There's good news: We CAN have control over our emotions! The grief over the loss of a loved one or a broken heart can be felt and then released. It's simply up to you to take charge of feeling better again. Are you up for it?
Just after my divorce, I had a huge amount of grief to release around the belief that I can’t protect my kids 100 percent of the time anymore. There were many aspects of that thought that made me feel scared. Worries ran through my mind: What is he (their father) teaching them - what if they are learning bad habits from him? Can I have any influence at all? Then of course there were irrational fears such as: What if he shuts me out completely and talks trash about me to our sons? What if he moves out-of-state or stops contacting me when it’s his turn to have our sons? What if he neglects them to the point they get hurt? These excruciating thoughts kept me up at night. Then I began using these 5 Methods for taking charge of feeling good again.
1.) Suffering can be alleviated by letting go of fear and having compassion for ourselves. When we feel ourselves having a really tough time . . . let it happen. Suffering is okay. It will pass. Remember, emotions are energy, so don’t attach yourself to them. Emotions are meant to come and go. The only reason we are sad/angry/stressed out is because we keep telling ourselves that we are sad/angry/stressed out. We run this loop in our heads over and over. Instead, let yourself cry; it’s another form of releasing and letting go. This is what we do have control over.
“Tears are a river that takes you somewhere … Tears lift your boat off the rocks, off dry ground, carrying it downriver to someplace better.” Clarissa Pinkola Estes
2.) You can also gain a sense of control with perspective. It can change your attitude and lift you up in the morning! Each and every day is a new day to let go of the past and begin with a clean slate. If you choose to. It’s for you to decide what you would like to focus on.
Where will you place your attention? Will it be ~
3.) Redirect thoughts to those things you do have control over. Then let everything else (that you don't have control over) go! Steer away from negative thinking and past memories that make you feel badly. Learn to delete or cancel these thoughts. Our thoughts need to serve us, not bring us down.
4.) Use the present moment to be mindful of your thoughts and choose wisely. (Choose, yay - it's sunny and warm outside right now! As opposed to lamenting over something you said yesterday.) It’s comforting to know that we have this kind of freedom available to us at all times.
5.) Finally, a simple twist of a negative thought can transform into a positive helpful thought. A new encouraging thought helps us to let go of wanting control. To be more accepting of what IS. The example I used earlier with the thought/belief of losing my ability to protect my children at all times, can be seen in a new light with this positive thought: They are learning how to become independent, self-reliant human beings.
That feels much better, now it's your turn!
When we let go after a relationship break up, we have an opportunity to see ourselves in a new light! The final stages of letting go can lead us back to reconnect to the true essence of who we are: our souls. We have the chance to see that we have evolved; we're not the person from our past anymore.
However, it's important that we own up to our role in what happened. We'll achieve clarity once we can see OUR part in the past.
Journal Exercise: Past-Self Review: Discover Your Heart Threads
Set aside some time when you are feeling relaxed. Light a candle to set up the sacred space for you to honor your self. Have a journal or paper ready to write your thoughts.
Place your hand over your heart. Close your eyes and take a deep breath. Now, bring to mind and heart those past memories when you were in the relationship. Review those events and ask yourself:
Get to the heart of who you are now.
Find the common thread of those personality traits that remain in you today - those parts of you that you have held onto are what I like to call "heart threads." For me it was recovering my love for photography after my divorce. When you find a big thread (of who you are), when you tug on it, the thread will lead you back to the full essence of that part of you inside your soul. It could be your sense of humor, your passion for running, a hobby or an outlook on life. Remember those parts of you that have stayed strong and steadfast. Let that lead you to the other parts of you that you had neglected. Maybe it was a gathering with friends once a year you forsook to accommodate your girlfriend.
Feel empowered by this exercise. Sometimes you will come across memories from your past to help you realize a heart thread (a deeper sense of who you are). Now go back and reclaim those parts of you that you lost or gave up along the way due to your relationship. Was there a spiritual belief/sense inside you that weakened or disappeared? Did you let your relationships with friends or family members slip away? Did you stop going to the gym? What needs do you still have today that you have forgotten about? What's most important to you? Write these thoughts down and follow them until you reach some of your own answers.
Decide or declare that these parts of you are very much a part of who you are and too significant to ever let go of again.
Maybe this is where you are now: A broken heart. You may be feeling like you don’t want to tune into your heart because it’s too painful there. You’re heartbroken to the point where it literally feels like your heart has been shattered into a million pieces. As difficult as this may seem, this is the place to start. If you don’t heal your heart, what do you have left? You may rationalize that you still have your mental capacity because after all, your brain is working pretty well. Okay, but wouldn’t you rather get to a point where you can enjoy life again—when getting up in the morning isn’t a chore, but rather a new day to look forward to?
By giving your heart some of your loving attention, you can begin to heal and feel better. Whatever has happened, you will reach a point where you want to pick up the pieces and start over again. I know it can seem unbearable . . . believe me when I say I do. After my divorce, my life was torn in half. My situation included caring for a newborn and two young sons with a newly broken heart and no family in the area to help me out. But I learned, and so will you, that it takes baby steps. It’s a process of orienting your life towards feeling good again inside your heart.
First, be gentle with yourself and treat yourself with loving kindness. Act as if you would to your own children or precious pet. Give yourself compassion and take care of your needs during those times when you can. I remember there were days when the minute my kids hit the school grounds, I couldn’t wait to get back to bed and hold myself for a while.
Get some breathing space by using perspective. I found I could feel a little better if I reminded myself that I was not alone, that there were other people going through this too. And I could feel a little better if I could imagine a brighter future, whether that be a few days from now or a year from now. In the middle of the night, there were times when I looked to the night sky; focusing my attention on the moon and the stars, helped me to remember my place in the world. Most importantly when you have a broken heart; choosing to put it back together will begin the healing process so that you can feel good again.
The emotional support I received from family and friends helped, but ultimately it was me and the choices I made to give myself love that turned things around. To help you incorporate this concept, Chapter Three will go deeper to help you to build your heart back together again. You will realize the benefits of having a loving relationship with yourself. For now, simply build your awareness.
When we stop and tune into our heart, we are coming back “home” to re-connect with our spirit. It may feel very awkward at first—after all, your heart has been hurting for a while. It will take some faith in your ability.
Excerpt from, Croley, K.M. (2014), A New Leaf; 12 Spiritual Truths for Starting Over.
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I must share that in researching this topic for men, the majority of studies and articles revolved around men’s needs inside a relationship, or needs as they pertained to a woman. There simply wasn’t much available on the topic of men saying no, or even on men fulfilling their needs. Some of the research claimed that men don’t even know what their needs are most of the time! However, I know there are men out there facing the same problem as women: how to say no, how to meet their own needs--it’s just not talked about.
Some women might balk and respond with disbelief. They might exclaim, “What? Men seem to be much more filled with a sense of entitlement and ease in fulfilling their needs!” And I have plenty of friends who’d support that opinion telling me they spend hours trying to get their partners to return from a surfing session, for instance, that they said would last only “a couple of hours.” Play time for some men, whether it be surfing or a golf game, can easily turn into a half a day, or even a full day. Gasp! Women would argue they have to plead and bribe to get the same amount of “play time” inside their families. But rather than argue “Who has it easiest?” let’s keep it fair and earnest, and explain a man’s perspective of feeling “selfish” and their ability to say “No.” Just like there are all types of women in their ability to fulfill their needs, so too are there men.
Generally speaking, men who have a hard time fulfilling their needs are those who find it easier to take care of others. Just like women who don’t put themselves first, neither do some men. These men won’t speak up and wind up giving all their power away to others. Soon they feel resentful and wonder why nobody ever listens to them.
One of my clients, Sam (not his real name), was transitioning back into being single again. It was a very difficult time for him because he felt so emotional about his break-up. But the demands at work were enormous and he wanted to help his boss handle it all. He wanted to “do his fair share.” Plus, it helped to fill the hole in his heart. So rather than say “No” when he felt like he needed to go home at the end of the day, he stayed longer and worked another couple of hours. This happened every day for six weeks until he found himself feeling horribly resentful toward his boss. He no longer perceived him as a friend but as a slave driver. And yet, he still couldn’t let him down and tell him, “No.” Subconsciously he perceived his boss’s needs to be more important than his own. Working with me, he was finally able to see that his needs not only were just as valid as his boss’s, but even more important at the time. If he had continued at that pace with a newly broken heart, his body would continue to wear down and physical illness could present a new problem. Transitions can be emotionally demanding, which is why it’s important to be able to say, “No, I need to take some time out for myself.” In learning how to prioritize himself, he was able to alleviate stress and sleep at night.
I have learned by experience that there are also men who find it easier to say “Yes” and go underground with their real desires and motives, than to say, “No” and state what they need. In other words, in order for them to get their needs met they become passive-aggressive (dishonest). By giving a superficial “Yes,” or never saying “No,” in their minds they are keeping the peace in their relationships. To their partners, families and friends it may look as if everything is okay, when in reality these men are meeting their needs secretly, even rebelliously. Meanwhile the dishonesty doesn’t seem to be a problem because firstly, they haven’t gotten caught yet, and secondly, these men don’t see themselves as being dishonest. A minor example would be a husband who sneaks off to the movies when he gets a break and doesn’t ever invite or tell his wife about it. A more serious example is a boyfriend who has a drug habit or is having an affair. These men find it easier not to say anything than to express what they are needing out in the open. This type of man needs to ask himself: “Are my actions harming others? Is my effort to meet my needs adversely affecting my relationship? Are my actions jeopardizing the trust in the relationship? Am I not in integrity with myself?
”It’s not uncommon for relationships to be riddled with power struggles where partners aren’t happy with their roles. One feels resentful because the other gets more “play time.” One believes there is no equal exchange in how they divvy up the duties/tasks around the house, child rearing, or income. It’s much better to be honest and forthright with your needs by sharing what they are. Have the confidence to state what your needs are. Maybe there is a conversation that needs to happen inside your relationship, on the topic of, “How do we both get our needs met?” Love yourself enough to initiate this discussion.
The last type of man that I’ll discuss is the man who wants to take it all on and be the “hero.” This man thrives on the sensation of this kind of power and therefore refuses to delegate. These men almost get a “high” from helping others and placing their own needs last. The “high” is the reward that causes them to keep living this way, until someone, usually their wife, speaks up to say, “Honey, I love that you want to help everyone but maybe you should help yourself first. Your car is looking like a garbage can. You haven’t sat down to eat a meal with us in weeks and you could use a haircut, too!” All in good fun, this example shows how these men usually will keep going until someone steps in to intervene. Or worse-case scenario, they contract an illness.
Another type of “hero” includes a man that feels good as a result of helping others. In this case, the high comes from the feeling of rescuing someone, whether it’s a damsel in distress who needs never-ending help, a boss, a job that’s never done, or a best friend who needs a place to live (without any end in sight). These men thrive on this type of giving and end up neglecting themselves and their families as a result. Wives or girlfriends become jealous of the damsel in distress, or feel resentful of the workplace or best friend. Arguments and separation become the norm and these men really have a hard time understanding why. They rationalize to themselves, “But I am helping this person and they need my help!” Ah-ha, there is the root of it all; usually these men aren’t feeling needed inside their relationships or family.
“There are two questions a man must ask himself: The first is ‘Where am I going?’ and the second is ‘Who will go with me?’ If you ever get these questions in the wrong order you are in trouble.” ~ Sam Keen
For men learning how to say “No” and express their needs to others, it’s a matter of staying connected to their hearts. Men, in particular, feel good when they believe they have a purpose and can be useful to others. They need to check in with their hearts to ask, “Am I feeling useful?” or “Am I feeling appreciated or respected?” or “What is my purpose today?” For men, giving time to themselves will involve the answers they give themselves to these questions. “Play time” (a golf game with their buddies or similar pursuit) is one way for men to stay connected to their hearts and themselves. Without this need being met, they simply don’t care, lose their inner power, and can be self-destructive. “Play time” for men is equivalent to what women call “Me time.”
Keen, S. (1992). Fire in the Belly: On Being a Man, Bantam Press.Excerpt from Chapter 3. Croley K. M., (2014). A New Leaf; 12 Spiritual Truths for Starting Over. A New Leaf; personal life coaching press.