Emotional contagion is real, and you can use it to your advantage.
Each week here on the Headspace blog we feature some of Andy’s responses to questions he has been sent by members of the Headspace community about their practice (see the Andy’s Answers section of our community forum for more details).
In this post, Andy gives advice to a Headspacer struggling with constant thoughts about their former partner following a recent break-up.
I recently went through a break-up that ended in quite a positive way, but have gotten little closure from the relationship. We were separated by distance so have remained in good contact since then. I just started meditating a few months ago, and I am wondering if you have any advice for people, like myself, who struggle with constant thoughts on the subject.
I find I am constantly thinking of that person, when I wake up, when I go to sleep, and I am doing my best to not judge or push away these thoughts or emotions but even when I sit down to meditate I find all I think about is that person. I find I am stressed out, and now am even more aware of how stressed out I am. I know I should try to focus on the present, but it is extremely difficult to not think of the past or future and have really found my mind running wild.
Generally I am quite positive on the whole subject, but there are times where I find I feel extreme negativity and almost get blinded by it (like the clouds/blue sky idea.)
Anyway, I was hoping you maybe had some insight for me.
Sorry to hear about your recent break-up. I’m not entirely sure from your letter whether you are happy with your new status, or if you would actually rather be back with your former partner. As you say it was positive, I’ll assume that you are not looking to change the situation and are instead simply looking to change the way you are thinking and feeling about the situation.
It’s also not clear whether you are thinking about your partner, or experiencing thoughts of him. That may sound like the same thing, but it’s actually quite different.
So the former is where you still have a vested interest in thinking about him. There is a conscious effort to think things through. Maybe it’s wondering how he’s feeling, where he is, what went wrong, why you broke up etc. All very normal stuff, but maybe not all that helpful or productive in terms of moving on.
The latter is where you are moving on with things, but every now and then the thought of him will arise in the mind. There is no conscious effort to think of him, but he nonetheless pops up in the mind. As he has been such a big part of your life, it is no surprise that this would happen.
So I’m guessing it is probably the latter and the negativity is arising because you want to move on and yet thoughts keep arising from the past. It’s as if the thoughts keep taking you back to how you were feeling, invariably tinged with sadness or nostalgia. I wonder what would happen if instead of resisting the thought and trying to move on, instead you sat with the feeling, allowing it to remain as long as it wants to?
Very often in life we deal with difficulty by trying to get away from it. Even if the circumstances were quite positive, the end of a relationship is always sad and rarely clean and tidy. There are nearly always loose ends, unanswered question, misgivings and doubts. In our enthusiasm or desperation to move on from these events, it can be tempting to neglect or resent thoughts and feelings which remind us of that time. And yet the mind needs that release. If we do not give it that release, we cannot let go.
So, my recommendation would be to give the mind all the space and time it needs to move on. It’s as if you are providing a framework for the mind in which it can think all it wants without getting caught up in it. So it is not that you are thinking about your ex, but simply watching the process of release, of letting go. And don’t be at all surprised if that is both painful and sad at times, even if you don’t feel it right now, as that can often be part of the process.
Hope that’s helpful in some way, warm wishes,
Do you have a question you’d like to ask Andy about any aspect of your meditation practice? Simply visit the Andy’s Answers section of our community forum where you’ll find instructions on sending your question in, as well as all the questions he has answered to date.
We also recommend you check out our FAQ section, which is full of helpful tips from Andy to ease you along your Headspace Journey.