How to stop thinking you will get back together
June 28, 2015
From Chaz in Mexico:
I am on a really good path to becoming a better man, we broke up two months ago after 7 years together. I am physically and mentally ok. The only problem is this hunch and gut feeling that I will end up marrying her and making my life with her. How can I stop this?
Way to go on getting on the right path.
This is a lingering feeling which I remember having. It's the feeling that leads guys astray and makes them break no contact.
The way I recommend dealing with any emotion is one of Diversion & Immersion. Let me explain.
We have little to no control over the emotions we feel and we have some control over the thoughts we think. Thoughts can feed and elicit emotions, and emotions can feed and elicit thoughts.
If we want to change any of that, we focus on changing our thoughts, and we let the cycle die a natural death. That doesn't mean we don't feel anything - instead it means we stop feeding the feeling with thoughts and observe the emotions wane.
Emotions are signals we use to communicate with ourselves and to teach ourselves lessons. But it's not always the right time for a lesson. You might be at work, in school or wherever - and not ready for an emotional breakdown.
In these cases, I recommend a strategy of Diversion. We purposefully divert our thoughts to a different topic, short circuiting the thought-emotion feedback loop before it gains momentum. One technique for this is "Thought Stopping". In short, here are the steps:
- Become aware of the emotion you are feeling
- Say "STOP" in your mind, directed at the emotion
- Now visualize your ideal, peaceful, relaxing scenario. (For me this is a beach with perfect surf.) Conversely, if you do have the time or the opportunity to feel the emotion that is arriving - it is important to do so. You'll want to accept the emotion and explore it in a strategy I call Immersion.
Become aware of the emotion you're feeling and start observing it. When you observe the emotion you may realize that you are not your thoughts nor are you your emotions and that whatever it is you're feeling, it will not last forever.
Sometimes just observing the emotion is enough for it to float away again. In other instances it helps to understand it better. Analyzing and labeling an emotion helps you become aware of the fundamental truth that you and your emotions are separate things. You can feel like you are about to die, even though you are not. You can feel as if the world is ending, even though it is not.
Here are some questions I have found helpful to better understand my emotions:
- What triggered this feeling?
- Is this old pain or new pain?
- If it's old pain, why am I feeling it again? Have I dealt with this already?
- If it's new pain, what triggered it?
- Have I felt this way before? If so, was it stronger or less strong?
- Is this feeling linked to a belief I have?
- If so, what is this belief, and what evidence do I have to corroborate it?
- To get back to your question, I would say the following:
The desire to "stop" an emotion is an emotion in and of itself and worth analyzing. Why do you want to stop this emotion? (I can imagine you do, but asking yourself this can be instructive.) What resistance do you feel by just letting it run its course? You may find that asking those questions, or the answers that come up, will be enough for the emotion to stop resurfacing.
Certain emotions retire once you've dealt with them. If you've analyzed an emotion, its triggers and its roots, it may become a lesson you've already learnt and has nothing left to teach you. You'll notice how it will stop resurfacing.
Other emotions may simply require you to observe them, label them or objectify them. You might need to do it several times, repeatedly, but then they'll stop returning.
In your case, you say you want to get rid of the gut feeling that you may still end up with this woman.
Maybe you're doing well in your recovery, but there's still a part of you that's not quite as far along as you'd like to be. Maybe this is it's voice. If so, that's perfectly okay. Pet it over the head - figuratively - and tell it, it's okay, I no longer need to feel this way.
Maybe part of you hasn't caught up to reality yet, maybe it's still holding on to the past somehow. Tell it it's okay that you still feel emotions you felt before, but that that's no longer necessary. Give yourself permission to let it go.
Maybe you're doing a great job and headed in the right way for all the right reasons but this is just a lower, more visceral level of your brain that isn't capable of understanding all that. Through emotions it's trying to protect you. You can try thanking it for its concern, but you have thought this through, and you know this is the right thing to do.
As you can tell, different perspectives can definitely help you out.