Why Imagination—Not Resilience—Might Help You Heal From Heartbreak

One of the buzz words you will likely hear spoken around disasters and traumas is resilience. It is particularly popular in schools where teachers speak enthusiastically about developing resilience in children. Sadly, teachers have so much they had to teach children that adding resilience to the mix is really difficult.

Resilience Is Not Always Enough

What researchers have found is that maintaining resilience is virtually impossible. Resilience is defined as a consistent ability to adapt to difficult situations and return to normal.

This is fine if you have gaps between your difficult situations that allow you to adapt. As for returning to normal. Once something, anything, happens it changes you and you can’t go back, only forward.

Resilience requires great mental toughness. Something that goes out the window with massive difficulties. Facing a life changing crisis is more likely to leave you feeling weak and disempowered.

Mental Toughness Leaves When Facing Heartbreak

If you have been through a disaster or major trauma, or you have faced a devastating grief, mental toughness is one thing that will be in short supply.

You are scared, tired, overwhelmed, not knowing what to do next.

Resilience goes out the window here and suggesting to a person in that situation that they are resilient and will cope, or that they need to learn resilience is soul destroying.

You Can Only Ever Go Forward, Never Back

In grief, as in disasters and major traumas, life altering events occur. There is no going back to what you were. You are in uncharted territory.

You won’t bounce back. You won’t get over it. You won’t go back to what was there before. To how you were before.

Learning To Be A New Person

What you do need to do is learn how to be a new person. The new person who has suffered a loss and has been changed by what has happened to them.

You won’t bounce back, you will likely limp slowly over the finish line, long after the race organisers have packed up and gone home.

Imagination, The Hero Of Healing

What is more likely to help you in grief is your imagination. That right brain side. The creativity that allows you to find solutions to life’s problems. The side that allows you to imagine things. The side that is curious, open and allows you to adapt.

The right side of your brain allows you to imagine the future. It allows you to look at the future from different angles. It allows you to perceive your blackness and despair as something temporary and malleable. As something you can change. As a future with potential.

Imagination Brings Your Conscious Brain Back On Line

There is a method of using imagination to reimagine past events in an effort to heal the past trauma. This uses the concept that imagining things stimulates the cognitive part of our brains that is usually taken off line in unsafe situations, such as grief and trauma.

Researchers have discovered that if you are able understand what matters to you most right now then you can use your imagination to discover what is possible for you to do in the present moment.

Imagining What You Are Able To Do

Your imagination actually helps you to imagine what you are able to do in this moment. Not what you “should” be doing, but what you are able to do.

The interesting thing about imagination is that it can find slight suggestions of hope that you can use to help you through this time of heartbreak.

People who have used their imagination to get through grief have found that imagining something as simple as getting out of bed, having a shower, eating breakfast, getting dressed, going out of the house. Have helped them actually do those things that had seemed so impossible.

Imagination Helps You Get Back Into The World

As the people moved out of the deepest parts of the crisis they were able to imagination things that led them out more into the world.

Over time, these people were able to use their imaginations to discover the new them and the new life without the one they loved so much.

Your Imagination Will Never Remove Your Pain, But…

You can never imagine away your pain. That would be impossible. But you can imagine small gaps in your suffering that can allow other things to happen. Moments of laughter, connection with others and compassion for yourself and others.

You can imagine so much more. Maybe a conversation with a stranger that becomes amazingly soothing and even healing. Peace when you suddenly see a beautiful flower. The feeling of support when someone gives you a hug.

Imagination allows you to discover that your life is not all pain, that there are still things in your life that are not pain.

Find Your Way Out Of The Pain

When you are in such pain that you can’t see a way out, imagination can allow you to make a choice that will help you see there are gaps in that pain. This is wonderfully helpful for you in being able to cope.

You can imagine choices in what you will do, in where you will go, in whether life is all darkness, or there is light there.

Using your imagination allows you to imagine meaning in the loss of your loved one.

Making a Choice Between Hardness or Imagination and Possibilities

Yes, you can survive the depths of grief by becoming hard, or you can use your imagination to find those gaps in your grief where you can use your curiosity and be able to live with the uncertainty of your life as it will become. You can even use your imagination to stop being afraid of your suffering.

The Role of Mindfulness

To use your imagination it can be helpful to use mindfulness to access that area of your brain.

Mindfulness is a practice that is best used regularly, preferably daily. It can be just 5 minutes. You can do it quietly without anyone else noticing. Although it is best done somewhere away from others, many people practice on public transport on the way to or from work because that is when they have the best opportunity to snatch 5 minutes.

A Helpful Mindfulness Practice

• Sit quietly, preferably somewhere where you will not be disturbed. This is really helpful when you first learn to do mindfulness.

• If you can, close your eyes so that you can focus better. Alternatively you can soften your focus or look down into your lap.

• Take a deep slow breath in to your tummy.

• Release that breath slowly.

• Continue to breath deeply, in and out.

• As you breathe in, notice the feeling of the air entering your nose, you tummy and chest expanding.

• As you breathe out, notice the feeling of the air leaving your nose and your tummy and chest contracting.

• As you breathe in, breathe in peace.

• As you breathe out, breathe out tension.

• Breathing in peace

• Breathing out Tension.

• Once you are settled into this rhythm, and you feel the tension has been released from your body, breathe in say to yourself:

• “Who I was before this time of suffering cannot be resurrected.”

• Continue to say this for a few breaths.

• Now when breathing in say a word of something you are determined to experience while experiencing this hardship. The word may be peace, growth, connection, surprise, reconciliation or any other word that expresses what you are determined to experience in your recovery.

• Now use this word as you continue to breathe in.

• Imagine what it would feel like to be that word, not in the future but now. Find somewhere in your current life where you can feel that word now.

This may seem hard at first, and it will be. But with commitment to practice regularly you can find a way to move forward with your life and your healing from heartbreak.

Can I Help?

Sometimes, when going through experiences that are hard to live through, it can be helpful to get help from a counsellor. If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with your heartbreak, please contact me on 0409396608 or nan@plentifullifecounselling.com.au

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with helpful information, tips, information on courses, and the occasional freebie. At the moment I have a free mindfulness meditation for anyone who signs up to my newsletter. This meditation offers a way to safely explore your feelings and learn to be okay with them. If you would like to subscribe please click on the link here: http://eepurl.com/g8Jpiz