Why can’t people move on sometimes? From relationships, from jobs, from harmful habits, from obsessive thoughts …
One of the obvious answers is “out of fear”. Fear to open up a space that’s not going to be immediately filled. What would happen then?
If I leave that job, would it be a mistake? Would I find a better one or are they all the same? There is a lot of rationalized uncertainty.
If I definitively end this relationship and move on from a person I’ve held dear… what would happen after? What if there isn't one better? What if this was my perfect match even if highly imperfect (in this case “highly imperfect” is a synonym of “highly mistreating you” to the point where you are questioning the relationship as a whole).
To be able to move on with ease, it seems we should have tremendously strong faith in a better future. Faith in the unknown, built on very little tangible artefacts. Faith in love, or God. In a higher power that has our best interest…
What’s really happening, however, is that moving on from anything means that a part of us dies. We don’t just give up the “thing” but the meaning we have associated with it. From work, to the place we lived in, to the important relationship in our life … when something is left behind there literally remains a hole in our identity in most cases.
We need to find a new meaning, new purpose, sometimes new goals and… yes, we need to find a way to create a new version of ourselves. A version that doesn’t associate with the past and has something strong to hold on to in the present.
The most difficult part is that we genuinely have to accept that a piece of us is lost and is not coming back. The positive thing, on the other hand, is that we have the ability to re-grow, to heal… and it takes time, but it's part of our DNA to be resilient that way.
There are a ton of articles out there that mainly focus on “how to get over an ex” but the same principles of fear and identity crisis are applicable to all areas that we seem to can't move on from.
(A good post by Mark Manson, who talks about this in more detail through the lens of relationships only. https://markmanson.net/how-to-get-over-someone)
The steps we should take to help ourselves move on:
1. Build a new you. It’s needed and it’s time. A new identity that’s not tied to whatever you are trying to move on from. Write it down. Who are you? What do you stand for? What can you create in your future? What do you want to create in your future? What are all the traits, skills and assets you have right now that will enable you to make this happen? Those are the type of questions that you need to answer first.
2. Pay attention to the story that you are telling yourself about the particular aspect of your past that you want to move on from? We tend to have internal chat that usually goes over and over again through the same thing. We make up a story about our work, our past lovers, our experiences and these stories largely define the way we see things and what we will experience in the future. In other words, we are a product of our thoughts and the stories we tell ourselves turn into reality. We practice them with such diligence that we don’t even notice them consciously in a lot of cases.
What is the story you tell yourself about your past and who you are? Is there anything you’d like to change? If you had the chance to adjust it a little, what would you like it to be going forward?
3. In a Psychology Today article that explores the 10 reasons some people take longer to move on from a relationship, another thing that pops up as theme among people who have the problem of moving on is “memory”. Our memory is not objective and we sometimes see the past distorted – either too rosy or too dark but in any case, not representative of what’s happened or how much a particular aspect of our lives mattered for real.
4. I think it is important to mention the standards by which we live. Multiple and complex reasons drive a lot of people to not allow themselves to want better and to believe they are worthy of having it. A non-optimal situation that ended or is ending, is clearly not the best thing life can offer, however, this innate feeling that we don’t deserve more is often the reason why we stay stuck in a job/ relationship/ living conditions, etc. that are far from optimal. However, the most loving, practical, humble and nice thing to do in all of those cases is taking good care of yourself and this means taking good decisions for yourself. If you put a child in your situation and you wanted to protect them, give them the best possible advice and genuinely help them be happy – what would you tell them? How would you want the situation to unfold for them? What should they do? Would you want them to move on? To believe they deserve better? – of course! It’s time you extend a helping hand to yourself.
5. And finally, on a personal level I found one piece of advice from a friend very useful and it goes like this: “просто се заинати и продължи“ = “just apply some stubbornness and move on”. Being strong and stubborn at times to achieve results ties well with my sense of identity. Reminding myself that I can become stubborn and overcome a heart ache that way has been useful. How about you? Can you be stubborn? Is your strength in being caring and loving to yourself? What is the one quality that always gets you out of a rut? Go back to YOUR basics, not an off-the-shelf advice. Figure out the one thing that you can step on that gives you strength. Create your very own tailored magic wand and use it as often as you need to.
In the final week before a major transition in my own life, I think of all the "moving on-s". I think of the many years of not being able to move on from the past and the common themes that I have uncovered in the process of self-development.
It takes time to be able to accept failed relationships, lost opportunities, past successes that didn’t repeat again… but it’s all in our own hands and no one else’s I am afraid and as much as this requires us to take action and face fears straight on, it is also liberating.
Out of my personal journey I have come out stronger, stepping on an understanding of who I am and what I stand for with greater stability that allows me to not crumble when life throws challenges at me.
Wishing you the best,