View this post on Instagram
I recently had a terrible breakup.
Not only did I miss him, but I loathed myself for missing him. Recently, I found out about trauma bonding, which was exactly what I was going through. Trauma bonding makes a breakup profoundly more difficult because of the cycle of abuse that occurs. There are intermittent rewards and punishment reinforcements from the abuser, which create a powerful bond—and I was resistant to it ending.
Logically, I knew I had to get off the ride, but everything in me wanted to stay in the bubble of this feeling—the positive reinforcement feeling. I had to get real about how I would get past the pain and the suffering this time. It wasn’t going to be a trip around the world that would heal me. I had gone through something, and I knew I would have to see it through.
Lessons from the Buddha
My journey back to normality took multiple steps because of the nature of trauma bonding. Every relationship requires the same steps as grief, but there were other issues I would also contend with. I had spent a lot of time looking at Buddhist philosophy and the peace it can bring. I was ready to use its teachings to help me through the emotions that were coming up.
What I love is that Buddhist teachings are often gentle but not unrealistic. There are truths in life that we can’t avoid. If we do resist, we often just make things worse anyway. When we can come back to the fundamental truth of our pain and suffering, we can get past things more easily. With grace and dignity. I decided to put this to the test with one of the most harrowing breakups I had experienced. Sometimes, you need guidance from a grander idea.
I believe the Four Noble Truths are a beautiful way to deal with a breakup. They helped me understand my true suffering and that, if nurtured with compassion, we can experience great beauty. Like they say, a lotus flower blooms in the mud.
The Truth of Suffering
The first noble truth is that you will suffer. While we win at life sometimes and everything feels amazing, we also lose. We suffer because things didn’t go the way we wanted them to. When we can accept this, it is easier to get past the source of that suffering. Being with the pain is courageous and necessary to really get past it. If we repress and try to push away feelings of suffering, we only cause it to sit in us and become a sliver.
The Truth of the Cause of Suffering
The teachings of Buddha talk a lot about letting go of cravings and desires. The belief is that our suffering is caused because of our human need to have selfish cravings and desires. My ex was someone I yearned for. I wanted his attention all the time and we created this toxic bubble between us. We imprisoned each other and got jealous often. That was the suffering we created when we were together and is ultimately what made it impossible for us to be together.
The desire to be with someone is the cause of the suffering. It is a very simple way to see why we hurt. We are yearning for something, and it becomes the source of our happiness or our suffering. Certainly, no person should ever be able to be the source of either.
The Truth at the End of Suffering
We don’t have to experience these cravings. They can be overcome. It’s possible. The pain I experienced of letting go of someone who had so much control over me needed to be there. I had to remember that it wouldn’t last forever and that it would last less time if I accepted it. That’s where my truth and suffering ended.
When we use meditation and mindfulness to listen to our thoughts and let them go, we can end the suffering. When I found myself ruminating about how angry I was at my ex or how sad I was because I had a beautiful memory of us, I used meditation to let it go.
To let go of the clinging, the anger, the pushing away of emotions, and the sadness, I needed to constantly be aware of what was going on in there. All these emotions were making me feel anxious. I had to start looking into where that feeling was in my body and what thoughts were happening at that moment. I began to stop the suffering of the breakup because I stopped clinging to my desires.
The Truth of the Path that Leads to the End of Suffering
Further down the rabbit hole of the Buddhist teachings is the Eightfold Path. This is the path that can liberate us from all the suffering. It is also known as “enlightenment.” This way of living through Buddhist teachings was created thousands of years ago, but it can still be used for modern-day living. I found it to be extremely helpful in my breakup.
Right View. We can get quite dramatic during a breakup. Instead of feeling negative and sad that I wasn’t talking to my ex anymore, I started to see that I had given myself an opportunity for happiness down the road, which helped me feel much better.
Right Intention. I often wanted to reach out to my ex. I missed him and wanted to hear him talk and make me feel better about life again. That, to me, didn’t feel like the right intention for reaching out. It was self-serving because I didn’t want to be with him anymore. So I chose to never contact him again.
Right Speech. When I ended it with my ex, I wanted to scream and yell at him. Maybe some believe he deserved it, but the thing is, telling someone how terrible they are doesn’t help anything. It’s important to remain kind no matter how much the other person has not given you the same respect.
Right Action. Doing good things for myself and for the people I love helped soften the blow of the breakup. I made sure to eat healthy foods and get out for plenty of walks. I did yoga every day, and this helped me navigate through the pain.
Right Livelihood. Well, this is about the kind of work you do and how it impacts the world. The way I see it, it’s good to feel good about what you’re doing. If we are proud of the work we do, it can help us get past adversities in our lives, including breakups. If the CEO of an oil company loses his wife, he might secretly feel like he deserved the suffering because of his position at work.
Right Effort. As for all things in life, we should put in the right effort. Instead of focusing on how I could make my ex jealous (which feels terrible), I focused on moving on from the relationship. This is a much better way to get over someone. There’s no confusion. I wasn’t going out of my way to hurt him. Instead, I was being good to myself and, in many ways, to him.
Right Mindfulness. When we can focus on being more mindful, there are fewer negative thoughts that can creep in. I would feel so angry, but I could quickly look at that feeling and then let it go. Being mindful is a therapeutic tool that helped me navigate through all the grief stages of the breakup. One of my favorite books about mindfulness is the Untethered Soul by Michael Singer. In fact, I would call it my “breakup bible.”
Right Concentration. This is all about how well we can meditate and stay the course of our intentions. My intentions were to feel the pain that I needed to feel and do so with grace. Just let it all be felt and then let it all go. I didn’t want to focus on the good times we had. I didn’t want to read the nasty emails he would send. I didn’t want to cause any problems in his life or play games.
Ending a relationship and going “cold turkey” isn’t easy. I wanted answers and it was hard to walk away. I set the intention though. It didn’t feel right—I felt small and unloved. It had to end, and I had to concentrate on that fundamental truth. This kept me on the right path and ultimately allowed me to get over the relationship faster.
I have found these Buddhist teachings to be extremely helpful in emotionally charged situations. Knowing these tools helped me to maintain the consciousness to be good to myself and others. I didn’t fall into fits of tears or become angry and take it out on others.
I owned my feelings, felt them, and released them.