only ourselves, and when we try to it creates anxiety. We can’t force them to stay, to decide to care about us, or to make more of an effort to love us. All we CAN do is everything in our power to express our needs and feelings to the other person to the best of our ability. From there, the rest is up to them…and regardless of what they choose to do, at least you can sleep at night knowing YOU did all YOU could do. Knowing this and reminding yourself of this regularly is helpful.
Also, in terms of being independent (optimistically put) or being alone (negatively put), another strong fact that we lose touch with, forget, or don’t even have the strength to believe in anymore during our darkest hour when we experiencing such a deep level of heartache, hopelessness, and loneliness, is to always know that no matter who comes and goes in your life, as long as you’re living, you are alive…and if you're alive opportunity is alive. Whether it is with him/her again or someone new in an even more special way that you can’t imagine right now, it’s alive.
It comes down to the power of focus and control. What are we focusing on at every second, of every moment, daily? We have a natural tendency to devote energy (emotionally, mentally, and even physically) to whatever we focus on. That’s why focus is such a powerful thing, and huge key to success and being positive if you ask me. But it can also be painful, depressing, and exhausting when we are focusing on and devoting energy to something or someone we cannot change. Start paying attention to what you’re paying attention to, what telling yourself, and what you’re focusing on.
By no means do I have all the answers or am I myself ready to start a long-term, serious relationship with someone new tomorrow simply from knowing this. As I like to say, even though it may be simple, that doesn't mean it's easy! No matter who you are, if you truly loved the person, let alone were in love with them, then it will take time, and needs to happen slowly, very slowly. This is mostly important so that you’re not fooled or pulled into something with someone who is not genuine. But time is also necessary to know that you’re not fooling yourself and that new person is not only sincere with how they feel about you, but that they are meaningful in your life and matter to you, and that you really care about them as well. It’s very common for people who are not consciously looking for a rebound to still unconsciously move too fast, and end up finding themselves confused and learning the hard way that they really didn’t care for the new person like they thought they did, and their feelings for them were just misplaced emotions about their past that were ignored, denied, or unresolved and never dealt with. Make an effort not to be that person and put yourself through added heartache because of how you handle the pain of the reality in your world that has been flipped upside down.
Now read this again, about 10 more times starting from the top...