By Emily Fletcher
There’s no denying that breakups are tough.
It doesn’t matter if it was you or your partner who initiated the split. Breakups cause a kind of mourning. Mourning the close of this chapter of your life, mourning the loss of potential of what could have been, and mourning what can feel like a death of this person who you thought you might have spent the rest of your life with. It hurts.
By habit, we humans like to avoid pain. We often try to ignore our feelings or numb them with brownies, Netflix, and wine. We may even start a relationship with someone new before we have fully healed as a way to avoid feeling the pain.
Here’s the trick: There is no way around but through.
Once you accept this simple truth, you open yourself up to a much more elegant way of dealing with the end of a relationship.
Why do you think relationships exist? Do you think your boyfriend is there to “complete” you? I believe relationships exist to teach us our lessons. At their best, they are an outlet for our fulfillment and not a place we go to fill ourselves up.
Every relationship is a chapter in the syllabus of life. When one ends, it can mean you have learned that lesson and it is time to move on. By adopting this viewpoint, we realize that breakups are actually an amazing opportunity for growth. That doesn’t make it easy. Growing Pains isn’t just a sitcom from the ’80s. Change can be uncomfortable. Breaking your exoskeleton can hurt, but expansion is the safest place there is.
When we allow ourselves to feel the discomfort and move through it as opposed to trying to avoid it, we give ourselves the gift of healing faster and more elegantly.
Step 1: Tune into your breath.
Lie down on the floor with one hand on your heart and your other hand on your stomach. Breathe and feel your chest rising and falling. Feel your heart beating, sending blood to every part of your body. Don’t try to change your breath or control your body in any way; simply feel the sensations of lying on the floor. If you’re feeling a knot in your chest or a pit in your stomach or any kind of physical sensation related to your emotions, that’s OK. Let yourself feel it, and notice how the pain doesn’t stop your heart from beating.
Step 2: Tap the thymus.
There is a reason monkeys beat on their chests. That is where the thymus gland is. It is the thing that shrinks when we have a “broken heart.” By gently tapping on your chest, you can stimulate the thymus gland and help it to expand and heal.
Step 3: Ask yourself a few questions.
Reflect on the following prompts, which will help you see the beauty in the breakup.
1. Why is this happening FOR me? (… instead of why is this happening TO me?)
Reflect on your relationship and ask yourself what the biggest takeaways were. Remember, the fact that the relationship ended does not make it a failure. See if you can look at the situation not as a loss but in terms of what information you’ve gained. You might have learned more about what you do and don’t want in a partner. You might have learned more about your own communicative style. You might have learned more about how you react in certain situations. All of this is valuable information to help you gain more insight about yourself.
2. How do I trust that this will play out as it is meant to play out?
“Surrender” and “acceptance” are two words that we don’t love in the West. However, they’re crucial for getting unstuck when we’re feeling like we need to control our lives. So instead of obsessing over the breakup or trying to find a new partner stat, can you simply let go and accept that things will work out as they’re meant to? Visualize yourself physically holding all your plans and beliefs about what “should” happen, and then picture yourself physically handing over that bundle to nature. Notice how much lighter you are when you’re not weighed down by the nagging need to control the future.
3. How do I enjoy that I will never have to relearn these lessons?
Now that you have this information, you never have to learn it again. And you can use what you’ve learned to inform your future relationships, which will help you to call forth partners who can teach you even more lessons. It’s a constant process of evolving as you continue to grow in life and love.
It’s OK if you’re hurting. But when you can see the pain as part of your evolution, it doesn’t hurt as much. So give yourself permission to feel all of this. This too shall pass, and you will be stronger for it.
This article originally appeared on mindbodygreen.