By Dr. Judith Rich, published in The Huffington Post
"They say that breaking up is hard to do" - Neil Sedaka
If, as Neil Sedaka sings in his 1980s hit, "Breaking up is hard to do," many would argue that waking up is even harder. It is pretty much a lifetime endeavor.
When we come into physical form, we inhabit a body, and we grow a life in some form or fashion. We come in with a certain genetic configuration, are further shaped by our environment and our lives unfold as we take on the trappings of our humanness.
Consider that when a newborn baby arrives on this planet, it spends the first several months of its life literally asleep. Gradually, it begins to spend more time in a waking state, acclimating to this strange place in which it inhabits. And by the end of its first year of life, the baby, now a toddler, begins to move about and explore the world. A young child is extremely vigilant, attentive to sights and sounds, all of which are totally new, until the environment becomes familiar.
Then that which once was a mystery slowly becomes the mundane, and over time, as more and more of life gets relegated to the mundane and we incorporate its familiarity, we gradually withdraw our attention and fall back asleep to what is right before us. And so it goes throughout a person's lifetime. We come in asleep, we wake up, and we fall back asleep.
Our task then, as humans, is to re-awaken our selves, and to do it consciously, so that we have access to the resources both within and without to support us in the journey to remain awake. For left to our own devices, human beings tend to take the easy way out.
We are "thrown" in the direction of seeking comfort and safety and unless something comes along to interrupt those patterns, we will find ourselves falling back asleep, and pretty quickly. Comfort and safety are just so seductive it's hard to remain vigilant enough to keep from becoming attached. We want life to occur in a particular way. We want what we want in the dose and form and with the timing that we want it.
And so, in this human story we're all unfolding, sooner or later, we'll find ourselves confronted with a "rude awakening." Something happens, seemingly from out of "left field." Life occurs. It might feel like the bottom dropped out, the rug got pulled, the green lights all turned red, the cosmic two-by-four just came and whapped you upside the head and sat you down by the side of the road, calling for a "time out."
These cosmic "time outs" can take many forms, but they're all designed to stop us in our tracks and get our attention. It's the soul's wake up call. Losing a job or a loved one, an unwanted pregnancy, family quarrels, substance and other forms of abuse, a terminal illness, a close brush with death are just a few of the kinds of events that can serve to bring us to our knees.
Just when you thought your life was going along fine - BAM! Life comes along and says, "Not so fast, my pretty! Listen up! You have some homework to do." You're in a breakdown.
Is it the end of the world? Not really, but it might feel like it is. Even when accepting 100 percent responsibility for creating your life, when a breakdown occurs there usually is an emotional impact that cannot be ignored. When you're thrown topsy-turvy and haven't yet found your sea legs, life can feel mighty scary and fear can get the best of you. In the moment, it can be very challenging and seem downright impossible to get your bearings and put your hands back on the wheel.
What to do?
Eight tips for dealing with breakdown:
1) Declare a breakdown - Simply say, "I'm in a breakdown." Naming it thus gives the mind something to rally around besides upset and chaos. It's like coming to a stop sign and putting on the brakes.
2) Acknowledge and feel the emotional impact - Breakdown is life's way of letting you know you've gotten off track. This can come as a shock to the system and the first response is usually some form of emotional upset. Feel it. Express it. But don't stop there. Ask yourself...
3) What core values have I betrayed, abandoned or forgotten? - In the bigger scheme of things, breakdowns occur when we stray from being true to our core values in some essential way. You have fallen asleep, and breakdown is life's way of waking you up to that fact.
4) Assume 100 percent responsibility for your results - Don't waste your time being right or blaming others. Ultimately, what's happened is your result, based on the choices you've made and the actions you've taken. Even if you think you had only the best intentions, based on results, something more or different was needed than what you brought to the situation. Acknowledge this, but don't stop there.
5) Do a "clean up" - Clean up with yourself and anyone else involved. Be willing to apologize and ask for forgiveness for the unintended impact you had on someone else, if that's the case. Forgive yourself for getting off track. Part of being human is dealing with our imperfections. It happens to everyone. It doesn't mean you're a "bad" person. It just means you're human. But don't stop there.
6) Redeclare your commitment - What really matters? Go back to the core values you betrayed and re-affirm your commitment to them or redesign them if necessary.
7) Begin again - Breaking down is the precursor to breaking through. In the wake of an upset, there is the opportunity to regroup, press the reset button, and start anew, only from a newly awakened perspective. This usually leads to a whole new way of being and doing in the world, including in your important relationships.
8) Celebrate your breakthrough - Acknowledge yourself for the courage and willingness to face the breakdown and moving through it. This isn't about stroking your ego. This is about having done some hard homework and bringing back wisdom from the experience.
The next time a breakdown occurs, remember it is your soul's wake up call. Being in resistance to what is, only prolongs the suffering. You don't need to spend months or years getting back on track. Consider that this too, is part of your soul's curriculum, or as Ram Das said, "It's all grist for the mill." Everything life offers can be used to serve if you're a willing student.