Welcome to Healthista’s first 5-minute therapy session with leading psychotherapist Christine Webber. Each week we will bring you a new reader, a new problem and a new 5-minute solution in therapy
Clare: Hi, Christine. I’m 32 and I was dumped by my boyfriend, Darren, three months ago, but I’m still upset. I don’t really understand it because although we were together for two years, we were only happy for six months. After that, he went off sex. And he was moody, and I felt like I was walking on egg shells round him. But I hung on in there hoping it would come right again.
The rest of my life is fine. I have a good job in the City. I’m not bad looking. But I really feel a failure, even though I’ve got very supportive friends and family. I am seriously hurt by his rejection, but I also feel so stupid because I stayed with him for so long.
Christine: Well, these are very uncomfortable feelings aren’t they? No wonder you’re distressed. But it sounds like the worst pain is probably the self-inflicted kind. You’re really beating yourself up over all of this. Is that helping you?
Clare: I suppose not.
Christine: How about showing yourself some compassion? You’ve had a tough time with Darren. After a good start, your relationship deteriorated, but you hung on, hoping it would be great again. Plenty of us would have done the same. Let’s face it, probably much of that was to do with being over 30. Perhaps you really want to be married and have a family. And perhaps your mum wants you to make her a grandmother! And maybe it felt too overwhelming to get out there and find someone new.
Clare: Oh God. That’s all so true.
Christine: Right. Let’s start then by thinking how you could be kinder to yourself. If you had a friend in your situation, would you berate her for her stupidity, or be sympathetic?
Clare: I definitely wouldn’t be critical. I’d probably buy her little treats to cheer her up.
Christine: OK, so why would you be harsher on yourself than you would be on others? How about showing yourself some kindness, and treating yourself as well as you would treat a mate?
Clare: Sounds like a good idea. The thing is though that I can’t get over how nice Darren was right at the beginning and wishing we could have that all over again.
Christine: That’s understandable, but do you think, realistically, there’s any chance that things will ever be magical with Darren again?
Clare: Absolutely not. I can see that it’s really over.
Christine: Good. Acceptance is the first stage in recovering from a broken heart. So, well done. You’re over the first hurdle! Now, how about focusing on what was wrong with Darren rather than keep hankering for those early days when it felt good? Could you write a list of the things you didn’t like about him and that you don’t miss?
Clare: I love that idea! I like writing lists.
Christine: Excellent! In that case, here’s another useful strategy – which will help restore your battered self-esteem. Write a list of 50 things you like about yourself?
Clare: 50 is a lot!
Christine: I know. And it won’t be easy, but I’m sure you can do it – even if it takes a while. Once you’ve done it, what you do is get 10 cards that will fit into your handbag, and you write five of those good things on each card. Then, every day, first thing in the morning, you shuffle those cards and read them. And you do that again every lunchtime, and last thing at night.
Clare: OK. But will it help?
Christine: Definitely. In a few weeks your mind will be geared to thinking in a more realistic and positive way. And when you feel better about yourself, you’ll realise that you can have a great life without Darren.
Clare: My friends all say I can do better than him!
Christine: Well, if you trust them, and it sounds like you do, let yourself believe that. I bet your friends love you, don’t they?
Clare: Yes. I’m lucky.
Christine: They’re lucky too. People don’t tend to have terrific friends if they’re no good at being a great friend in return.
Clare: Thanks. I’ll try to remember that. Anything else I can do?
Christine: Yes. Research shows that people who get involved in volunteering have a greater sense of contentment and self-worth than individuals who don’t. So, volunteering for something where you’ll help someone else, and feel useful, would really benefit you at the moment.
Clare: That’s a good idea. I haven’t felt very useful or needed since Darren went. In fact, I didn’t feel those things during most of the relationship either. One last thing: you were quite right in guessing that I’d like to get married and have children. Do you think I ever will?
Christine: Well, I don’t have a crystal ball so I can’t guarantee it! But your chances are excellent. You’re lovable – the fact you have such good friends shows me that. And you can really maximise your chances if – as we’ve been discussing – you work on building up your self-esteem. Because when you value yourself properly, you’ll almost certainly attract a guy who truly values you too. Even better than that, you’ll find that if appreciate yourself more, you’ll gain in confidence and everything in life will feel easier. Now, sadly, our time is up. Best of luck.
Christine Webber is a former TV news presenter. Since 1995, she has been an award-winning health writer. She is also a psychotherapist with a practice in Harley Street. She holds diplomas in integrative psychotherapy and cognitive behaviour therapy. And she also has numerous coaching qualifications. Christine is the author of 12 books, including How to Mend a Broken Heart available from Amazon in e-book format. FInd out more at christinewebber.com
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