If you haven’t already seen the blog I posted last week then I recommend that you take a look. I started a conversation about personal growth in a relationship breakdown. I fully acknowledge that if you are feeling grief stricken, angry, stressed and anxious then you may not be ready to think about this yet. You may just think things are going to be pretty awful and that’s OK. There is a grief cycle that goes with a relationship breakdown and I’ve written about this before. It may be a while (and the time is different for everyone) before you can begin to think about any kind of steps forward. The way that I put it in the last blog is that divorce and separation are the start of a new chapter – whether you wanted this, or are open to this. The start of this new chapter may be awful but when you are ready, I invite you to think about what the beginning and the end of this new chapter might look like.
Personal growth is a subject that is close to my heart. I have been on a big journey of personal growth since I left my job as a solicitor to set up LKW Family Mediation in 2013. That was very definitely a new chapter! In this series of blogs I am going to be pulling together what I know about separation, and what I have learnt through my own journey with self-development and personal growth to talk about this important subject.
In this second blog I wanted to give you some questions to think about. It can be really helpful to use them as journal prompts. My practice is to sit somewhere quiet where I won’t be disturbed and to take a few minutes with my eyes shut to take some deep breaths. It helps me to just put all the chatter of my mind to one side and to concentrate on just one thing. If you meditate then you could do this first, but if that feels like a scary step then perhaps just start with a few deep breaths. It can help to imagine a big basket with a lid to the side of you. As thoughts pop into your head you can just imagine putting them in the basket and closing the lid and go back to focusing on your breath and just breathing in and out, until you feel calm and that your mind chatter has calmed down (my yoga teacher always says don’t allow the sentences to become paragraphs which I love).
If you feel like you have too much going on in your head then it can also help to have a notepad and pen and to just sit for 5 to 10 minutes and write down everything that pops into your head so it’s captured somewhere else.
Then with a new greater sense of tranquillity (and without being bombarded by your to do list in thought form) you can approach the questions below. You can pick one that jumps out at you or take them in turn, or try 2 now and some others at a later point. Start by asking yourself the question and then seeing what happens in your body. Do you feel good immediately? Do you feel tense – if so where? Do you feel nothing in your body? Write down what ever happens. Make sure you write down the question and then just write out whatever comes into your mind. Don’t overthink it or talk yourself out of your thoughts, just write down whatever is coming up. This is journalling and it can be really helpful in making sense of things that are happening, or helping you to focus on what it is you want from your life in the next 5 minutes, 6 months, 3 years or 10 years.
- Looking at different junctures in time (e.g 6 months, 2 years and 5 years – or whatever works for you) ask yourself What is the best that things could be for me? What does that look like? What does it feel like? What does it sound like? Really expand the picture you get for each stage and write down everything that comes up (even if it seems random, extreme or unlikely).
- What values are important to me? This is really important as if you understand the values you want as part of your life then when you come to make decisions about your future you can always come back to whether they stack up against your values.
- What am I holding onto? It’s natural that when we start to look at personal growth lots of fears come up. This might be around whether you are good enough to fulfil the dreams you have (this is very normal and most people have this come up). There might be fears around what other people might think of you too. Our natural instinct is often to run away from our fears but if you can focus in on things then you might be surprised by the fears you have. Understanding the fears you have lets you know what you need to let go of e.g I let go of not feeling good enough, or I let go of worrying about what other people think about me. Many people find their self-confidence has dipped following a relationship breakdown and this can impact on what you think you might be capable of.
- If you followed the dreams you have what impact would it have on your children, on people around you, on people in your community and on (deep breath) the world? This is a biggie and it can feel a little intimidating but thinking about the impact you could have on those around you just by making simple changes can really give you the impetus to keep going. It’s not just your life that might grow, there might be a ripple effect on others too.
- If you’re struggling to think about where the growth might happen, or what your next steps might be then write a list of all the things that give you joy. This might be simple things like a walk, or a beautiful sunset, or your children laughing but as you get into it you might find bigger things come up, or that you remember things that used to give you joy that you haven’t experienced in a while. Challenge yourself to find 50 things that give you joy.
- Self love or self care or nurturing or nourishing yourself can be something many people haven’t embraced before a separation. Think of ways in which you can take better care of yourself. Challenge yourself to find 20 ways that you could show love to yourself and then pick 1-3 to implement immediately and another 2-3 to put in place in a few weeks time. There is no better time to start really taking care of yourself than during a separation.
If you feel emotional thinking about things that please know that this is normal and usual. It may be that you haven’t thought about anyone loving you in a while, or that you have value and worth. If it feels too much then leave things there, do something that feels good (have a cup of tea, or go for a walk) and come back to your journal at a later date and try again. Read what you wrote down the first time too to see if you feel differently.
Next week I’ll be talking about some other tips for working through personal development and self growth and tools that might be useful to help you along this journey.
If you’d like to be part of a supportive community during your separation then don’t forget our safe online space Soulful Separation Support where you can get support from others going through a separation, and professionals. You can also sign up for our free fortnightly newsletter which tips on navigating the difficult road to separation, and how to keep things as peaceful as possible.
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