Making Peace with the Peace
by Susan J. Elliott, J.D., M.Ed.
Attorney, Author, Therapist, Podcaster, Motivational Speaker, Media Commentator AND Creator of the Getting Past Your Breakup Program, the world's most successful "healing after a breakup" program. Go to Program Resources(above) to find out more about the program.
Getting Past Your Breakup: How To Turn A Devastating Loss Into The Best Thing That Ever Happened To You (Hachette Book Group 2009)
Getting Back Out There: Secrets to Successful Dating and Finding Real Love After the Big Breakup (Hachette Book Group 2015)
Getting Past Your Past Workbook: The Definitive Workbook to Emotional Healing, Health and Happiness (La Bella Vita Publishing 2012)
GPYP Power! Affirmations (La Bella Vita Publishing 2019)
Backstory to this post.
This week, many of the world learned that it is difficult for them to be alone and also difficult to be WITH people. I wonder how many people on lockdown with a sulky, BH mate are going to be questioning every time they chose “stay,” when they should have chosen OUT. Then there are those who are alone and are climbing the walls because they did not learn this lesson.
If there is ONE lesson GPYB MUST impress upon you, it’s how to make peace with the peace. This month every person in the world has had to learn to deal with the side effects of lockdown. For those who have done the GPYB program, it’s much easier for us. We know there is a gift in being able to shut it all off and down. To preserve our peace of mind, that is what we must do. I wrote this post a very long time ago, but its lessons are powerful and if you are struggling, please please please learn them. If you are at peace, congratulations.
Making Peace With the Peace – Lockdown Edition
Your true traveller finds boredom rather agreeable than painful. It is the symbol of his liberty – his excessive freedom. He accepts his boredom, when it comes, not merely philosophically, but almost with pleasure. – Aldous Huxley
An incredibly important part of the GPYB program is the ability to be alone. Not to “tolerate” aloneness as some weigh station between relationships, but to become truly comfortable with being alone. The term we use – getting used to the silence – is “making peace with the peace.”
The GPYB book and workbook describe the power and the freedom that comes from being able to tolerate what others may find intolerable.When difficult times and people leave our lives, we often find the void almost too much to bear. We feel as if there is this huge gaping hole in our lives and in our heart. We are not quite sure what to do with ourselves.
After leaving a dramatic and chaotic marriage, I knocked around the house bored to tears. I couldn’t quite get a hold of anything to keep my attention. Nothing was exciting or compelling. My therapist told me to simply “Make peace with the peace.” She said that the sound I heard was the wonderful sound of silence, of no one yelling for no reason, of no one criticizing me, of no one staying out all night with another woman and telling me it was my fault.
It was not easy to “make peace with the peace.”
The first few times you try to spend time alone with yourself, you will feel as if your skin is crawling. You will want to do something, anything to get out of this alone thing. And that’s okay. My anxiety with being alone drove me to support groups, to conferences, to 12 step meetings, to anywhere and everywhere there were people who were trying to get better and heal.
Harnessing the inability to be alone is okay for a while. For me, it really worked to drive me to places where healing happens…to talk to people who were making it work for themselves. This is still true today, whether you seek company of recovering others in a Zoom video chat or in a meeting place.
But after a while (a few months) I HAD to learn to sit still and be alone. It is IMPERATIVE, in a healthy life, that you know how to be alone. Too much alone time is not good but none is terrible. You have to learn to sit and be still. A healthy life has solid reflection time. A healthy life has time alone away from everyone else in the Universe. Until you know how to do this, you will be doomed to sail into relationships as an escape, not as a choice. Learning to make peace with the peace is vital to learning to be and grow.
Start slow. When you are clearly bored or clearly itching to talk to the ex, set a timer and vow to do nothing for 15 minutes. Just sit there, breathe in and breathe out…get a meditation or relaxation audio if you need to, but learn to sit still and clear your mind for 15 minutes. I used relaxation tapes and meditation tapes. It’s a practice. That is why they call meditation a practice, because it TAKES PRACTICE to tone down the noise in your head. To learn how to just be. It takes time and practice. Start to practice it. Do your affirmations. Keep telling yourself you are you and you are okay and it is okay and everything is as it should be. Just keep giving yourself gentle pointers and gentle affirmations. Look up “mindfulness.” Mindfulness is an important part of GPYB recovery. It will help you SO much. Don’t worry about doing it “right,” just worry about doing it.
If you don’t make it to 15 minutes, try again the next day and the next and the next. You should be spending some time every day spending time with yourself by yourself when you really don’t want to be doing that. No phone, no email, no computer, no interruptions. 15 minutes of you time.
I know it’s not easy. Been there, done that. Lost my mind while doing that.
A few years ago I wrote, “Sometimes I was clear out of my mind from lack of stimulation. Over the years I had to learn to balance filling the boredom with things I’ve always wanted to do (books I’ve wanted to read, hobbies I’ve wanted to take up, things I’ve wanted to learn) and with nothing, just the peace and quiet of being in my own skin and in my own life.
A truly healthy person knows how to “just be” and just be okay with nothing going on.
Boredom is really a wonderful thing. It means you have the freedom to do nothing.
When my kids were little I did not rush to fill their boredom with games or videos or activities. I would not let them play with 3DSs or phones or have a DVD in the car if they were little today. Boredom is absolutely VITAL to creativity. Study after study show the dulling of the human brain when it is being entertained by outside forces on a continual basis. If you hand your child a phone or video game every time he or she seems bored, you are doing them a great disservice.
When my kids were small, sometimes I let them be bored and let them know that being bored was a good thing. They are all adults and to this day they all take time out, quiet time, for themselves. I didn’t intentionally teach them to do that but when they would tell me they were bored I often said, “good” because it gave them time to figure things out for themselves. Sometimes they annoyed each other out of boredom but eventually they learned to go off on their own and fill the boredom (or not). There is joy in laying on your bed staring at the ceiling and kids can find that joy on their own.”
My kids learned to sit in the car and look out the window. They learned to sit in a room and not need to talk or be busy. The four of us can be in a room and don’t find silence uncomfortable (though non of us are really non-talkative). It all comes from not being afraid of boredom and of quiet. I read Adam Philips a lot…the Harvard professor who believes that boredom leads to creativity and freedom. There IS freedom in being bored and having NOTHING going on. Although my kids were WILD in the car, I would pull over, sit on the side of the road and say “We’ll start moving again when you all quiet down.” and they would rage on until they got bored with that.
And then they learned to sit and be quiet. To me, this was good training for later in life when they would need to learn to just sit and be. Today they all know how to sit and just be. As do I. Children become creative when they are bored. Don’t hand them a phone or a computer to play with….let them be bored. They will figure it out. Absolutely limit their screen time. Don’t be the type of parent who throws electronics at misbehaving children to get them to behave. It’s NOT the electronics’ job to quiet your kids. It’s YOURS. Don’t abdicate your responsibility. And while you’re at it, take YOUR head out of the electronics as well. The worst thing I’ve seen increase in the past 20 years is the number of families out having dinner together and everyone – mother, father etc., are looking at a device. That is not family time. You can do that with anyone. Put the devices away. Devote dinnertime to getting to TALK to your family. Imagine that.
Boredom is a wonderful thing a lot of the time. When you learn to sit and be with yourself and just be okay with that, it is a yardstick of growth. Don’t be upset if you don’t get it right away. It’s okay if you don’t…but try to fill some of your waking hours with just you. And learn to discover how special you truly are. You are wonderful and you need to dedicate some part of each day just being okay with wonderful, wonderful you. 🙂
Welcome the boredom and don’t rush to fill it. Spend some quiet time with yourself each and every day.
It’s not boredom, it’s peace and quiet.
It’s the sound of your own life working.
YOU CAN DO THIS!!!