Has your relationship ended and you’re feeling blue? This is the time to discover what makes you happy
AN acquaintance has been going through a nasty divorce. For a long time it appeared to me as if she wouldn’t get through, with the stress it was causing her and the impact it had on her children.
The worst part was a broken heart, because she still loved him despite the situation, and admitted she would take him back if he asked. There were long obsessional calls through the night, with me trying to convince her that if her version of events was in fact accurate, then she was better off without him. “You’ll find someone else,” I reassured her over and over again. “No I won’t. Who would want me now? Men want younger women … and I have the kids. And no one understands me better than ‘John’ does.”
When it came out that he’d begun seeing someone else, I thought she’d be devastated, especially since her own dabbling with internet dating proved a disaster. But something was happening. Her voice started getting lighter, she seemed cheerful and energetic. She was very excited because she’d started doing the interior design on a friend’s house. This was not her vocation, nor even a hobby. But given her flair for design she had volunteered to help, to keep her mind off things.
Suddenly she was in the grips of a passion she didn’t know existed. Trips to paint shops to find the exact shade of Moroccan Blue; creating a rendered Tuscan facade; choosing fittings; she discovered a part of herself that had been dormant, unexplored. As she rambled on about chair coverings I nearly nodded off to sleep.
But she was happier than I’d heard for many years, and basically “in love”.
It occurred to me that some of my separated or divorced friends — male and female — had delayed searching for a new partner to recover from the grief, and were discovering passions they didn’t know existed. They were flourishing because they weren’t wasting energy and time on the arguments and disappointments that plague modern relationships.
Sydney relationships expert and psychotherapist Jo Anne Baker cautions against hooking up with someone else immediately after a separation, as the same pattern will rear its head. “We always believe that someone else will make us happy. We believe in the notion of romantic love and get disappointed when our expectations aren’t met. Yet we should be meeting our own needs by going deeply into our creative souls.”
She says, “We get attracted to someone we admire because they have attributes we want but don’t know how to access within ourselves. A timid woman will team up with an exciting, risk-taking male instead of getting out there herself; a man who loves great food will often find a brilliant cook rather than exploring his own dormant talent.
“For this reason many couples become co-dependent and then frustrated with each other.”
My favourite Gloria Steinem quote is that women should learn to become the man they want to marry. It was an old 1960s feminist slogan but the same can be said of all of us. As Baker says: we can’t live in the world as half creatures, half of a “platonic ideal” waiting to be completed. We have to fall in love with our true passion rather than spending so much time nagging our partners to change; grieving their loss; or looking for someone new.
So, how do you find and fulfil your passion? You can find your life purpose during times of transition, says US psychotherapist and author Bill O’Hanlon, founder of the movement Possibility Therapy. We have to recover lost, neglected or avoided aspects of self and soul, he says. His advice is to watch for what gives us bliss, a sense of aliveness and energy; what captures our attention and holds us spellbound. He asks: Whom do you admire? If you had an hour to speak on TV on any topic, what would it be?
One of my favourite personal development masters, who helped me locate myself after a major break-up, is creator of the Living from Greatness program and author of The Magician’s Way, William Whitecloud. Based in California, Whitecloud guided me towards my heart’s desire to be a photographer and video maker. He gave me courage to take the psychological then practical steps I needed to get there, such as to retrain at university. I’m now being published in my life’s passion.
To simplify a small part of his program — which was inspired by the international bestseller by Robert Fritz, The Path of Least Resistance — Whitecloud says draw two imaginary circles on the ground to sit in. One is going to be your CR (current reality) — who you are now. The second circle is your wildest vision or fantasies.
“Dare to dream. Dare to let the genie out the bottle,” Whitecloud tells his students. Often our deepest wishes are locked in our unconscious minds. Talking before the exercise to a dear friend who knows you well and states “the bleedin’ obvious” can help start the process. “You love guitar; you have an amazing voice; you are hilarious; you could be a barrister; our advice is better than a psychologist; you have a gift with people …” One friend became an amateur stand-up comedian after one such discussion.
Sit in your CR circle with pen and paper. List the truth of what is there: I am a lawyer, I work 10 hours a day. I’m bored. I’m not happy in my marriage because we don’t have much sex. I love travelling and we do that often together. I’d like to do more …
Just write what is the case now, as a reality check.
Then sit in the creative vision circle quietly in meditation for a while and write what passions come up as if your dreams were already true: I am … a top chef. I am cooking for lots of people at a private function. I feel wonderful. I am making lots of money from my passion. I have a Balinese-style house on the ocean with a huge kitchen, and a partner who loves sex …
See it, sit with it, smell it, use all your senses. Go into a complete daydream.
Now you have to find what he calls “the bridge”. What small actions do you need to take today, tiny or bold daily decisions, to get you from where you are now, to your dream? This strategy talks to your unconscious mind and bypasses the: “No, I can’t do it!” voice.
“Call these four companies today; make a new business card by Thursday; attend this conference in June, so pay online by Wednesday …” Just list practical things with a doable time frame. Repeat the ritual often, making new daily decisions based on results — and be prepared that your original vision might change, as unexpected opportunities are opening.
Now you’re busy trying to create your dream. Too busy to wonder what your ex is up to, too busy to nurse a broken heart or too busy to complain that your current partner isn’t tidy enough. Each small success makes you feel joyous and productive.
My best advice is to use jealousy: What achievements are you most envious about in other people’s lives? Follow this lead, then have a torrid affair with your passion as it unfolds.
10 ways to find your passion
• Don’t say to yourself or others: “You’ll meet someone new.”
• Instead, help yourself locate a new passion.
• Check in with where you are now and write it down.
• Visualise where you want to be and write it down; use fantasy and visual, aural imagery and feelings to make the vision seem real.
• Get friends to remind yourself of your talents; what energises you? What topic would you talk passionately about if you were given an hour on TV?
• Find “the bridge” between reality and vision and take steps each day to get you there.
• Take every opportunity no matter how small.
• What are you jealous of that others have achieved? Do it.
• Stop putting energy into finding another person to complete you.
• Fall in love with your own dream.