By Barton Goldsmith Tribune News Service
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) As therapist Barton Goldsmith points out, when it comes to the struggle to "get over" someone, "We do not and cannot control every single thought that comes into our heads. So you can at least stop beating yourself up about that."
Tribune News Service
Most of us have survived a bad relationship or two (a few more in my case). Unfortunately, there is someone who hurt me so badly that it nearly broke me, and I do still think about it more than I would like. I'm not alone in this.
Many people are haunted by the memories of people who have hurt them, and there is no telling when those memories will pop up.
Just like computer pop-ups, they range from annoying to making you want to cry, but the biggest crime here is that they are stealing away the two most precious things you have, your time and peace of mind.
Some uninformed people might say that this person still has some control over you, so don't feel disheartened if an unempathic idiot tells you that you are choosing to let in those thoughts and feelings. No you are not, and that is my professional opinion. We do not and cannot control every single thought that comes into our heads. So you can at least stop beating yourself up about that.
However, if you are covertly stalking this person on the internet, you may still be involved on some emotional level. No, it isn't what you want, but it is how you feel, and that doesn't mean you desire him or her. It does mean that you have some open wounds that are going to need more time and perhaps some assistance to mend. The good news is that it can be done.
If this is an "I'd rather eat ground glass than ever see that person again" kind of thing, please think again before deciding you must be bat-sh--t crazy and that this will never go away. First, make friends with the idea that indeed you do have some power here: you can negate the uncomfortable thoughts as they come in.
Many years ago, radio host Michael Benner taught me his trick. Whenever a negative thought comes into his head, he visualizes a big "X" and says to himself, "Cancel, cancel," as he imagines the lines being drawn. Similarly, you need to draw a line between you and your ex-whatever. If you consciously throw a counter punch in your brain, it becomes empowering.
It isn't easy, and you may be already hypersensitive to the whole thing, so getting a handle on it is likely to seem overwhelming at first. It's okay to go slow and get some help. Sharing your dark thoughts with a trusted soul is really a time-tested way of healing. Even if the person you are talking to says nothing (like many analysts), just expressing your feelings will give you additional perspective and insight.
As you bring this idea closer to you, more thoughts will come in at first. That's normal, so don't get scared. The process of cleansing your mind of a toxin is no different from cleansing your body of a toxic substance. There will be pain, then perhaps discomfort for a while, until you start to regain your strength.
Again, this is not about making friends with an enemy. You are disconnecting and embracing indifference, and freeing yourself from this emotional bondage. ___ (Dr. Barton Goldsmith, a psychotherapist in Westlake Village, Calif., is the author of "The Happy Couple: How to Make Happiness a Habit One Little Loving Thing at a Time.")