Breaking up can be so difficult; whether you’re the one leaving or the one being left. What can make the process even more difficult is if the breakup involves the breaking of a trauma-bond. Trauma bonds are those formed in relationships that are toxic or otherwise dysfunctional.
Trauma bonds tend to be created in relationships with heightened emotions – particularly fear. When one of the parties in a relationship uses fear to control their partner, a stronger bond is forged in that relationship than one that is not laden with fear.
Trauma bonds are also formed in relationships with inconsistent reinforcement; sometimes your partner comes through, and sometimes your partner fails to be there for you at all. Over time, with in-consistent reinforcement, you tend to become increasingly dependent on the other person because of the brain-chemistry involved in the anticipation portion of the dynamic.
Constantly anticipating someone’s arrival, for instance, causes a heightened release of Dopamine in your system. When that person fails to show up, you get an increase in the stress chemical, Cortisol. The mix of brain chemicals involved in trauma-bonding makes break-ups particularly challenging.
If you decide to leave a toxic relationship, it is helpful to have a recovery plan in place to help you through, otherwise, you will tend to falter in your resolve. Consider a recovery plan as a road map or blueprint to help you on your journey of healing.
This article addresses one person’s recovery plan, created to address his specific needs. My advice is to take this list, tweak it to match your particular struggle, post it somewhere that you can see daily, and practice its principles.
MY PERSONAL RECOVERY PLAN
- I will talk to someone and process my feelings. Do not try to recover alone. Make trusted friends and if you need to, see a therapist, to help you talk through the pain you are experiencing.
- I will learn to be alone. Remind yourself that no one can ever control you again once you’ve conquered your inability to be alone with your difficult emotions. Make it a goal to enjoy your own company. Read books; garden; go for walks; just be with your feelings. There are many things you can do to help yourself enjoy being alone.
- I will let myself grieve; including the losses from my childhood that are being triggered. Sit with your feelings. Write in a journal. Explore your underlying childhood issues contributing to your relationship problems. Listen to music. Cry.
- I promise to stop idealizing couples and other people’s lives. One problem experienced by many people going through a breakup is that they start thinking the entire world has a partner, other than him/her, and that the reason is because he/she is a failure. This is simply not true. There are many single people in the world and there are many happily single people (and there are also many miserable couples out there.) But, regardless of other people’s lives, your life is not based on anyone else’s reality. Focus on yourself and make the most of where you are and what you have.
- I will build my life. Yes, a breakup is a loss; but, it is also a new beginning. That chapter of your life has now come to an end. But the good news is, you are starting a new chapter. Use this as an opportunity to live well with yourself. There are many advantages to being on your own; start looking at them. Think of this time in your life as the beginning of an exciting adventure. You don’t know where you’re going yet, but you can start building into your life the things that are important to you. Invest in yourself. Invest in others. Create a positive vision and work towards what you want in life.
- I will heal my “core wound,” that means, whatever this breakup has triggered in the deepest part of your soul (mind/heart/spirit), you will grieve through that pain and finally “put it to bed.”
- I vow to stop using my imagination to hurt myself (See Item 4 above.) It is easy for us to let our imagination take us to painful places. One example is imagining your ex with a new partner. This is one example of using your imagination to hurt yourself. If you find yourself indulging in this type of thinking, stop. You could use this time to write down all the bad traits about your ex. You could use this time to plan something positive to do for yourself or someone else. Whatever you do, don’t allow yourself to hurt your own life with your imagination.
- I will be proud of who I am and where I am in life. Don’t compare yourself to others. Instead, embrace you for you. Everyone has gifts and talents. While some of us aren’t good at academics, we may be good at organization. Take stock of the areas of your life that you excel in, and build upon those areas. Stop focusing on how someone else may have “him” or “her” because of your supposed lack. When you are proud of yourself you are being present for yourself. The worst thing you can do during a break-up is abandon yourself.
- I will be kind to myself; no more put-downs. If you catch yourself being internally unkind, by the thoughts and words you say to yourself, use the technique of “thought stopping.” Picture a stop sign in your mind and then tell yourself something encouraging: “I am healing.” “I can heal.” “I can have a good day today.” “I will have a good day.”
- I will address my relationship with feelings of anticipation and how they have played a role in my personal relationships; I will also address my tendencies toward idealization and fantasy thinking. Identify the types of thinking that keep you stuck. Perhaps it’s idealization of the other person’s life, or maybe the relationship you used to have. Notice the thoughts that could be comprised of false beliefs. Realistically, no relationship is ideal. Everyone has flaws. Take this time to confront your own tendencies to sabotage your healing by the types of thoughts you have. Discover how some of your thinking can keep you stuck.
- I will only live for today (One Day at A Time). This is really all we have. Focusing on today is much easier than figuring out how to live the entire rest of our lives.
- I will live in reality. I will remain committed to the truth. When you notice yourself venturing off into magical thinking or “what ifs,” remind yourself that recovery requires truth. Nudge yourself back to the truth and remain committed to reality.
The purpose of a personal recovery plan is to identify the areas in your situation in which you personally struggle and then develop a method of addressing each one of these areas in a healthy way.
Going through a break-up is painful. It is hard. But, it can be used to help you grow into the person you want to become. You can use the process of healing to address “strongholds” in your life – those touch points in your psyche that trigger you to emotionally regress.
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