Breakups are painful. Even if we are the one ending it, there is profound grief — or some other, intense emotional charge — in the experience of loss.
In my old dating paradigm, the end of a relationship, regardless of whether it was long or short, meant an excuse to go shopping and spend money excessively, to drink wine more often, to eat chocolate or hop back online and get back into the dating game as quickly as possible.
Now, looking back, I know that those behaviors (and others like them) were just ways to numb whatever pain I was feeling by replacing grief with short-term pleasure. They served as an escape from facing what I didn't want to face.
Add to all this that all of us now live in a world of distraction. At any given moment, most of us have a computer opened to Facebook, a phone dinging with texts or whooshing with Tweets, ear-buds buzzing music in our ears. To a certain extent, being distracted is the new normal.
But even if this is the norm, it's important we evaluate how distraction makes us feel. We can choose to examine our tendency to distract ourselves. I've found that many of us (myself included) have come to rely heavily on technological distractions to escape from the present moment. And when we aren't immersing ourselves in these modern distractions, we often distract ourselves from sadness — or any "negative emotion" — with other socially-acceptable ways to feel somewhat numb: eating, shopping, drinking with friends, to name a few.
In some ways, immersing ourselves in these things makes coping with loss easier. But the thing about emotions — like those we experience when a relationship doesn't work out — is that they demand to be felt. They are necessary signals from our body, mind and soul, back to our body, mind and soul, that we need to take a look at our experiences and feelings, and learn, grow and change.
If we squash them down and pretend they don't exist — as tempting as that is — they will manifest in a myriad of other ways. Sometimes in more shopping, eating, or drinking; and often, sublimated feelings will become wounds that we carry over into our next relationships.
When we hold onto these old wounds, we tend to project these hurts onto our next partner, looking for ways he or she is like the people who have hurt us in the past. In a sense, we then navigate relationships from a guarded space rather than one of openness. We flinch at the smallest similarity between our new partner and our old ones because we fear we will be hurt again.
Rather than distracting yourself from the pain of your next break up, sit with it. Clear out a chunk of time from your schedule. Power down your devices. Light some candles, if that's your thing. Close your eyes, and invite in the pain or anger or bitterness. Move towards the feeling rather than away from it.
When we do this, we allow the emotion to run its course, and, if we're ready, we allow the feeling to teach us something about ourselves. In the quiet spaces of our hearts, these emotions speak to us if we let them. They reveal to us stories and fears we are holding onto like lifelines of protection.
Ultimately, when we sit with the negative emotions, we see that they don't have the power to ruin us. By sitting with them and moving towards them, we free ourselves from the fear of facing the negative feelings.
In doing this, we no longer put ourselves on autopilot, continuing old patterns, and we can move into our next relationship open and ready to receive this new person without viewing them through the lens of past hurts.
Give yourself permission to feel. You deserve the freedom that's on the other side of it. And so does your future partner.