The Psychology Today post in this link was written a few weeks ago. (It hasn’t been very popular, but analyzing that would be another article…). Although there are some editing changes (as with any Psychology Today post), its message remains in tact. I wanted to provide an example of its application from my personal life.
This post is significant to me because, only a couple of hours after I wrote the article, my girlfriend of nearly two years ended our relationship. (This is actually ironic as well, because the example I used in the Psychology Today post was about a break-up. I used that example because I thought people would relate to it; I had no idea I would be immersed in it in a few hours). She was returning from Europe that day, and I was expecting to see her. Instead she ended the relationship. Her message was loving, at least as loving as a message ending a relationship can be.
Right before she had left for Europe, we had what I called a breakthrough in our relationship. We had been arguing about some of the aspects of the relationship, and this resulted in disclosure and communication that explained some of the underlying dynamics. I was so impressed by this I chronicled some of it in the book I am working on with a colleague that focuses on relationships.
Regardless of our breakthrough, we were both aware this relationship would someday end. She is younger than I, and hasn’t experienced life events that I have and that I decidedly won’t again (She has no children, I do, and will not have more).
Over the nearly three weeks she had been gone I discussed the relationship, the breakthrough, and my feelings of love for my girlfriend with friends. I had also, as one would expect, performed my duties as a therapist. Part of my philosophy of therapy is that everything ends. In a group session just days before my relationship ended, I shared this philosophy with a member who was discussing her tendency to keep a distance between herself and others. Many find my blunt discussion of endings off-putting. This brings me to my point: Everything ends, sometimes expectedly, sometimes unexpectedly. Being aware everything ends should not be a defense mechanism to keep people away. It is rather an attempt to both appreciate what you have while you have it, allow the feelings of something ending to materialize, and to accept this course as a natural part of life.
A few days before my relationship ended I was telling people everything ends. Despite knowing this, I experience all the pain one would expect from a sudden ending. I barely slept the night of the breakup, and fitful sleep followed for over a week. I have sobbed, and at times, my eyes filled with tears just thinking about it. I have wanted to reach out to others, and at other times wanted to withdrawal from everything. I have unconsciously used defense mechanisms, and have, in discussion, recognized that and again experienced a great deal of sorrow. My knowledge of things ending has not spared me pain. Knowing our relationship would one day end did not decrease my emotional response. What I hope it accomplished was to allow me to fully experience my relationship while I was in it, and to embrace all that comes with life, the joy and the sorrow.
We all do what we need to in order to cope, that is what the Psychology Today article is about. We have coping skills that help us lessen negative feeling. At the same time it is important to honor the appropriate feelings that lay beneath your coping skills. Remember, everything ends. Honor your Feelings. Embrace the Now.