Sunday, February 20, 2011

Achieving An Emotional Divorce


In my last post I took a look at some of the common feelings that accompany a relationship breakup and that need to be dealt with IDEALLY before embarking on a new love relationship. However, even if you have worked very hard at achieving an emotional divorce it is not at all uncommon to find that some, if not all of these feelings resurface every so often. Should this be the case, the following steps will help you get through them.

Step 1 - Become aware of your feelings:

When you become aware that you are experiencing uncomfortable feelings, such as grief, rejection or abandonment, anger and guilt don’t just push them away as might be your natural inclination. Instead, allow yourself to stay with them long enough to identify them. Once identified express your feelings honestly.

Step 2 - Express your feelings:

Either share your feelings with another person, write them down or just speak them out aloud e.g. ‘When I think about my marriage breakup, I feel really angry’.

Step 3 - Discover what lies underneath your feelings:

Examine your feelings and discover what lies underneath. Often, when feelings enter our awareness, all we can see at first is the top layer in the same way as only the tip of an iceberg can be seen above water whilst the mountain lies underneath. If you feel anger about your marriage breakup, chances are that underneath the anger lie feelings such as rejection, betrayal, helplessness and hurt. If you feel sadness and you give yourself permission to look underneath, you’ll likely discover that you also feel angry at your partner for leaving you, guilty for whatever you may consider you did or didn’t do to save the marriage, insecure about the future, etc. What is important here is to clarify what your feelings are really about.

Step 4 - Determine which portion of your feelings belongs to the present:

In that process you may even discover that some of the feelings you have belong to experiences of your past. The rage you feel every time you now think about your partner having left you may have something to do with the fact that you lost a parent when you were a child. If you weren’t able to fully grieve this loss at the time (as so often is the case) you’ll be experiencing the unresolved feelings from the past as well as the feelings that belong to the ‘now’ – you are getting a ‘double whammy’. Understanding the origin of your feelings is helpful in that you can now place them in their true context. This will enable you to respond differently to your current circumstances .

Allowing yourself to discover the feelings that lie submerged can be a very painful process. If you find it overwhelming it is advisable you seek professional support.

Step 5 - Accept your feelings:

Whilst you have full control over your actions, you do not have the same control over your feelings. Feelings are neither good nor bad - they simply are what they are! In order to let go of your feelings you need to accept them regardless of what they are. AS you learn to accept your own feelings you will also find it easier to be more understanding of the feelings of others.

Step 6 - Take one step at a time:

Letting go of the past with all its challenges and hurts takes time. It is not a one-off exercise but a process that may need to be experienced time and again. As you give yourself permission to go through this process (as often as necessary), you will, in time, be able to let go of all the feelings that have kept you tied to the past. When you can think of your ex-partner without feeling anger, hostility and bitterness, you will know that you have achieved your emotional divorce.

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