There are a fair few people I know (including me!) who have gone through break ups recently, so I’ve written this post for them. BUT read on, you happily or unhappily ensconced and single chaps – it’s relevant to everyone; it’s about how stressful life events can lead to a bloody better life.
Last week I heard a perfect analogy from a life coach friend of mine. I was extra excited that it’s an architecture analogy.
Imagine that your sense of self is a house.
The external factors that make up your life (relationships, job, status, friends, family, money, your physical appearance, your possessions, etc) are the walls of your house; and your real ‘self’ is the pillar in the centre.
Most of us base our sense of self on external factors;
we describe ourselves to others using our job title, age, nationality, experiences, etc – it’s often the only self we know, which means that we are relying on the walls to hold up our house.
The problem is that we have no control over these external pieces; they change constantly, no matter how hard we try to stop them. If our internal structure is weak, the crumbling of one wall (e.g. a break up) can destabilise the whole house. It can make us feel as though our whole world (house!) is falling apart.
We end up crumpled in a heap on the floor with no idea who we are or what makes us happy.
This is usually the point where we try to grasp and get the relationship back because the alternative – examining why the house was so unsteady in the first place – seems like a much too daunting task.
When we realise we can’t patch up the relationship-wall we often set about strengthening another external wall in order to compensate- we throw ourselves into work, exercise or Facebook stalking. These can be a helpful distraction at first (except Facebook), but we need to realise that the gaping hole where the wall once stood gives us a rare opportunity to peer inside the house and examine the internal structure; the pillar that should hold the whole thing together.
You might have been living in a shaky house for years,
but while it’s still standing you usually won’t have been motivated to work on it. Traumatic life events reveal the flaws in the structure and give us the push to reengineer it so that our house can withstand future storms. This means that the next time a wall falls, the internal structure will hold up the roof while you set about rebuilding the rest.
It makes the break up recovery process a lot quicker and a lot less painful because you have a lot less rubble to sort through before you can begin to rebuild.
In my pre-bloody-good-life days, my sense of self was firmly interwoven with my relationships.
I didn’t know who my ’self’ was without my boyfriends;
they became the wall that held up my roof, and when those relationships ended I was crushed as the roof came crashing down around me. After the initial fallout had settled though, I was forced to examine the iffy engineering, and I had no choice but to go in search of the things I needed to build my house back up again; this time building from the inside out. I didn’t quite get it sorted the first time round,
it’s taken a few spectacular crashes to get the right concrete ratio for the internal pillar.
These days I no longer have such a strong reaction when external things fall away. I was broken up with recently, and though I still felt the hurt of losing someone and the pain of being rejected; the internal structure of my house remained intact so the breakup didn’t do much damage to my house.
Because I wasn’t clouded by the dust of fallen rubble as I had been in previous breakups, I was almost immediately able to see clearly that the break up was the best thing for us both. In fact, it has lead me to become a lot stronger and happier than I ever was before, in a surprisingly short period of time. It can be hard to see when you first look around at the destruction of your house, but being broken down can always result in a stronger, wiser self, so keep it in mind while you wait for the dust to settle – there’s always blue sky behind the clouds.
So when a traumatic event comes up in your life, no matter what it is, use it as an opportunity to examine the internal structure of your house.
Would it stay standing if all the walls fell down?
Do you know who you are without all the external things you rely on?
What I’ve just realised is that Project Self is all about concrete mixing. (Architecture degree + life coaching = concrete life analogies!). I’ll suggest the necessary bloody-good-life ingredients, it’s up to you to determine the ratio that works best for you.
And if you need a project manager for your Project Self, I highly recommend… myself! I get things done.