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Things we tell ourselves to cope...

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Hi All -- I'm sure many of us are in this same position -- bogged down with incessant thoughts about the ex and our relationship with them, what they're thinking, feeling, doing, if they think of us at all, if they're with someone else, etc. I've found myself, over the last two days, having so many thoughts -- so many different ones, many of them contradictory -- my head is just swimming. I seem to shift back and forth between several different types of thoughts; it's almost like they have their own sub-categories, like the following:


*Strong* thoughts (based in logic/reasoning, NOT on emotions):


"He was not the one for me, and that's OK"

"He didn't go back to his ex because of anything I did wrong"

"He did not choose her because she's 'better' than me or because I'm not 'good enough'"

"I will be OK without him"

"I will find someone else -- someone who is right for me"

"This situation turned out for the best. Everything is as it should be."


*Victim* thoughts (based on insecurities, self-confidence issues, etc.):


"She must be better than me, or he wouldn't have gone back to her and let me go"

"He never cared about me at all"

"If I had just been/done/said _________________, he would be with me"

"They're together, and I'm all alone" (followed by imagining him with her and feeling miserable about it)

"They'll be together forever, and I'll be alone forever"

"He will totally forget me and never think of me again"



*Coping*thoughts (things we tell ourselves to make ourselves feel better, even if they're based completely on assumptions and we have know way of knowing if they're true):


"She's left him before, and she'll eventually leave him again."

"He'll end up wishing he'd never taken her back -- he'll be miserable with her eventually"

"She doesn't really love him; she just wanted him back because she couldn't find anyone else or because someone else dumped her"

"She'll leave him again, and he'll call me up and want me back when he realizes what a huge mistake he made" (followed by imagining turning him down when he calls)


These are just some examples. My mind just races, trying to make sense of everything and give meaning to something that has put me through the wringer for the past year. I want so much to be able to understand, but all these thoughts do is stumble over one another and clog up my brain. The *strong* thoughts, though, are good ones, and they are the ones I should be focusing on. The rest are based on assumptions and negative emotions like fear.


Any ideas on how to focus only on the stuff I should be focusing on -- the statements based in FACT as opposed to the ones based on assumptions or speculation? Anyone else finding themselves having this same problem?



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This is a great summary of the different TYPES of thought that we have about our exes. And you're right, the *strong* thoughts are the ones that lead us to healing and moving on. The victim thoughts are awful, and the coping ones too aren't much better.


Why is he in your head so much these last two days, and is it always like this? If it's a blip, I would say go with it and ride it out. If it's like this a lot of the time, then I would say that it's about something deeper.


Ironically, my ex - and you were very kind to me, btw! - has got in touch with me again this week. And you know what? Although it was soothing in a sense to realise that he hasn't forgotten me, it's actually made me feel worse, sort of anxious and focused on him again. I found out that total NC was the best way for me to heal, when I had no expectation of ever hearing from him again. So I'm doing that again. Just throwing it out there in case it's a contact thing with your ex?


Anyway, back to your thoughts. The victim ones are the worst, because they are undermining your self-esteem. I think you have to actively challenge these thoughts when you have them, and not let them go unchecked.


"She must be better than me, or he wouldn't have gone back to her and let me go"

You need to challenge this, and remind yourself of how fabulous you are, what a strong and kind and beautiful person you are, and how it's great that you are free to meet someone who can truly appreciate you.


I wonder if self-esteem books would help with this if it's really a big problem? They address the negative self-talk, which is what this is. Because you are in control of your thoughts, they don't control you.


The coping thoughts are not great too - they make you feel better, but they are tying you in the past, and it's all about him still, and not you. Because you know what? It doesn't MATTER what happens with him now. He doesnt' get to have your concern any more.


There was a section in that break up book ("It's Called a Break-Up Because It's Broken") that was quite good - it said to assume that your ex is dating Heidi Klum, and deal with it. I think it's about assuming that your ex is fine, and not letting these revenge/fantasy 'what if' thoughts have room in your mind. Because he doesn't deserve to have you think about him.


I don't think I've been much help, I'm sorry - but I know what you mean. I keep a diary, and the 'strong' thoughts are definitely better for me than the other ones. It's about making those the default ones and not the others.


Take care!

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You've just about described my thoughts to a tee! I, too, struggle with this. My ex left me for another girl so I know what can go through ones mind when something like this happens.


I was with my ex for 7 years. We have a child together. We've been broken up for almost 6 months now, and to be quite honest, I still have my good days and my bad days.


I had to speak with him today about our baby and it really threw me off. When he's cold towards me it's so much easier to think "He's definitely not the one for me. Let the other girl deal with his crap!" But then when he's nice I start thinking "He's missing me. It's only a matter of time before he comes back because what we had could never compare to his current relationship." I know I'm only fooling myself when I think of a positive outcome but sometimes I can't help it. When I catch myself thinking that way I immediately stop myself, and think that he's not the one for me, if he loved me the way that I loved him he would have never left, etc.


I'm guessing this is just all a part of the healing process, and these thoughts will totally fade away with time. Preferrably SOON! They say time is a great healer, and I've come to believe that myself. I can say that although I still have these "ups and downs" I'm in a much, much better place than I was a few months ago.

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Great job documenting all the different thoughts we have bombarding around in our heads, competing for attention! It does feel chaotic and overwhelming when they are all being batted around at the same time and you can find yourself wondering which one to focus on.


When this happens I try to get up and do some kind of action, wash the dishes, clean, do some work so that I don't think about my ex anymore and I'm not reduced to sobbing to just relieve the pressure in my brain.


I read somewhere that it is not possible to have both a negative and a positive thought at the same time.


I have tried using cognitive therapy to combat the victim and coping thoughts. I read "Feeling Good" By David Burns, MD years ago and it describes how to identify and refute the distorted thinking that causes us to feel helpless and depressed. He thinks you have to write the thoughts down and then write your logical response from the list of distorted thoughts to untwist your thinking and help yourself to feel better.


Example: "He never cared about me at all."

Cognitive Distortions: Jumping to Conclusions/Mind-Reading/Magnification. Rationale response: "I am not in my ex's mind so I do not know that he never cared about me at all. He did spend 3 months in relationship with me and then he spent several months pursuing me after he ended the relationship. It doesn't make much sense to think he never cared about me at ALL. I'm sure he cared for me on some level, in fact he told me he LOVED me. He may have felt that way at the time and perhaps he does not feel that way now but it does not mean he never cared about me at all. Since he told me he loved me, I will believe that he did care for me at some time during our time together."


Example: "If I had just been/done/said _________________, he would be with me" (Oh man, this is my WORST and most persistent distorted thought!)"

Cognitive Distortion: "Discounting the Positives/ Personalization and Blame". Rationale Response: My ex has a mind of his own and an agenda of his own. I have no proof that it was anything particular I said or did or did NOT say or to that caused him to leave me. I'm sure I made a few mistakes but I'm human and we all make mistakes. My ex made mistakes! I gave him a lot of love and we shared some wonderful intimate times together. He even told me that he enjoyed these good times we had together. It takes two to tango and it was my ex's decision to leave the relationship, not mine. I would have been willing to work on the issues but he had his mind made up. So it is not entirely my fault that the relationship did not work. I can take responsibility for my actions and words but I cannot take responsibility for his. I am a beautiful, kind loving person who gave my love, my mind, my body to him. I gave it a good go, as I was in love with him. He chose not to be with me. And while that hurts terribly, there is nothing I can do about it except keep living the best life and I can and being the best person I can be. If he ever chose to focus on something about me I said or did that he found distasteful, well Good LUCK to him finding someone who is imperfect! It does not exist, we all do the best we can but we all say and do dumb things from time to time. This too shall pass and I will find love with someone else."


These are just examples of writing back to the cognitive distorted thoughts. I would thinking typing them would have the same effect of writing them, which is to rewire our brain to not believe this distorted thoughts but to substitute them with rationale responses. It does really help to elevate my mood when I do this!


In fact, I feel a lot better just writing that down!


Best to you, this is a rough weekend for both of us....but we WILL OVERCOME!

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HI Honey Pumpkin -- Thanks soooo much for this! I remember your story, and I remember responding to it. It sounds like you are doing so much better, but I agree, one bit of contact from the ex can really throw you!


Mine is on my mind so much because he just announced to me (at work, no less!) that he is taking back his ex, someone who has been in and out of his life (and who he was really hurt by) for over a decade. Now, he and I weren't *together* anymore, but this is still a blow. And, of course, I have to see him at work -- at least sometimes -- and it will be painful being around him knowing he's with someone else, particularly because he went back to someone who supposedly hurt him so badly.


You're right -- the "victim thoughts" are the worst, and they do come from a place of poor self-confidence, left over from a pretty agonizing childhood of bullying, being told I wasn't good enough, etc. I went to counseling for awhile, and it was helping, but then I let my ex sort of creep back into my life, and I felt like I didn't *need* the counseling anymore. I think I'm going back, though!


And, the "coping thoughts" are not helpful either -- you hit it right on when you said that they tie us to the past. It doesn't MATTER what he thinks or doesn't think, what he feels or doesn't feel. That's all over, and it has no bearing on the present, let alone the future.


I have the book you recommended, and I started to read it, but I never finished it. I need to go back and look at it again, for sure. I remember that the part I read was good.


Thanks so much for your response. It's funny, we can *know* a lot of things intellectually -- i.e. that we're attractive, funny, smart, wonderful people -- but when things like this happen, our emotions take over and just overshadow everything we know.

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Thanks, Rapunzel! As always, you have a lot of really sound advice.


Actually, I DID do the "cognitive distortions" exercise, a year ago, the first time things didn't work out with the ex, and it was EXTREMELY helpful. I know I need to do it again. The last few days I have been experiencing so much grief that I haven't had the energy, but I know I need to do it.


I keep reminding myself of the whole "feelings vs. facts" thing -- and the truth is, the facts are often far different from the feelings we have about a situation, but the facts get buried under assumptions that are fueled by fear, insecurity, grief. I think it's time to go on an archaeological dig to find the facts and toss the assumptions into the garbage.


I am sorry that you are having a rough time of it too. But, you are right, we will get past this. I know that, very soon, I am going to be grateful that this has happened -- there is no longer any ambiguity -- no more "Does he or doesn't he?" or "Will he or won't he?" Those questions have been answered, and it's time to move on.


Thanks again for your kind and wise words.

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Thanks so much for your response! Wow -- 7 years! That's a long time. It sounds as though you are doing very well. You're right, time is one of the things that really workds toward healing. And, we have to actively work toward countering these thoughts with positive thoughts and actions.


I am glad to hear that you are in a better place. It's true, it only gets better.


Take Care!

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