How To Take Back Control Of Your Emotions After A Breakup

Photo by Gemma Evans of Unsplash

Navigating life following a breakup is one of the many things we go through that offers us zero guidance. Experiencing a breakup can be one of the most traumatic experiences you will encounter in life, depending on the specifics of the situation. Either way, it can easily make you feel like your world is falling apart.

Though it may not feel like it now, you will get through this and something better will come from it.

When I was in the early stages of my most recent breakup, I felt a deep sense of loneliness, frustration, disappointment, and confusion — knowing the world around me still carried on, yet somehow I couldn’t seem to feel a part of it. I hadn’t a clue how to take back control of my emotions and in turn, allowed my emotions to take control of me.

But while it wasn’t the first breakup I have ever experienced, (and could very likely not be the last) I felt most curious to know whether or not the feelings I was experiencing and the emotions I carried throughout each day were normal and if so, how was I to channel them in a way that doesn’t leave me stagnant for too long?

The most important first step I found was to first understand the emotions I was experiencing as I felt each one. I never shut out the emotions as they came and this is an imperative part of the process: allowing yourself to feel.

The below 7-step process is one I found most helpful; however, do take into account the uniqueness of each one of us as human beings and that no two experiences are identical. That being said, you could experience each of these steps in any order and that’s okay. The more important part is to understand what it is you are feeling, why you are experiencing it, and what this means for you and the rest of your life post-breakup.

Emotions are neither orderly nor linear, meaning they don’t follow any specific timeline or schedule. You might find yourself crying in a parking lot one minute, furious beyond belief the next, disconnected the following, and empty beyond recognition by the end of the week. Remember, this is your personal experience and this is an unsettling time that has no template. Remember to be kind to yourself during this difficult time and allow yourself to experience every aspect of this event as you uniquely should. Everybody grieves differently and the sorrow following a romantic split is no different; however, there are commonalities in each stage and the feelings that make up each one.

**Some people find themselves feeling stuck in a particular stage and no individual is immune to this possibility. You might even find yourself unwilling or unable to move through the process and continue to manifest the anger, sadness, or denial for an extended period of time. Should you experience this, do not negate reaching out for professional help or a source of guided support. You do not want to miss out on the opportunity to reshape your life and reinvent yourself by experiencing new things as a result of stagnancy.**

1. Desperate for Answers

The drive to know is consuming and can come at the expense of rational thoughts and behaviors. You must understand why this happened, maybe beyond anyone’s ability to explain it. Because of this, you fixate on the things your ex said at various times that you see as contradictory to the breakup and you choose to hold onto them now as if they are gospel. Yet somewhere within, you have moments of clarity, too.

You might find yourself swinging back and forth between foggy disbelief, moment by moment rediscovery of the magnitude of your loss, and glimpses of clarity that it’s truly over. It can become easy for the pain and confusion that comes with this to be all that you think about. The desperation for answers to make sense of something so jarring compels you to debate friends, family, peers, coworkers, even people you just met, about why the relationship ended — all while justifying the reasons why it shouldn’t have in a way that makes you feel you are also convincing your ex.

2. Denial

This isn’t happening! There’s no way this is happening! You couldn’t picture your life without your ex and now you’re living in a world where you have to. It feels like you’ve put everything into this relationship and it makes it feel impossible to accept that things are now over. You put your well-being on the line as a last-ditch effort to save the relationship. You put off grieving because it’s too harsh a reality to deal with right now. All the while temporarily derailing the grieving process by now replacing it with unrealistically inflated hope that the relationship is one that can still be salvaged.

3. Bargaining

You are willing to do anything to avoid accepting the relationship is over. You say you will be a better, more attentive partner. You will make improvements in every facet of your existence that your ex had an issue with throughout the relationship. You will make all that is wrong, right again, and the thought of being without your ex is so intolerable that you will make it your mission to halt the pain that’s seeping in with attempts at winning him or her back, no matter the cost.

This is where we can try to find ways to avoid accepting the relationship is over by asking ‘what if’ questions as a way of postponing the sadness. You tell yourself things like, “If I do this, then it won’t happen” or “If only I had spent more time with him/her, he/she would have stayed.”

You are not thinking rationally at this point and are quite frankly, standing on the edge of what can feel like an abyss of the unknown, all the while trying not to fall in. You are clinging onto any hope that you can to prevent yourself from losing what you are now realizing you have grown to depend on all along.

What you do not realize during this phase is that while you are making these promises to fix all of the problems between you and your ex, you are negating the need to repair and sustain a relationship with yourself. Do not allow yourself to fall into the belief that it is your responsibility to fix things and acknowledge that you were both participants in the demise of the relationship. That being said, you cannot possibly spend your time taking the blame for something that was not entirely your fault. The longer you perpetuate the notion that you and your ex can make amends, the greater the hindrance on the progress waiting for you and your life.

4. Relapse

The pain is so intolerable, you might actually be able to convince your ex to give things another shot and this might not be the first breakup you and this particular partner have had.

The thought of being without your ex is so intolerable that you’ll try to make your own pain go away by winning him or her back, no matter what. Remember, you’re probably not thinking logically at this point and are clinging on to any hope you can, in order not to lose what you came to rely on.

Though you might temporarily relieve some of the agonies that follow withdrawal, you will not be able to carry the relationship across the finish line solo. Unfortunately, you are likely to face a similar ending and you might even find yourself giving things a shot more than once before you are ready to accept its ending.

5. Anger

At first, you might find difficulty in connecting with feelings of anger. Oftentimes, the feelings following a breakup can evoke immobilizing fear and dread. It is in these moments where fear trumps anger. That being said, when anger begins to set it, it is likely you have begun to let go of some of that fear.

When you are able to access anger, the experience can actually feel quite empowering — this being due to the nature of the ‘I deserve more from a relationship’ thought. Depending on your specific temperament, life, family experiences, and this unique breakup, you might find this anger to be directed at your ex, the situation, or yourself. The good news is that your anger, no matter where it is directed, is meant to empower you and that holds true, whether or not you choose to see it that way.

Once anger becomes accessible to you, it can provide direction and create a feeling of aliveness in the world — After all, up until now, you might have felt a little lost and displaced. Even with anger as paralyzing and self-defeating as it can be at times, it is still a part of the grieving process. Consider this anger to be an indication that somewhere within, you are creating enough internal discomfort to help shift your perspective on how the relationship actually has been, thus compelling you to make positive changes in your life.

6. Initial Acceptance

Great news! It is at this point you will begin to function again and feel less foggy — your mind will begin to feel more clear. When this acceptance happens early in the process, it can feel more like a surrender. You might feel like you are holding up your end of the breakup simply because you have to, not because you want to.

One of you (either you or your ex) has developed enough awareness and control, at this point, to recognize that you are not meant to be. Over time, this initial version of acceptance, becomes tenuous acceptance, as both of you become more aware and begin accepting this fact independently. You are realizing that at least one of you must maintain the decision to split in order for the break up to split (because it has to). It is at this point you are finally beginning to realize the grasp is no longer necessary on the relationship and it’s time to loosen the grip.

7. Redirected Hope

You have become leveled by the breakup and have had difficulty letting go, partially because it fragmented your relationship with hope. As the acceptance begins to deepen, moving forward will require you to redirect feelings in the direction of hope. The transition of hope stems from the belief that you can singlehandedly save a failing relationship and shifts to the possibility that you just might be okay without your ex.

It can feel incredibly unnerving to redirect your hope from the known entity of the relationship into the abyss of the unknown; however, this is the ultimate opportunity for you to redirect the life force of hope and redefine what it means for you and yours. Regardless, hope is somewhere in your reserves and you will eventually access it again as you continue to allow meaningful and intentional distance between you and your ex.

Though many of us go through some variation of each stage mentioned above, there is no finite timeline for each individual’s grief process. For some, the process can last weeks while for others, they can experience residual impact years in the future. What is most important is to remember, not only that what you are experiencing is both normal as well as expected, but to also allow for the opportunity to redirect your life in a way that caters to you. Your grieving is part of the human condition. Without it, we would not be wired the way we are to handle the many pains and losses that occur throughout our lives. As the grieving process unfolds, you will soon begin to see your way through, leading you to a point where you can let go in a self-protective way — a way you will eventually come to realize is an opportunity for a new beginning.

Writer. Poet. Philomath. Dog Mom. Traveler. Creator. Wanderer. Teacher. Empath. Author of “Unapologetically Human” - available on Amazon

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