Additional Information for Chapter 4, page 47 and 51
Devastation is dealt with quite thoroughly in The Compatibility Code. Any additions to what the book suggests are so individual that it is difficult to make broad statements or prescriptions that would apply to the majority of people. What we do here is reproduce the section from the book on the topic of devastation (in case you don’t have the book with you). If you have further ques-tions that deal with a particular set of circumstances, feel free to use the Ask the Experts link on our website to pose your particular issue.
Here then is what The Compatibility Code says about dealing with devastation:
We all know that breaking up with someone you’ve been in love with is likely to be devastating, that awful feeling of being overwhelmed by shock or grief because your world has been turned upside down. Like anger, it is a natural emotion resulting from the loss of a relationship. But what are the right treatments? How do you recover from the devastation? A frequent, but disas-trous response is to rush into a new relationship. Most of us have either experienced or seen friends go through the heartache of a romance initiated too soon, the classic “rebound.”
Devastation is so multi-faceted and completely overwhelming that you need to equip yourself with the techniques to deal with it, and then do the work of handling the feelings. Just like with the loss of a loved one, there is a required grieving period. While it is not possible to shorten the length of time associated with healing, it is very possible, using appropriate methods, to ensure that recovering from devastation does not extend beyond what is necessary. On the other hand, using poor choices, it is quite possible to extend the feelings of devastation long beyond the needed healing period. Here’s how: remember your lowest moment, the most terrifying fear, the most gut-wrenching agony, the most intense rage, how badly mistreated you were. Take your pick or try to remember all of them. Vividly relive them. Your reward will be to experience a feel-ing of misery just as severe as that felt immediately after the break. Whenever emotions begin to wane, repeat the process. This will allow you to remain devastated for your entire life and to spend your last moments remembering how awful it was.
If you would prefer to not follow that pattern, there are specific guidelines to speed recovery from devastation. Suggestions provided by the experts include:
- Closure: First and foremost, come to an irrevocable decision that the relationship is over and you will not return to it. While you remain in ambiguity about whether you should or shouldn’t, you will remain in turmoil. Only the closed and locked door allows the process of healing to begin. “But can’t we be just friends?” I hear someone cry. The answer is a defini-tive no! Maybe a couple years later after full recovery, but don’t even think about it now. Break off all contact.
- Externalize: Externalize the negative reactions, talk through your feelings, write them in dia-ries, accept that you are hurting, but don’t cling to it. The methods of externalization are numerous: speak with a number of friends (but don’t over-burden any one of them), go to groups that allow recovery such a Divorce Anonymous, or go see some type of qualified counselor or therapist. Whatever the cost, this phase must be done for emotionally healthy recovery to occur.
- Appropriate process: Once you have satisfactorily worked through the negativity, don’t al-low your mind to obsess on it. The five-step process I noted above for anger works just as well for handling devastation. Here it is again so you can specifically consider your feelings of devastation—if you have them. They are: 1) admit the pain, anger, etc.; 2) vent or externalize it; 3) determine a course of response; 4) do it by carrying out your plan; and 5) forget it. One needs to have completed the first four steps prior to forgetting. Once the steps are completed then a natural death of the damaging feelings can occur by shifting thoughts when “the topic” comes up.
- Activities: Engage in activities that you enjoy even though there is a sense of desperation that you are only doing this to forget something painful. Accept that! Don’t demand that the activities, early in the process, bring much pleasure. Usually they won’t because you are still hurting too much. Do them anyway and the pain will eventually subside.
- Maintain routine: Don’t stop living to sit and stew. I know one individual who would continue to prepare a real meal despite the fact that it was only for herself. If you are working, continue; if going to school, don’t drop out; if you have a regular exercise program, keep it up. Once again, don’t expect much joy out of these activities, just do them until, in the full-ness of time, the joy begins to return. If your devastation is too great to maintain routine, consider the next item.
- Find a safe place: Sometimes it is good to get away from your current environment to a safe place, one that doesn’t re-stimulate the memory of the devastation. For some, that may be moving back in with your parents for a while. Your safe place is entirely up to you, but physically removing yourself from the dangerous environment can help the healing process begin.
- Avoid the torture chamber: Avoid situations or settings that allow the pain to settle in. For example, don’t go to bed early. Wait until you are so tired you will fall asleep easily. Avoid times or locations when the feelings of pain may be the greatest, such as Friday nights by yourself, or weekends bumping around the empty rooms in your home. Instead, get out and join an exercise, hobby, or community-service group, invite friends over, develop an after work get-together or movie night, anything that will get you away from places that invite painful reflection.
- Rich network: Maintain a rich network of friends. In a 1996 study that my husband con-ducted on factors that contribute to or detract from divorce recovery, he found that a rich network of friends and family was the greatest single predictor of emotional restoration. It will work just as well when recovering from any sort of relationship break.
- Nurturing physical closeness: Involve yourself in settings that allow for non-sexual physical contact. In the same study, the second greatest predictor of recovery was physical con-tact outside of a sexual setting. Enjoy affection from family and friends; get an affectionate, non-judgmental pet (avoid frogs, salamanders, and tarantulas); get a massage, a facial, a manicure, a haircut, but, at this phase, don’t cross the line into sexuality.
- Avoid sexual contact: Avoid sexual or romantic entanglements during this phase. As mentioned above, while physical closeness was the second greatest predictor of recovery from divorce, sexual involvement was the second greatest detriment.