Break-ups can be devastating. When they occur, we often get trapped between a desire to fix the situation and a wish to make the painful feelings pass. A lot of advice is given about letting it go, finding others, or realizing that the lost person must not have been the one. And that advice falls flat because what is needed is not a way to end the relationship; it's a way to heal.
When emotional wounds are opened, the desire to suppress the pain creates a pattern of self-punishment. Not only does one blame oneself for the loss, but one also harbors ill feelings toward oneself for having such feelings.
It seems that at the same time that our culture is defining relationships as more expendable, they are simultaneously becoming more important to us for setting our bearings in the world. Lost in the shuffle of time are many family and religious traditions that once held a group - and its members - together in a community of support. As we become more isolated individually, the things that we need as human beings slip further from our grasp.
What is it that we seek in a relationship? Security, warmth, and comfort. At the time of a break-up, these things evaporate from our life, leaving us alone, sad, and scared. And those who are the most devastated tend to be the ones who have the most of their needs invested and fulfilled (to a greater or lesser extent) by the relationship. We need to take a longer look at the underlying currents of our social relationships. In doing, we will see that a key element of human relationships is the following formula:
give support = get support
The healing process is not aided by harsh judgments of one's feelings or desire to fix the situation; those feelings are human and they are good, no matter how painful they may be. It is in that softness and openness to life that a full sense of being can be discovered.
The best way to endure a break-up is by caring for others on a daily basis, before and after one of life's disasters strike (and they will, for we live in the hands of the gods and change is a constant). We need more support at those times. Rather than sailing along with the isolationist trend, depending on the service sector (and a shoulder to cry on is increasingly a service that we pay for) for our support, what we need is to increase our willingness to give support to one another. To give support to family, friends, and strangers. Human communities thrived for thousands of years employing the formula of reciprocity. We live in a society that is very good at providing the things we want, but it is at times very bad at providing the things we need - the warmth, comfort, and security that accompany being part of a group that gives and gets support from its members.
How do we get from ending a relationship to truly letting go of it? By slow, painful steps. Each of which is made harder or easier based on the level of communal support available to a person.
Employ the tricks that you know to get past the heartache, but also bear in mind that the fundamental goal of the relationship is to find a place of warmth, love, and security. By expanding the effort one puts into projecting warmth, love, and security to not only a boyfriend or girlfriend, but also to family, friends, and strangers, one gives support to the world and the world will return the favor when the time comes.
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