Breaking up sucks, nobody could deny that. Being left sucks and, most often also leaving is not that great. The feelings of grief and loss, the need of having to cope with something unknown, the empathy for the suffering of the other, the fear of consequences. Mel Robbins clearly highlights this by showing that we are build to maintain the status quo or, in a way, to be indolent (take a look at his video).
Nonetheless, people today, in the liquid modernity we live in, are increasingly exposed to the likelihood of being left or are called to face the challenge of having to leave something or someone. How often those who were born before us had to face the end of a relationship? Let’s think of our grandparents or grand-grandparents, who were born at the beginning of the past century: how many of them had changed partner? How many had changed their job? How many happened to change their political or religious faith multiple times?
Being able of breaking up is a key competence in today’s world in order to make the best out of a hard and painful experience and to truly conceive it as a chance to challenge oneself and evolve. When this doesn’t happen, we may end up meeting people who, after many years, are still angry at their former partner or boss, people who still believe they have been badly hurt or cheated on, who didn’t take a step forward in the first place. We may even meet people who endlessly drag along in relationships that have ended long ago, who do not develop viable alternatives or who tell themselves they are stuck.
Maybe we should start thinking differently, we should start thinking that breaking up might (also) be good.
But why is that?
- breaking up increases our autonomy: just like any other processed grief, braking up gives us the chance to understand we are still alive, in spite of the loss, while allowing us to explore new levels of our autonomy. We find out we can do many things ourselves while we had always thought we needed to rely on someone else. As an example, I am thinking of a manager who, after losing his job, finds himself a skilled manager, able to stand in the market alone, without the support of a brand, an external company, a hierarchy or a reassuring financial stability.
- breaking up challenges ourselves: when the other is not part of our life anymore or that job is gone, we have the chance to look into ourselves in a more direct way. We can definitely keep on walking the same old “shortcut”, blaming the others. Shortcuts ease the path but they don’t take anywhere. We may also act otherwise, we can let go of the other and look into ourselves: how could we have acted differently? What can we learn from this experience? What do we really want to change from now on? What part did we play in such a defeat? These are all difficult questions but that may lead to productive reflections.
- breaking up brings us back to basics: we can let go of the details, focus on what’s really important because pain connects us to what matters the most, to the priorities we often lose sight of in the midst of the stream of everyday life. Why shall I start over? What is really feeding me? What do I want to do now that such an important part of my life is gone? Who do I want to be?
Parting is such a sweet sorrow that I shall say goodnight till it be morrow. Juliet, Act 2
Over the years I met thousands of people during workshops or individual interviews: I will try to outline here the attitudes of those who are really capable of letting go…in the hope that they might be hint on how to break up with a bang:
- trust in oneself and in one’s own skills as well as in one’s ability of winning other people over, getting a new job, other possibilities…trust in one’s value and, as a consequence, in the ability of being capable of recreating positive contexts, even better than the ones that have been left behind; trust in one’s ability of facing the bewilderment and fear of standing alone before the world…at least for a while
- hope, trust in the future, ability to figure out positive future scenarios instead of focusing on the negative, troubling ones. Being able of looking at the future with a positive attitude, in spite of the difficult moment and, at the same time, trusting the person we left, trusting the fact that he/she has the qualities to face the pain and hardships of separation
- gratitude, the ability of looking at others with appreciation, even in the face of a painful situation or when we have been hurt and, as a consequence, the ability of retaining the good in the others and in the past situations without throwing it away just because it is permeated with negative or unpleasant elements
- ability of primarily looking at one’s own responsibilities rather than blaming the others and, at the same time, adopting a more neutral and compassionate look towards oneself, accepting one’s mistakes while working hard for not making them again
- courage, honesty both towards oneself and others, that is, the ability to face hardships while not hiding the dust under the carpet, not to settle for good enough or force others to do so; the courage of being honest about one’s feelings and desires.
Children of divorced parents who keep on fighting. Employees who are unable to think of a new job. Relationships that end with a text message.
We all need a new competence: we need to learn to leave and be left. However, perhaps we don’t need to learn this competence anew but just to recover it in part because we naturally already possess it. Any turning point in our life and development is marked by a positive separation, starting from birth. Every good separation implies a birth.
It is really worth working on it. Let’s get started and good luck to all of us!