A romantic break-up in lockdown can be a waking nightmare, especially if ending the relationship wasn’t your decision. All of our coping strategies to take the painful edge off – gym or spa sessions, weekends away or nights out with best friends have been knocked on the head. We face the stark reality of rejection, with nowhere to hide.
The unconscious mind in crisis
Sure, we can give ourselves a good talking to, but a pep talk doesn’t always send sorrow packing. The unconscious, which is dedicated to survival, doesn’t make much distinction between what is ‘physically endangering’ and what is ‘emotionally threatening’. It knows most certainly, however, that we have endured a terrible blow which might send us permanently off-piste. It also doesn’t judge how we react to the trauma. The default setting of the unconscious is to first assuage the wound. We may relapse into unwise habits we thought we’d kicked out long ago. But if the reactivated habit provides relief from pain and is in some way preserving life, there will be an overwhelming compulsion from the unconscious to engage with it. If you are in this plight, please don’t criticise yourself, as it just adds to the pain, which is the last thing you need right now.
Painful memories that don’t let up
The most painful of all the unconscious thoughts, generate torturing images of the person we want back, driving us into denial, self-blame and a relentless mental search for a way to rekindle love. It is as if we are an earthquake survivor, tattered photo clutched to our chest, scrabbling desperately among the ruins for a loved missing person.
The role of friends
Our friends listen patiently, on Zoom or at telephone-length, as we berate ourselves, insisting we can repair the damage and rebuild a future with the ex, now that we have learned from our mistakes. They may have a very different take on the relationship, but their words tend not to get through because those messages are not ones we want to hear.
Can lockdown be heart-shaped?
The fact that we can’t fill our diaries with distractions to take our mind off things, might seem like a double punishment if we are in the throes of heartbreak, but downtime can be more heart-shaped than we might think. It gives the unconscious mind, which keeps the memory store, an opportunity to release the trauma quicker than usual. Normally, the unconscious will repress a hurtful experience until it is sure we are strong enough to stand the reality of what has happened. It fills the gap with emotionally-numbing behaviour, from manic busyness to a complete blank out of recall. If we can trust the process of the unconscious mind and let it use the extra time we have now, it can do a very good job for us, helping us get over what has happened, avoid a repetition next time around, and find the true love we deserve. The unconscious begins tentatively, perhaps starting with a fleeting memory or a dream that vanishes on waking. Gradually it will go deeper, but this is delicate territory and it proceeds with caution and only if we can bear the process. Feelings of sadness naturally surface, but remember a break-up is an occasion for tears and nothing to be ashamed of.
The real meaning of the relationship
Eventually the unconscious lets us get closer and closer to the real meaning of the relationship if we are patient and non-reactive. The unconscious has to be sure you are ready for the recovery process because it involves facing up to things, just as they were. Without the obstacles of harmful self-criticism and undeserved judgements, we get insight and self-acceptance. It’s a bit like reconfiguring a jigsaw, where lots of the pieces are familiar but the final picture can be startlingly different from the one we had in our heads. When we can look at that picture with an element of detachment, we will have got our self-respect and self-worth back. In other words, we are liberated from the invisible chains that bound us.
Overcoming fear – a self-hypnosis exercise to do at home
We have an amazing reservoir of memories and very visual minds. This process involves regressing to a hard time in your life, but don’t be put off. It is a unique experience well worth recalling. It could be a time others don’t always know about, as it goes too deep for casual chit-chat, but even though it is now totally behind you, the experience is pure gold – solid proof of the strong person you really are.
- Start the exercise with some gentle music, close your eyes and take deep calming breaths or do progressive muscle relaxation exercises.
- When you feel a bit more relaxed, slowly relive the memory, take plenty of time, there is no rush, give it all the time it needs. Go back in time.
- In vivid, precise and exact technicolour detail recall how horrible and fear-inducing what was happening to you seemed, and how you came to look those fears in the eye so they no longer scared you.
- Review how you came to find a good outcome that benefited you and maybe others too.
You can repeat this exercise with the same memory over and over, or use the template with other memories that are concrete evidence of your strengths. Using our unconscious mind in this way connects us to inner strengths and, most of all, the hope that keeps burning, no matter what. These are things no person of earth can take from you.
If you feel you would like professional help, many hypnotherapists are working remotely. Hypnotherapy is not the gimmick, it is sometimes made out to be in the media, you are always in control and it is very effective through video link. Hypnotherapists are familiar with the terrain of the unconscious and can give the skilled and invigorating support that makes all the difference in finding the happiness you deserve and the real love that lasts. As with any professional service, take time to choose the right person for you.