There are so many people who beat themselves up for going back to a relationship that isn’t working for them or for taking up an old habit that isn’t serving them. They hate themselves for having fallen off the wagon or they feel as if whatever efforts they’ve made have been a waste. In some instances, returning is seen as confirmation that being able to make long-lasting positive changes for themselves, is indeed impossible. They accept defeat and resign themselves to settling for less and feeling disheartened, resentful and frustrated.
Whether it’s that we can barely look ourselves in the eye now that we’re back with an ex or we’re berating ourselves for having to start over, or we’re feeling resigned to being stuck, what we’re not seeing is that these experiences contain some valuable information that we can use to propel us forward.
One of the things I caution people about when they break up and opt to do No Contact (NC) is that it’s not just a case of time heals everything–it’s what’s done with the time. If we exit a relationship with certain habits of thinking and behaviour and we continue to engage in a similar level of habits even without that person, then it’s understandable why there hasn’t been much movement, so we might end a relationship but if we use our beliefs to treat and regard us badly and we carry on as if this person and the relationship was our life support machine, yeah, it’s only a matter of time until we slide back.
In many instances though, we have made changes but aren’t necessarily aware of what these are, possibly because we’re looking for other signs of success.
This is a bit like when someone decides to lose weight and so makes lifestyle changes that involve losing weight but doesn’t notice how their relationships with loved ones positively evolve or how they’re being kinder to themselves and instead, they look for, for example, words of affirmation from strangers or for what they might deem as the pinnacle of their success: meeting the love of their life. If the latter doesn’t happen in line with the level of change they’re making (i.e. on their schedule and almost as a reward) then they might underestimate and in fact fail to acknowledge all of the other gains that they’ve made.
We get very disheartened when we have an expectation of how change should unfold and it’s not met. This can lead to us throwing the baby out with the bath water when we for instance, feel that we have disappointed ourselves and ‘failed’.
A great way of knowing whether you’re making strides, even if you’re not quite where you want to be, is noticing how you feel when you try to do something that you used to do as part of the habit that you’re trying to evolve out of, or noticing how you feel when you stop doing something that you think isn’t making a difference.
Long-time readers (or anyone who read The No Contact Rule) will remember that after almost a year of NC, I fell off the wagon for a few hours. It was a perfect storm of a combination of factors (Christmas party, him being jealous and insecure and then raging at me, me forgetting that it’s not my job to manage his feelings etc) and so I got sucked back in, even though I could hear my inner voice warning me, but do you know what? Months of self-work, taking responsibility for myself and creating new habits meant that the drama and the dynamic between us felt extremely weird and uncomfortable. I wasn’t at the old level of consciousness at which I used to engage with him.
My new level of consciousness did not fit into my old habits.
Now I’m sure that I could have figured this out in time but that experience made me see it and I never looked back. I was done.
In those months before I fell off the wagon, I started practising self-care. Bearing in mind that I’d only been doing it for a relatively short period of time in comparison to the twenty-eight years of operating with different habits, it didn’t take very long before it felt weird when co-workers, friends or family did things that had previously gone unchallenged.
Those changes I made for me allowed me to have the awareness to recognise my discomfort.
Sometimes we don’t know how much we’ve changed until we or others do something to or around us that makes us uncomfortable or even causes us pain.
And, sometimes we don’t acknowledge how much we truly need to change, until we realise that X amount of months/years passed and we were in effect able to press the reset button on ourselves and pick up where we left off. That realisation that we slipped into doing the same thing and expecting different results, possibly because we were looking for the fairy tale outcome where we’re made to be the exception to the rule, is a big wake-up call.
It can be that realisation that we did a Sleeping Beauty and for instance, broke up with someone and then went to sleep until they or someone similar came along and woke us up. We might even have done the same with a parent where we felt deeply hurt about something, got into the habit of using the same harsh reasoning to explain it, put ourselves to sleep with it, and then woke up when someone similar to them or someone who created similar feelings in us, came into our life.
If something has happened that has caused you to doubt your progress, acknowledge the progress that you’ve made and take the gold of the experience: whatever it is that you needed to learn. Have some compassion for yourself. It’s too much to expect perfect change and having a bit of patience with you takes you a lot further than berating you.
Nothing you’ve done is a waste.
If you’ve come to recognise that you’re still approaching something or someone with the same thinking and behaviour that got you’ve previously, this is a wake-up call to open yourself up to seeing things differently. It would be all too easy to give you a hard time for not seeing it sooner but if you step back you will notice that there’s been a progression in the pain of your experiences that made it easier to see it.
Your beliefs about something only represent your understanding at that time.
If you’re your adult age but you’re using reasoning from when you were, for instance, 5, to explain something that happened last year, this is a block to experiencing greater contentment in and out of relationships. Doggedly clinging to a reasoning habit despite how much it hurts, isn’t working for you. It would be better that you relinquish the thought process than you relinquish your desire and need for something better. Sure, it involves getting uncomfortable but if where you’ve been comfortable has hurt you, stretching will positively transform your life.