The Emotional Circus
YOUR FIRST REACTION to the end of your relationship is likely to be shock. As soon as the shock wears off, grief arrives. Next, a whole emotional circus stirs: "I'm free. I'm relieved. Yet I'm devastated. I'm furious, hopeful, afraid." Your feelings may broaden into a multicolored panorama. They may include everything from the awesome sense of liberation you felt as a kid on the last day of school, to the nightmare sense that you've just failed your final exam. Back and forth...
Please, relax. For better and for worse, your liberation has arrived: it's your Independence Day. As soon as you can bear to share the news of your loss with friends and other loved ones, you're more than likely to find sympathetic support--for at least today.
But prepare yourself. Soon enough, though hopefully not on Day One of your recovery, some self-appointed Calvinist will remind you, "You have to work on yourself." Or more primitively: "You gotta do the work
." That's when dread may set in. Your precious relationship has just died, and now someone wants to sentence you to hard labor. Your reaction of dread will be deepened by the serious tones in which this grim advice is usually offered. At best, the work
will sound like doing chores for Mom, as though you must take out all of your emotional garbage. Phew!
Skeptics might well deny the need to do this "work." They'll say: "The work
? What work? I was in a romantic relationship for quite a while. For much of that time, it was good and rewarding."
Is the impulse to deny this "work"stuff something to feel guilty about? No. At the ultimate level of insight, you must always remember that you are whole and complete, a perfect person, destined to be just as you are.
Using the guidance of the authors of this book, your next thirty days will see you through a journey of self-recovery. You'll not be overloaded with new ideas about love and human nature. Instead, you'll be strengthened with no work at all. If you want to build your body's muscles, you go to the gym. You work out. Here, we offer a cerebral spa for your wounded emotions. It's designed to help you realize your will's healing strength and ability to reintegrate the pieces of your broken heart.
SO WHAT ABOUT this "work" stuff that others talk about? How long do you have to do it? And why bother? As some people speak about it, this "work" sounds like a prison sentence.
All you did was lose or outgrow a love. Now you need to begin the new adventure of healing. Why should you have to do hard labor for this? The growing sense of confinement that such ideas of work may inspire could just add to your pain and confusion.
Everyone will seem eager to give you easy answers. Too few of those answers will make complete and immediate sense. Your sole certainty is that you hurt, really hurt, right now. That which had once seemed comforting has been wrested away from you. You find yourself in murky darkness. You need strong, clear light, yet all those near you have to offer are candles and matches.
You're in a susceptible state. Sad songs make sense like never before. Whether you feel vindicated and defiant or defeated for all time, you may be more wide open than usual, more vulnerable. Your friends and advisors may suggest that your broken spirit requires long-winded, obscure instructions about how to get through these difficult times.
If you ask for it, advice will arrive from all sides: via face-to-face contact, e-mail, voice mail, or ordinary mail, even as rumors passed on the wind. There's so much advice out there, however, if you listen to all of it your confusion will certainly deepen, and you may forget one simple fact. That's the trustworthy words of the good witch of Oz, which offer all of the wisdom you'll ever need: "You had the power within you all along."
Your confusion with the advice you're being offered may be well founded. Your advisors' motives may range from true generosity to barely concealed power plays. At best, people see offering advice to the afflicted as doing their own good work, especially when it's easy to offer. And offering love advice to others who suffer makes us feel better about ourselves. Offering advice also can be a token in a contest for power, with the advisor really saying, "I'm better than you, because I'm not suffering as you are. And I know how to get out of the trouble you're in. It's about time you followed my lead."
People who say, "I'm sorry, but I don't know what to tell you," might sound as though they really don't care. But they may be the most honest of all your advisors. Most of us want to help end the suffering of others, especially when it can be carried out in a mindless manner. So we say: "You'll be all right"; "Men are like buses, there's a new one along every five minutes"; "You weren't right for each other"; "There's plenty more fish in the sea"; et cetera.
Truth and Proof
THE TRUTH IS, no one knows what's best for you. And there's a very good reason for that. No one really understands your personal experience like you do.
Also, many of us have been taught to think that intimately loving someone is a complicated project. Such thinking can make the prospect of an enduring romantic relationship seem an unattainable task. It can seem so difficult, in fact, that some people may forgo love altogether, while others blindly and hopelessly leap into new relationships without pause for reflection. Or they may feel the pain of a failed relationship so profoundly that they fall into an extended depression--down so far that all advice sails right over their heads.
The information age has both its rewards and consequences. Every book, tape, or therapeutic seminar aspires to add to our knowledge base. The abundance of new data has potential benefits but our progress can collapse from the immensity of its weight.
The purpose of this guide is to lighten that load. The words and exercises you will find here are designed to take the weight out of the work in the breakup process. What little "work" we do suggest is modest, and can help you to realize a wholeness you've never experienced before.
Some of your current advisors may view a breakup as being a kind of death. The erudite ones may even be able to break down your breakup into gridlike patterns, telling you of the phases you must go through to achieve peace and relational happiness once again.
Shock, anger, denial, bargaining, and resolution are the classic phases of grieving that attend a mortal loss. But what if you don't experience all of these feelings? Does that mean you haven't come to terms with the passage of a lover into your past? Of course not.
A breakup is not a death, except perhaps the death of one phase of your life, or of an illusion about love. And if you could correct that illusion in a short time, why should you then choose to stretch out the process?
Time presents a problem. The pursuit of emotional healing for its own sake has become so popular in the past few decades that many people spend far more time working at healing (or clinging to wounds) than at living and loving. The results are not always productive. Look at that angry person who spends all his time blaming you, people like you, or even people like his parents, for all of his miseries. Beware of counsel that your recovery should involve a long, drawn-out, and often expensive process.
The unhappy end of an intimate relationship can generate some of the ugliest ironies you will ever experience. Get ready. The person you loved, held, and cared for, and were most intimate with, is now nothing but a fragile set of memories that will vanish into the mists of the future. What was so close is now moving away. One who was your best friend must now act like a stranger, or even an adversary. How can this be? Why does this have to be? And how long must you waste time with such perplexing questions before you're willing to take some truly effective action for your current and future well-being?
Get ready for the good part: your relationship's end gives you an opportunity to create the best time of your life; to learn but not linger, to heal but not hate.
In truth, you can't mourn the loss of someone who's still living. That's the bizarre paradox. Yet, traditionally, we've often been advised to do exactly that. Why then should we be astonished to find that the process of pursuing such an unreal goal is never complete?
Hurt may linger long enough to color and contaminate all of your ongoing efforts to relate to other people. Watch out; your motives may be based on the desire to return to the comfort of the familiar. To the same easy, habitual ways that defined you, identified you, completed you. Or so you thought.
The need to restore the familiar may create the expectation that a new relationship will be better just because it's new. We'll just make a few adjustments and everything will be fine. But what happens when the new experiences don't click and we can't achieve the comfort that we seem to remember we once had?
For most people, perhaps you, that can mean running into the same dilemma all over again. Are you prepared to once again give up a piece of your heart? Keep it up, and ultimately you'll have nothing left to offer a new prospect but guarded mistrust. In essence, that new prospective lover will remain forever on trial for the many mistakes you made with your previous lovers.
Once you have made a genuine recovery, your new life and any new relationships you may undertake will be so much better not because they are new but because you've renewed your moorings. And because you have found the wiser and simpler path of remembering that because you're human, you already know how to love.
Can you become a virgin again? Perhaps not. But your ability to open yourself to a loving innocence can be recovered. Time, healing actions, and the right kind of insights will make all the difference.
So on this first day, whether you're relieved or dejected, there is loss to be reckoned with. We urge you: don't do the work, at least the work that others urge you to do. You don't have the time, and it will only make you feel less capable than you really are.
Say good-bye to that work myth just like you're saying good-bye to your ex and instead, let the insights and tips in this book help you to cut through the advice jungle. Let us help you uncomplicate the process. Our method will help you embrace a new vision and freedom over the next thirty days. A freedom to love and be loved in the ways you always wanted.
Excerpted from How to Heal a Broken Heart in 30 Days by Howard Bronson and Mike Riley. Copyright © 2002 by Howard Bronson and Mike Riley. Excerpted by permission of Harmony, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.