For me, the first step to recovery came in the form of eliminating the labels I had pinned on my experiences. For so long I spent time labeling my divorce, and relationship overall, as negative. It was the darkest part of my life, caused me more pain that I knew what to do with, and overall left a horrible taste in my mouth. Wasn’t that the definition of negative?
Throughout my healing process, I spent a great deal of time talking to a therapist, and several other influential leaders in my life. I remember one particular week, I was told several times that I needed to stop labeling my experience as good or bad. That I needed to adjust my mindset and let go of the negative thoughts in order to truly heal. That’s when I knew I needed to make a change! As I mentioned in the last post, I was essentially forced to face my emotions head on, or live forever in my misery. I had to “feel in order to heal.”
My therapist explained to me that my relationship was not good, nor bad; It was simply a season of my life and there were many reasons it happened. This was an especially hard concept for me to wrap my head around. How could I look at my divorce as “just an experience” when so much hurt was attached? Ultimately, I knew it was necessary for my healing, but I also knew it wouldn’t be easy. It was time to go to work!
Reshaping your thoughts and emotions is a difficult process to say the least. As much as I had suppressed and avoided reliving the events of my heartbreak for almost 2 years, it was time to face them each head on and spend time feeling each emotion individually.
*Disclaimer: the negative emotions did not evaporate all at once, but I was truly shocked by how quickly I was able to reshape my feelings with the simple power of thought!
Emotions are also called FEELings for a reason. They were meant to be felt. Just like a river can only be dammed for so long before the flood flows over the rocks, our emotions can only be dammed so long before they overflow and we are forced to 'sink or swim.' One of the most important tools I used during this process of feeling, was mindfulness [meditation]. It seems like a pretty simple word at first, but it turned out to be one of the most deep and life changing practices of my recovery. To give you a quick summary, mindfulness is essentially becoming fully present as we invest ourselves in the present moment; forgetting about the failures of the past or the stresses of the future. It’s a practice of meditation that completely changed my perspective. I am definitely not a meditation guru by any means...meditation for me usually meant nap time during yoga class; but this is one habit I will keep in my life forever!
During my mindful meditation, I would allow any thoughts, emotions, and memories revolving around the divorce to enter my mind. I would simply sit with them. Let me tell you, this was NOT comfortable! (But growth rarely is) Emotions came up that I didn’t even know I had…loneliness, self-hate, distrust, anger, confusion, and guilt to name a few.
Occasionally the emotions piled themselves on all at once, but most of the time, they came one by one. Every reflex in my body told me to push them away, but I fought through and allowed myself to feel the emotion deeply. It hurt at first, it hurt bad! But all of a sudden, it was like a gate was opened and the emotion I was feeling was able to run out. It took me several weeks, and even months of practice, but I began noticing a serious change within myself. I no longer had such dark and negative feelings surrounding my divorce. Yes, I was hurt, but that hurt didn’t come without lessons. I had reshaped my thoughts to see my story as simply an ‘experience’, not a negative experience. I recognized my relationship more as a lesson and a season, than an end to a 'forever.' Most importantly, I began to love myself again. Because I wasn’t so focused on hiding my feelings, I was able to explore ME…and that is what brought the true healing!
Now, I know this may sound like a bunch of fluff, but I promise you, my life changed dramatically when I decided to feel and heal!
I encourage everyone, everywhere, to try this! It doesn’t matter if you’ve been through a divorce or never been in a relationship…everyone has their something! This could be hurt caused by a co-worker, a bad relationship with your mom, a struggle with depression…the list is literally endless. Just because my “hardest thing” happens to be a divorce, doesn’t mean this practice of healing can’t apply to everyone’s individual trial!
I encourage everyone to dedicate even 5 minutes a day to sitting in your feelings. As you do so, use that powerful machine between your ears to reshape your thoughts regarding the emotion. Focus on the lessons learned and the growth you have found within yourself as a result of the experience, instead of dwelling on the negative feelings attached. I know as you do this consistently, you can teach your brain to let go of negative feelings and truly find healing within yourself! If you need a little extra push, or a friend to help you on this journey, I am only a message away!
Next week I will share the single moment that changed everything for me!