I wrote about this topic last month and asked for feedback from readers. Here is a compilation of what I received and what I have pondered about this topic over the last month.
- Separation – in its varying forms and stages – is a challenge for most of us.
- Separation also provides invaluable opportunities for us to grow and “re-create” our identities, in some ways, depending upon the depth of the separation experience.
- Separation experiences inevitably bring up our death anxieties, as Yalom asserts, calling upon us to recognize our mortality, which is never fun.
- Separation, if handled in a healthy manner, can assist us in moving into the next stage of development and/or the next phase of any particular stage we happen to be inhabiting.
So, what are some healthy ways to handle separation? As a therapist, of course one of my biases is to begin or renew some time with a valued therapist to help process this experience most fully.
Another idea is to set a realistic healthy goal for oneself that will help the transition from the separation pain into the newly-created identity or tweak of one’s identity. For example, if a person has been considering getting into a physical type program, such as joining a new gym or starting yoga classes or training for a marathon or long biking event, this may be a good time to set that goal and proceed. Throwing oneself into a physically challenging, healthy activity can help exhaust the body and diminish ruminations on sadness. It also helps with self-esteem, which may take a dive during separation periods.
Or, deciding to undertake a non-physical activity, such as something academic or creative (e.g., enrolling for continuing education class, starting an art or music class) may also fulfill the spirit during this period of stress and sometimes even bewilderment.
Questions can arise that are essentially unanswerable – What is the meaning of my life? Why is this [separation] experience occurring to me right now? How will I ever get through the tunnel to finally see the light on the other side again?
In my recent reading, I have been enjoying several authors who have “spoken” to these larger, life questions in a way that has helped me personally and some of the friends and colleagues who have shared with me. They are: Eckhart Tolle – especially The Power of Now and Stillness Speaks; Irwin Yalom – Love’s Executioner; and Brené Brown, Daring Greatly. I attended a Tolle presentation a couple months ago and was very moved by his presence and encouragement of us all to live in the moment where everything is at peace and we are one with the universe in that moment = the present. Such is a difficult, but extremely rewarding task. Yalom has a number of books wherein he presents his existential philosophy regarding therapy, but I recently re-read the latter and found his detailed musings on ten of his patients very heartwarming and potent. The experiences he shares of their struggles and his in treating them dealt with this issue of separation and anxiety about life’s meaning in a therapeutic context, which I found very meaningful. Brown is an avid researcher and an entertaining writer, who encourages us to live as authentically and honestly as possible to reap the benefits of greater intimacy and meaning in life.
I believe that as we work on ourselves, as therapists, parents, friends, partners, we will bring greater peace and connection into this often troubled world. And, along the way, we will hopefully feel our own peace and meaning in life increase exponentially. Such growth is an important aspect of dealing with separation, as well as just plain dealing with life if we seek the greatest happiness and fulfillment for ourselves and our loved ones and our clients.
Anyway, those are some of my thoughts and others’ that I wanted to share with you this month. Please continue to send me comments about this topic and any others that interest you so that I may incorporate your ideas into these monthly blogs and newsletters.
Enjoying the fall . . .