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What’s the best way to get over a breakup?

by Andy Puddicombe

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Hi Andy — I recently went through a breakup that ended in quite a positive way, but I have gotten little closure from the relationship. 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 him. I’m doing my best to not judge or push away these thoughts or emotions but even when I sit down to meditate I find that all I think about is this person. I know I should try to focus on the present, but it is extremely difficult to not think of the past or future and I’ve really found my mind running wild.

Generally, I am quite positive on the whole subject, but there are times when I feel extreme negativity and almost get blinded by it (like the clouds in a blue sky). Anyway, I was hoping you maybe had some insight for me.

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I’m sorry to hear about your recent breakup. 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. Those may sound like the same thing, but they’re actually quite different. 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. It’s 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 pops up, nonetheless. As he has been such a big part of your life, it is no surprise that this would happen.

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, 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 positive, the end of a relationship is always sad and rarely clean and tidy. There are nearly always loose ends, unanswered questions, misgivings, and doubts. In our enthusiasm or desperation to move on, 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 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 and warm wishes,

Learn more about how to reframe negative thinking:

Andy Puddicombe

Andy Puddicombe is a meditation and mindfulness expert. An accomplished presenter and writer, Andy is the voice of all things Headspace. In his early twenties, midway through a university degree in Sports Science, Andy made the unexpected decision to travel to the Himalayas to study meditation instead. It was the beginning of a ten-year journey which took him around the world, culminating with ordination as a Tibetan Buddhist monk in Northern India. His transition back to lay life in 2004 was no less extraordinary. Training briefly at Moscow State Circus, he returned to London where he completed a degree in Circus Arts with the Conservatoire of Dance and Drama, whilst drawing up the early plans for what was later to become Headspace.