Breaking the Cycle: Moving Forward Versus Going Back

Today’s discussion is inspired by a stressful inner experience that I had recently, which I’m sure you can relate to.

Life is Moving Forward

I’m challenging myself to grow, and growth phases can create insecurities, especially if you are in a post-divorce life. For me, some of the challenges that come with growth were highlighted last weekend. It was late Saturday night, and it was time to take a shower, to wind down, and get ready for bed.

A shower is a tool that I use a lot to feel grounded. But like every other woman, I have a ritual in the shower. One of the first things I do is wash my face. If you follow me on social media and watch my Instagram stories, you may or may not know that I changed skincare products this year. I switched to a product called Bamboo Earth. The face wash that I now use in the shower is an oil cleanser.

And so I was reaching to wash my face, and I had the strongest urge to use my old face wash, and it was sitting right there on the other side of the shower. I loved my old face wash, but it’s like soap. It lathers, and I know exactly how to use it and exactly what the results are. My old face wash was just one step, whereas with the oil cleanser has more of a protocol to it, and it’s more complicated. It was so fascinating how powerful the urge was to use the other face wash, and because I am so analytical, this immediately caught my attention.

a woman in white bathrobe, testing a new lotion on her hands, moving forward versus going back to what you know

Scared of Moving Forward

When we women are in an insecure space (as we may feel in a divorce recovery trauma), we have the strongest urge to reach back to the thing that once upon a time worked for us.

With my face wash, I know what it feels like and how it smells. I understand everything about this old thing, and it feels like the only thing that will soothe me right now.

At that moment, I didn’t use the old face wash and could recognize the urge. Do you know how many women have told me stories about their post-divorce situation and how they ended up on Facebook Messenger with their high school boyfriend?

In the shower last weekend, my thoughts were wild. I was thinking: What’s the purpose of it all? What’s it all for? I spun out of control. However, I could also talk myself down by saying, “I’m going back to old conceptions of myself and of life.” My mind sought that old negative yet comforting pattern of, “It’s all screwed up and nothing matters.”

How to Move Forward After Divorce

These negative emotions are a strategy our mind-body has used to cope in the past. Now what? There would have been nothing wrong with me using the face wash; there are no horrible consequences. However, it’s not aligned with my goals for my skincare.

If I make a decision that’s not in alignment once or twice, it’s no big deal. But if we women do that over and repeatedly in our life after divorce, then we are no longer moving toward our goals. We’re moving toward our past.

For me, it wasn’t just the face wash. It was also the thoughts and feelings that I was having about myself and life.

Focus on a Positive Direction: How to Have Positive Thoughts

This is something that I’ve been discussing with several of my divorce recovery clients who are struggling right now. In these moments, I ask them:

What do you believe about life’s entire purpose and meaning? Do you believe that the universe is for you? Or that you are a victim of chaos, and it doesn’t matter how hard you work as ultimately you still will struggle and suffer?

Being able to move forward when we women have been looking back really boils down to what we believe about that.

crystal on the beach in the ocean water

Believing Everything Will Work Out

Do we believe that God, the universe, or whatever, is all working together for good? Or are we just victims of an evil plot? And for me, I truly believe that this is all purposeful and meaningful and that if we look into what is good, we can hack into the flow of spirit.

If we know how to use that to our advantage and we unlock all the good things while agreeing that, “Yes, painful moments happen to all people but how we respond to them dictates momentum either forward or backward.”

What do you believe? Not what have you been taught or not what the Bible says. When I was in the thick of it and in the middle of my divorce, I kept asking, “Does true love actually exist? Does unconditional love actually exist? What is even possible in the world of relationships?”

It doesn’t matter what I had been taught or what beliefs I had been exposed to because, in those moments of darkness, I lost my way. I was struggling to believe that love could actually be a sustainable, comforting thing that could see me through to the end of my life. Maybe I couldn’t be in touch with whether a loving, long-term committed relationship was possible, but I could be clear that God had my back.

As long as we women are moving toward alignment in the post-divorce trauma we experience, really getting to know ourselves, our purpose, what lights us up, and your gifts, I believe the universe will have your back. However, that doesn’t mean it won’t be hard.

Making a Conscious Choice to Move Forward

In those moments where I could go backward or forward, I make the choice to go forward.

That’s how we build muscle in our life after divorce. Working out with my trainer Colleen, she calls it progressive overload. It’s a similar idea to what central nervous system coaches will teach you – progressive exposure within a window of tolerance.

We’re not talking about going faster than your vibration can sustain, but progressive overload (or exposure) to hard things in those moments where you feel like going back or giving up. It’s taking a breath, taking a step, and doing the thing – even when it’s difficult.

You will never become so healed that you don’t feel afraid to take the step. When you’re in a growth space, the step is always going to feel a little scary, but that’s the whole point.

woman in exercise outfit lifting weights, exposing central nervous system to stressful things

Exposing Your Central Nervous System to Stressful Things

You cannot build muscle without doing a workout that actually tears your little muscle fibers apart a bit. You cannot teach your central nervous system to tolerate stressful things without exposing your central nervous system to stressful things. You cannot be an oak tree in the face of a hard situation without taking the steps to become the oak tree.

When you’re in the ‘going back’ space, recognize it and name it. It’s not moving forward or advancing your goals.

How to Interrupt the Urge to Go Back

The only way you will truly advance your goals over time is to interrupt the desire to go back.

There are a lot of times when women come to a divorce recovery session, and they say to me, “I relapsed on calling him,” or “I didn’t do what I agreed I would do in my last session.” In these scenarios, I offer a lot of grace.

If you’ve been relapsing, no big deal. Let it go. Going back and rehearsing what you could have, should have, and would have done in the last couple of weeks or months isn’t worth it.

We, women, must always move forward to truly move the needle on our goals.

Just Keep Moving Forward

If your goals are to be more compassionate to yourself or to trust that you can have a sustainable, healthy relationship, the only way to achieve that is to interrupt your urge to regress and do something different to move forward during your post-divorce trauma.

You can do this by using breathing exercises, doing an EFT tapping video, or journaling about what you’re grateful for and what your goals are.

At that moment, it’s going back to answering that big question, which is: What do I believe? Does the universe have my back or not?

You have the framework for the future. It’s scary because we feel like we don’t know what it looks like. But you know what?

If we believe the universe has our back, then it’s not any more uncertain than being in a foreign country. You don’t know exactly what’s going to happen all the time, but you know you will have fun. It’s worth it because it’s an adventure.

We use the tools and we take steps forward, and we trust that all the rest is going to fill in, because it will.

woman in light shirt and pulled up pants, walking in the ocean water, both arms in the air, moving forward versus going back

In fact, it’s already filling in. You’ve already made so much more progress than you realize. I know that for a fact. Sometimes it takes a moment for all of those gains you’ve been working toward to consolidate and float to the surface for them to be visible. You’ve already done so much and this is just helping you even more.

How can we women then go forward again with more clarity and more conviction, having grown a little every time to feel joy and happiness again in our life after divorce? I have a great metaphor for this. Imagine a bow and arrow, and in order to shoot the arrow, you must pull the bow back to create tension so that the arrow has the momentum and the force to propel forward.

We shame ourselves for going back.

We say things like, “I should be. Further, I should do better. I should not be repeating this behavior.” I challenge that.

In reality, this is where you add some grace, and you acknowledge that every time I pull the arrow back in the bow, it creates the tension and the force to propel it forward much faster. And that’s what this is.

This is a moment of adding awareness and propelling yourself forward. I’m so clear that you’re going to do amazing things as you propel forward toward your new life. Trust the universe. It has your back.

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