Thursday, 14 July 2016

Letting go with grace: Dealing with Relationship Failures and Setbacks

"It's Complicated" for sure: Break-ups, estrangement and separation can often be hard and quite unsettling. That is true not just for romantic relationships, but even for those of of the filial, sibling and plain ol' friendly kinds. Most of us have this very basic need and desire for acceptance and affiliation, and for social bonds. That may even be the case for some who pretend to be loners. A nasty falling-out often leaves a trail of emotional destruction and heartburn, and at times intense pain that can take a long time to heal.

The hurt and pain may get exacerbated by feelings of betrayal, anger, denial, jealousy, hopelessness, sorrow, fears, anxieties and insecurities of many hues, suppressed guilt, embarrassment, shame,  and so many more unwholesome feelings. As I had explained in some of my earlier articles, certain emotions may even get camouflaged in different ways. For instance, a show of intense fury may in fact be a rather lousy cover for insecurity and shame. Scratch beneath a person's sorrow, and you may discover exceptionally high levels of toxic jealousy.

Apart from the immediate emotional turmoil, broken relationships can have far-reaching consequences. The bitterness, if internalized may arouse near-malignant behavioural traits and destructive patterns. It may become tough to build trusting, wholesome relationships or equations with others. Health indices often go haywire with harmful coping mechanisms. There may be knock on effects on other areas of life, especially on the career front. And the damage may not just be limited to the particular relationship that has gone bad. Friends, relatives, colleagues and others are dragged in and out of situations leading to much consternation all around. To hell and (hopefully) back, there's many a journey to be taken!

In this article, let's explore ways and means by which people can cope better. And don't stop there. I'd go a few steps further and urge you to take it as a challenge to discover a new you!

Acceptance of the Situation

We may have embraced technology and comforts like never before in history. But in matters of the heart and emotions, doesn't look like our evolution is something to be particularly proud of!

Failures in relationships can be very hard to come to terms with.

In the immediate aftermath, it isn't that uncommon to see people see-sawing between denial and fantasy. Denial of what often wasn't really that much of a shock; Many of us have seen it coming, but hope and pray for some miraculous recovery, just like in the movies.

Denying the situation altogether, desperately fighting with vital facts and clues,  clutching at the straws and hoping against hope, living in absurd fantasy and near hallucination about likely comeback and pushback scenarios, imagining various permutations & combinations… All this while the relationship is clearly slipping through the fingers.

A broken relationship is often taken as a personal invalidation of sorts. For many, it’s a form of rejection that can be felt almost at a visceral level. Hence, some of these initial reactions aren't surprising.

It’s very easy to say that the sooner we can traverse through this, the better. Yeah, right!

It is almost like an unwritten rule of nature that many things must come to an end, or at least change form, shape, texture and character. Holding on to something that's well past its sell-by date can only stop you from moving ahead. It could mean giving up and embracing the new at several levels and layers.

The key to acceptance is Perspective.


Perspective can be a great leveler enabling us to step back, step out and take a new look at the situation. Once you’ve at least mentally acknowledged the facts, move quickly in this direction. Maybe it is indeed at least the end of a phase in the relationship, if not a permanent rupture. A closure and mental resolution of this phase is important, but perhaps not with anger and hatred? Victimhood and Self Flagellation are options that you can easily fall for. You have every right to feel betrayed, and to feel all those hundred shades of negative emotions!

Accept that there are these warts & moles no doubt, in you and in others too; No one is perfect; Neither you nor them. But, as you seek out a richer understanding, wouldn't it be better not to be weighed down by all this negativity and frustration? You may have loved that exotic and expensive bone china set. Once it's broken, maybe it is better to leave it forever?

Leaving the door open (not what you think!)

At this stage, the most important thing you can do is to take a decision to stay open to revising this understanding and perspective. Know that almost everyone goes through such situations, and you aren't alone. You may not be particularly vulnerable in a peculiar way either. Perspective in the midst of such churn can be muddied, and be aware of this simple fact. There’s no need to rush into any decision to forgive or forget. Just don't give them the permission to put you where you don't want to be!

But get this simple fact registered in your mind, that you’re going to be slightly better off at least, by staying open to revising and updating this picture. If you can manage to leave this door slightly open, you’ll increase the chances for a more healthy form of acceptance.

Understand and acknowledge that it isn't something you can simply walk away from in an instant. But it may not be as horrendous as you imagine either. Also, the acceptance may happen in stages, and may take quite some time to get through. Allow it…

The realization that at certain levels, you are much beyond all this, will seep into your consciousness in due course of time.

Strengthening yourself at multiple levels.

Even as you’re getting to terms with the acceptance story, it is important to start strengthening yourself at mental, emotional and physical levels.

The last is often the most ignored. Take your pick: binge eating, starvation, excess intoxication, “revenge hook-ups with a vengeance”, plain old bottling up (for explosion at inopportune times), drowning in sorrow and neediness, attention seeking tantrums of diverse kinds including subconsciously manifesting illnesses (yeah, it happens!), irregular sleeping patterns and insomnia, mixing with wretched souls who love feasting on other peoples’ woes … There’s a lot that can be done to hasten your meltdown

A predictable schedule in your day-to-day life is a great antidote to this one-way ticket to hell. Plan in activities of various kinds that can serve two purposes:

  • Keep your mind positively occupied, and away from the melodrama
  • Give you a sense of achievement as each task gets completed

These activities may vary from the mundane to the meaningful. Go for a diverse mix, so you don't strain yourself.

The sooner you can install a routine, you’ll find it easier to get your life back on track. It’s not for nothing that the wise folks talk about idle minds and a certain devil’s workshops!

Don’t obsess over predictability alone; Blend in a few juicy bits of the occasional un-predictability too. Yes, not everything goes as per plan, but be open to a few changes that can break the monotony.

Want to make the schedule even more benign and wholesome? Go to the net, and do some research on easy healthy eating options (smoothies, juices, salads, or whatever). Get yourself away from that sitting position, take a walk, give your body a nice little stretch, spend time in contemplation not brooding and self-pity, away from the comforts of that lazy couch… There’s so much indeed that can elevate your mood and energy, and give you that extra bit of stamina. And also, delegate some work to your parasympathetic nervous system, to allow for renewal and rejuvenation. More on that later, in a different article!

Keeps you robustly well toned for the next round of acceptance too!

Relationship with SELF: Grow into the New YOU!

One of the most fascinating outcomes awaits you once you’ve got sorted out with a certain level of acceptance of the situation. This can often be an opportunity of a lifetime, where setbacks and failures are merely treated as temporary landing points, even as you’re poised to take off for good tidings! A few suggestions are given below:

Choose your Desired Emotional Goalposts

As you move away from this situation, it is a good idea to keep in mind how you’d like to feel going forward. The transition may seem next to impossible at times, considering where you’ve started the journey from!

So, what emotions do you like in that (hopefully) near and distant future?
Hope, Optimism, Trust, Confidence, Courage, Focus, Acceptance, Love. Not a complete list. You’ve some homework to do!

Surely, more of these seem like a good idea, even if you have no clue how to get there. That’s fine. Take up any action or activity that can give you even a modicum of experience of at least three of these positive emotions. Maybe, you’ll need to get support from others too, and that can’t be bad either, isn't it? Go ahead, and find out ways and means to get those experiences.

This will also help you steel yourself against harmful emotional states and experiences, insults, harsh words, disrespect, and so many like them! It’s not always possible after all that you’ll be allowed to transition so smoothly into these positive goalposts. Now that you’ve got your ready reckoner available, you’ll regulate yourself and the situation in style!

In the Bhagawad Gita, Lord Krishna tells Arjuna about the need to eschew some of our essential ‘samskaras’ and ‘vasanas' that often hold us back and prevent us from progressing in life. Every step that can take you away from them has the potential to liberate you and make you grow into the new YOU!

Short Term Stability vs Long Term Radical Change

It is also important to note that as you seek to outgrow this experience, you aren't exclusively taking a maintenance project approach to “just keep the show running”! If you genuinely want to emerge stronger, it is important to be open to long term radical change.

The maintenance approach might give you short term stability, and this is of course essential so you don't fall over totally. But, train yourself to take a close and at times hard look at life, your priorities, the nature of alignment to your value system, the very purpose of your life and so much more. Surely, leaving all of them just as they are can’t be the best way to outgrow these experiences?

Remember we spoke about perspective? Well, now’s the time to get to the meaty part of perspective. In your contemplative zone, as you grapple with some of these bigger and vital questions about the direction of your life, that simple statement “I am much bigger than this failure and crisis” acquires a whole new meaning and depth, don't you think so?

Moving from the Past to the Present to the FUTURE

And before you resolve to move forward into those exciting opportunities in the future, imagine seeing yourself in the middle of a long highway, somewhere between the past and the future, and then, think about these questions too:

  • What do you wish to take along?
  • How would you like the FUTURE to PAN out?
  • Isn't it better to pick what's worth defending, and trash the rest?
  • And explicitly let go of the hurt and the betrayal, and all those sick feelings?
  • And instead make a decision to safeguard your self worth.
  • And while we’re at it, how about routinely permitting yourself to enjoy the experiences that you want, and which will take you to a better place/state of mind? 

There’s a limited space memory card after all!

And as you keep moving, there’ll be points of time, when those familiar negative feelings bubble up again:

Time to choose wisely: What to retain and what to leave out:

The positive memories of the relationship (if any), experiences, the lessons learnt (particularly from the challenges, setbacks, failures and negative experiences), the great moments, the achievements, your own growth as a person, your enhanced understanding of situations and people.

On your Memory Card, which memories will be allowed to dominate?
The positive and enriching experiences + lessons and wisdom gained OR the negative and draining feelings, insults and harsh judgements?

The idea is not to forget in a hurry, or even ignore what you went through.
But to choose to load the kind of images and emotions that will keep you in a "resourceful" frame of mind. If the other person had deliberately hurt you, aren't you running their agenda by re-activating and re-playing those feelings of hurt?

The main question is "How can it be done differently”? You are indeed far beyond this, right?

All of this calls for the occasionally quality Me-Time: 

That’s the finest investment you can ever hope to make. The finest strength is what you can unleash from within. Everything else can only be an add-on option. Why do you want to settle for the second best? When, this could be the chance to find out strengths that you never knew existed in you!

So, don’t allow this one area in life to block out all other experiences and possibilities. Take your power, and Exercise your power. Purposely generate feelings of Acceptance, Gratitude, Unconditional Love, Compassion, Forgiveness towards people & things around you, beyond you. Take help liberally from your support system. Appreciate the positives in others too, and pretty soon, it’s more than obvious to you that you’re happening!

Go ahead, and release that pain in style!

No comments:

Post a Comment