Even if your heart tries to pull its broken self together to tell you it’s for the best, and your head – foggy and sad – tells you the pain will pass, the agony of a breakup can be relentless. When you’re recovering from a breakup, it’s important not to hurry things along – it’s your time to reset, recharge and draw wisdom from the experience – but what if your healing could be strong and complete … and quicker? Science may have just found the way.
Happiness is as much about what we do as it is about what we don’t do.
We were born to set the world on fire. To live, love, learn, fall down, haul ourselves back up and do it all over again. Above all else, we were born to be happy. Everything we need to do that, is in us.
We humans know how to fight for the things that are important. We fight for relationships, for people, for jobs, for things to stay the same. But here’s the thing – they don’t always fight as hard to hold on to us. One of the greatest sources of hurt is holding on to things that are trying to let go of us. The harder we hold on, the more it hurts. The problem with this is that we have nothing free to grab the things that will be good for us when they come our way.
Criticism never builds. Ever. Not even with a happy building word like ‘constructive’ before it. Criticism is criticism. It’s never constructive and it’s never helpful. It paralyses willpower and shackles the capacity to change. It makes the receiver less confident, less shiny, less able.
Knockbacks, knockdowns and knockouts are an unavoidable part of full living. The number of times I’ve wished they weren’t – so desperately at times that it’s hard to believe it’s not enough to make those bad things disappear. When bad things happen, it’s up to us – and only us – to decide what happens next. It’s cliché (oh I know how cliché this is, but stay with me) – but by changing the way we experience the bad, we can emerge from the chaos and thrive, strengthened by an experience that could have just as easily floored us.
Breakups are emotional roller coasters. Actually that’s not true. If a breakup was anything like a roller coaster the end would be visible from the start, you could say ‘no thanks’ to the ride and at the end of it, for a hefty sum the memory could be savoured forever with a flimsy cardboard-framed photo.
Breakups are as much a part of the human experience as a breathing oxygen and not licking cactuses. It’s actual science that going through a breakup does the same thing to your body as withdrawal from an addiction, activating the part of the brain associated with motivation, reward and addiction cravings.
There are times when we act with extreme altruism, giving up time, energy and the beginning of ‘Law and Order’ out of concern for the greater good.
Once we have selflessly taken care of the greater good by, say, stacking the dishwasher, we may well consider ourselves deserving of a treat perhaps a glass of wine(s) or a proper dessert (and no – in these circumstances fruit is not a dessert, unless it’s in a pie, a sauce or accompanied by something dairy).
Upcycling is the process of taking something which is no longer useful and turning it into something beautiful, something which has an important purpose. It is something not only for things, but for people too.
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The need to feel safe is primal. We’re wired to fight or flee anything that presents itself as a threat - and shame, punishment, judgement, exclusion, humiliation all count as threat, even if they come with loads of love.
When our kids or teens mess up - which they will, because they’re humans not robots - the way we respond can open them up to our influence or shut them down to it. It can expand the fight and the disconnection, or it can shrink it. In time they will learn to be more in control of their urge for or flight, but for now, we will need to lead the way. (Of course, we are also human, and sometimes despite our biggest efforts to stay calm, we will step into the ring rather than wait for them to step out. We’re human. It’s going to happen. And that’s okay.)
If we want them to be open to our influence, we first need to calm their active amygdala (the seat of anxiety and big emotion) by sending the message that we aren’t a threat. We can do this by validating their feelings or the need behind their behaviour (if we know what that is).
Validation doesn’t mean agreeing with them, and it doesn’t mean approving of their behaviour. What it means is letting them know that we want to understand the world through their lens. ‘I can see you’re really upset about this.’ ‘It sounds as though you’re worried I’m going to get in your way. I can see this is important to you. I really want to understand. Can you talk to me about this?’
When we do this, it sends a message to the protective, powerful, emotional amygdala that it’s safe and that it can back down. This will start to switch off the need to fight us or flee (ignore) us and open them up to our influence, support, warmth and guidance.
It also doesn’t mean giving them a free pass on ‘unadorable’ behaviour. What it means is letting them know that we see them, and that we understand there is something important they need. When things are calm, they will be much more open to exploring their decisions, their behaviour, the consequences of that (including any consequences for them), and what they can do differently in the future.