I often hear a client say
“I thought I put the past behind me but suddenly I found myself thinking hateful thoughts of my ex!”
The reality is that until we truly process the feelings, issues or conflicts that brought about divorce it’s difficult to put the past behind. Those feelings and thoughts will stay with us and come to have a life of their own until faced head-on.
Carl Jung created a term for this, calling it the “shadow”. In simple terms, our shadow is defined as the place in our unconscious or subconscious where we suppress or bury experiences in life we don’t have the ability to cope with. You know those times, right? We suppress our words or feelings because we don’t know how to resolve a problem or we feel overwhelmed by our life choices.
When a couple finds themselves in conflict often both of the partners are dealing with personal issues that predated their relationship. When these issues bubble to the surface, they can overload the relationship. Soon, one partner is demanding that the other change or fix themselves rather than realize the part they’re playing in the conflict. Relationships are a profound mirror – held up so we can clearly see what we need to work through.
We all have our ways of dealing with our issues or problems and for some, that means numbing. Numbing can be in the form of overworking, over-exercising, overeating, binging on TV or even isolating … all in an effort not to feel our emotions. We typically don’t think of these numbing choices as addictions, but anything that we do over and over and over again becomes an addiction. Addictions go far beyond drugs and alcohol and encompass a wide range of numbing techniques. Others right themselves without numbing or addictions and instead seek friends, support, counseling and a variety of activities to help them heal and regain a sense of well-being.
If unresolved feelings or issues aren’t dealt with they won’t just go away. To paraphrase Carl Jung, whatever it is we don’t deal with will surface in various ways – and we don’t realize that our unconscious (unresolved emotions) caused the outcome, and we blame it on someone else or attribute it to being our fate. Jung says that whatever is surfacing in the moment is the residual past held in our physical/emotional/psychological system.
When a relationship ends, there is always a tendency to blame the partner for the ending. This is true, no matter who “leaves” the relationship. As long as we remain in the place of victim, using blame, resentment, judgment, vengeance, or try to shame or guilt our former partner, we give away our power.
The sooner we can get to the realization that both parties contributed to the relationship not being sustainable, the sooner we can move on with healing, and gain the perspective needed to forge ahead in a healthy way.
Put the Past Behind
The process of moving on requires looking at the past to see how we attempted – through attitudes, beliefs, and images – to cope with life or to try to create our psychological survival strategy. We all have behaviors that are not effective in building relationships, which keep us in anxiety or fear and result in conflicts.
The energy that it takes to suppress, compress, or depress our emotions is enormous and results in “hard pain” which prolongs and intensifies our suffering.
We all have a need to heal. In order to heal we need to transform that which we wanted to bury, or put behind us. As Ken Wilber offered, we can only grow if we include all of us and then we can transcend those parts of ourselves that no longer serve us.