I'm getting older. But breaking up is still, as the song says, hard to do. It is hard on either end—the breaker-upper and the broken. I know, nobody likes to use this language, but let’s face it. You had a relationship, and one or both of you did not want it anymore, so you broke the agreement. That's it.
So if that's it, why all the intense feelings? And what happens when the grief cycle (yes, there is one) gets stuck? We all have had relationships end—work, love, friendship, even with our favorite foods (just being real with my gluten-sensitive pals), and this list can go on. You might think with all this practice we would be better able to navigate the gooey feelings that are attached to loss. But it truly depends upon multiple variables, including the current nature of our minds, our attachments, our self perceptions, and our practices. To begin to understand what is going on, let’s look at what ayurveda has to say about the nature of the mind.
What happens when the grief cycle (yes, there is one) gets stuck?
With a more sattvic (pure and balanced) mental nature, characterized by more balance and clarity, we seem to be able to better accept breakups as part of the process of life, and we're better able to adjust ourselves when there is loss. When the mind is more rajasic (mobile and mutable), we are all about developing coping skills to help us avoid looking at our losses. Such rajasic techniques might include staying distracted so we do not have to "dive in” or feel our emotions. We might try to engage in drama to reestablish some type of attachment (hate/love) to circumvent a break. Or the mind might be more tamasic (inert and stagnant) in nature. Then the loss can create an inability to feel, or a numbness. The modern-day breakup technique called “ghosting,” or simply “playing dead” (when the person you are dating/communicating with simply never hears from you again), is a tamasic or highly passive action of inaction.
In ayurvedic and yoga psychology, we always seek to help the mind build sattva. But while building clarity and harmony sounds great, it requires honesty with yourself and takes courage. This explains why after breakups, if we don't take time to reflect on our own habit patterns and the relationship roles that we tend to fall into, and ultimately, to claim personal responsibility for them, we will most likely repeat the same patterns in new relationships. The breakup is a rich, challenging, and expansive opportunity. Yes, it can suck. Yes, you need support. But take your time. Savor your self-reflection. Then let “it”—the breakup, self-reflection, numbness, other wounds that got triggered—let all of it become integrated and heal you.
While building clarity and harmony sounds great, it requires honesty with yourself and takes courage.
Relationships are often said to be mirrors that allow us to better understand our true nature. As the spiritual philosopher Krishnamurti says, “Relationship is the mirror in which we can see ourselves as we are, we can discover what we are, our reactions, our prejudices, our fears, depression, anxieties, loneliness, sorrow, pain, grief. We can also discover whether we love, or there is no such thing as love.”
As for me? I believe in love. I tend to fall in love with broken people. I see my broken parts reflected in them, and I love that they allow me to see their vulnerability. So what's the next step? Learning to fall a bit more in love with my broken parts and embrace my vulnerability. Back to my practice.