The 1920s gave birth to an outlandish individual. Some would describe him as a prolific writing legend, others an immature drunken asshole. We could argue that both descriptions are correct. This man was no other than Charles Bukowski.
He went on to create the most cynical, bleak, lewd, lurid, vulgar, yet secretly sensitive, and frankly the most beautiful poems, short stories, and novels I’ve ever come across. And at his core, this, on the surface disgusting and repulsive gambling drunk and whoremonger, actually had more character and depth than most.
After Bukowski’s death, people worldwide started a platitude of cults in his name. His work touched millions. His poems convinced the people who hated poetry to begin digesting it. His novels and stories acted as a bizarre inspiration for many writers, including myself. And his passing sprung a raging deluge of websites and online groups dedicated to him, most of which are active and rupturing with eyeballs, to this day.
The prominent parts of Bukowski’s emotional resilience to his glum life difficulties were his radical sense of self-awareness and self-acceptance. He recognized and accepted the flaws, fears, and imperfections of his being and gave the absurdity of his life the same treatment. As a result, Bukowski didn’t treat his numerous failures and fuckups at work, love, and life in general as something monumental, life-altering, or worse, life-ending. Interestingly, it was these traits of radical self-acceptance and awareness that made Buk so likable and charismatic in the first place.
It’s this “laugh at all the odds” attitude that I want to present to you in this article, with the hopes that you try to implement it, so situations like a breakup or any other life hurdles won’t be able to break you anymore.
the big picture of accepting a breakup
We all need acceptance, that is, the acceptance of our current situation and our response to it. As aforementioned, this attitude will enable you to unlock new levels of personal growth and emotional mastery. Here’s how you can cultivate it in the context of breakups.
First, focus on the breakup itself. You need to realize and accept that your girlfriend or boyfriend is gone, and your relationship with them, dead. (accepting your current situation) Then you need to recognize and admit to yourself that you’re not feeling good about it. And lastly, you must accept whatever you’re feeling. Be that hopelessness, sorrow, grief, neediness, worthlessness, and inadequacy, or just about any other discomforting emotion (accepting your inner world/response to the breakup).
Only when you do all of the above, when you acknowledge and accept your current situation and your inner world, do the doors to genuine self-improvement open.
Here’s a picture I made to help you make sense of this concept.
Interestingly, while many people can quickly accept their breakup as a whole, they can rarely do the same with their response to the breakup. In fact, they often sabotage themselves in this aspect and thus delay their recovery.
The pink element in the above image represents the proverbial wall that keeps you from accepting a breakup and its discomforting emotions. You erect this wall by engaging in trivial pursuits that encourage you to avoid feeling your emotions’ depth, which is, surprisingly, the equivalent to healing.
For example, instead of acknowledging that you’re hurting, you end up opening the 16th tab of Pornhub or are already on the third day of your shopping spree throwing clothes in the basket-like they’re on fire.
Ultimately, the more of these kinds of activities you commit to, the stronger the proverbial wall gets, and the farther you fall from actually feeling better.
Now there’s the critical part of this concept that I want you to understand.
If you’re incapable of noticing the actions that keep you from engaging with your emotions, you can’t really begin to accept them (thus heal). In this case, the wall stays intact and only grows sturdier. Therefore, you’re in danger of severely delaying your breakup recovery.
Conversely, suppose you are capable of noticing the actions that prevent you from dealing with certain post-breakup emotions. In that case, you will find it easier to stop doing them and so start accepting your emotions. When that happens, the wall loses its power and begins to crumble. Hence, your breakup recovery speeds up.
So now, you might ask, “You’re right, Max, I should deal with my grief and not push it down by playing Mario kart all day. But tell me this; How can I stop myself from actually participating in these self-sabotaging actions that keep me from overcoming it? I mean, I don’t want to play this video game all day, I just automatically do it cuz I feel bad.”
Here’s my answer: before you can stop your self-sabotaging actions, you first have to notice that you’re doing them. And the way you become proficient at noticing them is by cultivating self-awareness.
But be warned, self-awareness itself is not enough.
After becoming aware of your self-sabotaging action, you also have to deal with the pesky emotions you bottled up or covered by committing to those actions. Only then will you be able to see a rapid recovery.
HOW TO DEVELOP SELF-awareness when accepting a breakup
For simplicity’s sake, I’ve separated the act of developing self-awareness into three straightforward steps.
step 1: Identify the actions that are sabotaging your recovery
The way you do this is by habitually asking yourself, “What am I doing at the moment?” throughout the days that roll by. Once you asked yourself this question, be sure to ponder on it for a few minutes.
Think if you have been indulging in any activities with the underlying intention of avoiding your post-breakup feelings such as grief, for instance?
Mindless social media browsing, binge-watching Netflix, and overeating on chocolate fudge ice cream are all excellent examples of actions usually performed with the intention to avoid a specific emotion.
As a side note, an occasional escape from reality is acceptable, perhaps even healthy. But the issue arises when people do it so much that they entirely forget about dealing with their grief and hurt. And if this goes on for too long, those negative feelings grow bigger and bigger. In the end, they erupt from you in the form of undesirable temper tantrums and can even cause mild trauma.
STEP 2: Identify which sensations are you running away from
After you identified the actions you are doing to escape dealing with your feelings, it’s time to figure out which specific emotion you are avoiding (This realization will also serve as your answer to which emotions you have to work on processing first).
The way you figure this out is by reflecting upon your life. Let’s look at an example of how a fictional character named Cindy participates in this reflection:
- “Why am I playing video games when I feel like I’m dying inside.”
- “Am I trying to avoid something? Am I trying to avoid my grief? Maybe I don’t want to deal with my emotions? Perhaps I just want to squish them, so they stop bugging me?”
- “Hell, that sounds pretty accurate. I am terrified to face my breakup pain. I don’t want to feel hurt. I’m afraid of dealing with the fact that I’m alone now. I’m scared of brushing at the uncomfortable truth that I will have to start dating again at some point.
- “Ok, but no matter what I feel, if I keep myself from dealing with my problems, be that emotional or mental, I might develop those tamper tantrums Max warned me about in step 1. And I don’t want that. It sounds painful as fuck.
- “I should probably do something about my stuck feelings. Maybe I should just go into my room, lock the door, and cry like a baby. Then, meditate or call up my best friend and ask if I could vent to them a bit. I mean, anything is better than distracting myself with video games right now, right?
- “Damn, why haven’t I thought of this sooner. How could I be so blind? What the fuck is wrong with me? I’m such a retard. “
While going through this type of discourse or reflection, you may realize that you still carry many suppressed emotions and made countless mistakes during your recovery that forced you to heal slower. When this happens, people often end up feeling flawed, as if something is fundamentally wrong with them.
In Cindy’s example, her reflection outcomes are feelings of anger and disappointment that make her label herself as a retard. Unfortunately, this tendency can quickly plot her – or anyone – into a self-belittlement and self-depreciation loop.
For example, when Cindy realizes how she’s postponing her healing by playing video games, she becomes enraged and disappointed with herself and begins to self-criticize. Not surprisingly, the more Cindy criticizes herself, the more she will believe she is, in her words, a retard.Cindy might even want to stop her negatively labeling at some point. She might even try and force herself to think differently. Unfortunately, her attempts to do so will just serve as additional confirmation that she actually is a retard. Because if she wasn’t one, why would she even think about being one in the first place?This example of the self-depreciation loop might terrify some people to the bones, but there is a way out if you ever fall into its grip. Paradoxically, the way out is by accepting your situation. More specifically, by accepting where you are emotional, noticing how you talk down to yourself, and working on shifting your self-talk to a more realistic version.
STEP 3: Deal with your PENT-UP emotions and the toxic actions
Now that you know how to notice your self-sabotaging actions and the emotions you’re brushing under the rug while you do them, only one thing remains: dealing with both.When you notice your harmful actions coming up, be sure to stop yourself from doing them. And when you feel discomforting and painful emotions bubbling up to the surface of your consciousness, be sure to embrace them and then let them go in acceptance. Here’s a full guide on letting go, by the way.In Cindy’s case, she would need to do as she thought in her reflections: go cold turkey on her video games for a few days, lock herself in her room to cry out all of the emotions she stored up. That’s how you deal with them. At its core, this is also what letting go means, and everyone going through a painful breakup – or any loss – should make it their daily habit for the time of their grieving.
how and why to end your ruminations when accepting a breakup
Whenever we luxuriate in climactic self-awareness sessions, we also need to stop ourselves at some point and start accepting what we discovered.
This a tricky shift to master; We often succumb to endless self-ruminations where we scrutinize our self-destructive actions and numerous layers of our emotions. We may even come to the point where we begin reflecting upon the emotions below our emotions, also called meta emotions.
And this is where we have to put the brakes on our rumination.
Look, the only thing below meta emotions are just more layers of emotions, and usually, they don’t mean anything. It’s not like you’re going to discover the jizz of Buddha if you continue your intense self rumination. Most likely, you’re going to end up in a mental asylum. So acceptance act’s like a handbrake to protect you from crashing into the self rumination loophole.
Psychologists even proved that a massive degree of self-focused attention often produces depression, anxiety and promotes masochism, suicides, and other self-destructive behaviors. That’s why you must put the brakes on your rumination at some point.
In the end, self-acceptance and self-awareness are densely intertwined concepts. One can hardly exist without the other. But even more importantly, in a broader context, they are the two fundamental layers of cultivating solid relationships and living a good life. So practice them thoroughly.
At the end of the day, accept that sometimes, you’re just gonna fuck up in life. Maybe the whole breakup was your fault, but guess what? That’s fine. No one is perfect, and everyone is going to make mistakes at times. You included.Before I let you go, there’s one more method of accepting your breakup that I want to share: reflecting on how other people have it way worse than you. Let’s say you just lost your 5-year long relationship. In this case, think about the people who lost their 50-year long marriage. Maybe they broke up like in your case, or maybe one of the partners died of cancer or got murdered. Hell, think about the people on their deathbed right now who never experienced love in their life. And if you’re really fucked up, think about the love life of Charles Bukowski.
Surprisingly, pondering on these scenarios can ground you into reality and even provoke a sense of serenity in you. So go on and try it out. Then email me about your results. I always love to check in with my readers.