How Do I Get Over a Breakup?

Breakups are some of the most gut-wrenching experiences, yet so many of us experience it in our lifetime. Most of us want to fast-forward through the painful emotions associated with losing someone. On top of that, each of our separation stories are unique, and we will experience compounded feelings based on what happened as the relationship ended. So, how do we get over a breakup? First, it is important we define what that means.

Defining “Getting Over It”

It can be helpful to consider what “getting over” this breakup means to you. Consider:

  • What does letting go mean to you?
  • What does moving forward mean to you?
  • What does closure mean to you?
  • What’s currently between you and being over it? Consider emotions, fears, beliefs, behaviours, or other impacts that might be between you and being over it.

Helping Ourselves Move Forward

Here are some suggestions of how we can wade through the pain and hurt associated with a breakup:

  • Consider your emotions and needs – Try to understand what you’re feeling. What emotions are you experiencing most these days? What thoughts are coming up most? Is there a part of you that is resisting moving on?  Why? Do you have a need for closure that is holding you back? How can you create closure for yourself?  What is in your control in terms of the closure you want?
  • Consider your boundaries – Some of us crave continued connection with our ex-partner. However, some distance can help us adjust to the change and the new roles you and your ex-partner are stepping into; you’re moving from partners to ex-partners and there are new boundaries associated with those roles. What kind of boundaries help you put distance between you and your ex-partner?
  • Meet your basic needs – Are you eating, drinking water, sleeping, and moving in a way that feels good for your body? A body that is deprived and running on empty is also a body that feels more emotionally dysregulated. For example, some of us may simply not have an appetite while others are perhaps trying to harm ourselves by depriving ourselves of what we need most. It’s important to understand why we aren’t caring for our bodies and try to meet ourselves with compassion.
  • Keep busy – Doing activities we would normally enjoy are generally helpful when going through a breakup. It’s normal to have little to no motivation to go for a run, see a friend, or continuing to attend that course we are taking. However, often motivation follows behaviour (not the other way around). The more we care for ourselves, the more we will feel inclined to care for ourselves. Too much idle time can be really hard, so try to plan ahead so your schedule isn’t empty.
  • Connect with others – Spending time with others can help us wade through feelings of loneliness. Give yourself permission to talk about the breakup or not talk about the breakup when spending time with loved ones. No one will replace our partner, but it is important to meet our needs for human connection, even a little bit.
  • Practice patience – Getting over something that was so important to us takes time. While we may want to feel less emotional immediately, it is unlikely given what place this relationship held within our inner and outer world. So be patient with yourself. There is no timeline.
  • Try to avoid coping that leaves you feeling worse – While using substances or alcohol can provide short-term relief, they also provide long-term suffering. If you tend to use alcohol or drugs, consider what those avenues provide you with? How do they help you in the short-term? Once you know that, consider what may provide a similar sense of distraction or relief and, even if it isn’t as distracting or relieving, try to use those strategies instead.
  • Practice creating a balanced perspective – Remember that when we are suffering we tend to look at things from a specific vantage point. In moving forward, what are you stepping away from?  What are you stepping toward? Are there any reasons you are grateful to no longer be in this relationship?
  • Connect with people with shared experiences – It can be helpful to sense that we are not alone and that others have been through what we’re going through. This can look like real life connections, movies, podcasts, or books that address issues related to breakups.

Receiving the support of a compassionate psychotherapist can help us make sense of our experiences and gradually step toward a future that we want to cultivate.

“Allow” – a Poem by Danna Faulds

There is no controlling life.

Try corralling a lightning bolt,

containing a tornado.  Dam a

stream and it will create a new

channel.  Resist, and the tide

will sweep you off your feet.

Allow, and grace will carry

you to higher ground.  The only

safety lies in letting it all in –

the wild and the weak; fear,

fantasies, failures and success.

When loss rips off the doors of

the heart, or sadness veils your

vision with despair, practice

becomes simply bearing the truth.

In the choice to let go of your

known way of being, the whole

world is revealed to your new eyes.

How Do I Stop Feeling Guilty?

What is Guilt?

Guilt is an emotional state where we experience inner conflict at having done something that we believe we should not have done. Or opposingly, we feel conflict at having not done something we believe we should have done. Guilt is different from shame.

Guilt

  • “I did something bad”
  • I feel motivated to repair, show regret, or apologize

Shame

  • “I am bad”
  • I want to hide and disappear

Guilt is a common secondary emotion, meaning we sometimes feel guilty for having an emotion. For example, we can feel guilty for feeling angry toward our parent. However, guilt can also be a primary emotion, meaning it’s our first response to a situation. For example, we can feel guilty because we think we’ve done something wrong.

When Do We Feel Guilty?

Guilt can be a helpful and productive emotion, relating to our capacity to experience empathy​. Feeling bad after making a mistake can lead to change, such as an apology or a decision to make different choices in the future.

However, guilt can be unhelpful and unproductive if:

  • It’s chronic or feels stuck inside us, unchanging
  • It’s our automatic emotional response
  • It feels all-encompassing
  • It’s a feeling about a feeling

As Sarah Dergins says, “Feelings of guilt can happen when we haven’t done anything wrong at all, but we feel like we’ve violated some internal standard we’ve been taught.” Many of us have been taught to feel guilty for things that are normal human experiences, such as having emotions, being imperfect, or making mistakes. Many of us hold onto guilt that doesn’t belong to us and, when we do this, we are holding onto the belief that we may have had the power to change the outcome of a situation, when perhaps it was out of our control all along. As Umar Ibn Al-Khattab says, “No amount of guilt can change the past and no amount of worry can change the future.”​

Self-Reflection

Developing self-awareness can be our first step toward cultivating moments of self-compassion. When we understand ourselves, we are able to separate thought from fact, meet ourselves with acceptance, and take steps toward releasing stuck feelings.

  • Where do you feel the guilt inside your body?
  • If the guilt could talk, what would it say to you?
  • When you feel guilty, what are you most craving to hear? What do you most need?
  • Is the guilt about having done something bad, or believing you are bad? (note that feeling we are bad is shame, not guilt)
  • How else do you feel when you experience guilt? E.g. Do you feel shame, fear, etc.?
  • How do you behave when you experience guilt? Or what do you want to do?
  • Consider the part of you that feels guilty.  What is that part of you trying to protect you from?  What is this part afraid would happen if it didn’t make you feel guilty?
  • Even if you don’t like this guilt, can you see how it’s trying to help you in some way?  That maybe it’s reminding you of something that’s important to you?
  • Can you send some compassion toward yourself with this new knowledge?
  • Ultimately, is this part of you effective in the job that it’s doing?

Changing Feelings of Guilt

First, we want to distinguish if our guilt is:

  • A secondary emotion (a feeling about having a feeling) – e.g. if we feel guilty for being angry at our parent
  • A primary adaptive emotion (a fresh, new response that gives us useful information and a direct benefit) – e.g. we feel guilty for forgetting someone’s birthday
  • A primary maladaptive emotion (an old, stuck emotions that are all-encompassing and do not give us useful information or a direct benefit) – e.g. chronic guilt or when we feel guilty for something we had no control over

This information can support us in understanding ourselves better and knowing what we may need. We likely will need the support of a psychotherapist to take these steps.

  • If it’s a secondary emotion, we can work toward giving ourselves permission to connect with what really underneath
  • If it’s a primary adaptive emotion, we can work toward meeting the need that we have (e.g. to repair, apologize, or show regret)
  • If it’s a primary maladaptive emotion, we can work with a therapist to uncover new emotions that relate to our first difficult experiences of guilt (which likely occurred in childhood), such as self-compassion or assertive anger

It can be hard to avoid inviting our guilt to transform into the costume of shame.  As humans, we are flawed and imperfect, so mistakes are inevitable.  Faltering is part of being human and we have a tendency to be too hard on ourselves while giving permission to others to be imperfect.  We can work toward finding a way to live by our values with compassion for others as well as ourselves. Working with a psychotherapist can support us to develop compassion for our adult selves as well as our younger selves that may have received messages that impact our relationship with guilt today.

Self Observation without Judgement” – a poem by Danna Faulds

Release the harsh and pointed inner

voice.  It’s just a throwback to the past,

and holds no truth about this moment.

Let go of self-judgment, the old,

learned ways of beating yourself up

for each imagined inadequacy.

Allow the dialogue within the mind

to grow friendlier, and quiet.  Shift

out of inner criticism and life

suddenly looks very different.

I can say this only because I make

the choice a hundred times a day

to release the voice that refuses to

acknowledge the real me.

What’s needed here isn’t more

prodding toward perfection, but

intimacy–seeing clearly, and 

embracing what I see.

Love, not judgment, sows the 

seeds of tranquility and change.