Just days after an excruciating breakup, Amy Chan was crying in her bathtub. She knew their relationship was over and she also knew that there was no chance of reconciliation. Chan didn’t want to be with her ex again. Still, she mourned. “I still yearned for him,” writes Chan in her book, Breakup Bootcamp: The Science of Rewiring Your Heart.
Processing the end of a relationship can bring forth many dormant demons, and it’s usually not about the ex. For Chan, her grief turned into anger, even though she understood that thinking endlessly about her ex did not help her long-term well-being , it was all she could do to speak to friends and family about it. After trying therapy, acupuncture, Reiki, and meditation to recover from their breakup, Chan began a retreat for women suffering from heartache. Here women learn how to navigate the way out of a relationship, which often creates a lot of unprocessed emotions. Chan learned a lot from her own journey and the stories of other women who went through the same cycle. That’s why we asked her and the psychologist Jenny Taitz what to do after the end of a relationship. The time after a breakup can be lonely and disoriented, but with the right tools and attitude, Chan and Taitz see this time as a powerful opportunity to invest in yourself again.
Identify the thought traps.
Heartbreak can feel endless, says Chan, “And I know what a dark place it is when you don’t think the pain will end.” For starters, the first rule in Chan’s breakup boot camp is that your ex isn’t to denigrate. “You want to process your emotions, but you don’t want to feed your emotional monster,” she says. “Sometimes we hold onto the pain as our last resort, our last attempt to hold onto the relationship. This emotional charge holds you tight. ”
To lessen your emotional intensity, Chan says learning how to recreate your story is important: “Write your story the way you would tell your friend over coffee, and then watch it.” Then says she, she is supposed to circle all thought traps – the parts of the story that do not serve your own narrative. It may be that you chose to only see the negative parts of the relationship, or that you have fictionalized parts of it. Whatever these traps are, circle them and rewrite history with just the facts. “The intensity is so much lower if you just look at the facts,” says Chan.
Find friends, but don’t keep asking for their advice.
Taitz, the author of How to Be Single and Happy, agrees with Chan that over-analyzing the relationship makes it harder to move on. “A friend may be a nice escape for you, and it’s so normal that you want to come to terms with the end of a relationship with a friend,” says Taitz. “Give yourself some time to vent, but also consider whether this helps or not.” Sometimes friends project their own experiences, Chan says, and people can just be unbearable after a breakup. “My friends got tired of hearing my story, and some of them, as much as they loved me, were like, ‘Can’t you just get over it?'” Says Chan. This type of feedback can crowd out friendships, which is the opposite of what most people need when dealing with a breakup. Therefore, Chan’s second rule of the breakup boot camp is not advice. Instead, she suggests that people pay attention to who they are receiving advice from and seek out trained experts and therapists: “Leave the advice to them and try to support one another by sharing your stories and listening without judgment.”
Consider a ritual or a rite of passage.
If you’re the person who ends the relationship, “celebrate the courage to end it while avoiding the urge to torture yourself,” suggests Taitz. A candle ritual, string meditation, or a letting go letter could bring you to a close. “Marking the end of a relationship with love and respect is important because it honors the relationship that passed and now you are making room for something new,” says Chan. During their retreat, each person writes a letter of release following a list of prompts such as “I take responsibility for this”, “I forgive that” and “I learned that”. At the end of the day everyone goes outside and burns their letters in a campfire. “It’s one of the most powerful parts of the retreat,” says Chan.
Steve Bearman, PhD, describes a six-step relationship forging process that details how to thoughtfully communicate resentments, apologize, forgive, express gratitude, appreciate each other, and say goodbye. “We live in a culture that puts endless energy into beginning relationships, but very little into ending relationships,” writes Bearman. His process is designed to be carried out with the other person who is leaving the relationship. However, if this is not an option, it is still worth doing it alone (or with a friend who will just listen)
Find out your values.
Relationship free, you now have plenty of time – and energy – to figure out what you really want in life. “Brainstorm concrete ways to get out of your head, such as B. Using headspace or a gratitude journal, or engaging in a hobby that requires full focus and participation. Try Tracy Anderson classes or a new recipe, ”says Taitz. Apps like Mend, which give you personalized tools and advice on navigating heartbreak, can also be helpful.
Chan sees the end of a relationship as a new beginning, a chance to start over with a blank canvas. “I thought my breakup was the worst thing that ever happened to me, but that breakup was my shock to realign my life,” says Chan. “I lived these ideas of how relationships should be according to society’s expectations and a model my parents set for me, and I never questioned whether those beliefs were mine at all.” When you learn how to wire your thinking more towards optimism, you can own your story and become resilient, she says. “The plan can change,” writes Chan in her book. “And if we don’t have a buoyancy to flow with the ups and downs, we can break.”
Exercise: Connect the dots
Excerpt from the breakup boot camp
Think of a time in your life when something did not go according to plan and, as a result, something better happened. Maybe it was fired from a job only to find a higher paying, more fulfilling one. Or maybe it was the terrible breakup that helped you learn an important lesson about yourself and that eventually gave you the courage to move out of your hometown. Write down three unexpected “plot changes” that ultimately led to something positive.
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