Ep. 186: Breakups + Heartache

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Breakups can be complicated, confusing, and painful. For some, they even bring up feelings of shame and blame. I remember when I shared a post on social media about my divorce in 2007, talking about how I had stepped into my sovereignty and freedom, and was so proud of how I left a relationship that didn’t have anything terribly wrong about it, but because I had clarity that it was not a lifetime relationship for me. 

 Most people celebrated with me and thanked me for sharing. But some said things like, “How dare you celebrate something that is so shameful and embarrassing? Think of your husband!” ( 


It’s like they couldn’t understand the idea of a breakup that wasn’t one filled with regret and shame. 


During that divorce, I mostly felt what I would call “clean pain.” It wasn’t exacerbated by stories about my loveability/worthiness, or about anything being wrong about the other person, or about the implications for my “relationship future.” 

We can still experience heartache in clean pain. But there’s no grasping at a story. We can mourn the end or loss of the relationship and ALSO have gratitude for having experienced it at all. Feeling both the pain and beauty – without judgment. 


Of course, I’ve also had breakups with “dirty pain.” One was after I was cheated on, but it was not dirty pain because I was cheated on. Rather, it was because I thought there was something wrong with me, with the other, and with my capacity to be in a relationship. 


I was ruminating about why I didn’t see the red flags. Why I had such little trust in my intuition. Maybe I just wasn’t cut out for relationships. 


Finally, after many nights sitting in silence in my bestie’s house (who just let me be silent like a great bestie would), I eventually got to clean pain when I owned how I co-created this situation – ignoring red flags and not trusting my intuition, and having self-compassion for how I misunderstood so much at the time – about myself and about relationships. 


Noticing if we’re in clean versus dirty pain helps us discern between healthy and emotional processing, and patterns of thought and behavior that prolong suffering by adding the “second arrow,” as it’s called in Buddhism. 


Clean pain is the natural and necessary response to a breakup. We’re acknowledging the sadness, grief, disappointment, and even anger. We call it “clean” because we’re not adding stories to it. 


Dirty pain, on the other hand, involves unnecessary suffering that arises from our thoughts and beliefs… distorted thoughts, irrational and limiting beliefs, and unhelpful behaviors. It comes from our stories of what the breakup means about who we are; our loveability and worthiness; our capacity to be in a relationship now or in the future; or something about the other person. 


We call this pain “dirty” because like a dirty wound, the healing process gets delayed. It can trap us in a negative feedback loop or sorts, making it harder to let go and move on.  


This discernment allows us to choose responses that align with clean pain, like fully metabolizing our emotions, addressing them somatically with bodywork or somatic therapies, engaging in ceremonies for letting things go, for grief, or seeking support from others. 


One of the other essential elements to healing from breakups is realizing that resisting reality always leads to suffering. 

 When we resist that the time has come for it to be over. 


When we resist that the other person wants to move on when we don’t. 


When we resist that we have grown apart, or have discovered incompatibilities that can’t be reconciled. 


This beloved was meant for a reason or a season. Not a lifetime.  


We need to eventually be able to see beyond our immediate suffering into the bigger picture – from a different perspective. We need to see that this was meant to be, or it wouldn’t have happened. 


But HOW do we do that when we’re feeling so much pain and the loneliness feels so intense? 


I think an important place to start is exploring the roots of our unhealthy thought patterns. We develop a fear of societal judgment from a young age, and we internalize it over time, which then grows into self-judgment and shame when we don’t meet those standards. 


A historical root of societal expectations around relationships is that most people raised as womyn historically needed men for financial survival. Womyn weren’t allowed to have their own bank accounts and credit cards unti 1974!!!! But that is changing pretty rapidly these days. 


The experience of breakups isn’t the same for everyone. Factors like race, gender, class, sexuality, and ability intersect, and we have to acknowledge and address these identities when discussing relationships and breakups. 


There’s also a societal narrative that the length of a relationship somehow validates it, when the truth is that long relationships can be miserable, and it’s actually quite natural for relationships to have a season. 


Relationships can have served their purpose even if they don’t last forever. This is essential to get. They can have served their purpose even if they don’t last forever. You may have heard it said that people come into our life for a reason, a season, and a lifetime. Personally, the seasonal relationships are some of my favorites. Like precious moments that can never be replicated. 


Another step in healing after a breakup is understanding that we are often grieving the loss of the dream, and not the reality of the relationship that once was. We have this idealized dream of what we could have had with that person, but the reality is different, otherwise we’d still be together, right? 


Sure, we’re also grieving the loss of the good times we experienced, but it is usually the loss of the dream that hurts the most. 


On top of all of this, there’s even societal pressure to conform to some kind of timeline for moving on after a breakup. We have to set a time for healing, but we also can’t be over someone TOO soon. But what’s important is taking the time to fully metabolize our emotions, and that can take however long it damn well pleases! 


I remember after one breakup I let myself fall apart… as well as the house;) There was trash all over, and I cried a lot. It wasn’t all clean pain, but metabolizing it and letting grief and anger wash over me helped me eventually get there. 


I allowed myself to run into bathrooms to cry, or to cry in bed. I didn’t entertain stories about me being pathetic or that I should be over it already. Just mindfulness of emotions AND body – because emotions show up in our body when truly being metabolized. 


If we can manage our minds and allow ourselves to experience the raw and completely natural grief, as well as self-compassion that allows us to care for ourselves during this difficult time, we can come out of a breakup transformed; as someone who has actually learned and grown from the experience. THEN we are ready for the next chapter. 

 At the core of all of this is that “second arrow” and whether or not we choose to resist reality. Embracing change – this impermanence of all relationships – is essential for letting go and moving on. 


It is for our benefit that we embrace the impermanence of ALL phenomena – including relationships. 


Nothing has to be wrong if the relationship has run its course. We don’t have to make it mean anything about our loveability or worthiness. Or about future possibilities and our capacity to be in a relationship. 


Heartache sucks- AND it’s a reminder of the preciousness of this life, and the capacity to feel ALL the things we get to feel as humans. 


Just like the relationship was impermanent, so is the pain of the loss. When we stop resisting reality, it can move through us more effectively, and we can stay present with the miracle of our life, even without our former beloved. 


As Paulo Coelho said, “Not all storms come to disrupt your life, some come to clear your path.” 


You will learn: 

// What clean and dirty pain are, and how to tell the difference 

// How to go from dirty to clean pain and help ourselves heal 

// How to steer clear of shame and blame 

// The role societal expectations play in how we validate or judge relationships 

// The benefits of “conscious uncoupling” 



// Episode 2: How to Not Care What Other People Think About You 

 // Episode 16: How to Improve Any Relationship 


// Episode 18: How to Coach Yourself 


// Episode 24: How to Be With Any Emotion 


// Episode 36: How to Let People Be Wrong About You 


// Registration is officially open for the Adventure Mastermind and we’re already halfway full! We start at the end of January with our first retreat in Hawai’i in February (sunshine, blue water and starry nights, anyone?) 


Listen – this is going to be even more mystical than EVER. Someone who did the program just over a year ago is coming back because yes, I have to say, it IS that good. So come experience what it’s all about. Head on over to AdventureMastermind.com and apply now – you’ve got nothing to lose by applying, ok? 😉 


// Want something more self-paced with access to weekly group support and getting coached by yours truly? Check out Freedom School – the community for ALL things related to freedom, inside and out. Plus, we have entire months devoted to wisdom and compassion. Learn more at JoinFreedomSchool.com. I can’t wait to see you there!   


// If you’re new to the squad, grab the Rebel Buddhist Toolkit I created at RebelBuddhist.com. It has all you need to start creating a life of more freedom, adventure, and purpose. You’ll also get access to the Rebel Buddhist private group, and tune in every Wednesday as I go live with new inspiration and topics.