Ending a relationship (think job, team, romantic, friend, etc) is always a difficult thing - especially when we invest so much of our time, energy, and emotion into it. When we end the relationship ourselves, it usually “feels” easier than when it is ended by the other party, however, in both cases, we typically leave the relationship with a lot of loose ends untied and carry a lot of weight around with us on it, ultimately affecting us in perpetuity.
So how do we tie off the loose ends and shed the weight? Let’s discuss this more...
One of the biggest things that impact us when relationships end is the story that we tell ourselves about it. Every loose end, or every bag that we carry around has a story. Typically, all stories have an end - yet in so many cases we let those stories go on… and on, and on, and on…
We create stories for everything. This is how we make things mean something to us. Our stories are so powerful that they become the truth for us. Sometimes, more often than not, our stories are full of interpretation and our version of the “truth” may not accurately represent what really happened. We, as human beings, are very good at filling in the blanks based on past experiences.
For every event that we experience, there is our version of the truth (our story about it), the other person’s (or party’s) version of the truth, and then there’s the actual truth which is what an impartial "3rd party" would say if they were just writing down the facts that they saw.
The closer we make our story sound like the 3rd party’s truth, the less interpretation we will have, and the less baggage the story will create for us to carry around. The less baggage we have the easier it is to wind up that relationship and move forward.
So how do you let go of the baggage? Here are 7 simple steps to accomplish this:
- Be willing: Before you can get anywhere, ask yourself, “am I willing to let go of the baggage, accept the truth, and move forward from here?”. You need to be willing for the next steps to be effective.
- Get it all out: Write out all the events you went through, include all the feelings and emotions, whatever was said, whatever wasn't said, whatever was done, whatever wasn’t done, what you gained from the relationship, what you lost, write it all down.
- Get clear: Review each item and identify whether it is an interpretation or a fact (what would a 3rd party say?)
- Take responsibility: For each item in step 3, ask yourself, “what can I take responsibility for in this?”. The idea here is to take responsibility for your part in how the relationship ended up this way
- Declare who you are committed to being: Review all the things you took responsibility for (in step 4) and, from a place of responsibility, declare who you are committed to being in the face of all of this to change the story once and for all
- Take action: Create a list of actions that you will take to fulfill on that commitment (step 5) and start living who you want to be today
- Rinse and repeat: Repeat the steps above if you still feel you have more baggage or energy around the story until everything is addressed
The toughest thing we can do to ourselves is to continue carrying stories and interpretation around with us. We ultimately become our stories and our life continues to produce the results of the story to keep that story true. Think about it. If we think we’re “not good enough”, as an example, we will keep finding proof that we’re not good enough until we decide one day that we actually are good enough. The scary thing is that most people never get there.
So what story are you telling yourself about a recent relationship? What are you making that mean? Where else does this story show up? And how is that impacting you going forward? If you’re tired of the same old story then take the steps above and start moving forward without all the extra baggage.