Post-breakup triggers and reminders
I know you want to forget your ex. Yes, I do. I also believe you want to stop thinking about him and stop feeling the pain. It is exhausting and it drains your mind.
When a relationship ends and there is no hope of them coming back we feel like we have no choice but to move forward.
We make reasonable efforts to get on with our life; or at least we try. We want our life back on track and we want to feel comfortable once again.
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And, as time goes by and we think of them less and less we may catch ourselves thinking:” Wow, I think I’m 50% over the relationship” or “I’m doing better now”… until one day, when we hear that song, or see a make of a car identical to theirs, or visit a restaurant where you first met.
As soon as it happens we may suddenly feel like all the hard work we think we did, and all the progress we think we made have suddenly vanished into thin air. We ponder in terror if these painful flashbacks are something we will be dealing with for the rest of our life. We thought we were there or ‘almost’ there, at the end of our journey - the journey of Recovery. But were we??
Here is something I want you to remember: breakup triggers and reminders are inevitable. No matter where you go, who you talk to, or where you are, there will always be a risk of stumbling upon them. For goodness sake, your own head full of memories could be a major trigger in itself!
Another thing to remember is that triggers and reminders outlive recovery time. What it means is that one day, when you are totally over and healed, they may still pop in your head or in front of you, reminding you of your past. And, since you are over them there won’t be pain. It will be just a memory.
If you are currently going through a breakup and find it difficult to visit certain places or talk to certain people (which is understandable and it is OK) you may want to be careful not to create additional triggers and memories related to your breakup. If you do that, your recovery process will take much longer than it should, plus you may experience additional pain which is totally not necessary in this case.
Here is what happens when you think of them too much:
~ right after a breakup you may develop a habit of daily walking in a park ‘thinking about him’. If you keep doing it on a frequent basis, the park will eventually start reminding you of your breakup. If you never spent time together in the park, then theoretically speaking, it should not be reminding you of anything. It is your dwelling on the breakup AFTER THE BREAKUP TOOK PLACE that will turn this beautiful park into a trigger. See what I am saying here?
What happens next is that next time when it is time to walk your dog, or meet a friend, you won’t enjoy visiting the park. It will be too painful and uncomfortable. It will be yet another place to avoid to ‘forget your ex’.
~ right after a breakup you may go overboard and buy something expensive or something you do not need. Breakups are so brutal and buying something extravagant (or useless) may feel like a ‘right and extra-loving thing to do’ at that time. You want extra comfort and I get it, but guess what? Once the initial rush is over and things are not as cloudy anymore you will hate the item and will regret the expense.
'To cope with the pain of a breakup I bought a gorgeous fur coat. I knew it was crazy but I thought that spoiling myself like this would make me feel better. It has been one year and now I feel totally stupid. For starters, I do not even need the coat, and second it reminds me of my ex and what a zombie I was at that time’ - Linda D.
‘When I was going through a breakup I ended up buying a lot of new clothes. I was fantasizing about my ex and hoped we would bump into each other one day. I made a pledge to look great at all times… My dreams, fantasies and hopes got attached to all the new dresses, skirts, and shoes… It has been 6 months and now I know he is dating someone else. I do not wear those clothes anymore. They remind me of my ex and broken dreams, and it is just too painful’ - Emily K.
~ right after a breakup you may choose to listen to one particular song or a group that was NOT part of your relationship. Next thing you know, every time you hear it in a store or some other public place you drown in pain and feel panicky.
Feeling pain after a breakup is normal and expected, but we should be careful not to create additional pain we do not need. The reason additional triggers are being created is because we are overly obsessing over our ex and letting our emotions take control over us.
What happens is as you think about them non-stop everything you do at that particular moment runs a chance of becoming a trigger eventually. And, if you do it too much you may end up feeling hurt and miserable for a long long time: all the places you both have NEVER been to, all the people you both have NEVER met, all the things and activities you have NEVER done together before WILL START REMINDING YOU OF THEM.
The only way to prevent this nightmare is to firmly accept that emotions do not own you. You own them. Whether it is a self-created trigger or a valid one – we should not let it paralyze our life to the point of losing control over our own sense of well-being.
Triggers surely do steer a wave of emotions, but it is important to remember that you are the boss of your own head and not the other way around. You are not a slave to your emotions. You are not a slave to your memories. They will only take over YOU when you let them. Put a clock on how long you can afford ‘to be bothered’ by those thoughts (maybe 10 min per day?) and then when the time is up it’s time to stop.
There is absolutely no need:
~ to dwell on the ‘should-coulda-woulda’ for an entire day. It is 10 min and that’s it!
~ to think of every single detail and keep replaying it slowly in different variations for a whole week
~ to listen to your own obsessive thoughts as if it was a NATIONAL BROADCAST
~ to have ‘do nothing’ days because they will sap all of your energy
~ to think that there will be some sort of award for your suffering
~ to obsess over finding a meaning where there is none
I understand that we cannot erase memories overnight and certain places can create too much pain to visit. And it is OK. If it works for you to avoid them, then please do.
On a positive note – why not create positive triggers instead? The triggers that signify a ‘new beginning’ or remind you of how important it is to love yourself first before you love someone else; the triggers that bring the sense of comfort instead of panic attacks; and the triggers that remind you time and time again that you just do not have to waste your emotional energy on your past.