Throughout our lives, we form relationships. Whether it is a parent, a cousin, a friend, a romantic partner, or a co-worker, we grow fond of them to the point that we believe nothing could separate us. However, something does happen that separates the both of you. Sometimes it’s out of your control and sometimes it is. Either way, things are over and you feel broken inside. 

You think you can move on and get over it, but all the emotions and pain from the last relationship inhibit you from moving on. This is called emotional baggage. I am sure everyone is quite familiar with it. It’s what keeps most people from moving on like a heavyweight weighing them down. Emotional baggage is common to have. It’s even normal because we invest a lot into relationships, so we expect investment to grow in our favor. If they don’t, it’s like losing on a whole new level.

Antonio Pascual-Leone is a therapist who observes the emotional baggage of people grieving past relationships. In a TEDxTalk he did at the University of Windsor, he explains how in all of his years of working with patients going through breakups, he notices a three-step linear pattern that they all go through. Similar to a road map of emotional states towards acceptance. This is a universal pattern for people who have unfinished business with others in their lives. He then explains this sequence of steps and how to get through them in a healthy and productive way, which will improve your mental health along with some tips from this helpful article.

Now, you might be thinking that we’re telling you to go see a therapist, but we’re not. Instead of paying hundreds of dollars to talk with a therapist, why not read about Leon’s advice in this article? He is a therapist after all. So, just think of it as free therapy on us. You can thank us later!

The First Step Is Always The Easiest

If you are in the first phase of the post-break-up process, then you are probably still upset about the end of the relationship and you probably want to avoid the issue, but don’t know why. We’ve all been here before. For instance, being dumped by a best friend can be hard. You both might have spent your entire childhood together in bathtubs, on the playground, at summer camp, and at school all the way up to both your freshman year of college. At this point in time, you both might have decided to go to different colleges or maybe you go to the same college, but go into different friend groups because you both have different interests now. This is a very typical story, so you might already know that the breakup between these friends would hurt both of them equally. I know I would certainly be very upset in this situation. These friends practically invested every day of their life with each other. So, for it to end so abruptly can seem like a separation from what’s normal.

At this point in the break up, it is okay to be upset, but you just need to remember to keep breathing. You must learn to tolerate this feeling until you are okay with the new normal (life without that person). It will take days, weeks, or even months for some people, but it’s all a part of the process.

Describing what’s so awful can also help in this part of the process. If you feel comfortable writing in a journal or recording these feelings, this will be easier for you. You should slow down and ask yourself …

“where does it hurt?” and “what’s the worst part of it?”

….Leon says. Getting those feelings out there will help you to better understand them and where they are coming from.

The Second Step Is A Little Harder

Once done with the first step, you are probably now on the second phase of the moving on process. In this phase, you might feel a little bent out of shape because of how the past relationship rocked you to your core. Leon also explains how it might stir up old feelings of insecurity. In his example, he explains how his first break up brought up feelings of self-doubt when it came to finishing things.  The breakup likely opened up old wounds that, on top of grieving the past relationship, you will now have to deal with because it leaves you feeling uglier and darker. That is why this phase of the relationship can be a little harder than the first, unfortunately.

To deal with this point of moving on the process and resolve those insecurities, you should ask yourself some questions again. The first question you should ask yourself is…

“What do you really need?”

Do you need the person from your last relationship back in your life or do you need to focus on yourself? Leon asks his patients to spell it out and emphasizes that it should not be about them, but specifically you. It’s all about what you need to flourish after the break-up. Psychology Today even says that “when you are hurting, you are vulnerable” and that it is important to take care of yourself and your emotional well-being during this time. Maybe you can self-love by eating better like in this article or by taking up a hobby. As long as you are focusing on yourself, you can’t go wrong.

The Third and Hardest Step Of Moving On From A Past Relationship

Approaching the last step, you are now no longer upset or insecure, but this time you’re angry. You might think that this anger you feel is bad, but this anger is actually good. It means that you are grieving in a way that helps you pinpoint what you need to do to get back on track. Leon describes this phase as fighting for your sense of self or asserting yourself. In this phase, you might even be flip-flopping between assertive anger and grieving. It’s almost like you’re battling between finding what you need and feeling of assertion until you realize what you need most is to assert yourself.

This phase can get exhausting, but now, like in the last two phases, you should ask yourself some questions.

“What do you resent?” and “what are you fighting for?”

…are the two main ones you should be trying to get at. You can also ask yourself “what do you miss?” and “what are the specific losses?”. With these questions you can use your emotions and grief to organize yourself in a healthy way. You can think of this as concluding the feeling or realizing your takeaways from the ended relationship before fully moving on.

What Now?

So, you have gone through all three phases and have asked and answered all of the questions. Now what? Well, you have four different routes to take in your journey post-relationship. You can either…

  • Forgive and Reconcile
  • Forgive and don’t Reconcile (forgive and forget)
  • Don’t Forgive and don’t Forget (hold other person accountable/ shift power view of other into a different light)

OR

  • Reconcile and don’t Forgive (indicates that you are still stuck and need time to heal)

Feel Better?

After all of this, you should feel slightly better. If you don’t, that’s okay. Healing doesn’t happen overnight. Not to mention, these phases are sometimes an implicit process that does not need instruction. So, you might have already moved in and don’t even know it yet. Sometimes though, people get stuck on some of these phases and need a little nudge to get them out. In those instances, these questions can be great to have on hand. Again, it all just depends on the situation.

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