Breakups suck.

Breakups are the worst.

Worst still, breakups are not exclusive to romantic relationships - they happen in many contexts. For example, In my life, I have had breakups with girlfriends, employers, Churches, ideologies, banks, political parties, friends, enemies, communities, neighbors, and even many different ways of understanding God. Like, we are never getting back together... like ever. I think breakups are especially challenging when you can not get the closure and resolution with the other person you feel you need. Man have I been there a few times. 

Experiencing breakups - I found three concepts especially helpful: Triangles, Grounding, and Uninviting. 

1. Triangles:

Relational Triangles

Triangles are a counseling concept that explains how a private breakup becomes a giant "bad-blood" drama in a friend circle, family, community, or between pop-stars. When person A and person B are experiencing conflict and are not able to directly resolve their feud (see additional note below) - they will find person C to involve. So the energy flows from A to C. And from C to B rather than directly. This forms a relational triangle. While "triangling" is understandable it’s not a longterm healthy way to deal with the negative relational energy - in part because the drama stays in the system as it is passed on and on from person to person. It’s a pattern that shares some elements with co-dependence. Getting healthy means finding a proper place to “ground” that leftover energy. 

2. Grounding

Imagine that the painful relational leftovers from a breakup are an electric charge. Like a lightning bolt, there is likely enough energy to burn down a house (or a friend circle, family, community, etc) unless it is safely grounded. There are many ways to "ground" this relation charge. Personally, I recommend counseling, prayer, or meditation as those have all worked for me - but the key is finding the right “lightning rod” for you. 

3. Uninviting:

Some years ago - during a very painful, "breakup" - I found myself waking up at 2 am haunted by "ghost" people who were no longer in my life. I would lay awake trying to win arguments I was never going to actually have. These people were only in my life because I kept summoning them in my mind - they had already moved on. These were hauntings, not relationships. Eventually, I realized I needed to grieve these lost relationships fully (as if they had died) and then release their memory/spirit and no longer summon these ghosts of former relationships. It was time to uninvite them from my mental space. Think of this as an emotional exorcism - casting out ghosts of past relationships so that I could move on with the people actually were interested in me and my life. When these ghosts would rattle their chains, demanding to be heard and argued with - instead, I would immediately make a mental shift to thoughts of gratitude for the friends in my life now. This practice, when applied consistently, helped immensely. It’s hard at first, and then freeing as you fully step into it. 

Additional note: Why can't people just resolve their energy directly? In relationships, the history and baggage that builds up over time can make it easier to talk to someone else about your discomfort with your partner than to talk to your partner directly. This can arise for countless reasons, and often is the basic communication style we learned in our imperfect families growing up. If you're mad at mom, talk to dad. If your sister punches you, commiserate how awful she is with another sibling or friend. In the short term, these triangles are emotionally cathartic if we not yet ready or able to face the real person we need to address. Also, in a breakup of any kind, often the other party isn't willing to talk at all - so direct communication isn't possible. There are countless ways this plays out. 

Learn more about Triangles here: A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix

Learn more about Triangles here: A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix

Photo Credit: Roost Photography (spoiler - it's me)

Related: The people who tell us who we are.


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