I try to be a positive person. I look to see the good in people....even when those people have failed me or hurt me. As I have been recovering and healing from my broken heart and broken marriage, I've had to fight to move forward. Some days I find myself replaying the highlights from the past 22 years. (Thanks Facebook memories and old photos) Holidays and big events with the kids can be especially difficult and send me on an emotional roller coaster.
As I look back at photos, I idealize the relationship and the person I cared for. My mind plays tricks and begins the "what if" game. This game never leads to healing or moving forward. Instead it leads to depression and feelings of despair and failure.
A few months back, I came across a TED Talk video by Guy Winch entitled "How to Fix a Broken Heart". In this video he talked about the trauma of heartbreak and balancing the idealizing with the truth about the other person. He shared that brain studies have shown that the withdrawal of romantic love activates the same mechanisms in our brain that are activated when addicts are withdrawing from substances like cocaine or opioids. So every trek down memory lane, every text that you send and every second spent stalking your ex on social media is just feeding the addiction, deepening the emotional pain and complicating the recovery.
You think you're searching for answers and apologies and closure. But you're just getting your next fix. No apology...no answer can make what happened okay. Instead of searching for closure you have to choose to let it go. Let go of the anger and the need for answers. Let go of trying to figure out the endless "what ifs" and "if I had only". You have to fight hard to move forward by stopping the idealizing of the relationship.
In the video Guy Winch says, "Don't just remember the things about them that made you smile. Remember the things that made you frown." He advises people to compile an exhaustive list of the ways the other person was wrong for you. And to keep this list on your phone. Anytime there is a hint of idealizing or a whiff of nostalgia, take out the phone and read the list. Your mind will try to tell you that they were perfect but they were not and neither was the relationship. And you have to remind yourself of that frequently.
I needed to remind myself of that often, especially as the divorce was final and I still had so many unanswered questions and very little closure. I was feeling stuck as I saw my ex continuing to move on with his life with ease and no looking back. So I decided to compile my list...on paper first.....then I added it to my phone. I wasn't sure if I would actually read it or not but I figured I'd give it a try.
It didn't take long before my mind started a journey down memory lane and the "I wish's" began. I pulled up the list on my phone and began reading it. As I read the truth about my relationship, I stopped wishing that we were still one. I stopped wondering why things were broken. I stopped idealizing...at least for that moment in time.
I've read the list several times since putting it on my phone. I've been quite surprised at how helpful it has been for me. It's been a great tool for separating image from reality, what I wanted from what I lived, and the truth from the lies. Reading that list has helped me learn more about myself and what I don't want for my future. The love we shared was distorted and costly to my self worth. There were great moments and wonderful memories but so much of what I lived was not genuine or Christ-like love.
The list puts the past memories into perspective and takes away their power over my mind and emotions. It shows me while there was some personal growth over the years, the most important thing never changed. The respect and value for me as a woman just wasn't there. There was nothing that I could have done differently to make that happen. There's nothing that I can do now to change the past or someone else's choices. Every time I forget that, I can read the list and remind myself.
Now with this list you have to be careful and not let it stir up anger and hatred towards the other person or yourself. That definitely will not help your healing process. That's where grace comes in....grace like a flood. And that's the next piece of the healing process that I'll write about in the next blog.