It’s time to break out of the self-constructed prison of the past.
by Susan J. Elliott, J.D., M.Ed.
When I work with clients, I give them a lot of homework. Sometimes they balk and sometimes they drag their feet or get busy or “something came up.” Or they give me a deer-in-the-headlights look while asking, “What was I supposed to do?”
So when I give assignments I usually try to impart the benefits of such assignments so that they not only remember to do them, but WANT to do them. Both of my books have inventories meant to help you along — to heal and to build a new life.
The work is meant to get to the core of things and it’s hard, but the payoff is amazing. I tell people I never ask them to do any work I haven’t done, but people intuitively push away from that which is difficult. If change were easy, everyone would do it. So I try to find things to motivate. One of the things I hear myself saying is, “It is very freeing…”
Many times people look at me as if I’m crazy when I talk about freedom in such a positive way. Most of my clients are off a recent breakup and are feeling a lot more “free” than they want to be. Freedom is not a word they want to hear. They know they’re free, as is their ex. To them, that’s the problem.
But it’s not.
The freedom comes from putting the past in the past and building a new life. Prepare your goals and what you want out of life. Cultivate a positive self-worth and motivate yourself through positive self-talk and self-care. Grieve the old life while building a new one.
The work frees you from an old life and delivers you to a new one. It’s working out the bad and working in the good. That’s freedom.
It’s freedom from the pain, freedom from the relationship and the ex, freedom from the terribleness of relationships gone wrong. Freedom from wanting to contact the ex because nothing good will come of it.
When you first breakup, you want so much to make contact. You build a prison and then hand the ex the keys. You rely on the ex to (apologize, recognize, agonize, eulogize, vocalize) when all they’re going to do, upon contact, is traumatize. Contact with the ex slows the process. Whether you send a text or the ex does and you freak out over it even if it says nothing of value like “Happy birthday” or “Hope you are okay” it slows your process.
There is a certain amount of shock and denial when first trying to deal with a breakup. Some of the inability to move on is the hope of reconciliation (see: workout, never). Some of it is just the need to grieve and let go. We all need to grieve and feel the pain and sometimes be brought to our knees. But we don’t have to stay there.
During the process we say “I don’t want to feel this way anymore” but we avoid the work that will heal the pain and stop the hurt. We say, “I try but I can’t…” or some such nonsense.
So I tell people to follow the advice in the books…journal, do the affirmations, stay no-contact, get out and about, take unplugged time, meditate, relax, do the inventories etc. etc. Because it is FREEING.
Freeing from what? From the self-constructed prison where the ex is the warden. You build your cell and then hand the keys to the ex. You impose solitary confinement on yourself and wait for the ex to come along and free you or for time to pass so your sentence is up.
Guess what? NEVER GOING TO HAPPEN. Never. Never. Never.
The way out of the prison is by pro-actively doing the things you need to do to move on, to let go and build a new life. That is how. When you keep the contact going, the excuses going, the dragging of the feet going, you are saying to your ex, “Yes you hurt me but I love you so much that I am handing you the keys to my freedom and even though you will never ever let me out of here because you don’t care, I want you to have the keys anyway.”
There are some breakups that cause enormous amounts of pain not because the person you lost is so terrific but because so many other things have bubbled to the surface. Your grief over losing this person is usually the grief of losing many things you have never resolved. Your hanging on to them is usually about many other things, sometimes stemming back to your childhood. But you can rectify all of that by doing the work. Your work belongs to you. Your work is your responsibility. Do the Relationship Inventory, the Life Inventory, the Standards and Compatibility Inventory while building your esteem and setting goals. You are responsible for you.
You have to face reality and work with what is, not what you wish it was. Time does NOT heal all wounds, the ex is NOT going to magically appear and tell you what you want to hear. Stop waiting. Start living.
By doing the work we say, “Give me back the damn keys…” and you let yourself out of your self-constructed prison and you go live your life.
Your prison is of your own making and your ex has the keys because you want him or her to have them.
It’s time to do the work, rebuild your life and take back the damn keys.
Start today. Stop moping. Stop pining. Start working. Start living. And take back your keys!