Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin recently celebrated the first anniversary of their "conscious uncoupling" with a family trip to Mexico. Despite the pejorative attention it received, I thought it was sweet to see their intention to find growth in the loss of their marriage.
As idealistic as their situation may seem, finding peace and growth after a relationship ends is available to all of us, whether or not kids were involved, and even whether or not our former partner participates.
Looking back on the relationship (and its ending) to recognize how your demons may have played into the breakup is not meant to be a shaming process, but actually an act of genuine curiosity, an act of self-love. You’ll uncover pieces of yourself that may be embarrassing or discouraging. But treat them as you would a child — with kindness, compassion, an intention to heal.
Ditch the self-criticism. This is an opportunity to learn and begin healing. So here are nine steps you can take to heal consciously from a separation, and find inner peace amidst the turbulence of change.
1. Allow yourself time to grieve.
Breakups hurt on an emotional, mental and physical level. As with any loss, your grieving process will be unique to your situation, so give yourself some space to get through the initial, raw feelings of grief before diving into deeper personal work. Don't expect yourself to heal in a given window of time, and treat yourself and your situation with patience.
2. Learn to notice your thoughts.
The thoughts we have trigger our emotions. The way we think on a daily basis lays the stage for what we believe and how we live our life. During times of stress we tend towards negative thinking. Simply try to notice when you’re going down the rabbit hole and gently question your thoughts by simply asking: How true is that? Then look for evidence to the contrary.
3. Then notice when you're blaming your thoughts.
Blaming is a stubborn habit that many of us fall into, especially when it comes to how we treat ourselves. Often, self-blame involves making a declaration of yourself as victim. It's counterintuitive, but playing the victim "protects" us by keeping us within the cocoon of pain in order to keep us from taking action.
Unfortunately, however, playing the victim can become a habit that excuses us from accountability. But do you really want to convince yourself that you’re at the mercy of other people or a situation? Or do you want to live an empowered life?
4. Learn what your survival fears are.
Our relationship issues are often rooted in our survival fears. Some common fears are abandonment, rejection, judgment and isolation. We each express these fears differently.
For example, one person may fear abandonment after physical intimacy while others may feel abandonment when their lover is busy with other obligations. Look at where your fears are triggered, then think about how that played out in the relationship. Are there ways that you can learn to self-sooth these fears, help them heal and eventually go away?
5. Ask yourself, How do I love?
Love thrives when it flows openly between both partners. Were there times in your relationship when this balance was off? When did you hold back from expressing your love? What beliefs and ideas were behind your hesitation? When was it uncomfortable to receive?
6. Reconnect with your values and learn to make them a priority.
Some types of relationships can warp our sense of self, causing us to lose touch with our core values. You’ll find your juiciest values by looking at what leaves you feeling disheartened as well as what makes your heart sing. Make a list and find ways to live by them every day.
7. Find ways to do what you want to do, not what you think you should do.
Taking some time to focus on yourself, and truly learn to enjoy being alone, can help you develop strengths you never knew you had during the relationship. As hard as it is to see this as a bonus, it’s really a gift to learn to enjoy spending time with yourself.
Dig deep. Ask questions. What lights your fire? What activities leave you feeling refreshed, energized? When was the last time that you experienced flow?
8. Try things that feel uncomfortable.
Especially if you’re not sure about what you love, explore and get curious. Think of books you read over and over again, people who you admire, the films you love. What else might be out there?!
The suggestion to "get outside your comfort zone" is indeed cliché, but it exists for a reason. Trying new things is not only exciting, but distracting — the discomfort of newness will take your mind off of the pain you may be feeling inside.
9. Surround yourself with nurturing people.
And definitively say "no" to those who are not providing you comfort. Now is the time to look at expanding or remodeling your social circle. Look for people who are happy, positive and self-assured in their own lives.
While going the solo route can feel lonely, it’s also an incredible opportunity to develop a more grounded, fulfilling life. Who would you be if you accepted your vulnerabilities as opportunities to grow? What possibilities would open up? How fearless would you be in loving — others, but more importantly, yourself?