Saturday, May 1, 2010

Still connected to your ex?

I happened to notice my Twitter description the other day and was pleasantly surprised. I hadn't looked at it in a long time - I wrote it about a year ago on a whim. It says: Turning life crises into growth and opportunities for positive change. When I wrote it, I was talking about myself. I was trying to turn my own crises into something good - still am. What struck me, though, is how much it sounds like an "elevator speech". That's the short description of what you do that you have prepared for times when you only have an elevator ride's worth of time to tell someone what you do. A friend has been telling me for weeks that I need an elevator speech. I didn't realize that I already have one in my Twitter description.

You might wonder what this has to do with Reiki healing and massage therapy which is what I do (now). Short answer: Not much. Or, everything. Or really - I don't know. Because my path is still unfolding and nothing seems to happen to me in a logical way, I'm not exactly sure what it means. I know it means something. I know that my path has something to do with helping people do what I'm trying to do for myself - turn the crap in their lives into compost and grow a beautiful garden. (Thanks Gina).

I've realized that people in transition seem to be coming into my life lately and talking to me about their lives. (Which is awesome.) Maybe it's that my honesty about my own situation makes people feel comfortable talking to me about their struggles. Maybe I've somehow advertised on the Universe's equivalent of Craig's List that I'm open for business and here to help people work through various life crises. I'm not sure. Whatever the reason, I've been talking to people about their relationships. More specifically, the end (or near end) of relationships and how hard it is.

I think we all understand that ending a serious love relationship is emotionally painful. We may not know just how emotionally painful it is until we're going through it but we expect that kind of pain. What we don't necessarily expect is the physical pain. And most people don't understand the hit their "energetic body" takes when a relationship ends.

Sorry - I hate to use "woo woo speak" but I couldn't think of another way to say it . . . what I mean by "energetic body" is this: we're all made of energy. To way oversimplify it - when you break us down to our smallest parts, past the cells and beyond the molecules that make up the cells, you get energy. Not only are we made up of energy, we're affected by energy - especially the energy of other people. Especially, especially the energy of other people that we love.

When we start a relationship, we connect to our significant other energetically. I "feel" that connection like a cord coming from the center of the chest. At the beginning of a relationship, the cord is thin but as the relationship grows, the cord grows with it. The more our lives intertwine, the more our "energies" intertwine as well. When a relationship ends, the cord has to detach somehow. We unwind from each other. Untangle our lives. Sever the cord. And it's painful. The problem is, it's a kind of pain we don't expect and we often don't recognize it or worse, we ignore it. We don't deal with it and that leads to problems.

Some people never cut the cord of old relationships so that they're still energetically (and emotionally) connected to their exes years later. A friend mentioned yesterday that her parents - who are in their 80's, have been divorced for over 30 years and are both remarried - still hate each other so much they can't be in the same room. What that says to me is they never actually disconnected from each other. Just because they're legally divorced and physically separated doesn't mean they're emotionally separated. I don't think it's possible to hate someone you aren't somehow attached to emotionally (or energetically). People we aren't attached to simply cannot generate that kind of animosity in us. They might annoy us. Maybe we just don't like them as people. But hate? Being unable to be in the same room for any period of time? That's emotional attachment. Very negative emotional attachment.

Another example - a friend was engaged to be married a few years ago but broke it off. It was a very unhealthy relationship. She's now about to get married to someone else - a man who is much better for her. A man she loves. She's happy. But she hasn't been able to bring herself to tell her ex that she's getting married. They aren't friends - she doesn't talk to him or see him. He sends her messages (sometimes nice but mostly snarky), she doesn't reply. She knows that she shouldn't care about telling him and yet she's agonizing - has been for weeks - over sending him an email. She's still connected to him.

Why do we stay connected to old relationships? Partly because we're afraid of change and addicted to anger and/or victimhood (topics for a later post perhaps). But also because we don't realize how we're still connected and so we don't know how to disconnect. We may think that it's enough to get legally divorced and move out, but it isn't, as the two stories illustrate.

I think that in order to dissolve an energetic connection, we need to do three things: realize, acknowledge and accept that the connection exists, explore whether there are other reasons we're staying connected and consciously work to - gently - cut the cord.

Realize, acknowledge and accept

Remember that "what we resist, persists." If we resist the idea that we're still connected to someone we've divorced, the connection will persist. And we have to accept that the continued connection is ok and understandable. Even bad relationships usually have good components. Or they were good at the beginning. Whatever it is, the relationship served a purpose while it lasted and the connection was created. Just like the first step for an alcoholic to kick the booze habit is acknowledging he has a problem, the first step to separating ourselves from an old relationship is to acknowledge that we're still attached. It's also good to acknowledge and accept the fear that probably surrounds

Consider why you're still connected

There are a lot of reasons we might still be connected to a former love. Some possible reasons are simple. We may be the dumpee rather than the dumper and we're still in love. Some are more complex - we may be the dumper and feel guilty about the dumping. So we stay attached because we feel responsible for hurting the other person and we somehow think that by staying connected to them, we're doing them a favor. It could also be that maintaining the old connection keeps us from making a new connection. I know that seems odd at first blush but think about it. We got hurt in our old relationship so we're probably scared about getting hurt in a new one. If we're still "married" to our past relationship then we're not really available to be fully into the new relationship. If we're not fully in the new relationship, maybe we won't get hurt. If you had children together, to a certain extent you'll always be connected. But maybe the connection is stronger than it needs to be for those purposes.

It's important to consider the reasons why you're still attached. You don't want to start cutting the chord without knowing what it's purpose is. Not to be overly dramatic but that would be kind of like trying to diffuse a bomb by cutting wires willy nilly. The connection serves a purpose, you'll want to understand what that purpose is so you can address it while you're severing the connection.

If the purpose isn't immediately apparent, try to sit quietly and ask yourself the question. If you aren't used to talking to yourself, give it some time. It may take a few tries before you get a coherent answer. Or talk to a friend about it. Sometimes our friends see things in us that they don't want to tell us without being asked. (Be careful which friend you ask. Don't ask a friend who hates the ex. They'll have a hard time being unbiased. And they might make you feel bad for still being attached. What if you don't have any friends who don't hate your ex? Send me a note and I'll talk it through with you. I'm good with stuff like that.)

Cut the cord - gently

This could actually be the easy part. Or the hardest part. It really depends on the reasons for the connection. For some people, just realizing that they're still connected is enough to help them let go. More likely though, it will take some time to dissolve the connection. Especially if it has stuck around for a long time. So be kind to yourself during this process.

Sit comfortably with your eyes closed. Try to picture the connection to your ex. Like I said earlier, I tend to "feel" it (in myself and others) as a cord (or rope or fishing line or even a rainbow) connected at the center of the chest. But yours might be different. (Or I might be hallucinating, you never know.) Focus on your breath, trying not to get sucked into any heavy emotions when you think about your ex. If feelings do come up, acknowledge them and try to let them go. Before you let them go, see if you can figure out where, physically, those feelings are coming from. Picture that area of your body and visualize some kind of cord or rope coming from that area and connecting to your ex. Then try to visualize the connection dissolving - like a rope unraveling or melting or just disappearing. Whatever works and feels right.

Keep in mind that meditation and visualization don't have to be deadly serious all the time. In fact, if you try to have a sense of humor about it, the process is easier. So picture the cord as licorice with you unwinding the strands and feeding them to Munchkin children. Or something. Just don't feel like you have to be all serious. Unless you want to be. Which is fine, too. It's all about you.

Another method comes from Havi's way of dealing with fear. Talk to your connection. Tell it that you understand it's trying to protect you or help you. Let it know that you don't need the protection anymore. Remind it that you aren't responsible for protecting your ex anymore. Ask it what it needs in order to go away and leave you alone forever. Write it some notes. Draw it some pictures. You'll be surprised at what you learn about yourself in the process. You might find out more about the reasons behind the connection and some things you can do to fill those needs in a healthier way. Once those needs are filled or acknowledged, it's easier to disconnect.

There are different ways to approach this task, try a few things and use what feels most comfortable to you. Be nice to yourself and patient during this process. It isn't easy. It isn't always fast. The most important thing is to actually do it - because these old connections are huge energy vampires. They hold us back from being our best and strongest selves.

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