Recently, a friend shared an insight of me from her perspective: she believes I am denying and avoiding romantic love in my life.
No, I’m not! I wanted to refute, to demand further clarification, to invalidate her perception and prove that my heart was more open than most.
But I didn’t, because I knew there was testament to the unknown truth behind her words. Damn.
I recalled another recent conversation I had had regarding my first publication with House of Citrine called Authentic Love wherein another friend stated, “I liked it, but you write a lot about past love. I want to know what’s going on for you in the present.”
That same nausea-induced egoist-rebuttal sprang forward. What do you mean?!? I wanted to say, but I bit my tongue and reluctantly received his perspective.
As I got in my vehicle and turned the ignition, Adele’s potent voice filled the space and I immediately forgot all conversations regarding current romance.
Instead, I was lost in the powerful words of her new song “Hello,” as painful memories of my ex came flooding to the forefront of my mind. As I belted out the lyrics, thinking of him, a familiar pang in my gut and chest brought an epiphany…
As Adele’s heart-wrenching lyrics infiltrated my consciousness, I realized how the two “nauseating” comments, made by my dear friends, fit together perfectly and revealed the unknown truth I had overlooked.
Long-lost love makes for great songs, great poetry, and great films, and yet it can rob us of having the very thing we desire most, while also affecting our physiology.
Now, I am definitely not blaming Adele for the release of cortisol and other stress hormones in our bodies. However, whatever the catalyst is, when we lament over the past and become lost to the yearning of what once was, we are potentially doing two things:
Number 1: We could be telling our brains that we are in a stressful situation, which releases cortisol, triggering the signal for blood to pump to our muscles, so that we are prepared for fight or flight.
But we are not fighting or taking flight - we are sitting in our car, wailing Adele’s "Hello", thinking about our ex. Thus, our muscles fill with blood, become swollen, and lead to things like headaches, stomach cramps, and that pang in the chest… heartache.
Research shows that social and physical pain not only causes distress in our bodies, but share sensory brain regions as well. So whether we burn ourselves on the stove or we cry our heart out to Adele, the activity in our brain has been shown to be the same.
Number 2: By reliving an illusion, we could be taking up space in our present moment, which might deter us from having what really want. In some ways, this is what I’ve been doing, I just didn’t know it.
While I thought that I had bid my ex farewell, healed from the pain and moved on, I have apparently been giving off an impression that my heart is not fully open to love – or rather that it’s still preoccupied with my past.
We can be confident that we have let go of the person we loved; however, it’s important to be mindful of the insidious subconscious that will dupe us into staying in old patterns that we may not realize until they are brought to our awareness.
In the same vein, I don’t believe that we need to be completely over the person of our past in order to welcome in someone new. I know many people who have found their beloved after coming out of a painful breakup through which they were preoccupied for quite some time.
The difference between them and ‘the past me’ is that while they were healing from their pain and grieving over their ex, they had insight into their totality and worth irrespective of any man or woman who came into their life; They had the intention to let go, while at the same time, they weren’t looking for someone new to fill their cup or put a Band-Aid on their wound; They were open to loving again while simultaneously grieving a loss and taking the time needed to cut that deep chord.
I titled this piece, "Let Go, He’s Not Coming Back", for a reason.
Our exes are not coming back! Ever!
This is a harsh and critical point that we must digest if we want to experience romantic love again.
When we live in the past, we delude ourselves into thinking that we can have that love again.
In truth, the love in its purity never went anywhere and it never will, so we can stop trying to hold on for dear life.
Love simply is. That’s what's so powerful about it.
The thing we must let go of and cut out is not the underlying love that exists but our entanglement with nostalgia - the memory of our ex and the identity associated with that relationship.
That is over. It’s gone. And it’s not coming back.
I know what you’re thinking, because I have crafted this beautiful vision in my mind many a times….
What if we work through our own challenges and grow as individuals and then reunite?
While that may happen, the title of this article still stands strong.
Because, whomever “comes back” is no longer the same person he or she once was and neither are you. Thus, fixating on some future ideal vision of romantic reunion is futile and it’s keeping you in the unhealthy pattern that will never give you what you actually want.
Brene Brown puts it perfectly: she says, “Nostalgia is also a dangerous form of comparison. Think about how often we compare our lives to a memory that nostalgia has so completely edited that it never really existed.”
Don’t get me wrong - nostalgia can often be like a gorgeous dance that can sweep you off your feet in a beautiful memory of the past and leave you feeling grateful for the moments you shared with someone. However, it’s when we start to over-identify with that memory that, like Brene Brown says, is often edited to our liking that we are able to lose our sense of reality and miss out on the here and now.
So while I wanted to disagree with my friend who claimed that I am avoiding romantic love and while I wanted to argue with my other friend who claimed I am focused on the past, I see some minor truth in it.
I recognize that the moments I spend being overly nostalgic, whether I am listening to songs like “Hello” on repeat, ruminating over my ex through writing, musing through old photos, or comparing a (errr - every) man I meet to him, I am kind of sending out a message saying, “Not now, Life, I am too busy; I am too busy reliving my past, and I am not ready to face my present.”
Life cannot give us the things we desire if we are not willing to receive them. And seemingly negligible actions have the capacity to shut us down, close us off, and make us blind to what’s here for us now.
Like I said, we don’t have to be fully healed to find love again. However, ultimately, we must eventually cut that chord if we want to be healthy (according to research) and create real space in our lives for our deepest heart’s desire.
And it begins with setting the intention to let go, having awareness and holding ourselves accountable for changing our patterns, whether they are blatantly obvious or deceptively hidden.
How we do that relates back to my article on Authentic Love; in order for us to be able to change our patterns and stop ruminating on the past, we must be willing to acknowledge our worth with or without a partner and express gratitude for the endless lessons we learn in the harder moments of life.
So feel the sh*t out of your grief, fully experience your pain, see your worth in the thick of it, express gratitude for the most challenging moments, and then, really, let go, because… he’s not coming back.
Jessica has a B.Sc. in Applied Psychology from New York University, M.Ed., in Human Development and Psychology from Harvard, and a M.A., (in progress) in Spiritual Psychology from University of Santa Monica. Jessica is also a columnist at Elephant Journal and has been featured with Huffington Post.